With the 2nd round selection of Roberto Aguayo, a hot topic around NFL Draft media has been whether drafting a kicker early is worth the cost, and even whether drafting one at all is a good idea. Ethan Young turns to the data from 2005-2015 to see if drafting kickers and punter in the draft is good use of resources given the on-field production of these players.
After the Buccaneers traded up into the second round for Roberto Aguayo in the 2016 NFL Draft, I decided to take a look at kickers and punters to see if they really are worth drafting at all. This was accomplished by taking all the kickers and punters (83 kickers and 69 punters, with 42 and 21 drafted respectively) that had an Approximate Value (AV) output through the 2005-2015 seasons. AV is a stat created by Pro Football Reference (read more here), and while not perfect, it does the best job quantifying outputs simple way, and goes far enough back to gleam relevant results. Anyway, I split those players based on whether they were drafted or not, and then finally compared the outputs. The results were as follows:
Surprisingly, the undrafted kickers slightly outperformed the drafted ones, even without factoring in the draft capital spent on the drafted kickers. This illustrates how poorly the NFL as a whole has been at evaluating kickers in recent years. Even if a team wants a top-level kicker, they are better off waiting until after the draft, as the top-10 undrafted kickers actually slightly outperformed the top-10 drafted ones in this sample.
Based off this data, I wouldn’t recommend drafting a kicker. The fact that teams receive their pick of the kicker litter when drafting one and still don’t typically land more effective ones than those who wait, means draft assets should be used elsewhere.
Punters are a slightly different of a story. The drafted group plays longer than their undrafted counterparts, and is more effective as well. But, these differences aren’t even close to other positions, and the marginal difference in value may not be worth the draft capital invested to acquire these punters.
Here are the full numerical results:
And the Error Bars:
Total AV was not included in the graphs and is replaced by AVPY due to AV totals not being adjusted for career length.
Keep in mind this is just a very simple look at specialists in the recent NFL landscape. This isn’t to say special teams aren’t important to winning games, rather it is not worth putting draft assets into specialists given the unstable nature of the positions.