Football season is closing in! I have a big project planned for once it starts, but I’m still putting it together. Hopefully everyone will enjoy.
I had intended on filling the meantime with a look at field goal kickers. Football Outsiders (here’s an article written by them for ESPN.com) has shown that kickers show no correlation in accuracy from year to year. I suppose that’s believable, but I thought there should be something useful. Some kickers have to be better than others, even if they’re inconsistent, right? So I got data from Pro Football Reference.com, looking at kickers who had at least 30 attempts in the past 10 years. That includes kickers who played in the 90s so long as they had 30 attempts in 2000 or later. For each kicker I listed how many field goals they made and attempted in bins of kick distance; 0-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, and 50+. I also made a judgment call as to if the kicker was a dome guy or not.
I ended up getting a little bored before I entered all the kickers, but I ended up with 40 kickers, the least experienced of which is Mason Crosby. To test if some kickers were better than others, I fit a binomial regression predicting accuracy from kick distance (treated as a categorical variable, since it was in bins) and if the kicker was a dome guy or not. Kick distance obviously mattered, although 0-19 and 20-29 were not significantly different, and surprisingly to me ‘dome’ was significant even though I only had 4 guys listed as kicking in domes. I expected kicking in a dome to help, but not to come out with only 4 guys. More importantly, I fit the same model but added the kicker’s name as a categorical variable. If the model including kicker ID fits the data better than the model without, that would provide evidence that some kickers are different than others. But, it did not. Not even close. The only kicker in the sample who was even close to testing differently from the others was John Hall, who trended towards being worse than the rest of the group.
I was a little disappointed to have such a boring finding, but at least we can all feel reassured about waiting until the last round of the fantasy draft to pick a kicker, or yelling at our team if they reach or overpay a kicker in any manner whatsoever. As long as the kicker you want has NFL talent, he’s pretty much interchangeable with any other kicker you might get.