The most accurate kickers in NFL history, according to analytics


Being among the most accurate placekickers in NFL history is more than knocking the ball through the uprights. Technically it isn’t, but there’s a greater conversation to be had. Some benefit from frequent chip shots while others are repeatedly asked to knock through bombs of 50+ yards. For that reason, I’ve analyzed the top kickers since 2018.

Methodology

Where kickers are attempting each field goal better demonstrates who is a long-range marksman or chip-shot specialist. For that reason, I have broken down each kicker’s attempts into the traditional 0-29, 30-39, 40-49 and 50+ categories. From there, they’re put into either under 40 yards or above 40 yards categories.

I have made three other measurements to define kicking. The first is Average Attempted Kick Distance (AKD). This averages where each kicker individually has attempted all their kicks.

The second measurement will be Average Completion Distance (ACD). This highlights where each individual kicker’s completion range lies.

The final measurement is Average Miss Distance (AMD). This demonstrates where each kicker’s accuracy struggles. It also shows—by fortune or coaches’ trust—where they are asked to kick from. In this, I do exclude blocked field goals from the list. Frequently, a blocked kick is the result of an error in the field goal operation, not the kick. Therefore, for better or worse, I exclude them.

Of course, career field goal accuracy is a part of the measurement process; below are the current Top 10 most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history. Included are also three more kickers, as they were either former Top 10 kickers or their career demonstrates the methodology.

Career Field Goal Accuracy

PLAYER ACCURACY
PLAYER ACCURACY
1. Justin Tucker 90.183%
2. Harrison Butker 89.140%
3. Eddy Pineiro 89.000%
4. Younghoe Koo 88.506%
5. Daniel Carlson 88.021%
6. Chris Boswell 87.170%
7. Josh Lambo 87.075%
8. Ka’imi Fairbairn 87.065%
9. Mike Vanderjagt 86.466%
10. Robbie Gould 86.460%
11. Matt Gay 85.897%
12. Jason Myers 85.502%
13. Wil Lutz 85.153%
14. Greg Zuerlein 83.081%

Analysis

This is the eighth consecutive year of Tucker holding the No. 1 spot. The last time he ended a season not at No.1 was 2015. Tucker is the only kicker in NFL history with a career field goal accuracy above 90%.

  • Butker, after having a career-worst season in 2022 (75%), had his career-best season in 2023 (94.3%) to reclaim the No. 2 spot.
  • Pineiro is a newcomer on the list due to eclipsing 100 career attempts, the minimum required to be on the all-time accuracy list.
  • Another newcomer to the Top 10 is Fairbairn. After stringing together two impressive seasons (2022: 93.5%; 2023: 96.4%), he jumped from No. 17 to No. 8. He was the biggest riser from 2023, moving up nine spots.
  • Boswell leapt back into the Top 10 after an excellent season, going 93.5% in 2023. This was the second-largest positive jump on the list.
  • The biggest faller from 2023 is Matt Gay, due to kicking 80.5% in 2023. Last season he was No. 5 on the all-time accuracy. Now, he is No. 15.
  • The second biggest drop-off was Myers, who fell from No. 13 to No. 21 due to going 83.3%. He missed seven kicks in 2023, four of which were from 50+. (See, context matters.)

Under 40, over 40

Field goals under 40 yards are almost expected in the modern era. And, if you’re getting more under 40-yard attempts than other kickers, you’ve got a better shot at padding accuracy stats.

Analysis

  • No surprise to see Vanderjagt lead the category. His career spanned from the 1990s to early 2000s.
  • Butker having the second-highest percentage of kicks inside 40 yards shows why it’s important to have a larger conversation on accuracy. He’s getting more easy shots than anybody else.
  • Tucker being further to the right shows he’s not getting the chip shots others have, such as Butker, Pineiro, Koo and Carlson, the other four in the Top 5 in all-time accuracy.

