Issue #7: Season 6 Kicker Review
”Professional football’s only Special Teams focused publication.”
I used to write The Specialist in “volumes” based on the season. But I just went a whole season without writing an issue, so I’d be jumping from Volume 2 to Volume 4, which makes no sense... so I’m just gonna do these by issue number now. And in this issue...
I’ll basically be reviewing and ranking all the kickers who kicked in Season 6. Emphasis on kicking
... players who both kicked and punted will not have their punting skills factored in. I won’t be including Lombardi in this write-up, since he lost his starting job a few weeks into the season and had less than 10 attempts in both extra points and field goals. Without further ado: Turk Turkleton
43/47 Extra Points, 91.5%
20/25 Field Goals, 80.0%
2/5 from 50+, Long of 56
Turk Turkleton is perhaps the most widely known and beloved kicker in the National Simulation Football League... but this was far from a banner year for him. Last season, Turkleton kicked a similar number of extra points (48) and missed only 2, putting him at a 95.8% conversion rate (which was highest in the league). This season he had one less attempt and missed 2 more times... so what went wrong exactly? Strangely enough, his 4 misses this season were spread across the Hawks’ easiest and hardest matchups -- one miss against the Yeti, one miss against the Second Line, and two misses against the Otters -- which makes it difficult to argue that his focus slipped in either games perceived as easy wins, or games perceived as tough and high-pressure. You could speculate that it was both of those, I guess. Either way, 91.5% this season dropped him to sixth in the league.
At first glance, his field goal performance seems to have suffered a similar regression. However, field goal percentage is significantly impacted (though not entirely determined) by when and from where a coach decides to put his kicker on the field for an attempt. Turkleton had the second worst field goal percentage, but attempted 5 kicks from 50+. The only other kicker to try that many was McCormick, who had the worst field goal rate (we’ll get to him in a minute); nobody else in the league even had 3+ from that far. Furthermore, Turk’s longest attempts were really freaking long
. For example, a 65 yard attempt in week 5 versus the Sabercats. In case you couldn’t tell, that means he’s kicking the ball from the Hawks side of the field. Take away all attempts over 50, and Turk goes 18/20 (90%). So, long story short, Turkleton had a subpar year, but it wasn’t quite as bad as it appears on paper.
Play of the year for the Baltimore kicker? Week 7, in Orange County, 14 seconds left in the second quarter: he nails a 55 yarder with room to spare. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, 36 seconds left. The score is 33-29, and the Otters have the ball with fourth and goal. If Turkleton misses earlier, it’s 30-29 and the Otters need a FG to win it. But instead they’re down by 4 and need a touchdown, which they fail to get. Hawks win! Micycle McCormick
21/22 Extra Points, 95.5%
14/19 Field Goals, 73.7%
3/5 from 50+, Long of 56
Micycle McCormick: meet the NSFL. The rookie was truly “thrown into the fire,” having 7 field goal attempts in his first two games, 4 of which were from 40+. In general, his first season could not have been what he was hoping for. He joined a team that went 0-14, and gave him the longest average kick distance of any kicker in the NSFL this season. Ouch. As I discussed in the write-up of Turkleton, this affects a lot; McCormick had a tied for league high 5 attempts from 50+. Take away all those and he goes from 14/19 to... 11/14, or 78.6%. The good news is that actually shows how good he was from 50+. The bad news is that it’s still only 78.6%, which would still put at bottom of the league for field goal conversion rate.
But! There’s a but! Micycle was practically automatic on extra points. 95.5% is a very solid rate, and even if it wasn’t best in the league, it’s something any team ought to be happy with. The really great news for Colorado is that it was no accident either. McCormick was also great on extra points in his one season in the DSFL, when he went 17/17 -- 100%! (Remember, though, that I am ranking each kicker based solely on their season 6 performance)
It’s hard to have a very important play when your team loses every game, so instead of a play of the year for McCormick, we’ll look at a game of the year for the rookie. Week 1! He had a great NSFL debut, being successful on every kicking attempt: 2 extra points, and 3 field goals from 27, 44, and 51 yards out. Stephen Harris
44/47 Extra Points, 93.6%
36/38 Field Goals, 94.7%
2/2 from 50+, Long of 56
The Philadelphia kicker had a really good season. You could debatably call it a great season, but at the very least, a really good season. With the most attempts, he had the third highest field goal percentage, and was actually perfect on all 12 attempts from 40+. His two misses came in the same game: a week 2 matchup with the Hawks where he had one blocked from 39 yards, and then missed from 39 yards on the very next drive. It was very unfortunate for Harris that he had to kick from the exact same spot he had had one blocked from minutes before; you expect your kicker to make from that distance regardless, but more than any other position in football, kicking is psychological. Other than that week, Harris was great. He had one miss in the the NSFC conference championship from 51 yards out, but was near-perfect in the regular season.
