“Off the Matt” 2015 Top 20 Kickers
This is the one you have been waiting for!
Sure, you browsed through the articles on quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, and defensive positions. However, in the back of your mind you knew it was all a build up to this.
Wait no longer my friend. It is time to chop up everyone’s favorite position – – THE KICKER.
If your live drafts are like the leagues I play in, there is usually not much thought put into the kicker that you select for your fantasy squad. Undoubtedly, a conversation like this will take place.
Drafter: “Anyone take Gostkowski?”
Drafter: Going down through his rankings “Crosby?”
Drafter: Moving further down his rankings “Bryant?”
League: He’s there.
Drafter: I’ll take him.
Hopefully this article will prevent you from being that guy.
There are a few rules to live by when drafting a kicker.
Rule 1: Wait until the last round, or at least the next-to-last round to select your kicker.
Rule 2: Don’t draft a back-up kicker.
Rule 3: Draft a kicker from a team with a high-scoring offense.
Here are the top 12 from 2014 based on ESPN scoring, (where team finished in points per game).
- S. Gostkowski, NE – 168 (4)
- C. Parkey, PHI – 158 (3)
- A. Vinatieri, IND – 152 (6)
- D. Carpenter, BUF – 148 (18)
- M. Bryant, ATL – 146 (12)
- D. Bailey, DAL – 145 (5)
- S. Suisham, PIT – 141 (7)
- M. Crosby, GB – 141 (1)
- S. Hauschka, SEA – 141 (10)
- R. Bullock, HOU – 140 (14)
- J. Tucker, BAL – 136 (8)
- C. Sturgis, MIA – 132 (11)
Last year, out of the top 12 scoring kickers, eight of them were on a team that finished top 10 in points per game.
The outlier in the group was Dan Carpenter. The Bills rated 12th in the league in red zone appearances, however, they only cashed in those red zone trips for touchdowns at a 43% clip, which was rated 30th. The constant stalling in the red zone assisted Carpenter to kicking the second most field goals in the league in 2014.
Rule 4: If in doubt go with a dome kicker. If you are stuck trying to pick between a few different kickers, select the one that is guaranteed to play a minimum of eight games in perfect kicking conditions.
Rule 5: Use power as the tiebreaker. When trying to decide on player A, or player B take a quick glance at their success rate from 50+ yards. Many leagues offer bonus points on kicks connected from that range.
By taking all of the above factors into play, I have come up with the following rankings for the 2015 season.
20. Greg Zuerlein, Rams
Legatron is not the most accurate kicker in the league, nor does he play in a high-octane offense. However, with a nickname like that, and a track record that included a season of seven 50+ yard field goals, there was no way I could keep him off my list.
19. Garrett Hartley, Steelers
Although Heinz field is one of the toughest stadiums to kick in, the Steelers offense provides ample opportunity for kickers to make their mark. In each of the past three seasons, injured Steeler’s kicker Shaun Suisham has attempted 30+ field goals.
18. Graham Gano, Panthers
This could be the Dan Carpenter of 2015. The Panther offense will be good enough to get to the red zone. Without Kelvin Benjamin and an inaccurate Cam Newtwon, I could see Carolina settling for three more often than not this year.
17. Nick Novak, Chargers
Novak is just one season removed from a 34-37 kicking clinic in 2013. Last season, he only had four games in which he attempted more than two field goals. If the volume returns, Novak will be a draft day steal.
16. Randy Bullock, Texans
I still have a sour taste in my mouth for what Randy Bullock did to my wallet in Week 9 of the 2013 season. It was an entertaining game with plenty of moments that stand out.
Andre Johnson had something crazy like 150 yards and 3 touchdowns….at the HALF
Texan’s coach Gary Kubiak had a heart attack walking into the locker room at halftime
No one could cover T.Y. Hilton in the second half.
RANDY BULLOCK GOES 1-4 ON FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS.
Really, besides that game, Bullock has been an incredibly solid kicker. He has attempted 35 kicks each year. He cut his misses from nine in 2013 to five in 2014. He didn’t have a single game in 2014 in which he missed more than one field goal. Thanks Randy.
15. Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins
Sturgis has had issues with accuracy, failing to crack 80% in either of his first two seasons. With an offense that is expected to make a jump in 2015, one should expect another season with an attempt mark in the mid-to-high 30’s. If his accuracy improves, he could shoot into the top 10.
