Alex Kessman, the One That Got Away
NFL Week 13 - This is a story about the fish that got away.
Players make their NFL debuts all the time. Sometimes it's to great fanfare; a team's first-round savior making their long-awaited debut. But often, it's just some guy, called up from the practice squad to fill a blank roster spot, often never to be heard from again. In 2020 alone, 35 players made their debut, were active for just one game, and then were gone—reverted to the practice squad under the NFL's new rules or cut to free up space for someone else. Maybe a few of them will find their way back to a roster at some point, but for the most part, these guys are footnotes in NFL history. At best, they have an interesting story—CFL star Reggie Begelton taking a swing at NFL glory! First-round pick Isaiah Wilson's one actual game in a lineup!—but no one is writing columns about Josiah Coatney or Steven Dunbar or Prince Charles Iworah.
Kickers, though? Kickers hit differently.
On Saturday, the Jets called up Alex Kessman from their practice squad. Their previous kicker, Matt Ammendola, was a permanent fixture in this column; a 68.4% field goal rate will do that for you. Kessman was undrafted out of Pittsburgh, where he was the school's all-time leader with 69 field goals. His overall field goal percentage wasn't that great, but that's in part because he was trusted for his leg—Kessman made 66.7% of his kicks from 50-plus yards at Pitt, making him the most accurate long-distance kicker in NCAA history. He went through struggles at times, and could be best described as inconsistent, but considering the problems the Jets have moving the ball, the signing made a bit of sense. If you can't get close, sign the kicker who has the strongest leg to increase your chance of making long field goals. I can't fault the logic at all. It's not like they signed some random bloke off the street; there was some thought put into this.
— Steelers Depot 🎅🎄🎁 (@Steelersdepot) October 10, 2020
Alex Kessman Pro Day
60 yards pic.twitter.com/alYBxIxOW7
— Adam (@HKA_Tanalski) March 17, 2021
Because the call-up happened on Saturday, however, it was too late for Kessman to get added to the Loser League roster. Unfortunate, but it happens—we sent out Tweets reminding people to update their roster to get Ammendola out, and resigned ourselves to the fact that some people wouldn't get the three or so points a random Jets kicker was going to get. Plenty of time to add him for next week, it'll all be fine.
Well, it wasn't fine. Alex Kessman attempted six kicks against the Eagles. Four were kickoffs. Two were extra points. Zero went through the uprights. Kessman would have earned a Loser League score of -10 points had he been eligible to be picked. That would have been the lowest score of the season. Oops.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 5, 2021
Well, with a day like that, we have to put it into some context. Just how rare of a day did we miss by not sticking Kessman into the player pool?
The Jets have already signed a new kicker, Eddy Piñeiro, so I'm assuming Kessman's time with the Jets is done. It's entirely possible he'll hook up somewhere else and get another chance somewhere down the line, but if this is the extent of his NFL career, he will become the second kicker in NFL history to have missed both of his career kicks, field goals, or extra points. I say "kicker" because legendary Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson missed a pair of extra points and a field goal for the 1957 Steelers, and Cardinals quarterback Lamar McHan blew a couple of extra points in 1955, but they weren't signed for their kicking prowess. The game was different back then, and we're not interested in centers or blocking backs who couldn't kick a ball.
Unbelievably, the other kicker to pull that feat off was another modern New York Jet. In 2019, Kaare Vedvik suited up for the first game of the season against the Bills. Vedvik had had a notworthy career to this point—after nailing all four field goals in preseason, the Ravens traded the UDFA to the Vikings for a fifth-round pick, and then the Vikings waived him when he failed to win their kicking job. The Jets picked him up and plugged him into their lineup … and he missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal in a 16-17 loss. He was waived the next week.
But Kessman doesn't quite match Vedvik. Vedvik was billed as a kicker/punter hybrid and is currently having some success with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders solely as a punter—it turns out, it's actually quite difficult to both placekick and drop kick! And Vedvik made those kicks in preseason; Kessman never even got to attempt a kick in an August game. To the best of my knowledge, that makes Kessman unique: the only kicker to have made a regular-season NFL roster to have never converted a placekick in any fashion, including preseason. Even one-and-doners such as Remy Hamilton with the 2005 Lions made some kicks in preseason. If Kessman never gets another attempt in an NFL uniform, he will be unique.
