“Words of Ingram”: Kicker Rankings 2014
When the first kicker comes off the board, it is usually accompanied by cheers, jeers or a myriad assortment of comments. There is this stigma around the position, and the drafting of a kicker seems to evoke emotion in fantasy owners. Now, I need everyone to take a quick step back and realize I’m speaking strictly in terms of fun emotions. The kicker, while not necessarily the red-headed step child of fantasy football, is maybe that distant relative you see from time to time and smile towards while ambling at a family gathering. You’re sure they’re good people, but you don’t really care too much. They are there, and they are blood, but they’re just sort of there. It’s very easy to adopt this mentality with kickers and this season I am completely on board.
In the past, I had always stretched a bit to get a high-end kicker (high-end being a nomenclature that is amusing when discussing the position in question). To some owners, they will adopt the logic of, “Well, why wouldn’t I take a kicker in the 12th or 13th round? I already have starters and a back-up or two, I could draft Prater or Gostkowski and be set with my kicker. After all, they were the top two kickers in fantasy last season!” After that statement, this owner would be wearing an expression of pride and superiority. To that I say, “WRONG!” Here’s is a very simple way to look at the kicker position using science!
1. The difference between the #1 kicker (Stephen Gostkowski) and the #16 kicker (Blair Walsh) was a difference of 50 points total, or 3.125 points per game. The difference between #1 and #12 (Jay Feely) was 38 points, or 2.375 ppg. Yes, 2.3 points per game absolutely matters, but what are you sacrificing to get that 2.3 points per game.
2. The difference in position #3 (Justin Tucker) to position #12, the difference is 20 points, or 1.25 points per game. Key learning from #2: If you don’t have the 1st or 2nd kicker, the separation between 3 and 16 becomes must less noticeable.
3. The difference between positions 3-10 (Dan Carpenter) is 12 points, or .75 points. Essentially, not very much of a difference considering most leagues do not have fractional points for the kicker.
4. Look at the potential value of a player you’ve passed up to, in your own mind, “sneakily” take the #1 kicker in the 12th or 13th round. As an example, here are a few players taken in those rounds in a standard mock draft: Terrance West, Devonta Freeman, Knile Davis, Andre Brown, LaGarrette Blount, Ruben Randle, Mike Evans, Tavon Austin. You could take your #1/#2 kicker, simply for that upside of 2.3 points per game; or you can lock in a potential star or breakout. What would you rather have?
Results: Under no circumstance should you draft a kicker before the final two rounds of your fantasy draft. There is so much value you’ll be missing to simply have an extra 2 points per game each week. A player like Mike Evans, Terrance West or Devonta Freeman has so much more value than a kicker. Don’t be tempted to reach for a kicker when someone takes one early in your league, simply sit back and feel confident in drafting whichever is the best available when your number is called. However, as with all things related to fantasy sports, listen to your guts and instincts on draft day. If you feel so inclined to take a kicker in the 12th round, by all means do it! However, remember what you read here, remember The Words of Ingram, and repeat to yourself, “I will not draft a kicker early, I will not draft a kicker early, I will not draft a kicker early.”
- Matt Prater (DEN) – Prater will, again, enjoy playing in the thin air of Denver and kicking extra points for one of the most prolific offenses ever seen in the NFL. Thin air + Peyton Manning = #1 fantasy option. The Broncos do face the NFC West this season, so those elite defenses may keep the extra point options down. However, the Broncos won’t score a touchdown on every possession, so field goals will continue to be valued on this team.
Projection: FG 35/36, XP 63/63
- Stephen Gostkowski (NE) – Why doesn’t he have a nickname to ease some of the burden on typing “Gostkowski” or wanting to discuss him in shorthand? Janikowski has Sea Bass, why can’t the media give him a nickname? Well, I’ll make a first real effort at getting Stephen a nickname. Here goes. The “Iron Goose” has been setting records for years at his position (previously held most PAT’s in a season and has most field goals made since 2011), and that is playing in snowstorms, cold weather and other adverse meteorological conditions. Gostkowski benefits from the greatest coach in the history of football, as well as the greatest quarterback. The Pats will only continue to improve so opportunities will be plentiful for our aforementioned kicker. It’s almost a complete coin flip between #1 and #2.
