Mason Crosby Will Be Less Accurate in 2014
Mason Crosby's rebound from moribund to magnificent is well documented, as it should be. Crosby bounced back from what easily was his worst season as a professional to have his best yet. Crosby's 89.2% conversion rate bested his previous high by 3.5% and relieved the hurt feelings of legions of Packers fans who'd called for his head during his terrific slump of 2012. All is well in Mason Crosby's universe.
It's too bad his 2014 season will almost assuredly be worse.
Kicking is notoriously difficult to quantify, due almost entirely to its ridiculously small sample size. 2013 saw Crosby attempt the second most field goals in his career, but he still only kicked 37. Nevertheless, he was still determined to once again be a "good" kicker by his ability to perform well in 33 of those 37 tries.
Compare that to Aaron Rodgers, who threw a whopping 552 passes in 2012, his last full season and his second most accurate season. It's far more reasonable to call Rodgers accurate when he repeats an action more than 550 times, but it's a lot harder to confidently say the same about Crosby, since his sample size is so much smaller.
History shows that even though Crosby was great last year, he will almost assuredly regress next year. I did a quick search for kickers who had similar seasons, and found 22 instances in the ten year span between 2003 and 2012.
In comparing the seasons, I searched for kickers who had attempted at least 30 field goals and had made at least 89%. Here's what I found
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On average, kickers were 8.8% less accurate the year after they'd had a big season. They also kicked about five fewer field goals than they did in their big years.
According to Pro Football Reference, the entire NFL converted just over 86% of its field goals last year. Compared to the stats we already know this tells us a few things.
First of all, I think this shows that a great season from a kicker is more likely to be an outlier than an accurate representation of their abilities. It's possible, in a small sample size, to seem way better than you actually are, and I think that's what we're seeing here.
Secondly, a drop of about 8.8%, like we saw in our study, would bring almost every kicker in our study back to within a couple percentage points of the league average. I think it's likely that most kickers in the NFL are pretty average, and every so often they catch lightning in a bottle and have a huge year, or end up kicking a lot of shorter field goals and boosting their numbers that way.
All this leads me to believe that it will be difficult for Crosby to repeat the excellent year that he had in 2013. Crosby was unusually good from long range (5/7 from beyond 50 yards) and could have a hard time being that good again. If Crosby drops at a similar rate to what we saw in the stats (five fewer attempts, an 8.8% drop in accuracy), he'll probably take about 32 field goal attempts and make about 25, or 78.1%.