With recent offensive innovation taking over football, teams are scrambling to find ways to put more points on the board on a weekly basis. Skill players are getting paid better than ever, with the eye-popping salaries of quarterbacks and wide receivers continuing to go up.
The kicker falls on the opposite end of this spectrum. Often undrafted, paid minimally compared to their teammates, their main job is to assist the offense in reaching the goal of scoring more through extra-points and big time field goals at any point in the game.
The job is cutthroat, and one that demands both an elite mentality, and special skill in getting the ball through the uprights. Given the opportunity to nail a game-winner, the kicker quite frankly will end up as either the hero – or the place of blame for all of those watching. The job is pressure-packed, rarely celebrated, but a valued specialty that all teams rely on to find success throughout a season.
What does a Kicker do?
The most valued portion of a kicker’s job is his ability to kick both extra points and field goals. Extra points come after touchdowns, giving the scoring team the opportunity the chance to tack on 1 more point. Field goals are worth 3 points, and are kicked from anywhere from about 25-60 yards in the NFL depending on the situation at hand.
The kicker’s duty has the chance to easily shift the tide of each and every football game. A missed extra point or field goal can become extremely problematic for teams looking to win close games. Generally speaking, NFL kickers will be expected to make about 80 percent of their field goal tries, and 90% of their extra point tries (the NFL has recently backed up extra points, and is a 33-yard kick).
While considered secondary in nature to extra points and field goals, kickoffs are an important part of the job for kickers. Elite level kickers can kick touchbacks often out of the back of the end zone, effectively keeping the ball out of the hands of the opposing teams most explosive player. Often times, their job is to directionally kick the football to match the path of the kickoff coverage team, setting up the special teams unit for success in limiting big returns.
If you want to learn more about the kickoff scheme, Coach Dan Sabock of Temple University explains the basics of that here.
Along with this, situational kicks pop up throughout the course of the season for every kicker. The main one to consider is an onside kick, where the kicker looks to get the ball just past ten yards, while giving his teammates a chance to recover the football and create a scoring opportunity for the offense. An onside kick recovery is huge in a football game, and kickers are a huge factor in creating the chance for it to happen with a bit touch, accuracy, and luck!
At the NFL level, the punter and kicker are usually two different players, but kickers are usually the first player to sub in for the punter in case of injury.
Why are they called 'Kickers'?
Their job responsibility is strictly kicking the football, resulting in their position name. The term “placekicker” stems from the fact that their kicks are always either set in place by a holder during a field goal, or a tee during their kickoff duties.
What are some other names for the Kicker
Abbreviations: K or PK
What are the Skills and Body Type needed to be a Kicker?
Lower Body Power/Strength
Body Type (General Estimates)
Weight: 180-210 Pounds
Most often, NFL kickers are smaller in stature, and possess a slim figure compared to the athletes they are surrounded by. As you would expect, they possess a lot of flexibility, with the ability to generate power from their lower body.
Who are some of the best Kickers ever?
Justin Tucker (2012-Present) - Tucker has pieced together a clear Hall of Fame career already as the most accurate kicker of all time, making just over 91% of his kicks. Along with this, he holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history at 66 yards.
Morten Andersen (1982-2007) - After his long 25 year career, Andersen stands 2nd all time in career field goals, making 565 in his career at an 80% mark. He was inducted into the Pro Football HOF in 2017. Andersen retired as the NFL's all-time leading scorer, until his record was broken by the next man on our list.
Adam Vinatieri (1996-2019) - Widely considered to be the most "clutch" kicker of all time for his game-winning kicks in multiple Super Bowls and NFL playoff games, Vinatieri retired in 2019 as the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points scored. In addition, he holds the record for most consecutive field goals made at 44.
Why is the Kicker so important?
The kicker’s ability completely changes a Head Coach’s decision making process when determining whether to go for it on 4th down, or attempt a longer field goal. Teams can’t typically afford to settle for field goals all game, but having a kicker that can put points on the board is crucial in giving both a coach, and team peace of mind during a game. This is amplified in tight football games, as a field goal is often the difference between either a close win or loss.
With an unreliable kicker, more stress is ultimately put on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Missed field goals create wasted offensive opportunities, and can ultimately give opposing offenses good field position, amping up the pressure on the defense.
Their job on kickoffs appears minimal, but plays a big part in teams looking to win the special teams battle. Touchbacks, as well locating accurate kicks away from a teams best returner both play a solid part in special teams success throughout a game. Onside kick recoveries, like field goals in a tight game, are game changing plays that can catapult a team to victory. A kicker’s ability to give his team a chance to recover these is a valued skill, and important to have in a team’s bag of tricks.
Check out our collection of special teams football videos HERE.