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 15 Results
Week 15 was a weird week mostly for how compressed everybody was. Unless you started Mike Badgley, it was unlikely that your kicker missed any field goals. More than half the league's kickers finished with 6-9 points. There's not really much to note among our highlighted kickers, none of whom missed a kick or faced noteworthy game scripts, and all but one of whom scored either 7 or 8 points in some combination or another. (The lone exception, Tyler Bass, played for the highest-scoring team of the week as the Bills took it to the Broncos.)
Ryan Succop (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
Matt Gay (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 2 XPs, 8 points)
Stephen Gostkowski (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 5 XPs, 8 points)
Tyler Bass (2 FG attempts, 2 FGs, 6 XPs, 12 points)
Mike Nugent (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 75 weekly recommendations. Those 75 kickers have averaged 7.52 points, compared to last year's 7.65 weekly average. That average would currently rank 10th at the position. Our top weekly recommendation averages 7.93 points and the average of all highlighted kickers with great matchups is 7.79, which would rank 6th and 8th, respectively.
The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Justin Tucker (120 points), Harrison Butker (122 points), Wil Lutz (114 points), Greg Zuerlein (116 points), Robbie Gould (98 points), Matt Gay (cut before the season), Zane Gonzalez (93 points), Younghoe Koo (140 points), Matt Prater (102 points), Dan Bailey (79 points), Jake Elliott (66 points), and Ka'imi Fairbairn (104 points) (giving an extra seven points to every kicker to account for his bye-week replacement). Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only three of these kickers have outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays"... and as we've been noting, one of those three (Koo) is a Rent-a-Kicker alum. Otherwise only Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker, the top two kickers by preseason ADP, have outperformed our top weekly option... and they've only done so by 1 and 3 points, respectively.
Excluding Gay, the remaining kickers average 104.9 points, which is well behind the average of "Great Plays" that were available on waivers (116.8 points).
Week 16 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.**
Avoid at All Costs
That Younghoe Koo ranking is bound to raise a few eyebrows. The ranking is largely based on the fact that Atlanta is a double-digit underdog to the Chiefs, and as I've mentioned, the model hates kickers on big underdogs because teams tend to abandon the kicking game in favor of 4th-down attempts and 2-point conversions once they fall substantially behind. (Additionally, it doesn't help that Atlanta is projected to be the 25th highest-scoring offense by Vegas implied totals.)
Kansas City is a tough matchup for kickers. Only four teams have seen opposing kickers score fewer points against them (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Detroit, and Miami). And as I often say, this model is all about the matchup with no variable for the individual kicker himself.
Now, projecting kickers is noisy. It's not the slightest bit unusual for "avoid at all costs" kickers to score double-digit points. The model is trying harder to avoid downside than to maximize upside. And given how unpredictable kickers are, even the "right" choice will prove wrong 40-45% of the time. It's a series of coin flips, and we're just trying to weight that coin in our favor.
But this is an especially tough situation because of the context. Koo has been by far the most valuable fantasy kicker to this point. Any team that made the championship with him probably in no small part made the championship because of him. Now they're caught in a tough bind. If they bench him and he has a huge game, they'll spend the entire offseason telling themselves they should have known better. And if they start him and he has a terrible game, they'll... spend the entire offseason telling themselves they should have known better.
It's a genuine gut-check moment. All I can say is that, if it were me, if it were my team with Koo in the championship... I'd swap him out for Succop, Fairbairn, or Parkey (knowing full well that they were at best a 60/40 bet) and let the chips fall where they may.