“Off the Matt” 2016 Kicker Rankings
When you hear the phrase “positional advantage,” the first player that pops into your mind is probably Rob Gronkowski. While you would be correct in thinking that, his teammate Stephen Gostkowski can provide fantasy owners with a nice advantage as well.
Below is a comparison of how the ‘Kowski’ boys stack up against the #6 and #12 players at their respective positions. Why #6 and #12? Assuming you are playing in a 12-team league this is a good measuring stick to see how they compare against a middle of the pack (6th rated) starter and also the worst (12th rated) starter.
Gronkowski (TE1): 176 fantasy points
Eifert (TE6): 135 fantasy points
Witten (TE12): 80 fantasy points
Gostkowski (K1): 168 fantasy points
Gould (K6): 142 fantasy points
Nugent (K12): 126 fantasy points
As you can see Gronk is on a different level, especially the deeper it gets. Some will debate if he is worth a first-round pick, but with him being capable of doubling up (and then some) the 12th rated tight end it is hard to argue.
What about Gostkowski?
One of the fantasy commandments has always been to draft your kicker in the last round. With the advantage that Gostkowski provides, it might be time to buck that trend.
1. Stephen Gostkowski – Patriots
No Brady the first four weeks of the season? No problem!
Last season, the Patriots scored touchdowns when they entered the red zone 65% of the time. With Garoppolo running the show for the first four weeks I could see that number creeping back towards 50%. The one thing being driven into Garoppolo’s head is to be smart with the football, especially in the red zone. I could see him getting ultra-conservative in the red zone, so instead of a Gronk spike, it is likely we will see a spike in Gostkowski’s field goal attempts in those first four weeks.
Whether it is Brady or Garoppolo the volume will be there. He has attempted at least 35 field goals in four consecutive seasons. When you combine that type of volume with his pinpoint accuracy, no one should be surprised if he makes it a fifth straight season finishing as the top fantasy kicker.
2. Dan Bailey – Cowboys
Bailey was the most accurate kicker in the league in 2015 connecting at a 93.8% clip. The issue was he only got 32 attempts. With Romo returning and the running game re-energized, I could see the Cowboys making a few more trips into field goal range in 2016.
If his accuracy wasn’t enough to sell you on him, I guess now would be a good time to mention that his leg doubles as a bazooka. He now boasts three consecutive seasons of blasting five or more fields from 50+ yards.
3. Adam Vinatieri – Colts
I am not sure what the schedule makers were thinking giving the Colts two prime-time games this season. You think they would be more considerate of the 63-year-old Adam Vinatieri. Those games will be well past his bed-time. He is a gamer though, I am sure the water-boys will spike his Gatorade bottle with some 5-hour energy and he will be good to go.
He has hit on 96% and 92% of his kicks over the last two seasons. He is also just two seasons removed from having a 40 attempt season. With a healthy Andrew Luck moving the ball up and down the field he should see 35+ this season.
4. Steven Hauschka – Seahawks
The 29 field goals Hauschka made in 2015 was the fewest he has registered since 2012. Even so, he was able to finish as a top 10 fantasy kicker for the third consecutive season. Hauschka isn’t known for a big leg, but he may have found something going 6-6 from beyond 50 last year. With no Beastmode, they might end up settling for a few more field goals than what they have in previous years. He is a safe bet to have a top 10 season.
5. Justin Tucker – Ravens
Last season was one of Tucker’s worst statistical seasons from a made field goal % rate. He connected on only 82% of his attempts. That number doesn’t seem as bad when you take into consideration that six of the misses came from 50+ yards. The fact that he received 10 attempts from that distance is encouraging though. If he finds his rhythm from deep he could push Gostkowski for the top spot. The problem is he is only 8/19 from beyond 50 over the past two seasons. Love that volume though.
6. Mason Crosby – Packers
I still have a sour taste in my mouth from when Crosby sabotaged my fantasy team in 2012. It was the only year I have ever owned him and he managed a grotesque 63% success rate, including 2/9 from 50+. He has only missed six combined field goals from that distance over the past three years.
The Packers offense was down last year. Prior to last season, Crosby posted back to back top 5 fantasy seasons. The upside is there, just hope he doesn’t have flashbacks to 2012.
7. Chandler Catanzaro – Cardinals
Catanzaro checks two critical boxes for me when it comes to evaluating kickers.
- Plays home games indoors in perfect kicking conditions.
- Plays for a high-octane offense that should translate into ample scoring opportunities.
The fact that he hit 90% of his opportunities doesn’t hurt either.
8. Graham Gano – Panthers
Gano is not known for his accuracy. Since taking over full-time kicking duties in 2010 he has yet to post a season in which he has connected on 90% of his opportunities. What he lacks in accuracy he makes up for in volume. He has attempted a combined 71 kicks over the past two seasons. The Panthers cashed in for touchdowns in 69% of their red zone opportunities. If that number would regress back to the league average he could make a push at 40 attempts.
9. Chris Boswell – Steelers
It only makes sense to rank the kicker of the offense who I think will be the most prolific in 2016. In an abbreviated season with the Steelers in 15′ (12 games) he hit 29 of his 32 opportunities, including three or more field goals in half of those games.
Boswell would be higher on my list, but Heinz Field has traditionally been a tough stadium to kick in. Another minor concern is that the Steelers led the league in going for 2-point conversions. One of these years a team is going to run the numbers, and if the offense is good enough they will go for 2 every time. The Steelers might be that team.
10. Brandon McManus – Broncos
The thin air of Denver has produced some quality fantasy kicking seasons over the years. McManus finished as the 10th rated fantasy kicker in 2015, which was highlighted by five 50+ yard field goals, including a 57-yard bomb. With a great defense that will likely create some short fields for the offense, combined with suspect quarterback play adds up to the perfect recipe for high-volume field goal attempts. Give McManus a bump if your league awards extra points field goals of 50+.
Best of the Rest: Mike Nugent (Bengals), Blair Walsh (Vikings), Cairo Santos (Chiefs)
I will close by saying that if you want to reach a few rounds for Gostkowski, go for it. Four straight seasons of finishing at the top of his position is a strong track record. However, if it isn’t Gostkowski’s name your penciling into your lineup, it should be one of the last two rounds that you select a kicker.