Percentage of Kicks Over 40 Yards

Analysis

  • Gay has exactly half his attempts above 40 yards. I’m interested to see if that’s sustainable, or if his accuracy improves/suffers from it.
  • Boswell is the king of 40-49, taking more kicks from such range than any other. Up until 2021, Boswell was also under 10% from 50+. He’s developed his ranged kicking over the past few years and now has some of the highest over 40 yards kicking averages.
  • Tucker’s has the highest percentage of 40+ yard kicks of any in Top 5 accuracy, meaning he’s doing it from longer ranges and still outpacing all others.
  • While Butker has the second-most kicks inside of 40 yards, he does take a hefty amount of 50+ kicks, coming in fourth on the list.
  • Fairbairn jumping into the Top 10 and doing so with the third-highest percentage of 50+ yard kicks is notable.
  • Another demonstration of kicking’s evolution, with Vanderjagt (and Gould) attempting fewer than 10% of their career attempts from 50+.

Average attempted kick distance (AAKD) breakdown

Where kickers attempt their field goals matters. While each kick counts the same on both the scoreboard and their career attempts, where are they kicking from? The data shows it matters.

Average Attempted Kick Distance

All-Time Rank Player AAKD (Yards)
All-Time Rank Player AAKD (Yards)
40 Greg Zuerlein 39.8
15 Matt Gay 39.7
1 Justin Tucker 39.1
21 Jason Myers 39.1
8 Ka’imi Fairbairn 38.5
6 Chris Boswell 38.3
3 Eddy Pineiro 38.2
4 Younghoe Koo 38.2
7 Josh Lambo 38.1
2 Harrison Butker 37.9
22 Wil Lutz 37.8
5 Daniel Carlson 37.2
10 Robbie Gould 37
9 Mike Vanderjagt 35.8

Kicker Average Attempted Kick Distance

Analysis

AAKD shows a trend at the top. The more long-range shots you’re taking, the more your accuracy suffers. It also demonstrates how far kicking has evolved. At the bottom of AAKD are two kickers from previous generations. Vanderjagt’s career spanned 1998-2006, while Gould began his career in 2005. The average attempt has climbed.

  • Zuerlein once again leads in AAKD. He was handed an impossible task throughout his career, attempting an exorbitant 86 career 50+ yard field goals. Nearly half his career kicks are from 40+ (194/396).
  • Gay’s AAKD climbed from 38.9 yards in 2022 to 39.7 yards in 2023 due to 22 of his 41 attempts in 2023 being from 40+, including 13 attempts from 50+. The Colts asked a lot from their kicker last season. A bit too much, as his accuracy fell as a result.
  • Tucker is the exception to the rule. He has the highest AAKD of anyone in the Top 10 and is No. 1 in accuracy.
  • Carlson’s AAKD has been the easiest of any in the Top 5. Though he’s proven capable of knocking down big kicks, on average, he’s lining up from shorter distances.

Average completion distance (ACD) breakdown

At the end of the day, it’s all about splitting the uprights. It’s where these kickers trot onto the field and put three on the board. That’s where ACD comes in.

Average Completion Distance

All-Time Rank Player ACD (yards)
All-Time Rank Player ACD (yards)
3 Eddy Pineiro 38.2
15 Matt Gay 38.2
7 Josh Lambo 38.1
40 Greg Zuerlein 38
21 Jason Myers 37.9
1 Justin Tucker 37.7
6 Chris Boswell 37.3
8 Kai’imi Fairbairn 37.2
4 Younghoe Koo 37
2 Harrison Butker 36.8
5 Daniel Carlson 36.2
24 Wil Lutz 36.2
10 Robbie Gould 35.8
9 Mike Vanderjagt 34.3

Kicker Average Completion Distance

Analysis

  • Pineiro’s small sample size strikes and it puts him at the top spot of ACD. Give him credit for being accurate on such kicks through 100 attempts, but sustainability will be a key factor going forward.
  • Gay’s performance in 2023 deserves commendation. Though the Colts asked too much of him, he earned their confidence by making big-time kicks. Specifically, becoming the first NFL kicker to go 4/4 from 50+, and doing so in Tucker’s home stadium to boot.
  • In the early years of Boswell, he was rarely called on for distance kicks, but over the past three years he’s expanded his game to include distance kicking. Stunningly, he’s gone 21/25 (84%) on 50+ yard field goals.
  • Carlson has proven to be an excellent kicker regardless of distance, but he has benefitted the most of any Top 5 kicker with shorter kicks than the rest. That’s not to say he’s not worthy of praise, as Lutz has the same ACD but is 2.868% worse in career accuracy.

