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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 2 Results
Chase McLaughlin (1 FGA, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
The Browns did the expected, putting up 31 points against the Houston Texans. McLaughlin could have used slightly more field goal attempts and slightly fewer extra points, but his seven points scored still ranked 15th at the position.
Matt Prater (2 FGA, 2 FGs, 4 XPs, 10 points)
I've mentioned several times that outside of Justin Tucker it's hard to know which NFL kickers are actually any good. Matt Prater might be the closest thing to an exception. While his career field goal percentage "only" ranks 31st all-time, that's because he entered the league in 2007 (when field goal rates were lower) and has spent his entire career as a long field goal specialist. He's hit 60 field goals of 50+ yards (an NFL record) on just 80 attempts, a 75% conversion rate that drags down his overall average despite being a tremendous success rate. This week, Prater demonstrated that even at age 37 and playing on his fourth NFL team he's still got plenty of game left, drilling a 62-yarder in a game where the Cardinals needed every point. His ten points last week tied for 7th at the position.
Tristan Vizcaino (4 FGA, 3 FGs, 0 XPs, 9 points)
Vizcaino had a relatively fortunate day (for a kicker). Usually, when an NFL team scores 17 points, their kicker finishes with a lot fewer than 9 of them. But despite hitting the upright on a 44-yard attempt and losing a potential extra point when the Chargers opted for a 2-point conversion, Vizcaino did quite well thanks to two stalled offensive drives in the red zone. The Chargers almost forced overtime (and the potential for more kicker points), but the Cowboys hit a 56-yard game-winner as time expired to foreclose on any such hopes. Still, Vizcaino's 9 points tied for 9th last week.
Nick Folk (4 FGA, 4 FGs, 1 XP, 13 points)
Folk found himself in a perfect storm for production; the opposing team started a rookie quarterback who threw four interceptions, which led to extra drives and short fields, but his own team also started a rookie quarterback, which meant most of those extra drives on short fields stalled out before the end zone. Even after missing an extra point, Folk ranked 4th among all kickers last week.
Robbie Gould (1 FGA, 1 FG, 2 XPs, 5 points)
The 49ers and Eagles played a sloppy game with little offense from either side. Gould's five points tied for 19th on the week.
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 10 weekly recommendations. Those 10 kickers have averaged 8.00 points, compared to 7.39 in 2020 and 7.65 in 2019. That average would currently rank 10th at the position. Our top weekly recommendation averages 9.0 points, while every highlighted kicker with a great matchup averages 9.4, which would rank 7th.
The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Harrison Butker (14 points), Justin Tucker (15 points), Younghoe Koo (11 points), Greg Zuerlein (19 points), Tyler Bass (15 points), Ryan Succop (13 points), Jacob Sanders (5 points), Rodrigo Blankenship (14 points), Jason Myers (10 points), Matt Gay (19 points), Brandon McManus (20 points), and Matt Prater (18 points). Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only three of these kickers outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays". The twelve kickers average 7.21 points, which trails the average of "Great Plays" that were available on waivers by more than two points.
Kicker Streaming and Matt Prater
Per NFL.com stats, Matt Prater is currently rostered in just 8.9% of fantasy leagues. That percentage will likely rise; Prater is currently the 7th-highest-scoring kicker (undoubtedly higher in leagues with bonuses for distance), and if there's one thing I know about kickers, it's that fantasy managers love to chase last week's points rather than looking forward to next week's. (If there are two things I know, it's that fantasy managers love to chase the wrong kind of points, ignoring the fundamentals and grabbing kickers who have been kicking unsustainable rates of field goals relative to extra points. Nick Folk would be the best example right now.)
If Prater rises high enough, I will no longer be able to use him. But the same isn't true for you. This column is ostensibly about streaming kickers. But what it's really about is getting the maximum possible value out of the minimum possible investment at the position. Streaming is a means to the end, not the end itself. Several times every year if I notice a kicker who looks likely to remain a strong contributor going forward, I like to mention that one could just hold him and start him going forward rather than continuing to shuffle. The end result is the same as streaming— maximum production with minimum investment.
The Cardinals are looking like an offensive juggernaut and Kyler Murray is playing like an MVP contender. If those trends keep up, their kicker will score a lot of points. Arizona has one of the most favorable stadiums to kick in, and Prater is one of the very few kickers in the NFL who I think significantly deviates from average. He's arguably the best distance kicker in history for leagues that provide bonuses for such. I have very little confidence in strength of schedule predictions this far out, but it's also worth pointing out that the Cardinals draw some potentially atrocious defenses during the fantasy playoffs, with games against the Lions, Colts, and Cowboys.
The nice thing is you don't have to commit for the season. You can hold him for a couple of weeks and if the Cardinals keep up the production, just keep on holding. On the other hand, if Kyler Murray falls off a cliff or the team otherwise implodes, you can always cut Prater loose and go right back to streaming. You don't lose anything in the process.
Prater isn't the only kicker who is looking like he might be a potential long-term hold. The Rams and Broncos offenses are both playing well enough to make Matt Gay and Brandon McManus look like potentially interesting targets, too. All three score well in the algorithm this week, so there's no real opportunity cost to holding them, either. (Usually, if you're holding a guy you'll have to start him in a neutral or poor matchup from time to time.)
Of course, you're welcome to ignore all of this and happily keep on streaming. We'll be here every week regardless of what you choose. I just wanted to remind everyone that the name of the game here is maximizing the number of points scored, not maximizing the number of waiver wire transactions made.
Week 3 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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