Is Justin Tucker the Best Field Goal Kicker in the NFL?

Is there any more dramatic moment in sports than a field goal kicker trotting onto the field for a game-winning field goal with seconds left on the clock? Of course, it is those dramatic shots toward the uprights that are the most memorable, but a 45-yard kick that provides a momentum shift or a chip shot at the end of the half are equally important. What separates a good kicker like Justin Tucker from a great kicker is accuracy, distance, and ability to split the crossbars in the clutch. That’s why he makes the big bucks.

At any point in time, there may be some subpar kickers in the league, but they don’t last very long. The New York Jets, for example, cut their kicker Kaare Vedvik after one week, replacing him with Sam Ficken. The Jets are Ficken’s sixth team in three years, having packed his suitcase for Jacksonville, Green Bay, Seattle, and Kansas City. Field goal kicking may not be a great long-term career choice.

Justin Tucker, the Ravens kicking maven

You can make the case that the Ravens' Justin Tucker (right) is one of the best NFL kickers of his or any generation.
You can make the case that the Ravens’ Justin Tucker (right) is one of the best NFL kickers of his or any generation. | Mark Brown/Getty Images

It’s difficult to argue with Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s stats. Tucker is the NFL’s leader in field goal accuracy with a 90.2% hit rate, besting the 49ers Robbie Gould by close to 3%.

For the 2018 season, Gould had the best success rate at 97%, making 33-of-34. Tucker was 35-of-39, but he had the edge when it comes to long distance. The Ravens kicker made 5-of-7 kicks of 50 yards or longer, while Gould was only 2-for-2.

For his career, the former University of Texas standout has made 238 kicks out of 264 attempts. For kicks under 40 yards, Tucker has only missed two (134-of-142). In 2013 and 2016, Tucker led the lead in field goals made and has made 38-of-54 kicks 50 yards or longer. The reliable Raven has missed one point after touchdown out of 250 attempts.

And he’s Mr. Clutch

In 2018, Tucker was a perfect 9-for-9 in fourth-quarter field goals, and a perfect 10-for-10 when the game was tied. In his eight years with the Ravens, the graduate of Austin’s Westlake High has never had a kickoff returned for a touchdown.

It is worth noting that Tucker may be a great kicker, but he is a lousy quarterback. In 2016, he tried one pass, and it was incomplete, giving him a rating of 39.6. He is, however, not afraid to get in the fray; Tucker has five tackles with three coming in 2016.

How does Justin Tucker compare to the greats?

There are four placekickers in the NFL Hall of Fame: Lou “The Toe” Groza, Jan Stenerud, Morten Andersen, and George Blanda.

In his 25-year career, Andersen was 565 out of 709 in kicks made for a 79.7%; Groza, an old school straight-on kicker, who also was an all-star tackle, 234 out of 405 in kicks made. Stenerud was 373 made of 558 attempts for a 67% rate. George Blanda, who also played QB, made 335 of 639 attempts which is a bit more than half.

Justin Tucker has a way to go to pile up successful field goals, but he is on the right track to make it to Canton.