Average Miss Distance Breakdown

This metric shows kickers’ range. Where they’re no longer statistically expected to knock down kicks from.

Average Miss Distance

Rank Player AMD (Yards)
Rank Player AMD (Yards)
1 Justin Tucker 51.9
40 Greg Zuerlein 49.3
7 Josh Lambo 48.5
24 Wil Lutz 48.0
15 Matt Gay 47.9
8 Kai’imi Fairbairn 47.4
4 Younghoe Koo 46.4
2 Harrison Butker 46.2
21 Jason Myers 45.7
9 Mike Vanderjagt 45.6
6 Chris Boswell 45.5
10 Robbie Gould 45.1
3 Eddy Pineiro 44.0
5 Daniel Carlson 44.0

Kicker Average Miss Distance

Analysis

  • Tucker is the only kicker I’ve encountered with a miss distance above 50 yards. And he’s nearly two yards above 50, too. The gap between Tucker and Zuerlein is 2.6 yards. Nearly the same distance between Zuerlein and Koo.
  • Another demonstration from Zuerlein that he was asked to do so much distance kicking in his career. And further demonstrates Tucker’s impressive kicking to be so accurate when the next closest kicker in AMD is ranked No. 40 in all-time accuracy.
  • It’s too bad Lambo fell off and never got back to form. He was well on his way to being a true top-tier kicker in the NFL. From 2018-2020, Lambo was a bona fide star in the NFL, going 57/60 (97%), including 10/11 from 50+.
  • Lutz is a peculiar case. His AAKD and ACD are low, but his AMD is high. Part of why his is high could be the number of blocks, which I don’t count. He has eight blocked field goals in his career, including four blocks from inside 40 yards.
  • Gay is a real-deal kicker and his range is some of the best in the NFL.
  • Boswell is trending in the right direction, adding a half-yard to his AMD since last season, meaning his range is getting better as his career’s wore on.
  • Carlson’s the opposite of Boswell, losing a half-yard in AMD year-over-year. The culprit is a 30-yard miss, which brought his AMD down by 0.7 yards.
  • Pinerio’s at risk of a significant drop in AMD if he misses anything under his already low 44 yards. The volatility of a small sample size is concerning. This will be something to watch for next season.

Overall

  • No other reasons are needed to appreciate Tucker’s greatness. Yet, this better defines why he’s above all others. It’s not just about being the most accurate, but how he’s doing so. He’s doing it from longer ranges, from fewer career attempts from short ranges, and his miss distance is the only above 50 yards.
  • I can’t help but note Butker’s numbers are inflated. He gets more kicks inside of 40 yards than any other. And while being the second-most accurate is admirable, he’s getting easier shots than just about everyone else.
  • I’ll be tuning into into Pineiro’s 2024 season. If he has a couple misses, his accuracy will quickly fall out of the Top 5, and even Top 10. And if they’re short misses, his numbers will plummet on the charts. But, if he strings together another impressive season, he’ll better lock in a top-spot, a tough challenge where many others have failed.
  • Both Koo and Carlson had solid seasons, finishing around 86-86.5% last season. That’s great for most, but I have a feeling we’ll see improvement. And with it, they could bump up the list.
  • Fairbairn is another to watch out for. He strung together two incredible kicking seasons. Can he make it a hat trick?
  • Myers and Gay are two who need to bounce back or find themselves severely on the outside looking in.



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