By: Alexander Amir
We conclude our positional Friday Focus series with the most forgotten position in fantasy football: kickers! This is going to be a short article since the kicker strategy is very straightforward, but it should still give you some things to think about while drafting.
I am writing this article for one reason: to IMPLORE you to draft a kicker no earlier than the 2nd-to-last round. There are a few reasons for this:
First, over the past three years, Justin Tucker is the only kicker to have a top 5 fantasy performance each year. The kicking position is pretty volatile, and if you reach for someone you think is going to be the top kicker that season you’re probably going to be wrong. Last year’s #1 and #3 fantasy kickers, Ka’imi Fairbairn and Jason Myers, had an ADP of UNDRAFTED. A total of six kickers who were being drafted outside of the top 10 2018 drafts were inside by the end of the season.
Second, even if you’re right, it doesn’t matter. The point difference between the #1 kicker, Ka’imi Fairbairn and the #5, Harrison Butker, last year was 1.4 fantasy points per game. That is nowhere near large enough to justify passing on more pressing needs in later rounds.
Third, look at some of the players that went in the 12th through 14th rounds of drafts last year: Tyler Lockett, Dak Prescott, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Eric Ebron. These were all very influential players at different points in the season. The late rounds should be used for high upside players, not on a kicker that MIGHT score a couple more points than others.
I say no earlier than the 2nd-to-last round because I don’t think the defense that you draft matters that much. I’m a big believer in streaming defenses, so it doesn’t matter if you take a kicker first. Just don’t prioritize kicker over any other position.
How to Choose a Kicker
Now that you know where to draft your kicker, you need to decide how to evaluate them. A common strategy is to choose a kicker on a high-powered offense, but it’s also just as effective to pick one on a team with a poor red zone offense. The 49ers, Jets, Texans, Giants were four of the five worst red zone offenses in the league, but their kickers were all top 8 in scoring at the position. Of course, high scoring teams work well too, like the Chiefs, Rams, and Saints last year, because they just have so many offensive opportunities.
It’s hard to predict how bad a team’s red zone offense is going to be, but you can make an educated guess.
For example, you knew that Saquon Barkley was going to carry the Giants offense all season. That meant that they would advance the ball fairly well simply on his talent alone. But in the red zone, running room decreases, and the running back’s talent can only do so much. Hence, a top 7 fantasy season for kicker Aldrick Rosas.
Houston’s red zone failures could also have been anticipated. Deshaun Watson is so good that you know the Texans would pick up yardage. Indeed, they ranked just above average in total yards per game. But with an offensive line as bad as the Texans had, there was no way the team would find success in the red zone. That meant field goal opportunities galore for Ka’imi Fairbairn, last year’s #1 kicker.
It's the little things like these that can make a small difference in your fantasy draft, particularly with this position.
Who to Target?
At this point, you should have the tools to evaluate kickers yourself. But I’ll give you some of my thoughts on specific players anyway.
Justin Tucker would be my #1 kicker off the board simply because he has finished in the top 5 each of the past three seasons, which no other kicker has done. He brings consistency to a position that otherwise lacks it. However, someone always reaches for him, so you shouldn’t be that guy and will most likely not end up with him. A similar sentiment applies to Greg Zurlein.
Harrison Butker is set up really well for success. The Chiefs offense is led by the dynamic Patrick Mahomes, which means Butker will be given a boatload of extra point attempts. However, with Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt off of the offense, it might be harder for the Chiefs to have 1) high-yardage scoring plays due to less explosive players, and 2) a juggernaut red zone offense. This should give Butker more field goal attempts than last year as well.
Aldrick Rosas isn’t even being drafted, and I think that’s a mistake. I see no reason for him to not repeat last year’s success, since the Giants offense will function almost the same as last year.
Mason Crosby quietly had a top 6 fantasy season last year, and that was with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers. I expect the Packers offense to be more explosive with a healthier Rodgers and in its 2nd year under Matt LaFleur.
Just to recap:
DO NOT draft a kicker earlier than the final two rounds
Consider kickers on high-powered offenses or on teams that will likely have poor red zone offenses.
Don’t stress out about your kicker pick. The best ones usually just appear midseason on the waiver wire.
And with that, our positional Friday Focus is over! Keep an eye out for player spotlights on the coming Fridays over the summer. Happy Drafting!