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With the first week of pre-season complete, we move forward to our next ranking set for your fantasy football needs. This time, we’re visiting the oft-maligned realm of the kicker, a position that is just as often undrafted as it is reached for at unfathomable rounds. Whether you’re the first of your league to draft a kicker or the one who drafts the kicker that misses three field goals in week one, you’re sure to face scrutiny over your choice. Tread carefully.
Tier One – Dolce and Gabbana
1. Stephen Gostkowski (New England Patriots) – The best fantasy kicker in the league will always be the best mix of opportunity and talent. Gostkowski is a tier one talent, and the Patriots potent offense mixed with a sub-par defensive performance will lead to as many field goals as you can expect from anyone in particular. Pair that with Gost’s stellar 90%+ FG conversion rate (barring the 2016 outlier), and he’s the safest pick to be a weekly top-10 kicker who will end up in the top three by the end of the season.
2. Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens) – With most teams, figuring out if the offense will be in the top 10 for yards is a pretty good metric for figuring out how many field goal attempts they’ll have. Of the top ten kickers last season, six belonged to teams with top ten offenses. Eight belonged to teams with top 13 offenses. And then Justin Tucker just kept knocking down expectations (and field goals) to the tune of 37 attempts with the 27th ranked offense. He finished 4th last season among fantasy kickers, and it’s hard to imagine the Ravens this season being as bad offensively as last season. He still refuses to miss an extra point, but it’s the 18/18 in <40-yard attempts and 19 attempts over 40 yards that really drive his value.
3. Greg Zuerlein (Los Angeles Rams) – The overall #1 fantasy kicker last season both in total points (despite missing two games) and points/game, Greg the Leg, Legatron, and whatever else you’d like to call him is poised to continue racking up kicker points on this offense. The Rams had the second most red zone attempts last season, second only to the Patriots, and that is always a good indicator of field goal attempts. So why third? Remember that before 2017, Zuerlein was a sub-80% kicker. Going 6/7 from 50+ last season boosted his points significantly, and it’s unlikely to be repeated. Although he’s at the most risk of this tier to finish outside the top ten, his ceiling is still Kicker #1 and that’s why he belongs up here.
Tier Two – Dockers for Men
4. Harrison Butker (Kansas City Chiefs) – Butker is the closest of this tier to being potentially elite, but sample size and an unknown at QB in the KC offense relegates him to the majorly comfortable but perhaps somewhat less top-end style of the Dockers. As anyone can tell you who owned Butker last season, he had an incredible 12.3 points/week in standard last season, good for second in the NFL and well over third place Gostkowski at 10.8 points/week. Overall he ended at #7 despite only playing for 13 weeks, partially due to a league high 42 FGA (tied with Ryan Succop, who played in all 16), but also due to what he did with those. He hit 38/42 (including 28/28 on PAT) with only one miss below 40 yards. Only having one year under his belt hurts him, so a possible shot at Kicker #1 is partnered with a possible shot at being outside the top 15 entirely.
5. Robbie Gould (San Francisco 49ers) – Robbie Gould is the first of many in his situation: mediocre kicker with a possibility of high volume. Gould’s very long career helps solidify him as an 85%+ sort of commodity, and on a San Francisco team that attempted an absurd 18 kicks between 40-49 yards (Second in the NFL, most in Gould’s career) the 85%+ range is a great place to be. Unfortunately, Gould is pretty injury prone and the truth is that the 49ers are widely believed to have over-performed offensively in the last six weeks of the season. That being said, Gould was the #1 kicker in the league during the six weeks Garoppolo started at quarterback.
6. Matt Bryant (Atlanta Falcons) – In three of the past four seasons, the Falcons have asked Bryant to kick eight or more 50+ yard field goals. That’s good. The average, even for teams with 40+ FGA, is about five. That’s bad. The question about Bryant is pretty clear; does the team ask him to kick more 50+ yard field goals because he’s proven he can make them, or is he a victim of a statistical anomaly that doesn’t really predict 2018? If three of his low 50s become high 40s and he returns to statistical normality, he’s suddenly the number 8 kicker last season. That might say more about how even this tier of kickers is than it does about Bryant, though. If the Falcons offense kicks it back into the top 5 in yards/game, expect to see him in the top 5 weekly more often than not.
