Should Justin Tucker Be in the NFL MVP Award Discussion?

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

It goes without saying that an NFL kicker has never won the league’s MVP award. A kicker has never been deserving of holding the title of the league’s Most Valuable Player, and that makes sense seeing as how kickers are hardly ever on the field and really only have one or two jobs when they are.

However, this year things could be different. It is very likely that Baltimore Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker, 27, will not end up winning this season’s award, but he should not be out of the picture when the MVP award is voted on come February of 2017. If the Ravens can maintain their spot atop the AFC North division or secure a Wild Card playoff berth, there is no reason Tucker cannot enter into that discussion.

The Ravens are a team that has scored just 17 offensive touchdowns and 19 total touchdowns through 11 games this season. Their offense is tied for 24th in the NFL in total points scored with 218, which gives them an average of only 19.8 points scored per game, yet they sit tied atop the AFC North division with the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 6-5 record.

First, we will start off with why Tucker is by far the best kicker in the NFL right now. Kickers in the NFL have made a total of 781 extra points out of 833 attempts so far this season, giving the average kicker a 93.76% conversion rate on extra point attempts. Also, kickers in the NFL have made a total of 584 field goals out of 695 attempts so far this season, giving the average kicker an 84.03% conversion rate on field goal attempts from any distance.

From beyond 40 yards, kickers in the NFL have made a total of 158 field goals out of 199 attempts so far this season, giving the average kicker a 79.40 % conversion percentage on field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards. From beyond 50 yards, kickers in the NFL have made a total of 58 field goals out of 101 attempts so far this season, giving the average kicker a 57.43% conversion percentage on field goals attempts from beyond 50 yards.

Tucker is 3rd in the league in total points with 96, and he averages 8.7 per game. He is, however, the league leader with 81 points off of a league-leading 27 made field goals, and he would likely lead the league in scoring if the Ravens’ offense would be more efficient and score more touchdowns to give him more opportunities to kick extra points, but he has only had 15 attempts, which ranks 31st in the NFL. He has made all of his extra point attempts.

On top of that, Tucker has not missed any field goals, and it is not because he has not attempted many. In fact, only four kickers have attempted more field goals than he has. Of those kickers, who are Dustin Hopkins of the Washington Redskins, Caleb Sturgis of the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Novak of the Houston Texans, and Cairo Santos of the Kansas City Chiefs, none of them have converted on over 90% of their field goal attempts, with only Sturgis and Santos converting above the league average mark of 84.03% of their attempts.

Even in fewer attempts than those other four kickers, Tucker has made more field goals than anybody in the NFL so far this season, going 27 for 27. He also holds the NFL’s longest active streak of field goals made at 34, which dates back to the Ravens 15-13 loss at the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, December 6th, 2015, when he missed a field goal attempt from 55 yards out that could have potentially won the Ravens that game.

The fact that Tucker has not missed any field goals is also not because he has not attempted many long field goals. In fact, only one kicker has attempted more field goals from beyond 40 yards than Tucker has, and that kicker, who is Matt Prater of the Detroit Lions, is 9 for 12 from beyond 40 yards, while Tucker is 11 for 11. No kicker has attempted more field goals from beyond 50 yards than Tucker has, yet he has not missed on any one of his 7 attempts.

Now that we have established that Tucker is by far the NFL’s best kicker right now, let’s get into why he should be in the discussion as the league’s most valuable player. Sure, all of those stats and amazing numbers help his case, but a kicker will not earn himself a spot in NFL MVP award talk just by making a lot of field goals, especially since Tucker does not even lead the league in scoring. If Tucker ends up being included in the MVP award discussion by the end of the season, it will truly be because of his value to the Ravens as a team, particularly if they end up clinching a postseason berth.

Let’s do some math here. The average NFL team has played in 11.06 games so far this season. With 781 extra points and 584 field goal attempts made split among 32 teams, an average of 24.41 extra points and 18.25 field goals have been made so far this season per team. In terms of per game, that equates to an average of 2.21 extra points and 1.65 field goals per game. In 11 games, Tucker has averaged 1.36 extra points and 2.45 field goals made per game.

Now let’s do a game by game analysis of how the games on the Ravens schedule would have turned out had Tucker produced as much as the average kicker instead of his amazing numbers.

  • Week 1: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 13, i-1 Buffalo Bills, 7
  • Week 2: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 25, i-5 Cleveland Browns, 20
  • Week 3: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 19, i-9 Jacksonville Jaguars, 17
  • Week 4: i-15 Oakland Raiders, 28, i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 27
  • Week 5: i-16 Washington Redskins, 16, i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 10
  • Week 6: i-18 New York Giants, 27, i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 23
  • Week 7: i-2 New York Jets, 24, i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 16
  • Week 8: BYE
  • Week 9: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 21, i-4 Pittsburgh Steelers, 14
  • Week 10: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 28, i-5 Cleveland Browns, 7
  • Week 11: i-19 Dallas Cowboys, 27, i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 17
  • Week 12: i-7 Baltimore Ravens, 19, i-6 Cincinnati Bengals, 14

Now let’s replace how Tucker actually performed in each game with how the average kicker has performed in an average game this season.

