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 8 Results
Matt Prater (2 FG attempts, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
Rent-a-Kicker expected the Lions to be one of the highest-scoring teams of Week 8, and the Lions certainly delivered; only San Francisco finished with more points. An overabundance of touchdowns resulted in a decent week for kicker Matt Prater, who had only two attempts (both from 50+ yards) and converted one of them. Prater finished the week tied for 14th.
Dan Bailey (4 FG attempts, 4 FGs, 1 XP, 13 points)
In the past, I've written about how a team's scoring mix (what percentage of scores are touchdowns vs. what percentage are field goals) tends to be pretty random over the long run. Dan Bailey had been on the short end of the scoring-mix stick through seven weeks; Bailey led the league in extra points but ranked just 19th in field goal attempts. Well, Week 8 almost single-handedly remedied that imbalance with four field goals (vs. just one touchdown). Bailey's 13 points led all players at the position.
Mike Nugent (4 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 3 XPs, 9 points)
Nugent has consistently made our recommendations list and has consistently given us solid performances (9, 5, 7, and now 9 points), but there's reason to believe that a breakout is just around the corner. This week, Nugent missed from 34 yards and had an attempt from 29 yards blocked, which was all that stood between him and the highest-scoring game by a Rent-a-Kicker alum all season. Instead, his nine points finished the week tied for fourth at his position (albeit with ten other kickers).
Matt Bryant (4 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 0 XPs, 6 points)
On the surface it might look like Bryant is in the middle of a nightmare season; his field goal percentage this year would be the lowest of his 18-year career and his five missed field goals already matches the most he's missed in a season since 2008. (His career high for misses is just six.) With that said, both of his misses last week were from beyond 50 yards, and we've seen veteran kickers go through slumps plenty of times; Adam Vinatieri made just three of his first eight kicks this season (field goals plus extra points), briefly intimated that he was planning on retiring, then changed his mind and has made 21 of 24 kicks since. Bryant's six points ranked him 19th in Week 8.
Cody Parkey (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 3 XPs, 9 points)
The most fun part of this column every week is seeing what mediocre kickers the model is going to recommend for us this time. Through seven weeks, the Tennessee Titans ranked 27th in the league in scoring and the team had already changed kickers on the season. There was little reason to believe their kicker would be a good play. And yet there he was, and his nine points in Week 8 actually ranked as the fourth-highest total of the week. Granted, it was a 10-way tie for 4th, but at the end of the day, only three players would have been a better option.
RESULTS TO DATE
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 40 weekly recommendations. Those 40 kickers have averaged 7.80 fantasy points, ahead of last year's 7.38 point average. That 7.80 point average would currently rank 11th at the position (after giving an additional 7.80 points to any kicker whose team has had a bye). Top weekly recommendations average 8.50 points, which would rank 7th, while all highlighted kickers with great matchups combined average 8.75 (4th!)
A 4th-place or even 7th-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 recommendations have scored 68 points, while the average of our great recommendations scored 70. The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Greg Zuerlein (70 points), Justin Tucker (75.8*), Harrison Butker (70), Wil Lutz (67), Stephen Gostkowski (32), Kaimi Fairbairn (54), Robbie Gould (68.8*), Jake Elliott (46), Mason Crosby (59), Mike Badgley (0), Brett Maher (59.8*), and Adam Vinatieri (53.8*). (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 9 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
10/30/19 Update: The Patriots have once again switched kickers on us after we've already gone to print. As always, Rent-a-Kicker is entirely talent-agnostic, so newly-signed kicker Nick Folk slots right in where newly-released kicker Mike Nugent once sat. If you are looking to make a longer-term move, the Patriots are a team that looks likely to continue racking up big point totals this year and Folk has the potential to be a long-term solution for you at the position. At least unless and until the New England signs someone else, instead.