Wait? What?! Kickers?
Depending on who you talk to, kickers can be the annoying thorn in your side or the dice roll each week that keeps fantasy matchups unpredictable. We have articles highlighting whether kickers should be eliminated (Should Kickers Get the Boot?) as well as Tips to Select a Kicker… or At Least Survive Trying
I decided a couple years back to embrace the madness of the kicker mayhem and dive into some trends. While fantasy football isn’t an exact science, I’d rather be aware of kicker tendencies than stick my head in the sand and remain oblivious. This is also the 3rd year for this 25 Boom-Boom Statistics article and in case you’re curious, here is last year’s article.
Note: Scoring for kickers varies across formats and websites. For standard scoring, I will refer to 3 points for FG made and 1 for every extra point.
1. There were 41 different players to successfully kick a FG in 2018. The Rams decided to take that to the extreme with 4 different guys boot it through the uprights: Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein, Cairo Santos (for a 2-game stretch), Sam Ficken (2 games), and punter Johnny Hekker.
2. Zuerlein not only booted the Rams into the Super Bowl but he was following up arguably the best fantasy kicking season of all time. Zuerlein’s 13.0 points per game last year was the highest in a season with a minimum of 6 games played. In 2017, Zuerlein led all kickers with 8 top-5 weeks. Despite missing Weeks 2-6, Zuerlein still had 8 top-5 weeks again in 2018!
3. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, 6 of the top 12 kickers in the final rankings went UNDRAFTED on average. In other words, if you’re “reaching” for a kicker realize streaming the position could help you find the #1 guy (Fairburn) on the wire.
4. As mentioned in my kicker primer at beginning of the season, accuracy isn’t everything. Of the top 12 fantasy kickers from 2017, half of them finished outside the top 12 in terms of accuracy. We saw the exact same number in 2018 including our guy Fairburn finish at 88.1%, 14th best on the season.
5. Alright, speaking of Kaimi Fairburn, his #1 kicker ranking can be a bit deceptive. He did have 5 weeks above 12 fantasy points, a 90th percentile number for kickers. In other words, he had 5 “great” games that helped essentially give you the ability to start an RB2 at the kicker position. He had 5 games under 7 points which most weeks would’ve put him outside the top-15 at the position.
6. Fairburn and Justin Tucker led the way with 10 weeks as top-10 kickers. Tucker is no stranger to this annual list. In fact, he has scored exactly 141 standard points for 3 years in a row!
7. At this pace, Justin Tucker’s fantasy trajectory will need another 12 more seasons to top the recently crowned Adam Vinatieri for most points scored all-time. He passed Morten Anderson and now sits at 2,600 points with more to come after signing an extension with the Colts.
8. We can summarize most of 2018 fantasy fandom into Patrick Mahomes madness and the Chief offensive juggernaut. Their kicker, Harrison Butker, finished as the 3rd best kicker on the year despite attempting a mere 27 FGs, barely a top-20 number. Last year, Butker had 38 made FGs, the MOST EVER for a rookie.
9. What made Butker so special you ask? His 65 made extra-points dwarfed the rest of the league. For context, Wil Lutz led the league in 2017 with 47 made extra points. Butker also passed Lutz for the most total points scored (279) for the 1st 2 years of any kicking career.
10. Lutz was the top kicker 3 times on the year, most in the league. As the Saints went on their mid-season run, Lutz was an animal as the #1 kicker averaging 12.6 standard points between Weeks 3-11. To give you some context, that’s the same per game average in that span as Robert Woods and more than Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
11. Just to show you how much parity there was at the position, there were 18 kickers who had 6 or more top-10 weeks on the season. That list includes the Bears’ playoff letdown Cody Parkey, Chandler Catanzaro (the bane of Jason Moore‘s existence), who played for both the Bucs and Panthers, and Dustin Hopkins, who played for a bottom-5 offense in Washington that averaged just 17.6 points per game.
12. The Giants’ Aldrick Rosas was a revelation finishing as PFF’s #1 graded kicker and fantasy’s 7th best kicker. Rosas hit on only 72% of his kicks in 2017 but connected on 32-of-33 FGs in 2018.
13. Not to be outdone by his New York counterpart, Jason Myers was the 6th best fantasy kicker while being selected to his first Pro Bowl in his first season with the Jets after 3 years in Jacksonville. His 6 made FGs beyond 50-yards was tied with Brett Maher for most on the season.
14. Myers went 33-for-36 on the season including an insane Week 7 against the Colts where he kicked 7 FGs, one short of the all-time record. His 24 fantasy points in that game were the most by a kicker and 1 more than 2017’s leader, Greg Zuerlein, who had 23 points in Week 4 against Dallas.
15. The Cowboys’ Brett Maher had the lowest FG accuracy among top-10 kickers checking in at 80.6%. In fact, that’s the lowest percentage for a top-10 guy since 2012 when fantasy legend David Akers hit a lowly 69% of his attempts for the 49ers.
17. Here’s a shoutout to Aaron Schatz who found this quirk in the FG time-continuum:
Strange randomness in 2018 NFL stats:
48-yard FG: 19-of-35, 54%
49- to 51-yard FG: 40-of-56, 71%
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) December 28, 2018
18. The 49ers’ Robbie Gould followed up last year’s 3rd overall kicker performance by making 33-of-34 FG attempts this year and finishing as the 8th best fantasy kicker. Gould was especially potent in the second half with 5 top-10 performances.
19. Being a playoff-bound team doesn’t always guarantee an elite special teams unit. However, in 2018, 8 of the top-12 kickers (including all of the top-5) were from playoff teams. To compare, 2017 saw 9 of the top-12 in the playoffs.
20. We saw 2 kickers make 100% of their extra-points in their 16 games played, Brandon McManus (35-for-35) and Matt Prater (30-for-30… that would make a solid documentary series… I’ll make a note). So what if I told you we’ve only seen 4 kickers accomplish that feat in the last 4 years?
21. The Falcons’ defense was exploitable all year long. But their special teams unit was a cake-walk allowing opposing kickers to make 100% of their FG attempts. That was the highest rate since 2015 when the Eagles also gave up a perfect mark.
22. The Bengals defense allowed the most fantasy points (143) to kickers on the year including double-digit fantasy points 7 times. That’s the 5th most fantasy points allowed over the last 5 years. With an 8.9 per week average, essentially Cincinnati was facing Justin Tucker every single week.
23. Perhaps one of the most memorable FG tries on the season happened in Week 1. The Browns’ Zane Gonzalez (who later had 2 top-10 weeks for the Cardinals) had a 43-yard attempt blocked with 13 seconds left in OT versus the Steelers by T.J. Watt. The season began in a tie for both AFC North squads and ultimately cost Pittsburgh a chance at winning the division.
24. We know Cleveland is good at being last. The Browns were the last team to register a top-10 kicking performance in 2018. Greg Joseph, who took over in Week 3, finally put the Browns special teams on the map with 8 points as the 10th best kicker in Week 14. But that’s it, only one week inside the top-10.
25. After seeing our kicking friends shutout in 2017, there were 2 kickers who attempted passes in 2018. Both of them resulted in TDs! Chris Boswell completed a 2-yarder to lineman Alejandro Villaneuva in Week 12 versus the Broncos and Matt Prater an 8-yard strike to TE Levine Toilolo in Week 17 versus the Packers. After throwing the TDs, the kickers then followed it up with an extra-point… an incredible 7+ fantasy points in one play if you started them.