clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The NFL kicking crown: Comparing Justin Tucker, Dan Bailey, Adam Vinatieri and Chris Boswell

New, comments

Dan Bailey, Adam Vinatieri and Chris Boswell are good and all. But they’re not Justin Tucker. Here’s why.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers inked kicker Chris Boswell to a four-year extension.

After reading the Reddit comments discussing the news, one user mentioned Boswell is only five attempts from the 100 minimum attempts required to be recognized on the all-time completion percentage rankings. If he completes all five, he’ll surpass Dan Bailey as the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history. If Boswell completes eight-straight kicks, he overtakes Justin Tucker as the most accurate kicker.

NFL Field Goal Percent Career Leaders

Because kicking means so much to us all, I spent the past two days compiling stats regarding Tucker, Bailey, Boswell and Adam Vinatieri to compare some of the league’s most elite kickers. I couldn’t account for everything though, like how Bailey kicks in a dome at home and Vinatieri enjoyed the roof over Lucas Oil Stadium while both Tucker and Boswell kick in the elements at home games ...just saying.

Now, for all stats and tables below, I’ve included the career numbers from all players. These sample sizes are different, but that’s how we must measure them when comparing all-time greatness. I placed Vinatieri at the top as a benchmark for greatness and having an established career. Below him are the younger players who are competing for the crown.

Career Average Stats

Player Avg. Attempt Distance Avg. Comp. Distance Avg. Miss Distance Avg. Miss W/O Blocks
Player Avg. Attempt Distance Avg. Comp. Distance Avg. Miss Distance Avg. Miss W/O Blocks
Adam Vinatieri 36.2 35 42.8 42.7
Justin Tucker 39.4 38.2 50.4 50.8
Dan Bailey 38.2 37.1 46.8 47.3
Chris Boswell 37.5 36.7 43.9 44.9

First, the graph shows kicking has changed in the NFL. Yes, these kickers may regress during their careers and the numbers may fall a bit, but all three kickers’ stats are higher than Vinatieri’s in every category. I don’t think it’s regression so much as NFL kicking skill, strength and coaching has evolved into a higher floor and a higher ceiling.

From the table you can see Tucker is better than any of the other three players. He’s averaging just more than one yard-per-attempt more than Bailey and nearly two yards more than Boswell. He’s also three yards greater than Vinatieri.

His average completion percentage is similar, being one yard greater than Bailey and nearly two-yards greater than Boswell, just as the attempts scored. Once more, Tucker averages more than three-yards greater than Vinatieri.

As for his average missing distance, Tucker’s range is longer. His missing distance is greater than 50 yards, while Bailey’s is three-yards closer. Both Boswell and Vinatieri place under 45-yards, though Boswell’s distance is greater.

Take out all blocked kicks and once more Tucker leads. When he misses a kick it’s due to ridiculous distance attempts. His average miss attempt is more than 50-yards while Bailey’s stands around 47-yards and Boswell sits at 45-yards. Vinatieri is a strange case as when you eliminate the blocks, his range is virtually the same.

Attempt Breakdowns

Player Att. <= 29 Att. 30-39 Att. 40-49 Att. 50+
Player Att. <= 29 Att. 30-39 Att. 40-49 Att. 50+
Adam Vinatieri 30.468% 29.864% 30.468% 9.201%
Justin Tucker 21.400% 28.600% 29.018% 20.982%
Dan Bailey 23.220% 29.858% 27.962% 18.957%
Chris Boswell 23.158% 36.471% 35.790% 8.421%
Kyle P Barber

Another demonstration on the ever-changing skill-cap of kicking, more than 90 percent of Vinatieri’s attempts come from inside the 49-yard line. Meanwhile, both Tucker (79 percent) and Bailey (81 percent) attempt 10 percent more kicks from the greatest distances.

The Steelers, it looks like, know Boswell’s range; his 50+ yard attempts are lower than Vinatieri’s as only 8.421 percent of his kicks come from that distance.

This also shows Boswell’s incredible accuracy is due to far lower kicking distances than either Bailey or Tucker.

Completion Breakdowns

Player Comp <= 29 Comp. 30-39 Comp. 40-49 Comp. 50+
Player Comp <= 29 Comp. 30-39 Comp. 40-49 Comp. 50+
Adam Vinatieri 97.023%% 84.343%% 77.723% 63.934%
Justin Tucker 100% 96.88% 90.77% 70.21%
Dan Bailey 95.92% 95.24% 88.14% 67.50%
Chris Boswell 100% 90.32% 85.29% 75%

Here we see Bailey’s struggles of recent. If Vinatieri is the benchmark, Bailey sits 1 percent behind on kicks shorter than 30-yards. Both Tucker and Boswell are perfect.

Move the kicks between the 30- and 39-yard line and you see where Tucker and Bailey stand above the rest. Tucker leads, per usual, but Bailey is within 2 percent. Boswell is still above 90 percent, which is great, especially when measuring the kicks against Vinatieri’s where he’s not even above 85 percent.

Between 40- to 49-yards is where Tucker stands alone. His accuracy lands 13 percent higher than Vinatieri’s and he’s the only kicker ranking above 90 percent. Bailey isn’t far behind and all three younger kickers do stand above 85 percent.

Once it comes to kicks of 50-yards or more, things become skewed. Boswell leads all kickers in this category, but it is largely due to his sample size, completing six of eight attempts. Regardless, that’s still a great feat. Tucker places second, 6 percent higher than the ‘Vinatieri baseline.’ Bailey places third, still above 67 percent.

Analysis

All four kickers are incredible. Though this may read like I’m knocking down those not named Tucker, this sheds light on the incredible performances in comparison to these great kickers. When you see other teams spending second-round picks on place-kickers, that becomes especially clear. To be this accurate is no easy feat. Boswell earned his money.

Vinatieri is an all-time great. He has been kicking for more than two decades now; it’s bewildering.

Finally, Tucker is a machine. He leads these kickers in nearly all stats. Only the small sample size of Boswell on the 50+ completion category takes first place from Tucker. This means Tucker is not only the most accurate kicker in NFL history, he’s doing this from further distances than anybody else. This is why Ravens fans, including myself, are so defensive when people talk about how great other kickers are. Those kickers are great, but they aren’t Justin Tucker.