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.
A Brief Note on Kickers
I explained last week about why my kicker model does not include a variable for kicker talent, writing: "talent is virtually impossible to estimate. Placekicking results are so noisy that, outside of [Justin] Tucker and perhaps a couple of veterans like Stephen Gostkowski or Matt Prater with a decade or more in the league, we just don't know who is genuinely good and who is just on a hot streak."
The "perhaps" in that sentence was not a mistake or a rhetorical flourish. It was a carefully considered modifier. After being lauded as perhaps a kicker who is genuinely good, Gostkowski missed three field goals and an extra point in his first game with the Titans.
Stephen Gostkowski missed his first 3 FG attempts (1 blocked) as a Titan before sinking the 4th to win the game on #MNF.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 15, 2020
Bad News: Gostkowski's career FG pct dropped from 87.4 to 86.8, moving him from 5th all-time to 9th in a single game (min. 50 att).
Good News: @Titans won.
The thing is, Gostkowski genuinely has been one of the best non-Justin Tucker kickers in the league, perhaps the best. If you adjust for the distance of his kicks, his field goal percentage has consistently been above expectations for fifteen years, and that's despite playing in New England, one of the tougher stadiums for kickers.
In case you were wondering, Justin Tucker is the best kicker in football and it's not particularly close— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) May 9, 2020
Expected* Field Goal% vs. Actual Field Goal%
+ All unblocked field goal attempts, 2012-2019
+ min. 100 attempts to qualify
* League average rate by distance pic.twitter.com/DVNBy6DWGo
But Stephen Gostkowski being possibly the second-best kicker in the NFL heading into yesterday just shows how much uncertainty there is surrounding who is the second-best kicker behind Justin Tucker. The second-best kicker is a lot closer to the 20th-best kicker than he is to Tucker.
So that's why there's no talent adjustment in our model. Outside of Justin Tucker, the effect is just too small and uncertain to matter. And adding an adjustment just for Tucker is a bit beyond the point since Tucker will never make it to waivers. (If he does, grab him and start him the rest of the way regardless of what the model says.)
Week 1 Results
Chris Boswell (2 FG Attempts, 2 FGs, 1 XP, 8 Points)
Boswell bounced a second extra point off the upright but generally did what he needed to for fantasy GMs in a week without any top kicker performances. His 8 points ranking tying for 12th but ranking just three points behind the overall leader.
Rodrigo Blankenship (3 FG Attempts, 2 FGs, 2 XPs, 8 Points)
Rookie Blankenship had to twice hit a 38-yarder at the half thanks to an icing time out, but unfortunately for us, we only get to count it once. Blankenship also hit the upright on a 30-yard attempt in the third quarter. Kicker scores were compressed enough that that miss was the difference between tying for 1st at the position this week and finishing where he did, tied for 12th.
Nick Folk (1 FG Attempt, 0 FGs, 3 XPs, 3 Points)
Folk missed his lone field goal attempt of the game, a 45-yarder into New England's tougher end zone. Outside of that, the Patriots finished drives with touchdowns and Folk finished the week with just three points, tied for 28th.
Dan Bailey (1 FG Attempt, 1 FG, 1 XP, 4 Points)
Bailey gave us our first demonstration of the season as to why Rent-a-Kicker includes a penalty for kickers whose teams are projected to lose big. The Vikings fell behind 29-10 before scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Because of the large deficit, however, they went for a two-point conversion after all three scores, turning a potential 7-point performance into a 4-point outing for Bailey. Of course, Minnesota wasn't projected to get blown out so badly, which is why Bailey was recommended last week. Bailey's 4 points finished the week tied for 25th.
Jason Myers (1 FG Attempt, 1 FG, 5 XPs, 8 Points)
Field goals are always preferable to extra points, but if a team scores a bunch of points, their kicker is likely to benefit regardless. Seattle's five touchdowns matched the league high for the week and Myers' 8 points ranked 12th at the position.
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 5 weekly recommendations. Those 5 kickers have averaged 6.2 points, compared to last year's 7.65 weekly average. That average would currently rank 20th at the position. Our top weekly recommendation averages 8 points, while every highlighted kicker with a great matchup averages 8, which would rank 12th.
A slow start isn't much of a concern, especially since kicker scores were both low and compressed last week; as I mentioned, just three points separated 12th from 1st. Additionally, we had five weeks below seven points last year. Sometimes a bad week happens.
The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Justin Tucker (8 points), Harrison Butker (10 points), Wil Lutz (10 points), Greg Zuerlein (5 points), Robbie Gould (8 points), Matt Gay (cut before the season), Zane Gonzalez (6 points), Younghoe Koo (7 points), Matt Prater (11 points), Dan Bailey (4 points), Jake Elliott (5 points), and Ka'imi Fairbairn (2 points). Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only three of these kickers have outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays".
Week 2 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 on waivers in over 50% of leagues 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.**