For the past five years, the Denver Broncos’ Matt Prater has been one of the best and most consistent kickers the NFL has to offer. Last season was no different, and Prater was the top kicker in fantasy football, boasting a field goal percentage of 96.2. He also converted each of his 75 extra point attempts – the most in a single season by a kicker in NFL history.
Because of his great season last year, Prater has found himself as the number-one rated kicker this year, with an average draft position of seventy-sixth overall in both Yahoo! And NFL.com fantasy leagues – that’s a pick in the first ten rounds in most standard redrafts, showing just how coveted the University of Central Florida product is.
But recent breaking news has detailed that the Denver kicker has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season, citing the reason as ‘drinking a few beers at home’. Whilst on the surface the offense may not seem all that offensive, Prater has been in the NFL’s alcohol program since August 2011 when he was arrested and charged with DUI – his second in three years – hence the severity of his punishment.
“I’ve made some mistakes,” Prater said. “I’m accepting full responsibility. I’ll learn from it and come back as a better person. I want to apologise to my teammates, my coaches, the Broncos’ organisation, and the fans.” Who Prater didn’t mention in his apology speech were the fantasy players who had invested so highly in him, yet will be missing him for the first five weeks of the regular season; if you include Denver’s bye week which comes in Week 4.
However, in my league, I managed to avoid falling into the Prater trap. As the first player to draft a kicker, which happened in round 13, I decided against drafting the Broncos player, instead taking New England’s Stephen Gostkowski. That particular selection was down to a gut feeling, nothing else. And without a single regular season snap taken, that move already seems to be paying off. Although Gotskowski has only hit two of five field goal attempts this preseason, his status as one of the league’s top kickers still remains, and he should perform well enough to be a solid fantasy starter. For Matt Prater’s owners, however, the search for a replacement kicker begins.