Field goal range describes how far a football team's kicker can kick. If a team is within field goal range, they are close enough to the opposing team's goal post to make a field goal based on the kicker's ability. Field goal range is based on numerous statistics on how kickers have performed in the past.
To calculate if a team is within field goal range follow these steps:
In the example above, if a team is on the 40 yard line, they are 57 yards from the goal post.
The holder, a player on the special teams who holds the ball for the kicker, positions himself seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. He does this so the defense will not be able to block the kick.
10 + 7 = 17
That's why we add 17 yards to the line of scrimmage when calculating field goal range.
In the NFL, the typical field goal range is around 52 yards. To be within field goal range, a team should be on the opposing team's 35-yard line before attempting a field goal for the highest chance of success, since 35+17=52.
It is not impossible to make a field goal outside of field goal range. It's just unlikely. It has been done before. That's the beauty of sports, anything can happen. But, like all sports, football is a game of percentages.
Why would a team want to try a field goal if they are out of range? Certain situations call for a kicker to have to exceed expectations. For example, if there are only a few seconds left in the first half or in the game, the team should kick as long as they believe the place kicker has a chance at hitting the field goal. The longest ever field goal was kicked by Matt Prater, and was 64 yards. If a team is within 70 yards and the half is about to be over, they will likely try to kick a field goal as they have little to lose.
In the NFL in 2016 the average successful field goal length was 37.7 yards. This number varies greatly, however, depending on the kicker. Weaker kickers may be limited to 30-35 yards, while stronger kickers may even thrive further away.
Field goal range is determined mostly by how well the kicker can perform. So, each individual kicker has their own field goal range. If a player has had a lot of success from 35 yards out, but not much success from further, then their field goal range would be around 35 yards. Ultimately, teams want to get their kicker to the distance where they will be the most successful.
The longest collegiate field goal occurred in 1976, and the record has not been broken since. This kick was taken by Ove Johansson, a player for Abilene Christian University. In warm ups before the game, he even made two field goals from 70 yards away!
After 1974, the NFL moved the goalposts further back, so the shortest possible field goal is 17 feet. However, before this change, the shortest field goals ever recorded were 9 yards long. These kicks came from athletes Jim Turner and Mike Clark.
As of 2020, the most accurate kicker in the NFL is Justin Tucker. His success rate is 90.1%, almost three percent higher than any other kicker active or retired in the league.