OK, so what about from a Loser League perspective? Is Kessman unique there, or can we find him some company?
Since 1960, there have been 28 days where a kicker scored -10 points or worse, or about once every three years. But they have only been growing more common since the extra point was moved back in 2015. There have been eight double-digit negative days since 2016 as extra points have gone from being essentially guaranteed to being only mostly guaranteed.
|Worst Kicker Loser League Days Ever, 1960-2021|
That is … an entirely random list of kickers. You have Hall of Famers Jan Stenerud, George Blanda, and Jerry Kramer up there to show, yes, a bad day can happen to anyone at any time. Bob Thomas shows up twice, nearly a decade apart; I won't say anything more about him because he was on Illinois' Supreme Court until last year and has a history of suing people for defamation of character. You have some real kicking lifers such as Jim Bakken, Chris Bahr, and Mason Crosby, all of whom have played over 200 games in the NFL, and not likely to be players you'd ever take in Loser League.
There are other one-and-doners on the list, though. Taylor Russolino was a COVID replacement last season in Denver, finally making his NFL debut after a career spent bouncing around minor league teams such as the New Orleans VooDoo, the Shanghai Skywalkers, and the St. Louis BattleHawks; he missed a pair of extra points and a field goal, though he did make one successful extra point and got on the all-time scoring list. On his Instagram account, Russolino calls himself a former NFL, XFL, CFL, CAFL, AFL, IFL and CIFL kicker, which falls under TMA-2KTO to me.
Curtis Burrow is the other one-and-doner, the fourth kicker signed by the 1988 Packers—Burrow replaced Dean Dorsey, who replaced Dale Dawson, who replaced Max Zendejas. It is probably not a coincidence that the 1988 Packers had the second-worst FG/XP score that season with -17.2 points. Burrow was excited that the Packers' final game was in Phoenix, as he had never kicked in cold weather before, and was hoping to use the game as a springboard to a successful kicking career so he wouldn't have to fall back on his teaching background. Burrow missed a pair of extra points and his only field goal attempt, so it was back to the classroom for him.
There are other memorable disasters on the list. Cody Parkey's day isn't the double-doink; rather, it was the day against the Lions where he hit the uprights four times, which frankly seems harder than just making the dang kicks. Mason Crosby's 1-for-5 day in 2018 is the most recent of the four times when the kicker's struggles directly caused the loss—i.e., the margin of defeat plus any points the kicker managed was less than the points they left on the table.
Then you have Dan Bailey's 0-for-4 day against the Buccaneers last season, which I believes ties the record for most missed placekicks without a single success in a game—that one's a little hard to track down, as there is no easy way to search for "combined field goal attempts and extra point attempts," but I believe Bailey, 1977 Jim Bakken, 1962 Gino Cappelletti, and 1961 John Aveni share that particular mark. And, considering how much more accurate kickers are today than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, that makes Bailey's day arguably the worst in NFL history.
But the worst Loser League day for a kicker is none of those. That goes to Rick Danmeier of the 1980 Minnesota Vikings in a December matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The second-to-last straight-on kicker in NFL history, Danmeier had a moderately successful six-year career with the Vikings; his 66% field goal rate over his career is pretty much dead-on average for the era. But he wasn't average on this day, oh no. Two missed field goals are bad, but not noteworthy for the era. Three missed extra points? Now that'll kill ya, earn you -15 points, and be one of the most infamous days in NFL history.
Or at least it would, if the game didn't happen to be noteworthy for other reasons. It's the freaking Miracle at the Met!