7. Wil Lutz (New Orleans Saints) – Wil Lutz is an interesting kicker this season for a variety of reasons. Lutz has attempted 50 PATs in each of his two seasons, and there’s very little evidence that he won’t be in a similar area next season. He improved in his sophomore season in accuracy from 82.4% to 86.1%, and, although kicking accuracy is highly variable from season to season, it’s worth noting that this improvement came despite kicking a much larger portion of his FG attempts from over 40 yards.
8. Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh Steelers) – If you believe the Steelers’ offense will be as electric this season as many others do, Boswell has sneaky potential to finish near the top in total kicks this season. Pair that with 90%+ kicking and you’ll see Boswell putting up consistent points week in and week out. The downside to Boswell is obvious; his 14 total attempts from over 40 yards last season was the lowest of the top 14 kickers, and a career long field goal of only 53 yards.
Tier 3 – Payless Oxfords
9. Josh Lambo (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Josh Lambo is likely to end up the highest ranked kicker that goes undrafted, and it’s a little shocking considering what signs most people look for to project kicker ranks. He was excellent last season, the Jaguars attempted 35 field goals, and the game script in Jacksonville lends itself to a similar number of kick attempts this season. If Lambo kicks anywhere near the 95% efficiency of last season and the Jaguars try for as many or more field goals (which seems possible, and even likely), he could easily end up being around kicker 4 or 5. Worth noting is that his range isn’t excellent, but Jacksonville’s game is great between the 20s and somewhat mediocre after that, so most of his kicks should come under the 40-yard mark, anyway.
10. Jake Elliott (Philadelphia Eagles) – Jake Elliott is near the top of the tier used to designate kickers that might end up in the top five, but could just as easily be off fantasy rosters by week 5 and never seen again. Elliott is here due to a combination of sample size, inconsistency, and a disproportionate number of 40+ yard kicks. Of his 31 field goal attempts, 19 were from over 40. It shows the Eagles’ trust in him from deep, but is also a very unlikely ratio to continue into 2018. The potential is there, but expectations for next season is a very similar number of field goal attempts with fewer from long distance.
11. Stephen Hauschka (Buffalo Bills) – Stephen Hauschka is likely not your first thought if you’re asked to consider the best long-distance kickers in the league. He’s also probably not your first thought when it comes to most accurate kickers in the league. The truth is, however, that he has been incredibly consistent when it comes to both field goal percentage and 50+ yard field goals. On talent alone, Hauschka likely belongs in the middle of tier 2. However, game script in Buffalo isn’t exactly the best in the world, and it’s very hard to know if he’ll get enough volume to end up in that top area. Expect another consistent season from Hausch Money, but expecting 37+ field goal attempts is probably asking for a bit much.
12. Daniel Carlson (Minnesota Vikings) – Daniel Carlson is currently competing with Kai Forbath for the Minnesota Vikings’ kicker position. It’s likely that he wins that competition, as Forbath is a known and relatively mediocre commodity while Carlson was the Vikings’ fifth round pick during this year’s draft. Carlson sits at 12 due to the unknown, but the pure volume of the Vikings’ field goal attempts last season makes Carlson a very interesting prospect. The Vikings’ has the 8th highest attempts in the league last season, including the 3rd most from 50+ yards. If Carlson hits his extra points and kicks better than Forbath’s 32/38 from last season, he’s a very real candidate for the top five.
13. Matt Prater (Detroit Lions) – Matt Prater is an excellent kicker in a very weird situation. His field goal percentage isn’t excellent, but the cause of that seems to lie in how absurdly long his average field goal attempt is, weighing in at 40.8 yards for longest in the NFL in 2017. Prater is a case of expecting more of them same. He’ll be asked to kick several 55+ yard field goals, and he’ll probably make most of them, but his volume will probably keep him out of the top five conversation in 2018.
14. Brandon McManus (Denver Broncos) – The fact that McManus completely fell off the map last season is a definite detriment to his ability this season, but one bad season in his small sample size of a career is not enough to write a kicker off. The Broncos have attempted 32+ field goals in three straight seasons, and they probably have a better offense this year than any of those seasons. McManus still has the range. Worth noting is that McManus kicked 75% last season, but that was on the back of going 6/8 from 20-29 yard field goals. That’s pretty unlikely to happen again, and even the best kickers in the league have had one or two seasons like that. Expect him to bounce back, attempt around 30-35 field goals, and end up finishing just outside the top ten with a potential for significantly higher than that.
