Saturday, October 23, 2021

Miami Dolphins’ Jason Sanders has been kicking his way to become one of NFL’s best

The big offensive superstars on any NFL team have always been the quarterbacks, the wide receivers, running backs, and if the tight end is good then yes, maybe the tight end. But one of the most overlooked positions on any NFL team besides punter and long snapper is probably the place kicker. Most kickers in the NFL don’t get drafted. If they do get drafted, in most cases, they aren’t drafted until the seventh round.

Just to give a perspective on how underappreciated a kicker is, the NFL’s most accurate placekicker in history, Justin Tucker, went undrafted. But the kicker is just as important as a quarterback. A kicker can be the one that can ultimately be the deciding factor in winning a game or losing a game. If you aren’t convinced, just ask Miami Dolphins’ kicker, Jason Sanders, whose field goal attempts have been the deciding factors in both a winning and losing effort in his young career.

Even though kickers make and miss field goals, Jason Sanders makes more than he misses, with not only accuracy but with power as well. In the 2020 season, Sanders made eight field goals of at least 50 yards, which was tied for first in the NFL.

The Miami Dolphins already know who they have in Jason Sanders. Earlier this year, Sanders signed a $22 million dollar extension with the Dolphins through the year 2026 with $10 million dollars of that guaranteed. When Miami drafted Sanders in 2018 in the seventh round, he was only one of two kickers drafted that year, with Daniel Carson being the other.

JASON SANDERS IS INCREDIBLY ACCURATE

As a kicker in college at New Mexico, he was one of the best kickers in the nation, missing only one extra point attempt out of 112 attempts (a 99.1 percentage which was second to Daniel Carson’s 100%), making 25 of 35 field goal attempts, with 53 yards as a college career long field goal.

During Sanders’ NFL debut in 2018 against the Tennessee Titans, he was a perfect 3 for 3 in field goal attempts and 2 for 2 in extra points. When the Dolphins played the Chicago Bears in 2018, Jason Sanders became the hero when he kicked a 47-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.

When it comes to the best kickers in the NFL, the names synonymous with the word “best” obviously have been through the years, Will Lutz, Greg Zuerlein, Dan Bailey, more recently, Harrison Butker, and of course the NFL’s best field goal percentage kicker, Justin Tucker. But as each year progresses with Sanders’ career, he is only getting better.

Jason Sanders had a field goal percentage in 2020 that was better than Justin Tucker, Dan Bailey, Will Lutz, Greg Zuerlein, and almost beating out Harrison Butker with a FG% of 92.308% compared to Butker’s 92.593%, putting Sanders in the top 10 of qualifying field goal percentage leaders last season.

Sanders has not yet arrived at the title best NFL kicker, but he is quickly getting there because he has did things as a kicker in the NFL that no other NFL kicker has done in years. In the past two seasons, Sanders has won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award four times and the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month Award three times. He was named to the NFL all rookie team in 2018 and to the First Team All Pro in 2020. In 2019, Sanders became the first NFL kicker since 1977 to catch a touchdown pass on a trick play.

In a game against the New York Jets in 2019, the Dolphins lost 21-22, with Sanders accounting for all 21 points in a Dolphins franchise record setting seven field goals. Jason Sanders’ longest field goal in 2020 was 56 yards, just 5 yards short of 2020’s longest field of 61 yards by Jason Myers. However, Sanders has had a career long in each of the past three seasons Sanders has played, getting longer each year, with 50, 54, and 56 from 2018-2020.

For 2021, Sanders can only get better. And for Sanders to only be 25-years-old, he has a lot of years left in him since the kicker is the one position in the NFL that lasts longer than any other position with some kickers playing as long as 25 years. So for those currently holding the top spots as the best kickers in the NFL, it is time for more room to be made with Jason Sanders’ name being applied to that list.

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