Projection: FG 34/36, XP 54/54
- Mason Crosby (GB) – Healthy QB? Healthy WR core? Check. Dominating run game? Check. All of those things combine to make Crosby an easy #3 and he could even make a run higher. The weather causes us to pause, but it’s rarely held Crosby up in the pass. He is an elite level kicker who has a favorable schedule in 2014. The Packers will move the ball and Crosby will repeat the elite level numbers we’ve seen in his past.
Projection: FG 29/36, XP 53/53
- Steven Hauschka (SEA) – While most people simply write off the ‘Hawks as a defensive team, thus ignoring Hauschka’s value, you have to understand that the defense assists in setting up the offense and allowing Haus to thrive. The Seahawks have a very dynamic offense featuring a high level running back in Marshawn Lynch, a great QB in Russell Wilson, and a young WR core led by Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin. This is a team that will be on their side of the 50 more often than not, thus resulting in a plethora of opportunities for their kicker.
Projection: FG 34/35, XP 48/48
- Justin Tucker (BAL) – Tucker has an incredible leg, and converted on 16 of 18 from 40+ yards in 2013. His numbers were somewhat elevated by his 6 field goal game against Detroit in week 15, but even if you remove 3 of those field goals he’s still an easy top 10. This year, owners hope the Ravens find their swagger to provide Tucker with more opportunities. If Rice and Flacco can get the ball moving solidly on offense, Tucker is a safe bet to come close to repeating his 2013 success.
Projection: FG 38/42, XP 31/31
- Adam Vinatieri (IND) – A favorable schedule, a very favorable environment, and an offensive unit which continues to improve each season. Vinatieri is one of the most clutch kickers to ever play game, and is incredibly consistent to boot! (It’s a pun see…boot, kicker…nevermind) Last year was tremendous for Vin (157) which saw him finish the year as the #5 kicker. There is no reason to believe he will not repeat or improve upon those numbers. The Colts are only getting better which means more opportunities for Mr. Clutch.
Projection: FG 30/33, XP 48/48
- Blair Walsh (MIN) – I’m a homer, so what! Walsh took a step back in 2013 (126) and failed to produce as equally impressive numbers as he did in 2012 (141). In 2013, I’m expecting a return to 2012 form as the combination of Norv Turner as OC and a competent quarterback (you’re dead to me Christian Ponder) will allow the team to have a successful offense. The biggest concern (and knock on Walsh) will be the Vikings playing outdoors in Minnesota in 2014.
Projection: FG 31/33, XP 46/46
- Phil Dawson (SF) – Dawson is incredibly consistent (outside of his rough first 4 weeks in 2013) and plays for a team which is more than capable of putting up big points. As with Seattle, the 49ers are known for the defense, but they have an offense that will surprise many opponents. A tough schedule may cause some hesitation in drafting Dawson, but this kicker will come through regularly. To note, he led all kickers from week 5-17 in 2013 and we expect the healthy 49ers offense to allow Dawson to thrive.
Projection: FG 30/32, XP 45/45
- Matt Bryant (ATL) – I, along with many others, was completely on board the 2013 Falcons “Super Bowl or Bust Train”. I, along with many others, was grossly incorrect in that band wagon. The team suffered a multitude of injuries which contributed to the reduction in fantasy value in all players for the team(outside of Harry Douglas). 2014 represents another shot for the Dirty Birds to prove that they are among the upper echelon of offensive teams. Matt Bryant will benefit from a health WR duo, as well an emerging young offensive line, and a powerful run game. Look for Bryant to rebound in a big way.
Projection: FG 31/35, XP 51/51
- Dan Bailey (DAL) – The Cowboys are the type of offense which is capable of putting up big numbers, which is the primary factor when determining which kicker you wish to add to your roster. In all honesty, you could take the next best available, but you should consider investing in Bailey. He has a world of upside if Romo stays healthy, and worse case scenario you drop him and pickup someone on waivers.
Projection: FG 29/31, XP 46/46
- Nick Novak (SD) – You don’t immediately think of Nick Novak, as he was mired in inconsistency in 2013. Here is a quick listing of his stat line for the first 7 weeks: 4, 18, 5, 13, 4, 15, and 6. Those numbers very clearly indicate a man who enjoys breaking the hearts of fantasy owners, but also a man who will buy you flowers and chocolates a week later. The Chargers are, to the shock of many, a very solid offensive team. Novak is always a safe bet, and again, remember that the level of parity is very tight.
