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 10 Results
Matt Gay (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 3 XPs, 12 points)
Due to a rough series of matchups and bye weeks last week, only one of our "Great Plays" was available in more than 50% of fantasy leagues on NFL.com and therefore eligible for our tracking purposes (a second kicker later became available; see below). Thankfully, that one kicker delivered in spades, nailing every kick and scoring 12 points to finish 3rd at the position.
Brett Maher (2 FG attempts, 1 FG, 3 XPs, 6 points)
Mike Badgley (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 3 XPs, 6 points)
Dan Bailey (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 2 XPs, 8 points)
On average, the difference between one "Great Play" and another is fairly trivial, but the difference between a "Great Play" and a "Good Play" is substantial. To this point in the season, our highlighted "Great Plays" are outscoring our highlighted "Good Plays" by about 30% per game, and the biggest difference is just player upside. Out of 25 "Good Plays", only four have reached double-digit points. Our "Great Plays" have given us 10 double-digit point games in just 23 picks (or 11 out of 24 if you want to include McLaughlin; see below). Our three "Good Plays" this week all fit that same general pattern, scoring 6-8 points which placed them all squarely in the middle of the pack; Bailey tied for 10th at the position while Maher and Badgley tied for 16th.
Daniel Carlson (3 FG Attempts, 2 FGs, 2 XPs, 8 points)
Carlson represents just the second time all season we've been forced to rely on a "Neutral Play" to fill out our final recommendation. In practice, the chances that all of the better kickers are already rostered and you're forced to make your way down to our 5th recommendation are pretty slim, but still, it's nice when a dice roll on a neutral play pays off. Carlson's 8 points tied him with Bailey for 10th this week, and if not for a missed extra point he could have finished as high as 7th.
Special Bonus: Chase McLaughlin (4 FG Attempts, 3 FGs, 1 XP, 10 points)
Robbie Gould was listed as a great play in last week's column but wasn't highlighted because he was owned in over 50% of NFL.com fantasy leagues. He suffered a mid-week injury after Rent-a-Kicker was published and alert owners who grabbed his replacement were rewarded with 10 points, tied for fourth place at the position last week. Because he wasn't one of our original five selections, McLaughlin won't count towards any of our averages, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight how owners can take advantage of the talent-agnostic nature of these rankings to profit off of mid-week injuries.
RESULTS TO DATE
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 50 weekly recommendations. Those 50 kickers have averaged 7.86 fantasy points, ahead of last year's 7.38 point average. That 7.86 point average would currently rank 11th at the position (after giving an additional 7.86 points to any kicker whose team has had a bye). Top weekly recommendations average 8.80 points, which would rank 4th, while all highlighted kickers with great matchups combined average 9.04 (2nd!)
A 2nd-place finish is so impressive that no additional context is needed. But it's still worth pointing out that these finishes can sometimes be 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 recommendations have scored 88 points, while the average of our great recommendations scored 90.4. The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Greg Zuerlein (81.86 points), Justin Tucker (89.86), Harrison Butker (98), Wil Lutz (83.86), Stephen Gostkowski (32), Ka'imi Fairbairn (69.86), Robbie Gould (72.86*), Jake Elliott (63.86), Mason Crosby (68), Mike Badgley (20), Brett Maher (78.86*), and Adam Vinatieri (63.86*). (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 one of these kickers has outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays".
WEEK 11 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.**