While browsing Twitter this afternoon, 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.
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 12th season (5th 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 270 field goals (22.5 per season), including a career-best 31 in 2016 with the Lions.
You never know with kickers, but chances are that Prater, who is 34, will not play another nine seasons to match Hanson and likely will not end up with as many career field goals.
*Note: Prater still has two games remaining in 2018
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 46 of 61 attempts (75.4%) 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 40-29 yards compared to 65 of 93 (69.9%) 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 159 of 169 (94.1%), 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. *Note: this is being written the day after Prater missed a very makable field goal that would have given the Lions a late lead over the Buffalo Bills.
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 2012 season.
Through 2012, Hanson ranked 7th all-time with 21 fourth quarter/game-winning kicks while Prater checked in at 5. Now, as I said, this only covers through the 2012 season and Prater has certainly added to that list big time 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.
If anything, I would give Hanson the slight edge here, but Prater has been so good in pressure situations that I will call it a push.
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) Hanson is a little bit better based on the criteria above.
VERDICT: Jason Hanson is the greatest Detroit Lions’ kicker of all-time