14. Dustin Hopkins, Saints
I don’t always rank kickers in my top 15 who have never attempted an NFL field goal, but when I do, I prefer one who is playing in a dome for an elite offense. It is expected for Hopkins to win the kicking job in New Orleans. It will be interesting to see how much the Saints slip in the red zone without Jimmy Graham. Hopkins could be the beneficiary.
13. Phil Dawson, 49ers
The 49ers might struggle this year, but as long as the offense can move the ball inside the opponent’s 40 yard line Dawson will be fine. Having drilled six, four, seven, and seven 50+ field goals over the past four seasons makes him an attractive option for leagues that offer generous bonuses for long-range bombs.
12. Dan Carpenter, Bills
It might be difficult to replicate the huge season Carpenter had in 2014. With an offense that still figures to have sub-par quarterback play, one could see how they could end up settling for field goals more than 50% of the time from the red zone.
11. Chandler Cantazaro, Cardinals
Cantazaro put up respectable numbers last year despite the team being down to the water-boy as their starting quarterback. With Palmer back at the helm, he should see an uptick in attempts and most definitely extra-points.
10. Matt Prater, Lions
Good offense (check)
Big Leg (check)
Reno 911! Mustache (check)
Tribal armband tattoos (check)
Good enough for me.
9. Matt Bryant, Falcons
At 70-years-old, Matt Bryant is one of the most accurate long-range kickers in the game. Over the past five seasons, he has hit on 17-22 attempts from 50+ yards. He has only had the opportunity to attempt more than 32 field goals once in the past six years, which is what separates him from the top-tier kickers.
8. Cody Parkey, Eagles
Even the kicker benefits from Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense. As a rookie, Parkey knocked through 32 of his 36 attempts. He did most of his damage from close range. He only attempted 10 kicks from 40+ yards. The lack of sample size adds some risk to selecting Parkey.
7. Mason Crosby, Packers
Crosby was on the verge of losing his job during his disastrous 2012 season, in which he hit only 21 of the 33 field goals he attempted. He has bounced back in the top 10 each of the past two seasons. Playing in one of the most efficient offenses in the league will lead to a high volume of attempts for Crosby.
6. Connor Barth, Broncos
Barth only played in five regular season games for the Broncos last seasons. He made the most of his time by having one game in which he went 4-4 and two games that he made all five of the field goals he attempted. Barth has bounced around the league, including being out of the league in 2013. There is some risk in naming Barth your kicker, however, the thin-air and elite offense makes the juice worth the squeeze in this case.
5. Dan Bailey, Cowboys
Don’t get discouraged by the career low 29 field attempts that Bailey had in 2014. The Cowboys had the second best red zone touchdown rate in 2014. This number will surely take a hit with the removal of DeMarco Murray from the offense. Despite the career low in attempts, Bailey was still the sixth best fantasy kicker.
4. Steven Hauschka, Seahawks
Hauschka has been one of the leagues most consistent kickers over the past two seasons. The addition of Jimmy Graham should bolster Seattle’s 20th best 51% red zone touchdown success rate. This would mean less opportunities for Hauschka. Playing on a team with an offense as consistent as Seattle makes Hauschka a safe pick to be a solid weekly producer.
3. Justin Tucker, Ravens
Tucker makes the most of his opportunities. He has connected at an 85%+ clip in each of his first three seasons. He had a huge year in 2013 in which he led the league in field goals attempted with 41. He has kicked at least four field goals of 50+ yards each year. The addition of Marc Trestman could give the offense a boost, which could lead to him getting close to 40 field goals attempted.
2. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
Gostkowski has been the model of consistency, scoring 150+ points in each of the past three seasons. He has led the league in field goals made in each of the past two seasons. Tom Brady potentially missing the first four games could equate to a slow start for Gostkowski.
1. Adam Vinatieri, Colts
Deciding who to put in the number-one spot between Gostkowski and Vinatieri was tough. Using rule #4 and rule #5 as the tie-breaker led me to making Vinatieri my top ranked kicker. His attempts in 2014 dropped to 31 from 40 that he had the previous year. However, he compensated for that drop by making 16 more extra points. The Colts are quickly becoming the most feared offense in the league, and Vinatieri will continue to benefit.
That does it for the kicker rankings. A case could be made for any of the top nine kickers ranked above to be selected before the last round, as in the next to last round (See: Rule #1)
(Click the BLUE link to listen to the show)
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