Projection: FG 34/36, XP 42/42
- Robbie Gould (CHI) – Gould has always been a solid option at the kicker position, but last season the standout player saw a regression in numbers. Why you may ask? Well, it has to do with the Bears potent offensive. The improved offense actually caused a regression in stats due to Gould seeing his FG attempts drop, while XP increased slightly. Regardless, the Bears are going to put points on the board and spend a healthy portion of time on the opponent’s side of the field. Gould is always a safe and viable option.
Projection: FG 27/31, XP 49/49
- Nick Folk (NYJ) – You wouldn’t think Folk would have big fantasy value, but he is a player who is always on the cusp of the top 10. It’s very apparent the Jets don’t have a high-powered offense, but they are a professional football organization with enough talent to move the ball well enough. Folk had a few misses in 2013, but overall produced well enough to have value to your fantasy roster.
Projection: FG 33/37, XP 35/35
- Shayne Graham (NO) – Graham plays for a high-powered offense, and has been a reliable kicker throughout his career. The Saints haven’t been able to really stay locked into a kicker; but Graham should bring enough stability to make owners comfortably. Additionally, 11 games will be played in a dome in 2014. Graham is a safe bet in 2014, as long as he doesn’t catch the curse which seems to plague Saints kickers.
Projection: FG 27/31, XP 58/58
- Alex Henery (PHI) – I’m in a fantasy league in which one individual bet me $20 that Henery would finish as the best kicker in the NFL. That was the easiest money I ever made. Henery is an incredibly accurate kicker, from closer than 40 yards range, and is able to find success despite playing in the brutal conditions in the NFC East. His numbers will start to drop once you go above 40 yards, but we’re expecting the high-powered Chip Kelly offense to keep Henery well within his comfort zone. At 15, why not?
Projection: FG 26/31, XP 51/51
- Greg Zuerlein (STL) – Legatron may have had a bumpy sophomore season, but any kicker with a cool nickname deserves some respect. He’ll play on a team with an improved offense and impressive run game; which screams “field goal attempts” to me. I don’t see them being high-powered through the air, thus giving GZ plenty of opportunities. He won’t be a top 10 pick, but he’ll be a fine waiver wire pickup.
Projection: FG 29/32, XP 40/40
- Ryan Succop (KC) – Succop benefited greatly from a vastly improved Chiefs offense, and finished the year with 120 fantasy points. The loss of three starting offensive lineman will create problems for the offense, but that only will mean more field goal opportunities for Succop. It’s not expected that he’ll repeat the extra points, but the field goals do go up. A fine value at the 17 spot, with some higher upside.
Projection: FG 21/30, XP 48/48
- Dan Carpenter (BUF) – Not many people would expect to see the kicker for the under powered Bills high in the fantasy rankings, but shockingly Dan Carpenter finished as a top 10 kicker in 2013! The Bills were so happy with Carpenter, that they signed him to a four-year, 10 million dollar contract. And who says kickers don’t have it easy. The expectation is for Carpenter to drop off slightly, is a vastly improved Buffalo offense. A second year for EJ Manuel, as well as a healthy Spiller and dynamic rookie receiver Sammy Watkins will give the Bills more scoring opportunities. This will surely lower the completed field goals for our aforementioned kicker. If you don’t draft Carpenter, which I don’t think you should, he should be one of the higher targeted waiver wire pickups.
Projection: FG 29/36, XP 30/30
- Shaun Suisham (PIT) – We love the ability of Suisham, but we hate his division and home stadium. The winds are brutal in Pittsburgh and the rough weather schedule shows no love to our guy Shaun. He’s terrible at a distance, but up close nearly automatic. The Steelers should continue to be quietly impressive on offense, and Bell will muscle his way for first downs, reducing the field goal attempts. Suisham is a great waiver pickup though, and a great match-up option.
Projection: FG 27/34, XP 40/40
- Kai Forbath (WAS) – Call me crazy, but Kai Forbath is a damn fine kicker for fantasy in 2014. I expect the Redskins to have a top 5 offense which will amount to a huge volume of XP’s for Kai. Forbath had unimpressive numbers in 2013, but the Redskins were a shell of their true potential. Look for Forbath as a fine waiver pick, and also the kind of kicker with top 10 upside. Lastly, remember we’re speaking of back-up/waiver kickers so don’t feel too nervous drafting a player you just believe in.
Projection: FG 27/30, XP 39/39
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