The Green Bay Packers are the youngest team in the NFL this year. Many of their youthful players are seeing big minutes in crucial situations. Perhaps none of those young players has more pressure on them at one time than rookie kicker Anders Carlson. The former Auburn kicker is replacing Mason Crosby, Green Bay’s all-time leading scorer.
Carlson was not consistent in college. Auburn stuck with him for five seasons despite his ups and downs. The Colorado native showed off a big leg, hitting field goals from 50 twice, 52 once, and 53 twice as an underclassman. While leg strength is useful, Carlson struggled with reliability at all other ranges. 2020 was the only season he had a field goal percentage over 71% (that year he logged an eye-popping 91%). But in his final two seasons at Auburn, Carlson averaged just 68.6%.
Regardless of his questionable college stats, the Packers decided to make Carlson the third kicker drafted in 2023. Current Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was familiar with Carlson’s brother, Daniel, who kicks for Vegas. Bisaccia coached there for three seasons before the Packers hired him. Daniel Carlson is one of the best kickers in the league, and Bisaccia was a key cog in Daniel’s development in Vegas.
Before Vegas signed him, Daniel Carlson missed three field goals, including a potential game-winner against the Packers when he was a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who notoriously had little patience for kickers, released the rookie after that game. Daniel Carlson then found his way to Vegas, where Bisaccia turned him into one of the best place kickers in the NFL. The Packers and Bisaccia were hoping to create a similar development cycle for his younger brother during his time in Green Bay.
Anders Carlson didn’t inspire confidence when he was 16/27 on field goals in training camp. He looked incredibly green, validating the concerns about his college performance. There were calls for Crosby to return as the Packers kicker and dump the younger Carlson before the season even started.
However, this was a development year for the Packers. Jordan Love is under center, and the Packers have a plethora of young players who will need time to develop. That included their rookie kicker, given his college stats and the traditional development of big, inconsistent kickers. It was more of a priority to keep a rookie and develop him than bring in a veteran. Anders Carlson’s struggles in training camp were just a bump in the road. He would take some time to develop, and the Packers were going to ride it out with his missed kicks.
Boy, were we wrong.
Anders Carlson is the best rookie kicker in the league. The San Francisco 49ers drafted rookie kicker Jake Moody in the third round. The Michigan alum has an 82.4 FG% on the year and is 23rd among qualified NFL kickers. The New England Patriots took kicker Chad Ryland in the fourth round. He’s second-to-last in the NFL in FG percentage with 70.6%. Pundits considered Moody and Ryland the top kicking prospects in the draft. Anders Carlson was not considered a sure-fire NFL pick because of his college resumé.
Anders Carlson is currently 17th in the league among qualified kickers this season in FG%, two spots ahead of his brother. The 6’5”, 220 lb. kicker has only missed one extra point on 17 attempts this year. In terms of field goals, Anders Carlson is 13/15 and is 2/2 from 50-plus, with a long of 52. The 25-year-old is perfect from inside 40, making 11 of his 11 attempts. Oddly enough, Anders Carlson’s only two misses are in the 40- to 49-yard range.
His first miss of the season was in the Week 7 loss to the Denver Broncos when the Packers lost by two. His second miss came against the Los Angeles Rams in a game where the Packers won by multiple scores. Anders Carlson’s missed extra point against the Pittsburgh Steelers meant the Packers were playing to score a touchdown at the end of the game instead of only needing a field goal, Green Bay lost in Pittsburgh by four.
However, Anders Carlson has consistently made field goals at all other times of the season. The former Auburn Tiger kickstarted the early-season comeback against the New Orleans Saints and kept the Packers in the game against his brother and the Raiders on Monday night.
Early in the year, there was uncertainty about whether or not moving on from Crosby was the right decision. Anders Carlson was struggling to make kicks during training camp. Everyone highlighted his college stats every time he struggled during what was always going to be a long development timeline.
Anders Carlson has been a pleasant surprise in Green Bay’s rookie class. He entered the season with the most question marks in Green Bay’s rookie class, yet he has been one of their most promising first-year players.
Anders Carlson changed the narrative on rookie kickers and himself. The rookie has overcome the early-season naysayers to put himself in position as the best rookie kicker in the NFL this season. In a developmental season for the Packers, Anders Carlson has been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary development cycle for Green Bay’s young players.
All stats and data via ESPN and NFL.com.