Selecting the NFL's best placekicker can be as hard as picking its best tackle. How do you judge? Do you give the most weight to long field goals? To all field goals? To kickoffs not returned? To points? For years, the league's leading point scorer has been considered the best kicker. Ridiculous. Scoring is so heavily tied to a team's overall offensive performance that a kicker on a bad team gets ignored.
SI asked the Elias Sports Bureau to devise a kicker-efficiency formula that better reflects a kicker's performance in field goal accuracy, touchbacks on kick-offs, and extra-point efficiency. The formula awards and deducts points based on that performance. On field goals, special weight is given to success from long range: For example, a 25-yard field goal is worth three rating points, while one from 46 yards (the distance at which kickers on average begin to miss more than they make) is worth 15; a miss from 25 costs a kicker 27, and one from 46 costs 15. A touchback is worth five points, and a missed extra point costs the kicker 10 points. One factor that's not accounted for: the weather. "It's a crucial factor," says Pittsburgh Steeler kicker Gary Anderson, "but you can't measure it."
Below are the top five and bottom five kickers through the first quarter of the season, according to this kicker-efficiency formula (in field goal accuracy only long attempts, from 46 or more yards, are included in the chart):