Debates about who the best player is at a certain position are an exercise in subjectivity. Rarely will there ever be widespread agreement (not that it hasn’t happened before), no matter what the position is — all that one can do is make the argument for a given player.
Kicker, conversely, is one of those positions in football that has had more of a general agreement regarding who the top dog is, with Baltimore’s Justin Tucker holding that symbolic crown for a number of years at this point. With Tucker missing a kick in each of his last three games, however, that crown is just waiting for someone else to take it.
At one point an NFL cast-out who found himself kicking in the Alliance of American Football, which folded before the completion of its first season, Younghoe Koo has shot his way into the stratosphere of elite kickers at a meteoric pace since finding his way back into the league midway through the 2019 season.
Koo was very good for the Falcons in relief of the legendary Matt Bryant last year. He went 23/26 on his field goal attempts, was a nearly automatic 15/16 on extra points and showcased himself as the best kicker in the game at executing onside kicks.
The primary concern coming into this season centered around his leg strength. He had attempted just one field goal from 50+ yards in his NFL career, a 50-yarder, and barely squeaked that one in. In San Diego in 2017, he was just 1/4 on kicks from 40-49 yards, and while that did improve dramatically with Atlanta (7/9 from 40-49 in 2019), it was more than fair to question Koo’s ability to consistently convert on long field goals given the overall track record.
Not only did Koo quickly eviscerate those doubts, but he has also been statistically the most accurate kicker in the NFL from 50+ yards this season, going 8-8 from the longest distance. Those eight conversions are tied for the league lead with Jason Sanders and Brandon McManus, but Koo is the only one of those three who is still without a miss from 50+ yards.
Koo has been automatic from everywhere else on the field as well, going 35/36 on field goals and 28/31 on extra points in 2020. He leads all kickers in total field goals made, and has broken Matt Bryant’s single season franchise record in the process. If he finishes the year without a miss, he’ll break Norm Johnson’s single season franchise record for field goal percentage, which has stood since 1993.
Koo’s only miss of the season came in a Week 3 contest against the Bears where he was kicking with a strained groin that he opted to fight through, before that injury then kept him out of Week 4’s contest. One of his three extra point misses came in that game as well.
The Georgia Southern alum leads the lead in field goal percentage among all kickers who have attempted more than 20 FGs.
The normally incomparable Justin Tucker is a very human 23/26 on overall field goals this season and 3/5 from 50+; though his extra points are pretty automatic at 44/45.
Yes, the opportunity to kick FGs has been there for Koo more than it has been for any other kicker in the NFL not named Joey Slye, because Atlanta’s offense is horrendous in the red zone — Koo and Slye are tied for the league lead with 36 FG attempts. Koo, however, has taken full advantage of those opportunities, and has been automatic when called upon.
Koo’s 35 made FGs is already more than what last year’s leader, Harrison Butker, had all season (34), and we still have two games to go. Last season, the 15 kickers who had the most field goal conversions all played a full 16 games. This year, 14 of the top 15 in that statistical category have played in all 14 games thus far; Koo is the lone exception who has missed a game. He has five more field goal makes than second placed Jason Sanders.
Koo will likely finish the season second all time in field goals made in a single season (Neil Rackers had 40 in 2005). There’s an outside shot that he can break David Akers’ NFL record (44 in 2011), though that’s very unlikely because of the missed game.
Younghoe Koo was deservedly named to his first Pro Bowl, in an announcement made earlier this week. Unless he completely forgets how to kick in the final two games, he is the only logical choice to be the First-Team All-Pro selection at the kicker position.
Koo has come out of nowhere to snatch Tucker’s longstanding crown away from him, and he now sits alone on the kicker throne. All hail the new king.