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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weighing in on Kickers

The NEPA is a statistic we have invented that allows us to measure the point contribution of individual players on individual plays above what the average player would do in that situation. The trouble with the NEPA, and advanced stats in football in general, is that we can't remove the influence of teammates - e.g., the offensive line. Even on this site we rave about skill position players while generally ignoring the other players that make it possible, even though I was an offensive lineman in my day.

But let's assume, for the sake of simplicity, that half of a running back's production is the product of the supporting cast while the other half reflects his own ability. There are major problems with this assumption, but it helps to demonstrate my next point. If we do that, there are 15 running backs with a personal NEPA over 15.95 (total NEPA of 31.9).

What's magical about 15.95? It's what a running back would need to be more valuable to his team than Tulane's Cairo Santos, a kicker. To be fair, Santos isn't just any kicker; he's the best kicker in college football. He's almost a full half point better per kick than everyone else.

The FGPA is like a NEPA for kickers. It looks at each keep, calculates the average points earned on kicks from that distance (e.g., if the kick is good 50% of the time, the average points would be 1.5), and subtracts it from what that kicker actually earned (0 or 3). For the total, I add up the FGPA for each kick by that kicker for the entire season. The longer the kicks and the more accurate the kicker, the higher the FGPA; the higher the FGPA and the more kicks, the higher the total.

Last year this stat was led by Texas A&M's Randy Bullock. He added one kick shy of 20 points for the Aggies. But Bullock used up his eligibility and Taylor Bertolet took over the duties. This season, Texas A&M is at -8.15 and in the bottom 10 nationally. That is four touchdowns of lost productivity from the kicking game for the Aggies so far this season.

Penn State is 124th and ULM is 116th in FGPA, so famous missed kicks were largely a product of poor kicking games. But Pitt is dead on average, with a FGPA the tiniest smidgen under average. Notre Dame really won the lottery with that one.

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