Rent-a-Kicker: Week 8

Finding startable kicker production on your fantasy waiver wire.

No position is more unpredictable in fantasy football than kickers. Year after year after year, no position has a lower correlation between where they're drafted before the season and where they finish after the season. No position has a lower correlation between how they score in one week and how they score in the next. No position has a lower correlation between projected points and actual points.

In addition, placekicker is the position that has the smallest spread between the best players and the middle-of-the-pack players for fantasy. Finally, most fantasy GMs will only carry one kicker at a time, which means there are a dozen or more starting kickers sitting around on waivers at any given time. Given all of this, it rarely makes sense to devote resources to the position. Instead, GMs are best served by rotating through whichever available kicker has the best weekly matchup.

Every week, I'll rank the situations each kicker finds himself in (ignoring the talent of the kicker himself) to help you find perfectly startable production off the waiver wire.


Week 7 Results

Brett Maher (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 4 XPs, 13 points)

For the second consecutive week, Brett Maher made a 60+ yard field goal; he's now the only kicker in history to make three kicks from beyond 60 yards. These kicks will always be rare events (it's not often a team finds itself in exactly the right place as time expires in the half), so Maher was lucky to get the chances and lucky to convert all three. I'm not convinced Maher is all that much better than a typical NFL kicker, but if Maher's recent success increases the Cowboys' confidence in his abilities that'll only be to his benefit as his team attempts more and longer kicks. Overall, Maher's 13 points led all kickers in Week 7.

Steve Hauschka (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 2 XPs, 11 points)

The Miami Dolphins have been a prime opportunity for kickers to pad their stats this year and Hauschka was the latest to take advantage. The Dolphins defense actually played perhaps its best game of the year, but that only worked to Hauschka's benefit; through six weeks the Dolphins had conceded 21 touchdowns vs. just 7 field goals, but the Bills struggled and ultimately settled for 3 field goals vs. just 2 touchdowns. Hauschka's 11 points finished the week tied for 6th.

Mike Nugent (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)

The New England Patriots continued their scorched-earth run through the worst teams in the league. Nugent had a decent week, finishing with 7 points (which ranked 12th among all kickers), but could have scored more if the Patriots' offense were stopped in the red zone more than once or forced to keep the pedal down in the second half.

Matt Bryant (2 FG attempts, 1 FG, 1 XP, 4 points)

Bryant's down year has continued with another missed field goal this Sunday bringing his season average down to 70%. Perhaps Bryant (who looked destined for retirement this offseason before the Falcons brought him back on August 31st) is nearing the end of the line. Perhaps not; Bryant has had five seasons with a field goal percentage below 80%, which is the same as the number of seasons he's had with a field goal percentage over 90%. Field goal conversion rates rely on small samples and naturally vary a lot from year to year. Either way, Bryant (and the entire Falcons offense) continued a disappointing season, as his 4 points ranked 20th for the week.

Jason Myers (4 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 1 XP, 10 points)

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is famously conservative in his playcalling, which is bad for his team but great for Jason Myers. Carroll twice faced makeable 4th-downs that his offense almost certainly should have attempted and instead opted to send out his kicker, who missed a 53-yarder on 4th-and-3 and made a 35-yarder on 4th-and-5 (with his team down 17 points). Overall, Myers' 10 points ranked 8th among all kickers.


RESULTS TO DATE

To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 35 weekly recommendations. Those 35 kickers have averaged 7.66 fantasy points, ahead of last year's 7.38 point average. That 7.66 point average would currently rank 10th at the position (after giving an additional 7.66 points to any kicker whose team has had a bye). Top weekly recommendations average 8.71 points, which would rank 8th, while all highlighted kickers with great matchups combined average 8.59 (also 8th).

An 8th-place finish is impressive enough already, but these finishes are still misleading because many of the kickers ahead of our amalgam went undrafted and put up their points on the bench or on the street in most fantasy leagues. Our top kickers have scored 61 points, while the average of our great recommendations scored 60.1. The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Greg Zuerlein (64 points), Justin Tucker (68), Harrison Butker (64), Wil Lutz (60), Stephen Gostkowski (32), Ka'imi Fairbairn (45), Robbie Gould (59.66*), Jake Elliott (41), Mason Crosby (52), Mike Badgley (0), Brett Maher (52), and Adam Vinatieri (44.66*). (For kickers who are past their bye I have added one week's worth of Rent-a-Kicker's average results.) Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only three of these kickers are outperforming our top weekly option by even a marginal amount.

A note on our model: this last week there were four kickers who were unrostered in at least 50% of fantasy leagues and scored ten or more points. Our model successfully identified three of them. Those three kickers ranked 16th, 24nd, and 29th in points per game coming into Week 7. This is mostly meant to illustrate how much of a kicker's production is based on factors that vary wildly from week to week— defensive matchups, home vs. away splits, whether the game is close or a blowout, and most importantly of all, pure random chance.

If you happen to have a great kicker on an elite offense (such as Justin Tucker), by all means, just start him every week and let him do his thing. If you don't have that, though, those other factors are going to dominate their week-to-week production.


WEEK 8 SITUATIONS

**Since streaming kickers is so popular and rostered players can vary across leagues, here is a list of how favorable every kicker's situation is based on Vegas projected totals and stadium. Quality plays who are especially likely to be on waivers based on NFL.com roster percentages are italicized and will be highlighted in next week's column. Also, note that these rankings are kicker-agnostic; teams will occasionally change kickers mid-week, but any endorsements apply equally to whatever kicker winds up eventually getting the start.**

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