Oct 18, 2022 - Sports

NFL kickers are hitting longer field goals more than ever

Data: Sports Reference; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: Sports Reference; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

NFL kickers are attempting and converting more long field goals than ever.

By the numbers: Entering Monday, kickers had made a record 72.3% of 50-yard field goals this season, which comprise a record 22.7% of all attempts. Those shatter the previous records of 69.5% (2017) and 17.7% (2021), respectively.

  • Kickers last year — the first-ever 17-game season — set the record for most makes from 50+ yards (120). They're already halfway there this season (60) with two-thirds of the schedule remaining.
  • Prior to 2018, just 17 field goals of at least 60 yards had ever been made. 10 more have been made since then, including two already this year (Wil Lutz, Harrison Butker).

Between the lines: The reasons behind this evolution range from kickers being stronger to new rules that make it tougher on defenses to disrupt kicks, long-time special teams coach Mike Westhoff told the Wall Street Journal.

The big picture: This golden age of kickers, paired with coaches' embrace of analytics, has changed the calculus when it comes to field position.

  • Fourth-down strategy used to largely comprise kicking a field goal when in range or punting when not in range.
  • Now, that range has grown considerably and fourth-down attempts — up 84% last year from 2011 — are replacing shorter punts.

The bottom line: NFL kickers have never been better, and teams' increased trust in their legs has brought a more aggressive and exciting brand of football to the gridiron.

Go deeper