Over a long enough period, the survival rate drops to zero. One of the commenters on the previous article asked for a callback. At the same time, they made a key point that was absolutely right. Judging our kicker based on one season might be unfair. He’s been kicking since 2017 and he had his best season in 2018. So maybe he wasn’t good enough in 2021, but he could be good enough overall.
So we’re just going to look at more data and those kickers who have been kicking since 2018. The hope here is that we’ll see two things. First, we’ll see more total kicks and so we’ll start to see an industry standard for performance across the board. Second, we’ll see where Ka’imi Fairbairn falls in that standard.
For the record, 22 kickers have been kicking regularly since 2018. Generally speaking, teams don’t continue to employ players who consistently underperform in the industry. This is true in any sport. If a shortstop commits 40 errors, he does not continue to be a shortstop for long. If a kicker misses a bunch of kicks, he doesn’t stay very long.
A long look at Fairbairn
So, we break kicks down into four different stats. We’ll look at extra points, field goals up to 39 yards, field goals between 40 and 49 yards, and field goals 50 yards or more. So we’ll take a look at Fairbairn’s percentages in those particular categories and where he ranks among the 22 kickers.
Extra points: 90.9% (21st)
Field goals 20-39: 95.9% (5th)
Goals from the field 40-49: 75.0% (15th)
Field goals 50+: 64.3% (9th)
Of course, this is where we start talking about value. Rankings and percentages are significant, but reality is also significant. Fairbairn has 177 extra point attempts since 2017. He’s had nine more times, he’s reportedly had 96% of the time. That would have put it around the mean and the median. Nine points since 2017 doesn’t quite equal two points per season. Hell, he makes the extra 16 points and has a perfect 100% so he would have scored three extra points per season. We could be talking about an extra win peak or two.
The rest of the numbers put Fairbairn squarely in the range of the average among those 22 kickers. So, when we look at the two key questions regarding Fairbairn, we see that we can actually support him on the first question. When you remove the question of salary, he deserves to keep his job. He’s pretty close to being a midfielder in the league. Of course, this raises the second important question.
Global Kicking Stats
When you look at value, you are looking at something very specific. What is the significant difference between the best and the worst kickers? So, for each of our four numbers, we’ll look at the highest percentage, the lowest percentage, the mean, and the median.
Extra points: 99.0 (Justin Tucker), 90.2 (Jason Myers), 96.1 (mean), 95.7 (median)
20-39 yards: 98.3 (Justin Tucker), 84.6 (Daniel Carlson), 93.2 (average), 94.4 (median)
40-49 yards: 90.1 (Justin Tucker), 70.7 (Zane Gonzalez), 80.4 (average), 77.8 (median)
50+ yards: 92.9 (Younghoe Koo), 30.0 (Michael Badgley), 62.6 (average), 61.7 (median)
So if we look at Fairbairn specifically, we see that he is below average and median in extra points and field goals from 40 to 49 yards. It is above the median and average in the other two categories. I’m confident enough to call it pretty close to the overall mean and median. He is the 10th highest paid kicker in the industry and that seems pretty close to his overall ranking.
Justin Tucker is by far the best in the business. He is also the highest paid kicker in the industry. In one respect, this makes perfect sense. However, that’s not really the point of the second question. The second question is more of a philosophical question. What is the value of a good kicker?
Tucker is three percent better than average on extra points, five percent on short field goals and ten percent on field goals between 40 and 49 yards. So how many points is that really worth in a season? Is it worth ten points? 15points? His average salary is five million dollars. If you could sign a good street free agent for a million dollars and get a median performance, you pay four million dollars for those ten or 15 points.
The Fairbairn contract is even more egregious. You pay over three million dollars more than you would for a good street free agent to get a median performance. These three million could greatly strengthen another position. Maybe you get another linebacker who might be better than the one you have. Maybe you give yourself another security where you can cut Eric Murray.
Fairbairn’s contract would net them 2.8 million in net savings if they were to cut it. It would cost them 1.5 million dead money according to overthecap.com. That dead money goes down to 750,000 if they cut it after the 2022 season. They would save 3.65 million. I would expect that to be the result. Kickers are recycled all the time and I’m sure there will be guys they can add who are somewhere around the midpoint.