Having a clutch kicker is a luxury that most NFL fans would die for. In today’s NFL, there’s really only one kicker that everybody trusts to get the job done when the game is on the line: Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. Sure, there have been years where guys like Adam Vinatieri, Harrison Butker, Stephen Gostkowski, Sebastian Janikowski, and David Akers might have been named in the same company as Tucker, but none of them compare to the ruthless efficiency that is Tucker.
Although he’s never had a perfect season, Tucker has a career 91.3 field goal percentage (the best of all-time, minimum 25 attempts). When the game is on the line, Tucker is the most trusted person to ice the game. Nobody is at his level.
Well, I’d like to nominate Raiders’ kicker Daniel Carlson. While his career percentage may not be up to par with the likes of Tucker or even Butker, Carlson has steadily improved and has officially earned himself the “clutch” denomination.
Let’s start with the most obvious case for Carlson, his 38 consecutive field goals made. With the Raiders on bye in Week 6, Carlson will have gone almost an entire calendar year since his last missed field goal. Since then, he’s answered the call every time he’s been asked.
The NFL record for most consecutive field goals made is 44 by Vinatieri, then with the Colts, over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The longest streak of Tucker’s career is just 35, set between Dec. 13, 2015and Dec. 4, 2016. While Tucker is currently on a streak of 28 consecutive makes, he’s still a long way from breaking his record or even catching up to Carlson’s current streak.
Not to mention, Carlson is automatic from way deep. Since the start of the 2020 season, both Carlson and Tucker have attempted exactly 15 field goals from 50-plus yards out. Carlson is 14-of-15. Tucker is 13-of-15, and just for perspective, Butker is 12-of-14 in that span.
Through five games, Carlson is on pace to lead the NFL in both field goal attempts and field goals made for the second consecutive season. Justin Tucker has only had one such season: 2013. Through his age-27 season, Tucker had three seasons with a field goal percentage greater than 90 percent. Carlson is currently on pace to match that. However, through his age-27 season, Tucker had a career 70 percent field goal percentage from 50-plus yards. Carlson currently sits at 85 percent.
Tucker is far superior when it comes to extra points. The man is hitting those at an astonishingly high 98.8 percent for his career, and 98.3 percent since the extra point got moved back in 2015. Carlson has a 94.6 percent rate on extra points. However, that’s still an incredible success rate by NFL standards. It’s better than Butker (94 percent), Nick Folk (92.3 percent since 2015), and Vinatieri (92.1 percent between 2015 and 2019). These are some of the most reliable kickers in the league and Carlson has surpassed them in both field goal percentage and extra point percentage.
Above all else though, Carlson has inspired confidence in Raiders’ fans, and that says a lot considering the Raiders love to lose games in devastating fashion. On a team where anything can happen, a Raiders’ field goal seems about as certain as death or taxes nowadays. As the Raiders tried to march down the field during their two-minute drill in last night’s game, the few Raiders fans I was with felt great about their chances. It wasn’t because they trusted Derek Carr to move them downfield, but because they knew that if Carlson was given the opportunity, he would make it. That type of confidence with the game on the line isn’t something that can be overstated.
Is Carlson as good as Tucker? I’m not ready to make that distinction. Tucker has been kicking at an elite level for far longer than Carlson has, but Carlson should be part of that elite tier alongside Tucker. He’s undoubtedly the second-best kicker in the NFL right now, and he’s clutch as hell.