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) November 19, 2020
On a freezing cold day at the old Metropolitan Stadium, the Vikings overcame a 23-9 fourth-quarter deficit, including having to go 80 yards with 14 seconds left and no timeouts to win the game. A trick hook-and-lateral and then a Hail Mary to Ahmad Rashad gave the Vikings the miracle win and the NFC Central title. And none of that would have been necessary had Danmeier just made his kicks—most notably, he missed an extra point with 5:01 left in the game to keep the Vikings down eight points in the era before two-point conversions were a thing. That meant the Vikings had to get an interception, a quick touchdown, and a lightning three-and-out to set up the game-winning last-gasp drive. And maybe if Danmeier had been a little more accurate on the day, the Vikings would have thrown a short pass to set up for a game-winning field goal rather than requiring Tommy Kramer to bounce the ball off of a defender into Rashad's hands for the game-winning score—after which, of course, Danmeier had his extra point attempt blocked.
So I suppose we should be thanking Danmeier for providing the circumstances for one of the greatest games of all time. A slightly nicer slice of history than the one Kessman was served up this week.
Week 13's Biggest Losers
Worst of the Worst
The week when Houston became the first team to be eliminated from the postseason saw its two quarterbacks top the Loser League leaderboard. Tyrod Taylor (1) ends up in last place thanks to his interception, but it's not like Davis Mills (3) exactly set the world on fire in his half of the game. Guys, I think it's possible that the Houston Texans are not a good football team.
Challenge is down for this play, looks like a Kenny Moore pick. pic.twitter.com/hqIzmarCdC
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) December 5, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
Mike Glennon (7) averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, which isn't good. He also routinely led his receivers into traffic; I'm not sure it's ever possible for 4.3 yards per attempt to look good, but Glennon didn't pull it off. And now Glennon has a concussion (though he was never taken out of the game?), so Jake Fromm looks to get the start against the Chargers. Yikes.
Trevor Lawrence (8) had another underwhelming day in a string of them, as the Jags try hard to just play out the stretch of the season and go home. Lawrence's receivers are dropping his passes, his offensive line isn't protecting him, and he just isn't good enough at this point to overcome all of that—in fact, there's so little talent around him, it's hard to judge if he's actually any good at all.
We have spent a lot of the year mocking Zach Wilson (23), so credit where credit is very much due: when the Eagles game was competitive, and Wilson could play in rhythm and not in insane comeback mode, he looked very solid, with a pair of touchdowns. Only 226 yards to his name, helped by garbage-time production, but it was a sign of life for a team that has not had many of those this season.
Worst of the Worst
James Robinson (1) lost a fumble on the Jaguars' opening drive, leading him to be benched for three drives. On the three drives he missed, Carlos Hyde touched the ball seven times for 17 yards and a score, which would have been enough for Robinson to get out of the pit. But hey, Urban Meyer's doghouse is a real thing, and it's not like Hyde fumbled and … wait, he did? Huh. And was he benched for three drives? No? Huh. OK, maybe Meyer doesn't know what he's doing.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 5, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
Another week, another Houston Texans player here—this time, Rex Burkhead (4) was the one to shine, as the Texans currently have the worst rushing DVOA in NFL history. We'll see if they can't hold that record as we close out December. The current leader in the clubhouse are the 2019 Dolphins, featuring Myles Gaskin (4); his 15-carry, 44-yard day last week was a throwback to those 2019 squads. And, of course, Gaskin was the better of the two Dolphins on the day, as Salvon Ahmed (2) also is near the top of the Loser League rankings.
On Monday, both Zach Moss (3) and Devin Singletary (3) added themselves to the conversation as well, as the Bills proved unable to run the ball in the gusting winds in Buffalo.
Mark Ingram (2), Ezekiel Elliott (4), and Rashaad Penny (5) round out the bottom of the list.
We were told that Darrell Henderson was ready to come back, but apparently, he was only going to be used in "emergency situations." There are very few emergency situations against the Jaguars that require the use of a banged-up running back. That meant Sony Michel (18) had a hell of a day, becoming the first Rams player all season to go over 100 rushing yards in their blowout victory.
Worst of the Worst
Four Goose Eggers this week: Christian Kirk, Tim Patrick, Chris Conley, and Breshad Perriman. Conley turned in the no-catch day, while Patrick led the group with five targets without getting to double-digit receiving yards.
