While browsing Twitter not too long ago, I came across a series of tweets debating whether Jason Hanson or Matt Prater is the greatest Detroit Lions‘ kicker of all time. My immediate response was that Prater is the best the Lions have ever had but that was based solely on his percentage of makes from 50 yards and out.
That being said, I figured it would only be fair if I took a closer look before jumping to such a decisive conclusion
*Note: No disrespect is intended to Eddie Murray, who was also a very good kicker but in my opinion, he is not worthy of being in this conversation, especially since I am only considering their time spent with the Detroit Lions.
As you probably already know if you clicked on this, Jason Hanson spent 21 seasons with the Lions. During that time, he was selected to the Pro Bowl on two occasions (1997 and 1999) and he was always considered to be one of the most consistent kickers in the league. In his career, Hanson made 495 field goals (23.57 per season), including a career-best 34 in 1993.
As far as Prater goes, he is currently in his 14th season (7th season with the Lions), and like Hanson, he has been selected to two Pro Bowls (2013 and 2016). So far in his career, Prater has drilled 321 field goals, including a career-best 31 in 2016 with the Lions.
You never know with kickers, but chances are that Prater, who is 36, will not play another nine seasons to match Hanson and likely will not end up with as many career field goals.
EDGE: Jason Hanson
Accuracy from Long Range
When it comes to kicking long field goals, not many have been better than Matt Prater.
So far in his career, Prater has connected on 59 of 79 attempts (74.7%) from 50+ yards, including a career-long kick of 64 yards while playing for the Denver Broncos in 2013.
Hanson, on the other hand, connected on just 52 of 93 attempts (55.9 %) from 50+ yards with a career-long kick of 56 yards.
There is little question that Prater is better from downtown.
EDGE: Matt Prater
Accuracy from Mid-Range
From 40-49 yards out, things are much closer than they were from long range.
In his career, Hanson made 136 of 186 kicks (73%) from 40-49 yards compared to 78 of 112 (69.6%) for Prater.
The crazy thing about this is that Prater is substantially better from long range than he is from 40-49 yards.
That being said, for whatever reason, Hanson seems to be the better kicker (not by much) from this distance.
EDGE: Jason Hanson
Chip Shot Accuracy
When talking chip-shot field goals, I am referring to anything from 0-39 yards out and both Hanson and Prater are very accurate from this range, as they should be. (Hell, I even nailed a 46-yard field goal at the Silverdome with just a sock on, back in the day)
Anyways, Hanson made 307 of 322 (95.3%) from short range while Prater has connected on 184 of 195 (94.4%), so both kickers did their job in these situations.
There is no question about it that Jason Hanson (when he played) and Matt Prater (now) have ice water in their veins in pressure situations.
Though I had a difficult time finding actual stats on fourth-quarter/game-winning field goal leaders, I did find one site that helped me out up through the 2015 season.
Through 2015, Hanson ranked 8th all-time with 21 fourth-quarter/game-winning kicks while Prater checked in at No. 57 with just 9. Now, as I said, this only covers through the 2015 season and Prater has certainly added to that list since then.
In fact, through November 20, 2017, Prater had attempted 10 potentially game-tying or game-winning field goals in the final four minutes during his time with the Lions and he made them all. (Prater has added to that number since then.)
Considering Prater has played fewer seasons than Hanson, and he is sure to add to his totals, this one is a push for me.
Who is the greatest Detroit Lions’ kicker of all time?
Now, I am not going to lie. I was a ball boy for the Lions when Jason Hanson was kicking and I got to hold for him during practice and prior to every home game so I may be a bit biased.
That being said, I am confident that the numbers above show two things. 1) Both Jason Hanson and Matt Prater are two of the greatest kickers in NFL history and 2) Prater is just a little bit better based on the criteria above as I give a lot of value to being able to connect from 50+ yards at such an accurate clip
VERDICT: Matt Prater is the greatest Detroit Lions’ kicker of all-time