Justin Tucker Might Honestly Be the Ravens' Most Valuable Player This Year

Tucker hasn't missed a field goal this season, and he has helped the Baltimore Ravens dramatically.

Kickers don't matter, except they do.

However you feel about the position in the NFL, the truth is, kickers are consistently placed in high-leverage situations throughout a game. They can help a team win contests, and they certainly can do the opposite, too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans know what I'm talking about.

On the year, rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has cost the Buccaneers 7.75 points. That's according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures the number of points a player is adding or losing for his team versus expectation. In truth, though, you could consider his performance worse than his -7.75 Field Goal NEP. The average kicker in today's NFL has a Field Goal Net Expected Points total of 5.82, meaning Aguayo has actually played 13.57 points below a league-average kicker. That's 1.23 points per game.

Aguayo is the worst kicker in the league this year, but it's not by much -- Wil Lutz actually has a -4.25 Field Goal NEP total, just 3.5 expected points better than Bucs' kicker.

But the true separation at kicker this season has come at the top, where Justin Tucker is straight balling out. Take a look at the separation in Field Goal NEP between Tucker and the rest of the top-10 kickers this year:

KickerField Goal NEP
Justin Tucker40.43
Adam Vinatieri17.01
Matt Bryant14.39
Phil Dawson13.95
Ryan Succop12.02
Cairo Santos11.91
Matt Prater11.52
Jason Myers10.23
Dan Bailey9.04
Josh Lambo8.76

Let's put this into perspective for a second.

The average kicker this year is adding 0.29 expected points per field goal attempt. Considering Tucker has tried 27 field goals, an average NFL kicker on the Ravens would have a 7.83 Field Goal NEP.

In other words, Justin Tucker is currently 32.60 expected points better than that, which equates to 2.96 points per game.

Guys, Justin Tucker is essentially adding an additional field goal for the Ravens versus expectation per game this year. That alone would've swung their contest earlier in the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Baltimore is fortunate to be 6-5 -- with a -1.92 nERD rating (our measurement of how many points a team would be expected to win by against an average one on a neutral field), they're analytically the 24th-best team in football. And without Justin Tucker, they'd surely be even worse than that.