Other Loser Leaders
Your one-point squad: Courtland Sutton, Zach Pascal, Marvin Jones, Cole Beasley, Marquez Callaway, Tre'Quan Smith, Darius Slayton, Corey Davis, DeVonta Smith, Freddie Swain, and Trent Sherfield. Pascal only gets here because of a 12-yard rush; he would have been a Goose Egger without it.
Tee Higgins (19) gets this mark for the second week in a row! 138 yards and a score will do that for you, as Higgins followed up his first 100-yard game of the year … with his second 100-yard game of the year. That's what we call a trend, ladies and gentlemen!
Worst of the Worst
Of the players you could actually select, Evan McPherson (-1) was your biggest loser, missing an extra point but making a pair of other kicks to mostly cancel it out. Certainly not worth an essay about!
Other Loser Leaders
Ka'imi Fairbairn (0) did not get an attempt as the Texans were shut out at home for the first time ever in the regular season. Yes, that's right, a Texans player hit at least the "other loser leader" section at all four positions; they may not, in fact, be any good. Robbie Gould (0) also gets a zero after doinking an extra point off of an upright in a very, very strange game.
Jake Elliott (15) went 7-for-7 as the Gardner Minshew-led Eagles offense moved the ball well enough to stall out in field goal range on a semi-regular basis. Long live the mustache and the ancillary fantasy benefits thereof.
Week 13 Contest Results
The Patriots passing game was a trap for a lot of people this week; plenty of people thought that the high winds in Buffalo would reduce their passing offense and so loaded up on New England, but I don't think anyone expected three passing attempts. Your winners, then, were the players who avoided that trap. That brings us to Stillers.
Stillers did not update his roster this week to take advantage of the wind in Buffalo, or the bad matchups for New York or Jacksonville. In fact … he didn't update his roster at all. And hasn't, all season long. He's still rocking with his Week 1 roster, which is why he has not generally been among our leaders.
But, for one week, that preseason roster came out tremendously. Despite still starting Chase Edmonds (on injured reserve) and Josh Lambo (cut), Stillers managed a 9-point week—Tyrod Taylor (1), James Robinson (1), Mark Ingram (2), Marvin Jones (1), Darnell Mooney (2), and Cairo Santos (2) being enough to lead him to victory.
Yes, we all got beat by someone who hasn't checked his lineup in three months. We'll all just take a moment of silence to think about this.
One way or another, Stillers, you have won the FO shirt and the $100 NFL Shop gift card. Congratulations, if you remember to check this!
Your top five for Week 13:
1. Stillers (9)
2. IanO's Worst Case Scenario (15)
3. Campbell's Soup—with Extra Kneecaps (16)
4. Deacon Blues (18)
5. Suboptimal Superstars (19)
I mentioned the Patriots' game affecting the overall standings, and we do indeed have some significant changes on the season-wide leaderboard, partially thanks to high New England scores. Two of our teams who have been in the top five most of the year long have fallen out—Aaron Schatz Has a Posse put up 47 points, getting bitten by Devonta Freeman (15), Jakobi Meyers (15, thanks to no Patriots passing offense), and Amon-Ra St. Brown (14). Lahoo Saher topped him with a 59-point day, with Meyers, St. Brown, and Damien Harris (17) being the ones to keep him down. Both remain lurking, but it turns out that if the Patriots throw the ball only three times, it really effects stat distribution.
But more notably, we have a new overall leader. Octuplicate passes the Mojo Momenteers and moves into first place for the season, with his 29-point day out mojoing the Momenteers' 33-pointer. The culprit? The Patriots, once again, as the Momenteers are forced to take Jakobi Meyers' 15-point day (or, I suppose, Deonte Harris' garbage touchdown that gave him 15 points as well). That's enough to knock him down into second place in what is a very, very close competition at the top.
Both started one of the single-digit quarterbacks (Mike Glennon for Octuplicate and Trevor Lawrence for the Momenteers), but Octuplicate was able to find solid starters across the board, even if only Ka'imi Fairbairn (0) really stood out. Laviska Shenault (3), Jamison Crowder (6), Tevin Coleman (6), and Rhamondre Stevenson (7) isn't a lineup that's going to push for a lot of individual-week glory, but it's a low-ceiling lineup that really helps if you're looking for consistent week-in and week-out production to try to claim the overall prize.
