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 3 Results
A note before we dive into the individual results: last week featured five kickers who were rostered in fewer than 50% of leagues but had great matchups, a rarity for the column. Not coincidentally, our featured kickers averaged 10.6 points, our new best week on record. (The previous record was 9.6, scored in another week with five "great matchups".) Overall, Rent-a-Kicker selections accounted for the Top 2, three of the Top 5, and four of the Top 12 finishes last week.
The best part of such a strong showing is not just that it benefits you all directly (because you're more likely to roster one of the top weekly performers), it benefits you all *indirectly* as well (because your leaguemates are less likely to have a top performer of their own). Per NFL.com data, Chase McLaughlin was rostered in fewer than 6% of leagues last week (a total that was actually down from the week before). Greg Joseph was on a roster in fewer than 4% of leagues. Even Brandon McManus, the most commonly-rostered of our featured selections, put up his 14 points on the street in seven out of ten leagues.
There will certainly be worse weeks ahead.
Matt Prater (2 FGA, 1 FG, 4 XPs, 7 points)
All that space spent talking up Prater last week and he wound up being one of the worst of the featured performers. He still validated all of the reasons why we liked him. The Cardinals scored 30+ points and they continue letting him taking insane deep shots, lining him up for a 68-yarder that would have shattered the previous NFL record of 64 yards. Again, if these trends continue, Prater is a near-lock to finish the year among the league leaders in scoring at the position. Of course, Prater's 68-yard attempt came up short and the Jaguars returned it for a touchdown. It'll be worth monitoring whether the Cardinals become spooked and attempt fewer long field goals going forward. For now, Prater's 7 points were enough to tie him for 11th (and had he had a few extra yards in his leg, he would have risen to 8th).
Brandon McManus (4 FGA, 4 FGs, 2 XPs, 14 points)
I don't think anyone expected the Broncos to be one of the top offenses coming into this season, but through three weeks they are. They rank 3rd in the NFL (behind the Rams and the Chiefs) in expected points added (or EPA) per play and rank 2nd in the league in EPA per dropback (jumping Kansas City). They have one of the slowest paces in the league and have suffered a string of injuries at wide receiver, which may slow the team down going forward. But if not, McManus could prove to be a season-long star in the thin air of Denver. His 14 points last week tied for the league lead.
Greg Joseph (3 FGA, 3 FGs, 3 XPs, 12 points)
Joseph's Vikings are another unexpectedly potent offense. The primary difference between Joseph and the top two kickers this week is the other teams stalled out a bit more, with 4 field goals vs. 2 touchdowns, while the Vikings had a 50/50 split on scoring plays. His 12 points were still good enough to tie for 5th on the week.
Chase McLaughlin (4 FGA, 4 FGs, 2 XPs, 14 points)
The Browns had a perfect game script against a Chicago Bears team whose offense couldn't stay on the field. Their offense moved the ball well and built a big enough lead that they never needed to aggressively try for touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. McLaughlin hit a pair of 50-yarders to match McManus for the top performance of the week.
Zane Gonzalez (1 FGA, 1 FG, 3 XPs, 6 points)
The closest thing to a disappointment on the week, the Panthers weren't as dominant as expected against a short-handed Texans team starting a 3rd-round rookie quarterback. Gonzalez was fortunate that the Panthers stalled out on the 3-yard line rather than punching in a fourth touchdown (and also fortunate that they had a big enough lead that they didn't decide to go for it on 4th-and-1). His six points still tied for 13th last week.
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made 15 weekly recommendations. Those 15 kickers have averaged 8.87 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 8.33 points, while every highlighted kicker with a great matchup averages a remarkable 10.0, which would rank 3rd.
The top 12 kickers by preseason ADP were Harrison Butker (20 points), Justin Tucker (28 points), Younghoe Koo (16 points), Greg Zuerlein (24 points), Tyler Bass (28 points), Ryan Succop (19 points), Jacob Sanders (13 points), Rodrigo Blankenship (24 points), Jason Myers (15 points), Matt Gay (29 points), Brandon McManus (34 points), and Matt Prater (25 points). Despite the extra draft capital expenditure, only one of these kickers outperformed the average of our highlighted "Great Plays", and that kicker is currently on waivers in 7 out of 10 leagues (and therefore part of our pool of available streamers). The twelve kickers have scored an average of 19.75 points, less than 2/3rds the 30.00 average of our available "great plays".
Week 4 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