Extra points weren’t quite as great for him. 93.6% isn’t bad
-- the NFL median was 94.8% in 2017 -- but it didn’t match his field goal skills.
Harris’ play of the year: week 1 against the Wraiths, with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter and down by 1, he kicks a game winning field goal from 19 yards. If 19 yards isn’t impressive for you, even in that tense situation, then note that in the same game, Harris also went 4 for 4 on extra points and also had successful field goals from 22, 40, and 37 yards. Forfeit
46/47 Extra Points, 97.9%
19/22 Field Goals, 86.4%
0/0 from 50+, Long of 47
Another rookie! The young, first-nameless kicker had a decent first season. He was stellar with extra points, missing just one (that would turn out to be inconsequential) in an early season game against the Yeti. This aptitude for extra points is a carry-over from his DSFL season, where he went 19/19.
Unfortunately, while great on extra points, he showed weakness from long distance. One of just two kickers to not have any attempts from greater than 50 yards, 2 of Forfeit’s 3 misses were also 2 of his longest kick attempts (the third miss was a 37 yarder). Granted, he only had 5 kicks from under 29 yards, but there nonetheless a more than typical drop in accuracy as distance increased. For better or for worse, he didn’t really have any extra high pressure field goal attempts over the course of the season.
Well, except one, which I’m naming his play of the year: it’s week 8 in Orange County, and in a 17-17 game the Otters are trying to just run out the clock and head to overtime... when they fumble it, and the Wraiths recover at the Otters 17 yard line! With the game tied up, no Yellowknife timeouts, and 28 seconds on the clock, Forfeit gets sent out on first down to try to win the game. And the kick... is perfect. Yellowknife Wraiths win 20-17 and become one of just two teams to beat the Otters in season 6. Dean Jackson
34/36 Extra Points, 94.4%
24/24 Field Goals, 100%
1/1 from 50+, Long of 51
Let’s jump straight to the stat that stands out: 100% success on all 24 field goal attempts. The last time any kicker achieved a 100% field goal rate was Stephen Harris in Season 4, and before that... never. In all of NFL (not NSFL) history, that’s only happened 7 times. Not too shabby. It’s hard to analyze much when a kicker simply doesn’t miss, but it should be noted that his average kick distance was below the NSFL median kick distance (by player). So were three other kickers, obviously, but it’s something to consider.
And then there were extra points... Jackson’s 94.4% is nothing terrible, but when you go 100% on field goals, it’s a bit silly that you can be missing extra points. Or is it? Another fun fact! Of the 7 NFL kickers who’ve had a 100% field goal season, only 3 of those went 100% in that same season (and all 7 were before the rule change pushed the extra point distance back). Regardless, a miss is a miss, and Jackson had 2 extra point misses.
Play(s) of the year for the hometown kicker: Week 3 in New Orleans, fourth quarter, Arizona is down 13-17. With 4:33 left, Jackson takes the score to 16-17 with a successful 25 yarder. Then with 1:03 left, he makes a game winning 24 yarder. Arizona is victorious over the Second Line, 19-17. Peg Leg
14/17 Extra Points, 82.5%
13/16 Field Goals, 81.2%
1/1 from 50+, Long of 54
Peg Leg first took over kicking duties for New Orleans in week 6, directly after being traded to them. Unfortunately for him, he plain and simple did not have a good season. At all. 13/16 is a small volume of field goals, but it’s plenty enough to trust the percentage in comparison to other kicker and, ouch, it’s down near the bottom, only slightly ahead of Turk Turkleton, who kicked from a significantly higher average distance. Peg Leg’s season long of 54 yards was also a surprise in itself, considering he only had a 60% rate from even just 40-49 yards out.
