What Should The Cowboys Expect From David Buehler?

When the Eagles drafted a kicker a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion about whether the Cowboys should look into signing longtime Eagles kicker David Akers.

At the time, we put the question to a vote, and the response was quite overwhelming: 69% of Blogging The Boys readers voted to bring him in, while only 12% were willing to give current Cowboys kicker David Buehler a chance.

David Buehler, in his first year as place kicker made 75% of his field goals last year. More worrying for many fans than his overall percentage was his inconsistency. While he was rock solid from 50-plus yards (4-of-5, only missing on a 59-yarder), he struggled especially in the 30-to-45 range (9-of-14).

It seems like many fans are ready to move on from Buehler based on his first year percentages, but before going down that road, we probably need to provide some context for those numbers. Which is why we'll look at all the place kickers drafted in the last ten years and see how they've fared in the NFL - after the break.

23 kickers (excluding punters) were drafted since 2000 by NFL teams. Of those 23, only 14 attempted at least 20 field goals in their NFL career. That is a pretty high bust rate for a position that is usually taken in the late rounds, and where you usually have your pick of the number one or two guys in college football.

Those 14 kickers had an average field goal percentage of 77% in their first NFL season, only marginally better than David Buehler's 75% in his first year. Only two of the drafted kickers, Ryan Succop and Nick Folk, had a percentage above 80%.

The question now is, can Buehler improve on his percentage in his second year as a field goal kicker, and do his drafted peers offer any hope that he will improve?

Excluding Buehler, there are 13 kickers who've had a second year in the NFL. The overall average of all players did not improve much in the second year, moving 'only' to 80%. But there are two observable trajectories: 8 of the thirteen improved the FG percentage from an average of 75% to 84%, while 5 other kickers stagnated or declined in their second year (from 79% to 75%). So there is hope for Buehler yet, if he can join the ranks of the kickers with an upward trajectory.

What Buehler needs for that to happen is he has to further hone his craft, and he probably needs some competition to get better. In stark contrast to last year where Buehler was competing only against himself, the Cowboys this year have brought in veteran Kris Brown, himself a 77.3% career kicker, to provide competition for Buehler. Per Jason Garrett:

"He's proven that he can make long kicks," Garrett said of Buehler. "He's proven he can make some good kicks. He needs to improve his consistency. Going forward, he will compete to be the kicker of this team."

There is one final sobering thought in this analysis though. The career average for all the 14 kickers I looked at for this post is 'only' 79.5%. So while there certainly is upside to Buehler's kicking game, and particularly his medium distance kicks, the numbers suggest the upside may not be quite as high as you'd like. Although I'd probably be happy with any number starting with an 8.

Drafted Player/Team 1st NFL year 2nd NFL year Career
Year Round Name Team FGA FGM FG% FGA FGM FG% FGA FGM FG%
2009 7 Ryan Succop KAN 29 25 86.2% 26 20 76.9% 55 45 81.8%
2007 6 Nick Folk DAL 31 26 83.9% 22 20 90.9% 120 94 78.3%
2004 3 Nate Kaeding SDG 25 20 80.0% 24 21 87.5% 200 173 86.5%
2001 4 Bill Gramatica ARI 20 16 80.0% 21 15 71.4% 48 37 77.1%
2007 6 Mason Crosby GNB 39 31 79.5% 34 27 79.4% 137 107 78.1%
2005 2 Mike Nugent NYJ 28 22 78.6% 27 24 88.9% 119 94 79.0%
2000 6 Paul Edinger CHI 27 21 77.8% 31 26 83.9% 180 135 75.0%
2004 5 Josh Scobee JAX 31 24 77.4% 30 23 76.7% 187 144 77.0%
2006 4 Stephen Gostkowski NWE 26 20 76.9% 24 21 87.5% 134 113 84.3%
2009 5 David Buehler DAL 32 24 75.0% - - - -
- -
32 24 75.0%
2005 6 Dave Rayner IND 35 26 74.3% 22 15 68.2% 75 55 73.3%
2003 7 Josh Brown SEA 30 22 73.3% 25 23 92.0% 244 199 81.6%
2000 1 Sebastian Janikowski OAK 32 22 68.8% 28 23 82.1% 333 262 78.7%
2000 6 Neil Rackers CIN 21 12 57.1% 28 17 60.7% 292 232 79.5%
Average 29.0 22.2 76.6% 26.3 21.2 80.4% 154.0 122.4 79.5%
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