I recently took a look at special teams (ST) and its importance in winning. One of the most important, if not the most important, players on ST is the field goal kicker. No one else has such a direct and solitary impact on points scored. In this post, I'll look a little closer at the impact a kicker can make on the win-loss record of his team.
The relative importance of each dimension of the game, including ST, is estimated in a regression on regular season wins. Each variable is in terms of team efficiency (yds per attempt) and is standardized. The ST variables are relative to the league average for similar situations. For example, the FG/XP scores are relative to kick distance and the average success rate for each distance (1).
The results are summarized in the table below.
The results above can be interpreted as follows. Each coefficient indicates how many additional regular season wins a team can expect, on average, per standard deviation above average. For example, if a team is completely average in every facet of the game, it can expect to win 8 games. But if a team is average in every facet except offensive pass efficiency, in which it is 1 standard deviation above average, it can expect to win 8 + 1.26 = 9.26 wins.
The best kicker in the league (#1 out of 32) would typically be in the top 96th percentile, which is very close to two standard deviations above average. Therefore, the best FG kicker in the league would normally be worth 2 * 0.34 = 0.68 added wins in a season.
It's hard to imagine many other positions, other than the starting QB and RB, that have such a large individual impact on a team's record.