2007 FG Kicker Ranking

There aren't many positions in team sports as lonely as the place kicker. Alone on the sidelines all game long, he's asked to make the game-winning field goal in overtime to send his team to the Super Bowl. Or maybe his head coach doesn't have enough faith in his leg to attempt a 48 yard try, and instead goes for it on 4th and 13 only to ultimately lose the Super Bowl by 3 points.

When we grade field goal kickers, we need to account for attempt distance and other factors. And attempt distance is complicated--it's non-linear. A 40 yard attempt is not twice as difficult as a 20 yd attempt. In fact, here is a graph of the average accuracy rates for field goals of various attempt distances.

So based on the analysis described here, I calculated the expected FG percentage for every NFL kicker based on his average attempt distance and home stadium environment. The difference between his actual FG% and his expected FG% can be considered his true performance given the difficulty of his attempts.

The table below lists all FG kickers from 2007 who had at least 10 attempts. It's sorted from best to worst. Click on the headers to resort as desired.

KickerTeamAvg Yds Att# AttActual FG%Exp FG%Act-Exp %

















Congratulations to Jay Feely and the Dolphins, who at least have bragging rights to something in 2007. And jeez, what happened to Mare down in New Orleans? Only 19 attempts, but still that's significantly bad to say the least. Rackers seemed to have a down year. He was one of the top FG kickers over the last two years.

(Except for Mare) kickers are mostly bunched together in performance. Although according to raw accuracy percentage they appear separated by a wide disparity, in reality the difference in performance among field goal kickers is not large. In my previous analysis, I estimated that one stadard deviation in true accuracy is 7.7%. And for every standard deviation difference, a kicker would yield on average an additional 2.3 field goals worth 6.7 points in a season. Whether that's considered a lot or not depends on your perspective.

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7 Responses to “2007 FG Kicker Ranking”

  1. SportsGuy says:

    Does this data factor in blocked FGs?

    What also needs consideration is which hash the FG attempt was made from. Once you get past about 30 yards there is a difference of several percentage points between the two marks.

  2. JG says:

    Well, we see why Belichick didn't pay a lot of money to keep Vinatieri (even apart from the fact that Vin is near the bottom of this list).

    The league-top FG % rate is nine percentage points above the average. Teams on average attempt about 30 FGs per season. So 30 x 3 pts x 0.09 means a league-top FG kicker will net about 8 pts per season more than the average kicker.

    Of course most of those points will be in non-close games where they don't matter much. On average a NFL team increases its net scoring margin by about 17 points to increase its W-L by one win. So having the best FG kicker in the league (compared to an average kicker) will win a team almost one game every two seasons.

    Or maybe not even that, because if you have take money from another position to stay under the cap after paying big bucks to sign a "never miss" kicker, you may weaken yourself at that other position in a way that costs you offsetting points, maybe a good deal more than 8 of them.

    (E.g. Vinatieri got a reported $2.5 mil per from the Colts. Suppose the Pats had paid him that to keep him, and it had kept them from being able to sign Welker and his 100 receptions for his reported average $3.6 mil? An extreme example, but you see the point. If a team weakens itself at some back-up positions to sign a top kicker and costs itself just one TD over the season as a result, it gives back almost all the points it gets from kicker. If it gives up two TDs as a result... )

    Moreover, are these kicker rankings stable year-to-year? (Look where Vin places here.) The number of misses is quite small, suggesting small sample size. If a good deal of the spread from top to bottom is noise, then the "best" kickers are even less better than average than it looks here.

    It's no wonder so many FG kickers are transients.

  3. Brian Burke says:

    Regarding blocks, the NFL counts them as missed a missed FG, unless in the opinion of the official scorer the block was due to a bad snap or hold.

    Regarding hash marks, I've never heard that before. I would think that the further out a kick is, the less the hash mark matters. The angle becomes less acute.

    I can see there might be an effect close in. I know teams like to get the ball between the hash marks for short FG attempts when possible. An attempt from either hash makes the goal posts appear narrower geometrically, but it would be equal from either hash.

    Any effect would be far larger for college than the NFL with its very narrow hash marks.

  4. Brian Burke says:

    JG- The rankings are somewhat stable. Check out my previous post "Improved FG Kicker Ranking" to see how the kickers fared in previous seasons.

    Improved FG Kicker Ranking

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'd shocked that dome/non dome teams and cold/nice weather teams aren't better -- there are a bunch of cold, non-weather K (pitt, cincy, chi, buf...) near the top.

  6. Brian Burke says:

    Anon-Home field domes and warm weather environments are accounted for in the regression. The link immediately above your comment explains everything.

  7. shake'n'bake says:

    There was a rumor going around (and stated pretty confidently by at least one announcer) that Vinateiri was playing hurt most of the year. His improved kickoffs and hitting his first 40+ yard fieldgoal after some rest in the SD playoff game supports that idea. I hope he was hurt, the Colts aren't paying him 2.5million for that kind of performance.

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