But the truly miserable part of Peg Leg’s play was extra points. 82.5%? In a league with 8 starting kickers, the percentage gap between the best extra point kicker and the 7th best extra point kicker is the same as the gap between the 7th best extra point kicker and Peg Leg. Needless to say, that is not good. At all.
His play of the year? Week 10 versus the Yeti in Colorado, Peg Leg breaks a 21-21 tie with a 34 yard kick with 13:00 left in the fourth quarter. This would end up being the game winner. Bradley Madlad
53/54 Extra Points, 98.1%
28/29 Field Goals, 96.6%
0/0 from 50+, Long of 49
When a team is ridiculously good on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, as the Orange Otters were in Season 6, it becomes easy to forget the special teams plays that are the branch between the offense and defense. But wow. Bradley Madlad makes it awfully hard to forget about him
. 98.1% is the highest extra point percentage anyone has had since Season 2, and Madlad maintained that over 54
Did I mention that Madlad made an absolutely insane 96.6% of his field goal attempts? The only reason this isn’t huge news is because Madlad’s incredible feat coincided with Jackson’s historic feat. Unfortunately, there is a number that will allow critics to forever question how good a season Madlad really had, and that number is 0. 0 attempts over 50 yards. Fortunately, there is a number that I will cite in response to those critics, and the number is 11. 11 attempts between 40 and 49 yards. Even if his longest kick was 7th in the league and sub 50 yards, he still had a decent (about league average) average kick distance.
Seriously though, even with that, he had an insane season. Play of the year: ASFC championship game versus the San Jose Sabercats. The game is tied 29-29. Orange County has it on the San Jose 17, fourth down, fourth quarter, 0:34 on the clock. Madlad trots out onto the field. He lines it up. Kicks. Turns away and begins walking to the sideline. The ball goes right down the center of the goalposts. The stadium goes wild. Bradley T. Madlad has drained a no-looker to proceed to the Season 6 Ultimus. What an absolute mad lad. Iyah Blewitt
37/41 Extra Points, 90.2%
31/34 Field Goals, 91.2%
1/1 from 50+, Long of 55
Iyah Blewitt almost blew it a few times this season, and did kind of blow it in a week 13 game against the Otters. In a game that went to overtime (where the Otters won), after being 14-14 at the end of regulation, Sabercats fans have got to wish Blewitt hadn’t missed 2 different field goals in the first half. Over the course of the season as a whole, however, he was pretty good. 91.2% is nothing spectacular, but it’s pretty solid, especially with 11 of his 34 attempts from 40+, and a great season long of 55 yards. Even more good news: Iyah never missed any short field goals.
Bad news: Iyah missed multiple short extra points. In fact, his extra point conversion rate was only ahead of Peg Leg’s, which we’ve already discussed and is definitely not something to boast about. He missed an extra point in four different regular season games, as well as one in the ASFC championship game. This means he missed an extra point in 5 of the 15 games he played in Season 6; a point lost and momentum changed every third game. Not good, Blewitt. Not good.
Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom for the San Jose kicker! Iyah Blewitt’s game of the year: Week 7, Sabercats are playing in Yellowknife, and win on the force of Blewitt’s 100% success rate on 2 extra points and 5 field goals
. Season 6 Kicker Rankings
1. Bradley Madlad
2. Dean Jackson
3. Stephen Harris
5. Iyah Blewitt
6. Turk Turkleton
7. Micycle McCormick
8. Peg Leg
Peg Leg is at the bottom for obvious reasons. Micycle is next because, as good as his extra point percentage was, 73.7% on field goals is abysmal. Number six on the list is Turkleton because, even with how many long kicks he attempted, he just had a bad season. Forfeit edges out Blewitt for spot four because even though Blewitt was better on field goals, he was markedly worse on extra points. Coming in at three is Stephen Harris; he had a really good, maybe great season, but not a distinctly amazing season. And the top two... Bradley Madlad gets spot number one over Dean Jackson. With 5 more attempts, Madlad was only just under Jackson’s field goal percentage, his extra point rate was best in the league (while Jackson’s was just average), and to seal the deal, his average kick was from just a tiny
bit farther than Jackson’s. Bradley T. Madlad is The Specialist’s Kicker of the Year!
(2,580 words - Ready for Grading)