NFC West: Blair Walsh

Rookie kickers have made 86.7 percent of field goal attempts over the past five seasons. Veteran kickers have made 83 percent over the same period.

That is something to keep in mind when wondering what veteran kicker the San Francisco 49ers might pursue after releasing David Akers this week.

While the 49ers likely will sign a veteran, they should consider using one of their league-high 12 draft choices -- a total expected to rise when the NFL distributes compensatory selections -- for the best rookie kicker they can find.

Those percentages for rookies versus veterans say as much.

Of course, field goal percentages aren't everything because all attempts aren't created equal, even when from the same distance. It's also possible an aversion to trusting rookie kickers has removed from the pool all but the exceptional ones, distorting comparisons to a broader field of veteran kickers.

But that 86.7 percent success rate should get the 49ers' attention as they seek low-cost alternatives to an acclaimed veteran such as Akers, whose 69 percent success rate ranked 34th out of 36 qualifying kickers last season.

Minnesota's Blair Walsh (92.1 percent), Baltimore's Justin Tucker (90.9) and St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein (74.2) combined to make 86.3 percent as the only rookies to attempt field goals last season.

Filtering for venue and distance, I noticed that rookies made 29 of 42 field goal tries (69 percent) since 2008 when kicking outdoors on natural grass from longer than 40 yards. Veterans made 621 of 913 (68 percent).

The results cited here are far from conclusive, which is the point. A rookie kicker might not be a bad option for the 49ers.

Phil Dawson, Rob Bironas, Nate Kaeding, Lawrence Tynes, Nick Folk, Josh Brown, Mike Nugent, Jason Hanson, Steven Hauschka, Ryan Longwell, Shayne Graham, Olindo Mare and Nick Novak are among the veterans without contracts for 2013. Check out our Free Agent Tracker Insider for ranks of kickers Insider and all free agents.

NFC West thoughts as Week 9 gets going

November, 4, 2012
SEATTLE -- A few thoughts while Green Bay leads Arizona and the Minnesota-Seattle game awaits:
  • Early Doucet has two dropped passes for the Cardinals. He now has six this season, twice his total for 2011. I've been getting questions about Michael Floyd possibly replacing Doucet. This would not be a direct swap. Doucet plays primarily from the slot. Floyd is more of an outside receiver. If Floyd replaces Doucet in the three-receiver package, Andre Roberts would be the slot receiver. That was the thinking when Arizona drafted Floyd in the first round. Doucet (29) and Roberts (22) led the Cardinals in targets from the slot entering Week 9, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Floyd had only two.
  • Cardinals outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield suffered an ankle injury. His return is questionable, according to the team.
  • Seattle did not name its starting offensive line after listing James Carpenter among its inactives. John Moffitt will presumably start at right guard, with Paul McQuistan moving over to left guard, where Carpenter had been playing. Seattle has improved its line depth over the past couple seasons. Moffitt seemingly fits the Seahawks' zone scheme better than Carpenter fits it, at least as a guard.
  • Ex-Seahawks tight end John Carlson was listed among the Vikings' inactive players, as expected. Carlson caught two scoring passes in his most recent meaningful game at CenturyLink Field. That was during Seattle's playoff upset against New Orleans following the 2010 season. He spent last season on injured reserve and has been sidelined since suffering a concussion during the Vikings' victory over the Cardinals.
  • Blair Walsh, the Vikings' kicker, just connected in practice on a 55-yard field goal. He appeared to have more than five yards to spare. He has made all four tries from 50-plus yards this season, three of them at home and one outdoors.

All for now. Back to watching