15. Phil Dawson/Matt McCrane (Arizona Cardinals) – This is the only spot to belong to two kickers, and it’s mostly because the Cardinals kicking job is to be a coveted location this season. Phil Dawson ended the season as kicker 13 in 2017, despite his 80% field goal percentage being his lowest since 2006. Not 2016, 2006. Meanwhile, Matt McCrane is an undrafted rookie who would probably have to be very impressive to take this job from Dawson. Whoever wins will be stepping into the reigning top five in terms of field goal attempts last season, on an improved offense with a great chance at finishing top ten or even top five. The only reason they’re so far down is because there’s no great way to tell who wins this position battle yet. If there’s an official winner when you hit your draft, bump them up significantly.
16. Graham Gano (Carolina Panthers) – In 2017, Gano knocked down 96.7% of his field goal attempts, which surpassed all peers as highest in the league. However, his complete lack of long field goals probably aided this, as he was only asked to attempt one kick over 50 yards, which he missed. Gano is primed for an uptick in attempts this season, but expecting his efficiency of last season to carry into those attempts is asking a bit much.
17. Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis Colts) – Vinatieri has been above the 85% mark for field goal percentage in each of the last five seasons, a streak unmatched in his career up to this point. However, he’s only made over 30 field goals once in that span, something every kicker in the top ten of 2017 managed, and it was in 2013. Expect the Colts to put up more points this season, but Vinatieri’s ceiling might be limited to the back end of the top ten regardless.
18. Chandler Catanzaro (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Chandler Catanzaro’s selling point is that the Buccaneers attempted a fairly high number of field goals despite having terrible kicking woes all season long. Catanzaro was brought in because he’s only missed four field goals less than 40 yards in his entire four season career, but his accuracy over 40 yards doesn’t make him much better than Tampa Bay’s kickers from the past few seasons. If he’s asked to kick 20+ field goals of under 40 yards like in his 2015 season, he may end up in the back half of the top ten once again, but otherwise I wouldn’t be sure he’s even with the team by season’s end.
Tier 4 – Brandless Thrift-Store Dress Boots
19. Dan Bailey (Dallas Cowboys) – Dan Bailey, one time superhero of the kicking world, has fallen far over the past two seasons. Going from potentially the most accurate field goal kicker of all time down to kicker who missed multiple extra points and 25% of his field goals, Bailey has shifted quickly into the world of the unknown result. Bailey clearly has the talent, and Dallas asks him to kick 55+ yard field goals often enough that he could have high value on any given week, but his lack of reliability recently, paired with the fact that he’s never attempted more than 32 field goals since his rookie season in 2011, makes it difficult to rank him very highly.
20. Mason Crosby (Green Bay Packers) – Tier 4 quickly ends up being the pit of once-highly-ranked kickers, and Crosby is no different than Bailey in this regard. The Packers have not asked him to attempt many field goals, his 2017 season was his worst in several years at a 78.9% clip, and his range is probably not what it used to be. That being said, Aaron Rodgers will lead the Packers to incredible highs offensively if he stays healthy, and a large quantity of PATs will probably give Crosby a healthy floor week to week, if not a very high ceiling.
21. Cody Parkey (Chicago Bears) – Cody Parkey missed more PATs than field goals last season, which I legitimately can’t decide is a good thing or a bad thing. That being said, he’s seemingly a mediocre floor, mediocre ceiling kind of guy. The Bears essentially forgot that kicking field goals was a thing last season, but Parkey is a definite upgrade over the stable of kickers they fielded last season. Parkey will probably end the season with a pretty good field goal percentage, but the volume just isn’t going to be there for him.
22. Dustin Hopkins (Washington Redskins) – Dustin Hopkins is Josh Lambo (very) lite, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be much more than that any time soon. He’s fairly accurate, but his range is somewhere between mediocre and abysmal, and his game script is likely to be much less kicker-friendly than Lambo’s in Jacksonville. Hopkins was also injured last season, so it’s hard to consider him a legitimate option at kicker.
23. Ryan Succop (Tennessee Titans) – Succop’s numbers from last season leave a sparkling illusion as to his real capability. A top ten finish, and only six points behind a top five finish, Succop’s 2017 was more of a fluke than anything. He tied for the league high in field goal attempts, despite attempting only 22, 16, and 24 in his first three years with the Titans. His accuracy dipped pretty heavily with the larger sample size, and his continued lack of success from 50+ yards seems to paint his number 9 kicker finish last season his absolute ceiling. It’s doubtful he comes very close to that this season.
