Debunking the Randomness of Kickers in Fantasy Football

May 02, 2023
Debunking the Randomness of Kickers in Fantasy Football

The war against kickers has reached a fever pitch in recent years and I am not here for it. 4for4 has always been a safe space for those who play in leagues with kicker spots, a haven if you will, for fantasy managers to appreciate how the position has the potential to be a difference-maker in their collective seasons.

At the core of the notion to get rid of kickers is the myth that their output is totally random and unpredictable. Sure, there are some who got blasted by a 17-point performance from Graham Gano in Week 2 last year or rode Chase McLaughlin's 20-point leg to victory in Week 15. When those weeks happen, it’s easy to blame it all on the “randomness” of the kicker spot, but very few take the time to research and see that it may not be so capricious at all.

This piece will break down the best way to tackle the kicker position divided by fantasy formats. FFPC still has the stones to use kickers in their best-ball leagues and of course, there are plenty of redraft and seasonal leagues out there that are pro-kicker.

Trends to Look for in Seasonal Kickers

First and foremost, streaming is your best bet in redraft leagues, so the kicker that you click on or walk that sticker up to the board for, is of very little significance other than your possible Week 1 guy.

What Happens in Vegas

We don’t look to predict individual kicker components like field goal attempts, extra-point tries, or kick distances, as that would be somewhat futile. Instead, we turn to Las Vegas for kicker love in the form of implied team totals. The more points a team puts on the board, the more their kicker scores.

As you can see from the past four seasons, the correlation between higher implied team totals and larger kicker output is solid. As I dug even deeper into this data, I found that the number of times a kicker scored 10+ fantasy points when their team’s implied total was 27 or higher was more than double the amount of when their predicted score was 26 or less.

For the Anti-Streaming Crowd

If you’re not into streaming your kicker and prefer just rolling with one throughout the season, here are a few pointers to up your odds of getting the most production out of them.

First and foremost, wait to draft your kicker until the final round of the draft. With every pick in a fantasy football draft, there is an opportunity cost associated with that pick. In fantasy terms, opportunity cost is simply the value of players that you don’t draft, but you had the chance to take. Selecting a kicker before the last round, whether you are in a 16, 18- or more-round draft, has a potentially large opportunity cost attached to it.

Notable ADP Values in Rounds 12-24, 2022
ADP Player Half-PPR FP/Game Positional Rank
12.05 Garrett Wilson 10.2 WR32
13.02 David Njoku 8.1 TE9
13.08 Mecole Hardman 10.2 WR34
15.03 Jamaal Williams 12.9 RB11
15.12 Christian Watson 10.3 WR31
16.04 Taysom Hill 8.8 TE7
17.06 Jakobi Meyers 10.5 WR29
19.12 Evan Engram 8.3 TE8
N/A Latavius Murray 10.8 RB25

A look at players drafted in Rounds 12 - undrafted in redraft leagues via FantasyPros last season reveals a decent group of positional players who produced starting numbers and even a few potential league winners. Drafting a kicker before their time could mean missing out on those points throughout the season, so as hard as it may be—and whatever FOMO you may be experiencing—tap the brakes on that kicker before the final round.

Finding the Perfect Best-Ball Kicker

Most of this information can also be used for those of you who play in redraft or seasonal leagues and do not want to stream from week to week. However, in best-ball formats, there is no roster manipulation after the draft, so this advice will live here in this section.

As Always, Chase Volume

Looking for volume is nothing new when it comes to fantasy football, and applying it to kicker selection can also prove effective. High-volume passing offenses lead to scoring opportunities which is something we want from the leg of our placekickers. Teams that aren’t afraid to chuck the ball tend to produce higher-scoring kickers.

Kicker Finishes in Fantasy Points Per Game and Team Passing Volume, 2022
Player Team Positional Finish FP/G Offense Rank in Passing Yards Total Passing Yards
Matthew Wright KC K1 1st 5,062
Daniel Carlson LVR K2 12th 3,934
Jason Myers SEA K3 11th 3,934
Justin Tucker BAL K4 28th 3,040
Brett Maher DAL K5 14th 3,736
Tyler Bass BUF K6 8th 4,129
Mike Badgley DET K7 6th 4,281
Cameron Dicker LAC K8 3rd 4,584
Robbie Gould SF K9 13th 3,856
Younghoe Koo ATL K10 31st 2,699
Eddy Pineiro CAR K11 29th 2,996
Nick Folk NE K12 20th 3,536
Riley Patterson JAX K13 10th 3,959
Jason Sanders MIA K14 4th 4,511

If we look at last year’s top 14 legs, 10 of them came from offenses among the top half of the league in total passing yards, with a handful landing outside.

Look to the Third Down

Another stat that can lend us some credence in drafting a kicker to roll with for the season in best-ball leagues is third-down percentage. The farther down the field a drive is extended means there’s more of a chance for scoring, right?

In 2020, three of the seven highest-scoring fantasy kickers were from the offenses in the top eight in third-down efficiency. The Falcons were third in the league in third-down efficiency at 43.9%, which led to a K1 performance from Younghoe Koo, while Tampa Bay and Dallas ended fourth and eighth with 43.5% and 40.5% respectively, earning Ryan Succop K7 and Greg Zuerlein K6 spots in total fantasy points.

The next year in 2021, we saw three of the top five kickers from offenses within the top eight in third-down efficiency, with six more rounding out the 14 highest-scoring kickers in 2021. The Patriots were seventh in the metric (44.0%), leading to a K2 performance from Folk, with Gay of the Rams putting up K3 numbers with a sixth-highest third-down efficiency number of 44.7% from his offense. Matt Prater was K5 on the season with the Cardinals' 43.5% third-down efficiency ranking eighth in the league. Kickers 9-14 were all on offenses that landed in the top 10 in third-down efficiency in 2021 with the Eagles (4th), Bills (2nd), Butker (1st), Zuerlein (10th), Succop (5th), and Crosby (9th) all on productive offenses.

Last season, four of the top seven kickers in total fantasy points were on offenses that finished the year within the top nine in third-down efficiency, with two more on teams among the top 16 in that metric. The Cowboys ranked fifth (45.2%) producing a K4 performance from Brett Maher, with the 49ers right behind (45.1%) in sixth, with a K4 finish from Robbie Gould. The high-octane Buffalo Bills featured the highest third-down conversion rate in 2023 (50.2%) with Tyler Bass putting up a K6 finish in overall fantasy points. Despite their offensive woes, the Falcons managed to convert third downs at the ninth-highest rate (41.8%), allowing Younghoe Koo to do his thing as K7 on the season.

We do need to remember that the very best offenses should be converting third downs to find that end zone, so sometimes you’ll only get one point instead of three or more.

The Bottom Line

  • Kicker-hate is at an all-time high and before you let those carpet cleaners in your house and join the cult, you may want to consider how helpful they can be to your team’s overall output.
  • Sure, we’ve all been burned by the kicker position in the past, and on the surface, it all seems super random, but by putting in some time and effort, kicker’s production from week to week may not be as arbitrary as it appears.
  • Looking at Vegas odds, teams’ offensive efficiency and volume can also assist you in getting the most from your kicker regardless of fantasy format.
  • Let your league mates draft their kicker(s) way too early, while you sit back armed with some actionable data to steer you towards the right one.
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