According to the eye test, the last two seasons have not been kind to Dan Carpenter. The man who was next-to-automatic in 2013 and 2014 has been anything but in 2015 and 2016. Bleacher Report’s year-end grades for 2016 seem to confirm what most Buffalo Bills’ fans have seen.
According to scouts and Bleacher Report’s metrics (which they explain here), Carpenter ranked 32nd out of all NFL kickers in 2016, earning a grade of 62.9. Mike Nugent ranked 34th with a 61.9, so Carpenter barely escaped the basement. Any grading system is a bit subjective, but it is a bit easier to watch a kicker and see whether or not he was successful (did he make it?) or not (he missed).
Obviously, kicking in Buffalo brings with it a degree of difficulty not seen in places like New Orleans or Atlanta, as well. Of the top 10 kickers, 4 kick in domes while at home, and all but 1 (Josh Brown of the New York Giants) kicks in a place south of the Mason-Dixon line or in a place where altitude makes for some fairly-friendly kicking conditions.
None of this is meant to excuse Carpenter’s slide over the last two seasons. After hitting 92% of his field goals in 2013 and 90% of his field goals in 2014 (including going 6/8 from 50 yards or more), he made 85% of his kicks last year, and only 76% this year (going 4/7 from 50 yards-plus in the 2015-2016 seasons combined). He has also missed 11 extra points since the league moved them back in the 2015 season.
Carpenter’s roster spot may be in jeopardy in 2017. His performance at least warrants looking at other options.