AlecV remains in third place behind them, with a 25-point day powered by Fairbairn, Shenault, Cole Beasley (1), and Rex Burkhead (4) making up for some less-than-ideal quarterback choices. Behind him, both In The Hunt and Stmedard return to the top five rankings with 31- and 37-point days, respectively; both had to take one penalty at a skill position (Alex Collins and Jalen Reagor, respectively), but avoided the Patriots Passing Problem to climb back into contention.
Only 13 teams remain within 50 points of the leader, or within that 10-point-per-week threshold which seems like a decent amount to climb. But as we saw this week, it's not at all unheard of for 50-point days to happen to even top-five teams if they make a wrong call. There are 47 teams within 100 points, 76 within 150, 134 within 200, and 226 within 250. Keep plugging away at it, guys!
Your top five to this point:
1. Octuplicate (402)
2. Mojo Momenteers (405)
3. AlecV (406)
4. In The Hunt (426)
5. StMedard (433)
You can check your results and the rest of the Loserboard here!
Plays for Week 14
Make sure you scroll all the way down to find Jake Fromm—I nearly missed him in my first draft of these recommendations, because as of Tuesday afternoon he wasn't projected with any fantasy points. But hey, he's the starter for New York this week. Daniel Jones is unlikely to play with his neck injury, and Mike Glennon is in the concussion protocol. So Fromm, who was on Buffalo's practice squad two weeks ago, is in line to start. Get him.
Zach Wilson is my other pick. He burned a lot of people this week with his best performance to date but, well, I'd like to see him repeat it before I start going elsewhere.
Other promising picks: Trevor Lawrence (@TEN), Jared Goff (@DET)
The Houston Texans have the worst run DVOA we have ever measured. Rex Burkhead is the Texans' primary running back. The only, and I mean only, risk of taking Burkhead is if the Texans get blasted so quickly and so thoroughly they have to abandon the run. With Davis Mills under center. Yeah, I'm fine with taking that risk.
Chuba Hubbard is back in the starting lineup for the Panthers. In his earlier stint replacing Christian McCaffrey, he had some moderate success—a 100-yard day against the Eagles; touchdowns against the Vikings and Panthers. But that was before the Panthers added Ameer Abdullah, who should eat into Hubbard's usage in passing situations. That should be enough to put a cap on Hubbard's value for Loser League purposes.
I'm also taking Tevin Coleman, who has firmly taken a grip on the starting running back role for the Jets. That doesn't mean he has become a successful running back for the Jets, mind you, just that his volume's up—and in a week where I'm taking a couple of risky shots in Burkhead and Hubbard, someone I can count on for double-digit carries seems useful.
Other promising picks: Devin Singletary (@TB), Latavius Murray (@CLE), Sony Michel (@ARI)
Amon-Ra St. Brown, congratulations for catching the game-winning touchdown to give the Lions their first win in nearly a calendar year. I'm so happy for you. Your team still is not very good at all, and you're really good for four-target, 20-yard days, so you're staying in my lineup, but good show.
Jamison Crowder is my stack, taking a wide receiver to pair with Zach Wilson. He's clearly the second option behind Elijah Moore, and I don't trust the Jets to routinely provide enough value for ONE receiver, much less two.
I'm sticking with Cole Beasley as my third pick—I had him in because of the wind in Buffalo last week, but he hasn't gained more than 50 yards for a little more than a month and hasn't scored since the bye week as Buffalo's offense has been stuck in … not neutral, but first gear, maybe. And the Buccaneers aren't exactly an enticing matchup, banged-up secondary or not.
Other promising picks: Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones (@TEN), Robby Anderson (v. ATL)
With no Matt Ammendola to kick around anymore, Matthew Wright becomes my binky; the Jaguars kicker essentially never leaves my lineup.
And with the Texans offense fully in neutral, if not reverse, Ka'imi Fairbairn remains a tasty proposition. I'll miss Ammendola, however.
Other promising picks: Brett Maher (@NYJ), Brian Johnson (v. DAL)