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
Zane Gonzalez (4 FG attempts, 4 FGs, 2 XPs, 14 points)
A massive day from the kicker on one of the best offenses in the league (Arizona suddenly leads the league in yards gained and ranks 7th in scoring). And it could have been even better; Arizona kneeled on the extra point attempt after the game-winning hail-mary touchdown. If you have Zane Gonzalez as your kicker, feel free to give serious thought to giving up on streaming and sticking with him for a while going forward. Gonzalez was the second-best kicker of the week.
Cody Parkey (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 1 XP, 4 points)
For the second straight week, one of our top kickers played in a game that wound up being substantially impacted by high winds. For the sake of this column, we always evaluate the guys who originally committed to, but it's worth noting that the late-week wind concerns would have pushed Parkey from 4th down to 13th. As a general rule: high winds (25+ miles per hour) will typically turn a higher-end "great play" into a "good play", a lower-end "great play" into a "neutral play", and a "good play" into a "poor play". Feel free to pivot away as desired. As for Parkey himself, he finished 24th, though with a bit of a bad beat; Cleveland kneeled out the clock at the goal line rather than scoring a touchdown or kicking a field goal.
Kai Forbath (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 2 XPs, 5 points)
Against a Seahawks defense that offenses have a habit of "getting right" against, the Rams instead had a workmanlike day with three touchdowns and a field goal attempt. Forbath missed one extra point, but hit the other kicks for five points and a 19th-place finish.
Tyler Bass (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 3 XPs, 12 points)
Kicker scoring varies from league to league, but we use the most basic version here: points scored = points scored. In leagues that give a bonus for distance, however, Bass ranks substantially higher. All three of his kicks came from beyond 50 yards, tying the all-time record. (He also became the first kicker in history to make all three of his 50+ yard kicks in a single quarter.) In the basic "points = points" scoring, Bass still finished as the #4 kicker of the week.
Matt Prater (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 3 XPs, 12 points)
Matt Prater had a pretty good day for the Detroit Lions, with two field goals and three extra points late in the 4th quarter. But when Washington improbably rallied from 21 points down to tie the game, and then Detroit even-more-improbably managed to gain 34 yards in 13 seconds so that Prater could hit a 59-yard game-winner, his day went from good to great. Prater tied for the 4th-best kicker of the week.
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 50 weekly recommendations. Those 50 kickers have averaged 7.46 points, compared to last year's 7.65 weekly average. That average would currently rank 13th at the position. Our top weekly recommendation averages 8.20 points and the average of all highlighted kickers with great matchups is 7.75, which would rank 6th and 11th, respectively.
The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Justin Tucker (83 points), Harrison Butker (79 points), Wil Lutz (92 points), Greg Zuerlein (70 points), Robbie Gould (64 points), Matt Gay (cut before the season), Zane Gonzalez (81 points), Younghoe Koo (88 points), Matt Prater (82 points), Dan Bailey (51 points), Jake Elliott (46 points), and Ka'imi Fairbairn (69 points) (giving an extra seven points to any kicker who has had his bye). Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only six of these kickers have outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays"... and two of those six (Gonzalez and Koo) have been cut in enough leagues since the season started that they're actually Rent-a-Kicker alumni.
Excluding Gay, the remaining kickers average 73.2 points, which trails the average of "Great Plays" that were available on waivers (77.5 points).
Stepping Out of the Stream
In Week 8, I mentioned that streaming kickers wasn't for everyone, but even if you weren't a fan of the weekly shuffle, you still shouldn't invest premium resources in a kicker in your draft. That's because around the time of the draft we have little idea which kickers are actually going to be good. Even if you want to just get one good kicker and start him every week, the best way to do that is to wait a few weeks into the season and grab one off of waivers still. To quote myself:
One reason not to invest draft picks at kicker is that you can get quality production off of the waiver wire, which is what this column is about. Another big reason is we rarely know in advance which offenses are going to be any good in any given season. If you stream your way into a Gostkowski, a Koo, or a Gonzalez, and then later decide you want to just ride shotgun with the Tennessee, Atlanta, or Arizona offense, that's a perfectly justifiable decision. Ryan Succop (rostered in 10.2% of leagues), Jason Myers (18.5%), and Mike Badgley (19.1%) all look like they're kicking for explosive offenses going forward, and it's quite reasonable to just hitch your wagon to one of them if you want. If their availability decreases enough, I'll be forced to stop featuring them on a weekly basis, but that doesn't mean they'll no longer be of benefit to anyone following this column.
Since writing that, Ryan Succop is the #1 fantasy kicker, Jason Myers is 5th, and Mike Badgley is 9th. Zane Gonzalez (who dipped back below 50% rostered during Arizona's Week 8 bye) has only played two games but ranks 5th in points per game. Younghoe Koo (a former Rent-a-Kicker Alum who is still available in a third of NFL.com fantasy leagues) ranks 1st in points per game. (Gostkowski, the last kicker I mentioned, is 25th since I wrote that; you can't win them all.)
The point is, even if you hate streaming and just want to get one good kicker to start every week, the best way to do that is to start the season with whoever's cheap and wait a few weeks until we have a solid idea about who the good kickers really are. (They're the guys who play with the best offenses.)
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 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.**
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