The Art of Streaming Fantasy Football Kickers
I have to start this article with a confession: I’m a kicker truther. Call me an old-school purist but starting a kicker is a fundamental part of the game we love. It even makes much more sense to me than, for example, starting two quarterbacks. But that’s just me, I’m not here to convince anyone to start adding kickers to their non-kicker leagues.
However, almost every fantasy football player, even the ones who don’t like kickers, plays in some leagues where they have to start one every week. So we might as well accept the fact that kickers can win you some weeks. It’s time to try to understand how to invest in them and maybe find an answer to the age-old question: Is a kicker’s performance as random as kicker haters want it to be?
Let’s find out.
Why Do People Hate Kickers?
Here’s my hypothesis: kicker haters are people with too many leagues. They think they hate kickers, but what they actually hate is having to check every week on their 10+ leagues’ waiver wires. They rather stick to the kicker they drafted, hope for the best, and if things go south, blame it on randomness.
To be successful with kickers in fantasy football, you have to see them as disposable, short-term investments that work differently than the rest of your team. You wouldn’t sit a healthy Tyreek Hill on your bench just because he has a bad matchup, right? You just roll with him and if he fails you, the blame is on the volatility of the position. But the great thing about kickers is that you can drop them if the matchup is not great. That’s why we have to allow ourselves to play the streaming game.
Don’t Marry Your Kicker
Great kickers exist. There are outliers like Justin Tucker, who can kick the ball from 66 yards and break records every year. But let me share with you a hard truth: a great kicker in a bad matchup can destroy your week.
Last season, Justin Tucker scored only four points in Week 13. Why? Because it was a low-scoring matchup against Denver. Was that unexpected? Of course not. That game had a 40.5 line. Nobody, except maybe a few Broncos fans still wanting to believe in Russell Wilson, expected that game to be high scoring.
If you drafted Justin Tucker, you paid up for him and therefore felt forced to start him every week, trusting his talent and the draft capital you invested in him. If that was your case, you felt that he let you down that week, even though a poor performance should have been expected.
Think of it like trading stocks or crypto. Long-term investors put their money into big companies, expecting their value to increase over the years. These investors don’t mind if the price goes down a week, because the market will go back up eventually. On the other hand, day traders monitor different stocks or tokens and rely on several indicators to predict which one is going to move in the short term. They enter the trade, make a quick gain, and they take their profits. That stock might crash a week later, but it has given the day trader what they needed from it.
The same happens with kickers. If we follow the signs, we can find potential in a kicker on a certain week, use him to get that short-term gain and dump him for a different one the next week. We just have to know what indicators to look for.
So, Is There A Formula?
It’s not bulletproof, but we all know there are no absolutes in fantasy football. We just have to know what kind of data can help us predict the most probable outcomes.
As our editor Kyle Borgognoni mentioned in this article he wrote in 2019 to demystify kickers, Vegas lines are your kicker’s best friend. This is the most important indicator to look at when streaming kickers. Since kickers are the only position in fantasy football that has to score actual points for their teams in real life to score fantasy points for your make-believe team, their production is directly correlated to the game’s score.
For those less familiar with betting, a Vegas over/under line is the sum of the total expected points in a match. The spread is another betting line that indicates the expected point differential between the two teams playing that match. So if you take half of the over/under line and then add or subtract half of the spread, you can get the expected points per team.
(OU line ÷ 2) + (Spread ÷ 2) = Favorite team’s expected point total
(OU line ÷ 2) – (Spread ÷ 2) = Underdog’s expected point total
More expected points mean more opportunities for your kicker to score fantasy points. It won’t always mean that the kicker with the highest over/under will be the K1 that week, but this formula can help you choose the ones with better chances of helping you win your week.
Let’s take an average, middle-of-the-pack kicker as an example: Seattle Seahawks‘ Jason Myers. He was undrafted in many fantasy leagues last season and frequently available on the waiver wire. Let’s look at his 2022 weekly fantasy points compared to the Vegas’ over/under lines:
What can we learn from this? Jason Myers had a good season and scored 10+ points in many weeks. But let’s focus on the games in which the over/under was above 47. He scored 10+ points in all those games, except for the one against the Chiefs in Week 16. But they were underdogs by 10 points in that game, so they were expected to score only 20 of those 50 points.
I’m not saying to fire up any kicker in games with a 47.5 over/under. But if you’re looking to stream a kicker, comparing the expected points can help you pick the one who has a higher roof in that specific week. Just take a look at Week 2 from Jason Myers’ 2022 season. Would you have started him knowing that the over/under was below 40? Of course not. And you would have dodged that horrible one-point performance.
Don’t Stick To The Numbers Only
Looking at Vegas lines is just part of the work. Let’s circle back to the stock trading analogy. Half of an investor’s job is to look at trendlines to predict if the price is going down or up. That’s called technical analysis. But the most experienced investors also do fundamental analysis, which consists of looking at the situation surrounding that stock. Has the company gone public? Did they fire the CEO? Things like that.
The same happens when we try to predict kickers’ fantasy points. We can use betting lines and expected point totals, but we also have to look at other external factors that can affect each week’s performance:
The obvious one. Games played under a roof are better for kickers. Not only because it’s easier to kick a field goal without wind, rain, or snow moving the ball, but more importantly because coaches tend to try longer field goal attempts when playing indoors.
Dome games sometimes can compensate for a not-so-high betting line, simply because the kicker is more likely to grab a bigger slice of the total points pie.
If kickers are as unpredictable as many say, how is it that fantasy analysts rank them so similarly before the season starts? As weird as it might sound, most of them rank them according to their teams’ passing volume. Names like Harrison Butker, Evan McPherson, and Tyler Bass are usually at the top because they play for teams that pass the ball a lot. Pass attempts are usually correlated to field goal attempts.
As the season unfolds, try to stream those kickers whose teams are having a higher passing volume than expected (like the aforementioned Jason Myers in 2022) and pick them up in favorable matchups.
Injuries At Other Key Positions
How many times have we seen this scenario? A player is questionable with an injury during the week. His coach is optimistic that he’s going to play. By Thursday, the player is trending towards suiting up. Friday comes and he’s now a game-time decision. Vegas lines can’t always keep up with this, so sometimes you might find a high over/under line with a lot of expected points for a team that’s playing with a backup quarterback or a diminished receiver corps. Take these injuries into consideration when streaming kickers.
Yeah, even coaching can be a factor when selecting a kicker. Last season, the Chargers’ matchups were amongst the highest over/under betting lines almost every week. However, their kickers (yes, they played with three different ones) managed to score 10+ points only six times. The reason? Brandon Staley likes to go for it on fourth down, which means fewer field goal opportunities for the kickers.
One last thought: I’m not trying to convince anyone to start liking kickers. Hate them as much as you want. But if you play in leagues with kickers, I encourage you to harvest as many points as you can from the position by streaming it. It’s an opportunity that most of your league mates are neglecting, so why not take advantage of it?