  • In week 1 against the Bills, Tucker kicked two field goals (6 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 13 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 6, bringing their game points total down by 1.05 points to 11.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated game points total up by 1.21 points to 13.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have beaten the Bills, who scored 7 points.

 

  • In week 2 against the Browns, Tucker kicked three field goals (9 points) and two extra points (2 points). The Ravens ended up with 25 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 9, bringing their game points total down by 4.05 points to 20.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 2, bringing their updated game points total up by 0.21 points to 21.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have beaten the Browns, who scored 20 points.

 

  • In week 3 against the Jaguars, Tucker kicked four field goals (12 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 19 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 12, bringing their game points total down by 7.05 points to 11.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated game points total up by 1.21 points to 13.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens would have lost to the Jaguars, who scored 17 points, had Tucker performed on the level of the average NFL kicker.

 

  • In week 4 against the Raiders, Tucker kicked two field goals (6 points) and 1 extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 27 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 6, bringing their game points total down by 1.05 points to 25.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated game points total up by 1.21 points to 27.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have lost to the Raiders, who scored 28 points.

 

  • In week 5 against the Redskins, Tucker kicked one field goal (3 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 10 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 3, bringing their game points total up by 1.95 points to 11.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated points total up by 1.21 points to 13.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have lost to the Redskins, who scored 16 points.

 

  • In week 6 against the Giants, Tucker kicked three field goals (9 points) and two extra points (2 points). The Ravens ended up with 23 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 9, bringing their game points total down by 4.05 points to 18.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 2, bringing their updated points total up by 0.21 points to 21.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have lost to the Giants, who scored 27 points.

 

  • In week 7 against the Jets, Tucker kicked three field goals (9 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 16 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 9, bringing their game points total down by 4.05 points to 11.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 point off of extra points as opposed to 1, brining their updated points total up by 1.21 points to 13.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have lost to the Jets, who scored 24 points.

 

  • In week 9 against the Steelers, Tucker kicked two field goals (6 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 21 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 6, bringing their game points total down by 1.05 points to 19.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated game points total up by 1.21 points to 21.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have beaten the Steelers, who scored 14 points.

 

  • In week 10 against the Browns, Tucker kicked two field goals (6 points) and two extra points (2 points). The Ravens ended up with 28 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 6, bringing their game points total down by 1.05 points to 26.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 2, bringing their updated game points total up by 0.21 points to 27.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have beaten the Browns, who scored 7 points.

 

  • In week 11 against the Cowboys, Tucker kicked one field goal (3 points) and two extra points (2 points). The Ravens ended up with 17 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 3, bringing their game points total up by 1.95 points to 18.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra points, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 2, bringing their updated game points total up by 0.21 points to 19.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens still would have lost to the Cowboys, who scored 27 points.

 

  • In week 12 against the Bengals, Tucker kicked four field goals (12 points) and one extra point (1 point). The Ravens ended up with 19 points. Had he made the average of 1.65 field goals, the Ravens would have had 4.95 points off of field goals as opposed to 12, bringing their game points total down by 7.05 points to 11.95 points. Had he made the average of 2.21 extra point, the Ravens would have had 2.21 points off of extra points as opposed to 1, bringing their updated game points total up by 1.21 points to 13.16 points.
    • In conclusion, the Ravens would have lost to the Bengals, who scored 14 points, had Tucker performed on the level of the average NFL kicker.

 

Had Tucker performed on the level of the average NFL kicker throughout this season, two of the Ravens’ 11 games would have had their results changed, which is a huge deal for a team currently tied atop their division hoping to get into the playoffs. Had Tucker not played at the elite level he has played at this season and instead performed at the average level, the Ravens would hardly have a chance to get into the playoffs this season with a miserable 4-7 record, and that’s even with their #4 ranked scoring defense that is allowing an average of only 18.3 points per game and their #2 ranked total defense that is allowing an average of only 297.8 total yards per game. Tucker has been the difference between the Ravens “fighting” for a playoff spot and fighting for a high draft pick.

Sure, there are other players and maybe even other kickers that have had a huge impact on their team’s successes, but the only kicker and player who has not missed a beat all season long and has been perfect is Justin Tucker, and his impact on the Ravens’ success as a team so far this season is a result of it.

If Baltimore does end up in the playoffs this season, particularly if they get in with an advantage of two games or less over the next best team, kicker Justin Tucker should be in the discussion to win this season’s NFL MVP award. It’s unconventional, but so what? His numbers and his influence on the outcome of some of the Ravens’ closest games this season are extraordinary, and that alone should prove to the world that his value to the Ravens as a team is extremely high.

Even if he ends up missing a kick or two, which hopefully doesn’t happen given how historic it would be if he didn’t, he still shouldn’t drop totally out of the MVP picture. However, given that a missed kick would mean that he would lose his distinct kicking perfection for the season and other players, all of whom have already tripped up this season unlike Tucker, also have big effects on their respective team’s successes, there would be far less of a chance that Tucker is mentioned come February when the NFL MVP award is voted on.

 

-Asher Fair

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