Kickers? Come on? Seriously? Your league still makes you draft a kicker? A K-I-C-K-E-R?
For those of you still living in the dark ages where your league's commissioner reminisces about the good old days before cell phones, when playing Commodore 64 was cutting edge and wearing corduroy OshKosh B'gosh shorts was in fashion, this article is for you.
Your commissioner probably played with He-Men, heck, he probably owned a toy Castle Grayskull … and still uses the word “heck.” Your commissioner tells his kids stories of how he had to blow into his Nintendo game system in order to get the games to work and thought Punky Brewster was hot, but hey, at least they’re right that The Breakfast Club was one of the best movies ever made.
If this is your league, if this is your commissioner, then you might as well have a strategy in place when drafting a kicker. Like with other positions, when I draft, I always have a tier sheet handy. Organizing players by tiers is far more beneficial than merely ranking them.
The kicker position is actually a bit more predictable than other positions on a week-to-week basis, and thus more exploitable, but only if you are streaming. Usually, home teams, with Las Vegas projected high point totals and playing preferably indoors, are your best bets. Scott Barrett at PFF pointed out the following:
Kickers averaged 8.3 fantasy points per game.
Kickers at home averaged 8.5 fantasy points per game (+0.5 more than road kickers).
Kickers playing in a dome averaged 8.7 fantasy points per game.
Kickers in games with wind speeds of 20 miles per hour or more averaged only 7.7 fantasy points per game.
The difference between the number 1 kicker last year and the number 12 kicker last year in fantasy points per game was just 37 total fantasy points.
If trying to stick to one kicker for an extended period of time or the season, you want a kicker on a team that puts up a ton of points. Although, when a team has a lousy defense and a bad offense, they usually abandon the kick and have to go for touchdowns. Nothing is worse for a kicker then their team getting down big early. An excellent example of this is Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez who only attempted 20 field goals all last year.
Additionally, a team with a great defense, but a suspect offense, can also hurt you. The 2017 Bengals are a perfect example of this. Their defense was good, preventing a lot of points scored against them, but their offense was often stuck in first gear. As a result, Randy Bullock also only attempted 20 field goals last season.
Another thing to look for is a team that has a pretty good offense, but one that can often stall out due to a lack of great red-zone players. A great example of this was the 2017 49ers. While Jimmy Garoppolo was a revelation for the team at quarterback, they just didn’t have any big-time red-zone receivers capable of scoring touchdowns, which is why their kicker, Robbie Gould, attempted 41 field goals. That’s more than Bullock and Gonzalez combined!
Kickers are also a replaceable position since most fantasy teams only draft one, which means there are tons of options to stream every week, which really is the best strategy to take advantage of some of the factors mentioned above. So if your kicker is not getting it done, do not stay committed to him and don’t be afraid to switch your guy out.
For some reason, there is a psychological obsession many fantasy team owners have with dropping the player’s they draft. I just don't get it. This isn’t some girlfriend you are scared to break up with; be ice cold, break your kicker's heart and dump him. Show no remorse. Pound your chest like Matthew McConaughey in the Wolf of Wall Street and tell yourself you are the man. Bye, Felecia. I don’t love you long time.
The last word before we actually get to the tiers - don’t be the guy that reaches to draft a kicker before the final two rounds of your draft. We all know that guy, the guy who drafts Justin Tucker in the 10th round, grinning ear-to-ear as he calls his name.
You’re the fool though, and you just played yourself. Every single person in your fantasy league now knows you have no clue what you’re doing, so now they’re smiling, laughing at you, or maybe they are laughing at your commissioner for making you draft one.
Greg Zuerlein (Rams) – Zuerlein has always had a big leg but has never been a reliable kicker, that is, until last season when he finished the season as the number one fantasy kicker. Zuerlein even missed the final few weeks of the season due to a herniated disk in his back and still finished first. Now that’s production. Zuerlein missed just two field goals all year, and one was from 63 yards out. Look for him to get another 40 plus chances this season on a team with a great offense and even better defense. That’s a recipe for points.
Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots) – The man with the name nobody can spell correctly is the steadiest kicker in fantasy year-after-year. He finished number two last year and has finished as a top three kicker in six out of the previous seven seasons. While he did have a few misses, making 37 of 40 field goals on the year, he is an extra point machine, finishing with 47; second best in the league.
Justin Tucker (Ravens) – Tucker is the perfect example of why to not draft a kicker early. His 2016 numbers were boosted by Tucker nailing 10 field goals from over 50 yards, while that number dropped in half in 2017. Nonetheless, he still finished as the leagues 10th best kicker and didn’t miss a kick after week 8. The best part about Tucker for fantasy is that he is accurate, has a big leg and the Ravens are usually in close games due to their offense, but also not a lights-out offense, leaving plenty of opportunities for points.
Robbie Gould (49ers) – Gould converted more field goals than any other kicker last season, with 39. From Weeks 6 through 12, Gould attempted just 9 field goals. But after Jimmy Garoppolo took over in Week 13, Gould knocked down 18 field goals, so there is room for improvement this year. The 49ers offense moved the ball well but often stalled out, which was money for fantasy kicker points. The 49ers still don’t have a proven red zone receiver, and without Carlos Hyde, they don’t have a proven red zone running back either. Gould should be great again.
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