Points Per Read - Kickers
What kicker should I take in my upcoming fantasy football draft? It is a question that is as old as fantasy football itself, yet many people still fall victim to the crapshoot that is selecting a kicker. Sometimes it feels like the odds of selecting a breakout kicker are seemingly lower than winning the Powerball.
Why is possibly the most boring position in all of sports just so hard to nail year after year? Well, that’s because when it comes down to it, selecting the right kicker takes a healthy dose of luck -- or does it? Yes, sadly it does.
In fact, only 5 of the top 10 kickers from 2017 were able to sustain their success and reclaim their spot as a coveted top-10 fantasy kicker. Even worse than this, only one kicker was able to finish top five in 2017 and 2018, Justin Tucker.
So if picking the right kicker is just slightly more likely than Lonzo Ball hitting a free throw, is it even worth thinking about? The simple answer is yes, kickers are certainly the most overlooked position in fantasy football.
A good kicker can be the difference between a heartbreaking loss and a thrilling victory. Selecting the right kicker, just like any other position in fantasy football, is all about minimizing risk.
The best way to ensure this is to stay away from players with serious injury history and also to analyze which team the player is on. Generally, players on high-powered offenses will put up more points. You also want to avoid players on teams that have just made serious personnel changes such as a different quarterback or head coach.
The hardest part about selecting the right kicker is knowing where to begin. I believe there are just five kickers that fall in the elite tier, that really can be difference makers in 2019, and after that the gambling begins. The first thing you should note is all average draft positions (ADPs) listed below are based off a 12-team standard scoring league. If you compete in a 10-man league the ADP should fall back a round or two.
For example, if Greg Zuerlein’s ADP is 13.01 (Round 13, Pick 1) in a 12-man league he will most likely be selected in the 14th or 15th round of a 10-man league. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk kickers.
The five kickers that finished top 10 in 2017 and 2018 are Justin Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski, Robbie Gould, Harrison Butker and Will Lutz. Gould and Gostkowski finished 2018 ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, so they are not included in the elite tier. To be elite means this player has a reasonable shot at finishing top five in scoring at their respected position.
Let’s start off with Ka’imi Fairbairn of the Houston Texans. In 2017 Fairbairn knocked home just 20 of 25 attempts, certainly nothing to write home about. But, it was his 2018 campaign that put him on the map.
Thanks to a strong Texans offense that struggled to convert drives into touchdowns, and a league-high 42 attempts. Fairbairn catapulted himself into fantasy royalty by ending the season ranked as the No. 1 kicker, amassing a whopping 170 points (10.6 a game).
It isn’t likely Fairbairn will be able to duplicate this success as the Texans offense will look to improve on red-zone efficiency. He will probably regress the most out of all fantasy kickers from 2018. Nevertheless, he is still a strong candidate to finish as a top fantasy kicker in 2019 due to sheer volume.
Next is Justin Tucker on the Baltimore Ravens. As mentioned before, Tucker was the only kicker to finish top five the past two seasons, not to mention he also claimed a top-five spot in 2016 and 2015. So yeah, he really is that good, and he’s definitely worth his 13.06 ADP.
On to Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs. Butker is a part of the most prolific offense in football, he attempted 69 extra points last year (16 more than the next closest kicker). During the two years Butker has played for the Chiefs he has only missed 1 of his 41 field goal attempts under 40 yards.
At 24 years old, Butker is one of the best kickers in fantasy and he doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Greg Zuerlein of the Los Angeles Rams is one of those rare cases in fantasy where despite injury risk, he is just too good to pass up on. Zuerlein finished ranked No. 1 in 2017, and then 11 in 2018 despite missing five games. He has been aptly nicknamed “Greg the Leg," as he routinely bombs 50-plus-yard field goals.
The Rams have attempted the most field goals of any team during Sean McVay’s two years as head coach. This combined with Zeurlein’s 91.5% field goal percentage (fourth-best during that stretch) makes him the clear No. 1 kicker in fantasy and his ADP reflects that at 13.01. He is certainly worth that price and maybe even a little more, if you know competitors in your league are high on him.
Rounding out our list of elite kickers is Will Lutz of the New Orleans Saints. Lutz is as steady as it gets, not only does he play in a high-powered offense but he also has the benefit of kicking inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome eight games a season. He has finished as a top-10 kicker in each of his three seasons, improving his stock each year.
Lutz has the fourth-highest ADP on the list (13.12), but could very well claim the No. 1 spot should the Saints offense continue to dominate.
Each of these five kickers will be picked around Round 12 or 13 in a 12-man league, and you should see a fair return on investment if you chose to use a pick on one of them.
After this group, it really becomes too difficult to put one kicker ahead of the other. There are approximately seven kickers after the elite tier that have an equal possibility to finish top 10 this season.
So, after the top five kickers are off the board, I would suggest waiting as long as possible to snag one of the next seven guys. Now, for my official 2019 preseason kicker rankings:
(Points per game based on 2018 results, ADP based on 2019 projections)
1. Greg Zuerlein (11.6 ppg, 13.01 ADP)
2. Justin Tucker (10 ppg, 13.06 ADP)
3. Harrison Butker (9.2 ppg, 13.09 ADP)
4. Will Lutz (9.4 ppg, 13.12 ADP)
5. Ka’imi Fairbairn (10.6 ppg, 14.08 ADP)
6. Stephen Gostkowski (8.6 ppg, 14.05 ADP)
7. Mason Crosby (9.1 ppg, 15.05 ADP)
8. Michael Badgley (7.9 ppg, 15.04 ADP)
9. Jake Elliott (7.6 ppg, 15.01 ADP)
10. Robbie Gould (8.7 ppg, 14.10 ADP)
11. Brett Maher (8.6 ppg, 15.05 ADP)
12. Adam Vinatieri (8.4 ppg, 15.03 ADP)