The San Francisco 49ers signed David Akers at the end of July, and while a good percentage of Niners fans have probably had Akers on their fantasy team at least once in the last decade, the move wasn’t considered all that exciting by many. Why? Because while Akers has always been very good, he represented little more than the latest very good kicker, a guy who’s a year and a half younger than Joe Nedney, the Niners’ previous very good kicker.
Andy Lee is in his eighth year as the Niners’ punter, and it’s hard to think of a better punter in franchise history (besides maybe Tommy Davis, who I never saw play).
Both Akers and Lee went into this season as upper-tier veteran special teamers, and they’re having the best years of their respective careers so far.
Akers: The 36-year-old has made 23-of-25 field goal attempts (his two misses came against the Eagles, his old team). The highest percentage of field goals he’s made in a season came back in 2002 when he made 88.2%. This year he’s making 92%. Akers’ accuracy might take a slight hit as the season goes on and the weather gets worse — although that shouldn’t be as much of a problem at Candlestick as it would in Philly — but nothing will change the fact that he’s already made five field goals of at least 50 yards. Akers is 5-for-5 from that range this season; the best he’d done previously was 2-for-3 in 2001, 2002 and 2004.
Lee: His punts are traveling 50.5 yards on average, which is almost 3 yards more than the longest average of his career (47.8 in 2008). That puts him second in the NFL behind Shane Lechler. Even better, his net average (punts minus return yardage) is a league-leading 43.8 yards per punt.
Part of Lee’s net success is because their coverage teams have noticeably improved under Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Brad Seely, who’s responsible for the interesting array of formations the 49ers use during kickoff coverage. Harbaugh’s more than willing to give Seely props:
“He’s just a phenomenal football coach,” Harbaugh said of Seely, who devised the surprise onside kick that led to a 49ers field goal on Sunday in their 27-20 win over the New York Giants.
“I sit in on their meetings and I don’t say a word. I just learn. He’s a great coach. . . . I almost got the feeling that we got coach Seely now and at some point some smart organization is going to hire him away from us. We’ll be playing against him. And the same can be said with Greg Roman and Vic Fangio.”
With Seely in the fold, Akers and Lee each have a chance to be named Pro Bowlers at the very least, with First-Team All-Pro nods a definite possibility. The latter is an honor each player has earned once — Akers in 2001 and Lee 2007. With the 49ers running up a pretty lofty record, a First-Team All-Pro kicking sweep for the 49ers may be in order.