If Jake Moody is going to live up to his draft status, he's going to have to be better than almost every rookie kicker in the last 20+ years.
Rookies struggle in the NFL. This is true for all positions, and kicker is no different.
Since 2000, rookie kickers have made just 79.4% of their field goal attempts. That includes both drafted and undrafted players. For context, that's around 3% worse than the overall NFL average of 82.6% during that same timeframe. Believe it or not, the undrafted kickers actually increased that percentage. Drafted kickers were actually a smidge worse than rookie kickers as a whole at 79%.
Even if you only look at kickers drafted in the third round or earlier since 2000 (like Jake Moody), the numbers aren't great. Those five players made 75% of attempts in their rookie season.
You may be aware of Roberto Aguayo, who was so bad he lasted a single season after being taken in the 2nd round in 2016. Shockingly, his numbers don’t skew the results despite just five kickers, not counting Moody, being selected in the 3rd round or earlier since 2000. The highest drafted kicker of all-time is actually the worst of the bunch. Sebastian Janikowski was selected 17th overall in 2000 and made just 68.8 of his attempts in his rookie season.
Clearly simply being an average kicker as a rookie is hard enough. Being as good as Robbie Gould as a rookie is another matter entirely. Gould spent the past six seasons with the 49ers and was one of the most accurate kickers in the league during that time. He made 161 of 184 field goal attempts, good for 87.5 percent. Since 2000 there have been 77 kickers that attempted at least 10 field goals in their rookie season, and just 18 of them made 87.5 percent or better. And that's not even mentioning Gould's spotless playoff accuracy on 68 career field goal and extra point attempts.
All of this is to say that expectations for Moody should be tempered to a degree. Making 80% of his kicks this season is a far more realistic goal and should be seen as a success. Roughly half of all rookie kickers with at least 10 attempts have accomplished that.
Doing worse than that wouldn’t necessarily mean he’s a bust either. A lot of very successful kickers had bad rookie seasons. The aforementioned Janikowski, for instance, played 18 seasons and is in the top 10 for most field goals made in a career. Stephen Gostkowski, Mason Crosby, Jay Feely, Brandon McManus, Matt Gay and even Gould made less than 80% of their field goal attempts as rookies. All went on to have, or are having, successful NFL careers.
The problem for Moody is, he was drafted by a championship contender. His kicks are going to matter a bit more than most because he may have to kick in higher leverage situations later in the season. Unfortunately, circumstances aren't going to afford him a lot of patience from fans and teammates alike. His draft position, the quality of his team, and the fact his predecessor never missed a playoff attempt means he'll face incredible pressure right out of the gate.
The key won’t be how many of his attempts he makes. How he performs in high-leverage situations will matter most. Hit his game-tying or game-winning kicks late in games and fans will give him a pass for a few misses at other times (as long as they aren’t too frequent). Miss clutch kicks on a Super Bowl contender and you'll have a hard time winning back people's confidence.
Good luck, kid, you’re going to need it.