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Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
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 5 Results
Jake Elliott (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
The Eagles offense was poised to bounce back against an awful New York Jets squad, and it certainly delivered. The team converted more drives into touchdowns than would have been ideal for kicker Jake Elliott's sake, but his seven points still ranked 13th at the position last week.
Mike Nugent (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 3 XPs, 9 points)
Our talent-agnostic ethos here at Rent-a-Kicker means we're sometimes presented with sudden opportunities to buy into top-notch situations. We saw it before Week 1 when the highly-regarded Chargers offense saw their kicker suddenly injured, and savvy fantasy owners have been able to profit off of that situation ever since. Similarly, when New England suddenly placed long-time kicker Stephen Gostkowski on IR it presented a unique chance for streamers to get a piece of one of the best kicking situations in modern NFL history. Newly-signed replacement Mike Nugent scored nine points in his debut, good for 10th at his position, and he will likely be a mainstay in these rankings until fantasy owners finally wake up and start rostering him everywhere. One additional note: getting quality kicker production with no resource investment is the goal of Rent-a-Kicker, and streaming kickers is a means of achieving that goal. It is not, however, the only means of achieving that goal. If you happened to pick up Nugent when he was signed and want to step off the streaming treadmill and just roll with him for a while, that's not a bad idea at all.
Brett Maher (3 FG attempts, 1 FG, 3 XPs, 6 points)
Despite a poor showing by the Cowboys overall, Maher actually had a decent enough day for his owners. His six points ranked 18th at his position, but he was two missed field goals away from a much bigger day. One of the misses was from 50+ yards and is hard to hold against him, but the missed 33-yarder at the end of the game certainly stings.
Chase McLaughlin (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 1 XP, 7 points)
Once again the Chargers kicker serves as the poster-child for our talent agnostic philosophy. Opening the season, Mike Badgley was expected to handle placekicking. When Badgley was injured, the team turned to punter Ty Long. When Ty Long suffered an injury scare on a kickoff, the team brought in rookie Chase McLaughlin. And through it all the team's kicker keeps producing solid games, this time with a seven-point outing that tied for 13th on the week.
Randy Bullock (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 2 XPs, 11 points)
There's a relatively contrarian strain of thought gaining prominence that "defenses don't matter", that a defense's performance is just a reflection of the various offenses it has faced. Offense is undoubtedly more important than defense— I would rather have the kicker who is playing with Patrick Mahomes for the rest of the season than my top weekly streaming option every week for the rest of the season. (The preference just isn't strong enough for me to be willing to pay the draft cost it would require.)
But I find "defense doesn't matter" struggles to explain our model's track record at highlighting low-owned kickers on mediocre offenses who nevertheless go on to produce big weeks. In Week 1, Joey Slye was a neutral play. In Week 2 he was in our third-rated situation and led all scorers. In Week 2, Matt Gay was "Avoid at All Costs". In Week 3, he was in our fifth-rated situation and led all scorers.
In Week 4, Randy Bullock was "Avoid at All Costs" and he'd produced a whole lot of nothing to that point; he ranked 20th in points through four weeks. Nevertheless, our model rated him as the 8th-best play last week and he wound up more than doubling his season average to that point, scoring 11 points and tying for fifth at the position. It's hard to explain these fluctuations with offense alone. It's quite a bit easier to explain them by noting that Arizona's defense is not very good and kickers that face the Cardinals are a solid bet for a good day. When it comes to streaming kickers at least, defenses most certainly matter.
RESULTS TO DATE
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 25 weekly recommendations Those 25 kickers have averaged 7.24 fantasy points, close to last year's 7.38 point average. That 7.24 point average would currently rank 11th at the position (after giving an additional 7.24 points to any kicker whose team has had a bye). Top weekly recommendations average 8.6 points, which would rank 7th, while all highlighted kickers with great matchups combined average 8.27 (10th).
A 7th- or 10th-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. The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Greg Zuerlein (50 points), Justin Tucker (45), Harrison Butker (46), Wil Lutz (43), Stephen Gostkowski (32), Kaimi Fairbairn (29), Robbie Gould (42.24*), Jake Elliott (29), Mason Crosby (35), Mike Badgley (0), Brett Maher (29), and Adam Vinatieri (33). (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.
WEEK 6 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.**
Avoid at All Costs