24. Ka’imi Fairbairn (Houston Texans) – Ka’imi Fairbairn, known to his parents as John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn, is a very interesting option at best name in football. At kicker, however, he’s less appealing. His rookie year numbers in 2017 were mediocre, his team didn’t ask him to kick many field goals, and even when the Texans offense was clicking behind Deshaun Watson (Weeks 1-8) Fairbairn was not in the top ten. Some regression on Watson’s TD efficiency might elevate Fairbairn’s field goal attempt numbers, but it will likely not be enough to cover his lack of efficiency.
25. Caleb Sturgis (Los Angeles Chargers) – The first thing to look at when analyzing a kicker changing teams is how many attempts the team attempted last season and whether or not the new kicker’s efficiency and range should motivate them to try more often. The Chargers barely attempted any long kicks last season, mostly due to the incredible woes they faced in the first few games, and their attempts overall were fairly low as well. Sturgis should remedy that somewhat with his career 81% field goal percentage (something Chargers fans would have literally killed for last season), but it’s hard to imagine the Chargers coaching staff relying too much on field goals and even harder to imagine Sturgis sticking around in LA if he misses two or three kicks early in the season.
Tier 5 – Your Grandfather’s Dress Shoes From The 60s That Haven’t Been Quite Black For The Last Several Decades
26. Cairo Santos (New York Jets) – Similar to Sturgis, to figure out around where Cairo Santos will end up ranking by the end of the season we need to look at the Jets of last year and see what we’re going to get. The reason Santos ends up on this side of the tier is that the Jets actually had pretty good kicking last season; the issue is that they still only attempted 30 field goals. Santos doesn’t have the range of Catanzaro from last season, nor is he much better from an efficiency standpoint, and the Jets have probably not gotten much better on offense from 2017. His ceiling is likely around kicker 15.
27. Sebastian Janikowski (Seattle Seahawks) – Sebastian Janikowski is currently engaged in a battle for the Seahawks kicking job with Jason Myers. Who will win out? Who will be left on the free agent market to be picked up as soon as the first team decides to drop their kicker in week three due to sample size? Will it matter at all? The answer is ‘It doesn’t really matter,’ ‘It doesn’t really matter,’ and ‘No, it probably won’t matter.’ It’s clear that the Seahawks are looking for a long-distance field goal guru after attempting the league low one field goal from 50+ yards, and so I expect Janikowski will win this out. If he does, he will likely have little to no worth as a fantasy kicker. If Myers wins, I’d be willing to bump this up a bit as Myers’ main issue has been accuracy and the low field goal percentage in seasons past has likely come on the heels of absurdly high numbers of long field goals.
28. Randy Bullock (Cincinnati Bengals) – Randy Bullock has kicked an impressive 71.4% from 50+ over the last four seasons. The issue is that he was 4/5 in 2014 and has only attempted two from over 50 in the last three years combined, a 30 game sample size. His 86.5% field goal percentage over that time looks a lot less impressive when you consider that, and the Bengals attempting only 20 kicks last season doesn’t really look good for Bullock.
Tier 6 – Your Gym Shoes That You Accidentally Left In Your Gym Bag For Several Weeks
29. Zane Gonzalez (Cleveland Browns) – You could, in theory, predict that the Browns have a vast improvement in offense this season. You could extrapolate that to mean more field goal attempts. You could then decide to rate their kicking situation, and consider the absolute ceiling that the kicker on their roster will hit based off of these extremely optimistic projections. That’s what I did, and that’s why Zane Gonzalez is this high on the list. A 75% field goal kicker with average range on a team that attempted only twenty field goals last season is probably not going to end up doing particularly well under any circumstances. A rookie last season, Gonzalez has room for growth, but let’s not go crazy here.
30. Eddie Pineiro (Oakland Raiders) – The truth about Pineiro is that we have no idea what to expect out of his ability as a kicker or his situation in Oakland. He might not make the team. If he does, he might not end up being any good. If he’s good, the Raiders might not end up relying on the kicking game any more than last season (21 field goal attempts, 29th in the league). If they rely on the kick, they might not be good enough on offense to put him in a position to kick. There are so many unknowns with Pineiro’s situation that it’s hard to justify any expectations whatsoever.