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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 a dozen or more starting kickers are 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
Brandon Aubrey (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 1 XP, 10 points)
This is a bit of a backdoor cover; we expected more than 16 points out of the Cowboys last week against the Cardinals, but Aubrey still did just fine because the scoring mix leaned so heavily toward field goals instead of touchdowns. After seeing so many good game scripts ruined by bad luck, it's nice to catch a bad game script salvaged by good luck. Aubrey's 10 points tied for 11th in what was a high-scoring week for kickers overall.
Jason Sanders (0 FG attempts, 0 FGs, 10 XPs, 10 points)
Usually, when a team scores nothing but touchdowns, it's a pretty bad day for us overall; fantasy kickers cannot live by extra point attempts alone. Then again, usually, a kicker isn't attempting 10 extra points in a single game. Jason Sanders became the first kicker in history to score double-digit points without a field goal attempt (though his team did pass up a chance to kick a field goal at the end to tie the NFL record for points scored). His 10 points ranked 11th last week.
Greg Joseph (1 FG attempt, 1 FG, 3 XPs, 6 points)
Joseph had a fairly nondescript day against the Chargers, with a chip-shot field goal and three extra points leading to six points, tied for 19th among kickers.
Jake Moody (3 FG attempts, 3 FGs, 3 XPs, 12 points)
Moody wound up being our top option of the week, with three short field goals and three extra points. While 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is an aggressive playcaller, his conservativeness in the red zone is a boon for his kickers, as Moody earned attempts from the 3- and 11-yard line. His 12 points ranked 6th for the week.
Cameron Dicker (1 FG attempt, 0 FGs, 4 XPs, 4 points)
The model liked the Vikings/Chargers game as a potential shootout to target, but it was responsible for both of our disappointments last week. Dicker missed from 53 yards and the Chargers scored nothing but touchdowns otherwise, leading to just 4 points and a 25th-place weekly finish.
A Tip for Holding Kickers
I mentioned last week that if you streamed your way into a kicker who looked like a keeper, you were welcome to hold him and stop streaming at any time. If you opt to do so, sometimes you might find yourself starting him in weeks when the model isn't a huge fan. So here's a quick recommendation on when to stick with your primary kicker and when to look for an alternative.
Use your primary kicker if the best available alternative is in the same tier as your primary kicker. In theory, the players are ordered within tiers, but the differences are small; the primary concern is the drop from one tier to the next. You should feel free to start any player in the best available tier with equal confidence.
If the best available alternative is ranked one tier above your primary kicker, use your primary kicker. The difference between tiers is more significant, but it translates to maybe half a point in expectation. For that low of a payoff, I'd rather save the roster spot and stick with the guy I think will be more useful for the entire season.
You have options if the best available alternative is ranked two tiers above your primary kicker. This situation will likely come into play for some of you this week; Jason Sanders looks like he may be kicking for one of the best offenses in history with the Miami Dolphins, and I think it's a great idea to hold onto him for the long term, but this week the model is a little bit worried since his team is an underdog playing on the road in a difficult stadium for kickers, rating him as a "neutral play". You can either save the roster spot and start Sanders still, or else, if you have a bit of room, you could pick up a one-week fill-in. I personally wouldn't cut Sanders outright and return to streaming, but that's also a viable option.
If the best available alternative is ranked three or more tiers above your primary kicker, I'd recommend either cutting your kicker and going back to streaming or finding room on your roster for a one-week fill-in. Three tiers is a very significant drop in expectation. (Top kickers will rarely find themselves ranked low enough for this to matter; good offenses are rarely projected to score few enough points, and strong teams will rarely find themselves big enough underdogs.)
The list of kickers I would currently consider holding instead of streaming is (in no particular order): Harrison Butker, Tyler Bass, Jake Elliott, Jason Sanders, Brandon Aubrey, Jake Moody, and Cameron Dicker. Any other kicker is, in my opinion, expendable for anyone with a better matchup this week.
Results To Date
To date, Rent-a-Kicker has made fifteen weekly recommendations. Those fifteen kickers have averaged 8.8 points, compared to 6.82 in 2022, 8.45 in 2021, 7.39 in 2020, and 7.39 in 2019. That average would currently rank 11th at the position (though many of the players ahead have spent significant time on waivers, as well). Our top weekly recommendation averages 8.3 points per game, while all recommended "great plays" average 9.4. The former figure would rank 12th, the latter figure would rank 8th.
If you've been following along, you should expect to have scored between 25 (the average of our top picks) and 28.3 points (the average of all our great plays). Here are the Top 12 kickers by preseason ADP as well as how many points they would have gotten you (giving a 6-point bonus for any weeks they may have missed): Justin Tucker (19), Daniel Carlson (13), Harrison Butker (24), Tyler Bass (31), Evan McPherson (22), Younghoe Koo (25), Jason Meyers (31), Jake Elliott (34), Cameron Dicker (24), Graham Gano (13), Brandon McManus (21), Matt Gay (26). Our streaming amalgam has outscored 8-9 of the Top 12 kickers by preseason ADP as well as the overall average of all drafted kickers (23.6 points).
Week 3 Situations
**Here is a list of the teams with the best matchups based on Vegas projected totals and stadium, along with the expected kicker for each team. The top five players 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 specifically apply to situations; 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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