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Steve Schwarz | Archive | Email |  
Staff Writer

Finding Predictability in the Chaos of Kickers

Kickers Ö they are the last item on your fantasy checklist.

You have meticulously selected your starting quarterback, receivers, running backs and tight ends. Cleverly managed to find quality backups. Analyzed schedules to maximize your D/ST. And then, for some unknown reason, most of you essentially pick your kicker out of a hat. Thinking there is almost no difference, you just select anyone, any warm body with a strong kicking leg.


As fantasy owners we spend a lot of time on D/ST analysis and the difference between the top team and No. 12 (the last start-worthy team in a 12-team league) is 3.11 FPts/G (data gathered from 2006-2015). Meanwhile, the difference between the No. 1 kicker and No. 12 isnít much different - 2.11 FPts/G.

Although there are many unknowns when choosing a kicker for your fantasy roster, you CAN gain an advantage by doing homework on kickers too.

Iíll start by giving you two important facts. The first one, if you are anything but a novice, you already know. The second one may surprise you.

New Englandís Stephen Gostkowski is the best and most consistent placekicker in the NFL. Considering heís been the No. 1 kicker over the past four seasons thatís not exactly ďstop-the-pressesĒ news.

Hereís a slightly more interesting tidbit.

Do not pick a Washington kicker; whether itís Dustin Hopkins or anyone else. Over the past 10 NFL season 31 of 32 teams have managed to produce at least one season with a kicker in the top-12. Only the Washington Redskins have failed to find even one fantasy-worthy kicker.

What Iíve found is - itís less about the kicker and more about team philosophy. Iíll give you two examples.

The New Orleans Saints, under the direction of Drew Brees the past 10 seasons, have been an elite, high-scoring offense (27.4 PPG), but their kicker has managed to make it into the top-12 just two times. The Saints offense has been too good, meaning their kicker is attempting too many extra points and not enough three-pointers after stalled drives.

By the same token, for many years the Baltimore Ravens have lived by a strong defense (OK, not last season) and a mediocre offense. They won with a strategy of donít make any mistakes on offense and produce just enough points to allow Ray Lewis and his defense to win the game. The result was that seven times in the past 10 seasons a Ravensí kickers (Justin Tucker, Billy Cundiff and Matt Stover) has finished in the top-12.

Here is where it gets interesting.

In the last ten seasons, 60 different kickers have produced at least one fantasy-worthy season, but only 10 teams have produced a kicker at least 50% of the time. Of that group, three teams (Baltimore, Dallas and New England) have produced a start-worthy kicker in each of the last five seasons while Seattle has a current streak of four in-a-row.

So if an owner wants the best percentage of hitting on his kicker selection in 2016, it would seem he should choose from the above four team options.

Gostkowski (ADP 137.1), Steve Hauschka (152.9), Tucker (155.4) and Dan Bailey (164.4) - pick any of the four and based on history you should be guaranteed a solid fantasy kicker.

At the other end of the spectrum are the Jaguars, Jets, Titans and Rams who have not had a top-12 kicker in at least five seasons. Now you may think that second-year QB Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, the return of Ryan Fitzpatrick or rookie Jared Goff may change all that, but why go out on the limb when there is much easier low-hanging fruit.

There are also seven teams that have produced just one fantasy-worthy season in the last five years -Carolina, Chicago, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans, Oakland and Philadelphia. However, Graham Gano (2nd), Robbie Gould (8th) and Cairo Santos (6th) did it just last season so they get canít be completely crossed off the list.

Gano (152.9) is currently being selected second off the board behind Gostkowski, but Iím concerned last season was a ďcareer year.Ē He had a league and career-high 59 extra-point attempts (made 56) and connected on 30-of-36 field goal tries, including another career-high 15 from 40-yards or more.

Back to the low-hanging fruit, if you donít get the previously mentioned four options, there are still a couple of trustworthy veterans to be had. Matt Bryant (172.8) qualified in four of the past six seasons and Mason Crosby (164.5) in seven of the last nine years with the Packers offense expected be better in 2016 due to the return of star wideout Jordy Nelson.

Bottom line, however, is that after the top-four its “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware.

 Top 12 Fantasy Kickers: 2006-2015
Player Tm 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 Team
Matt Bryant ATL 12 3 9 4
Jason Elam ATL 12 5
Chandler Catanzaro ARI 3
Jay Feely ARI 12
Neil Rackers ARI 8 3
Justin Tucker BAL 7 10 7 8
Billy Cundiff BAL 11 8
Matt Stover BAL 4 7
Dan Carpenter BUF 6 10
Rian Lindell BUF 12 11 4
Graham Gano CAR 2
John Kasay CAR 5 2
Robbie Gould CHI 8 7 1 3
Mike Nugent CIN 11 7
Shayne Graham CIN 5 11 4
Phil Dawson CLE 9 1
Dan Bailey DAL 12 8 9 10 5
David Buehler DAL 10
Nick Folk DAL 4 7
Brandon McManus DEN 10
Matt Prater DEN 2 7 8
Jason Elam DEN 10 5
Jason Hanson DET 6 10 8 6 4
Mason Crosby GB 4 5 4 11 4 7 1 7
Randy Bullock HOU 9
Shayne Graham HOU 5
Neil Rackers HOU 6 7
Kris Brown HOU 10 5
Adam Vinatieri IND 3 8 3 12 12 5
Josh Scobee JAC 5 1
Cairo Santos KC 6 1
Dan Carpenter MIA 9 11
Caleb Sturgis MIA 11 3
Blair Walsh MIN 4 4
Ryan Longwell MIN 3 9 4
Stephen Gostkowski NE 1 1 1 1 3 6 1 2 8
John Kasay NO 2
John Carney NO 9 2
Josh Brown NYG 5
Lawrence Tynes NYG 2 5
John Carney NYG 2 4
Jay Feely NYJ 7
Nick Folk NYJ 5 2
Sebastian Janikowski OAK 8 2 2
Cody Parker PHI 2
David Akers PHI 1 2 3 4
Shaun Suisham PIT 7 11
Jeff Reed PIT 9 3
Nick Novak SD 3 12
Nate Kaeding SD 1 8 11 2 6
Josh Brown SEA 6
Steve Hauschka SEA 9 5 4 12 5
Phil Dawson SF 6
David Akers SF 9 1
Joe Nedney SF 7 4
Josh Brown STL 6
Jeff Wilkins STL 3 2
Matt Bryant TB 4 10
Connor Barth TB 11 3
Rob Bironas TEN 12 10 6 3 4

Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.

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