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.
|Kicker||Team||Avg Yds Att||# Att||Actual 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.