With one rules tweak, the NFL boosts the value of a good kicker

Image: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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One of the most boring plays in the NFL will be more interesting next season, and so will the economics of kicking talent. In American football, an extra point is attempted by kickers after a touchdown. The problem is, kickers have become so good at it that it is nearly automatic. Last year, the kick was made 99.3% of the time.

This week, the NFL announced a rules change to spice things up. Instead of attempting the extra point from the two-yard line, kickers will take their shots from the 15-yard line. It will become the equivalent of a 33-yard (30-meter) field goal. In a preseason experiment at that distance last year, kickers made 94.3% of attempts—still very high, but not quite automatic.

Some kickers are significantly better from 30-39 yards than others, according to NFL statistics, with success rates of 66.6%-100%.

“The guys that do well with it, it increases their value,” said Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, when asked about the rules change for a team website. Tucker, unusually, has never missed from within 37 yards during his three-year career, and will earn a base salary of just over $2.3 million this year. Other kickers’ salaries range from about $450,000 to $4.5 million. A few years ago TheRichest reported that Oakland Raiders star kicker Sebastian Janikowski made about $112,900 per field goal.

Scouts with a talent for identifying future kicking stars—a tricky task—could become more appreciated. And kicking camps and academies might see an increase in enrollment, too. Former NFL kicker Michael Husted runs a kicking academy, evaluates young talent, and offers a statistical service he calls “Moneyball for kickers,” according to Bleacher Report.