Fantasy Football: Should Kickers Get the Boot?
I’ve never really been excited for kickers in fantasy football. As a result, I’m not in a single league that features a kicker position. A part of me wanted to look into why that is and why some people still love having kickers as part of their leagues. Are their points predictable or quantifiable? How many points does the position produce compared to the other staples in rosters to justify a spot in leagues? Is there a major drop-off from the “elite” kickers and the rest of the pack? I get it, discussing a position that most take with their last pick in fantasy drafts or don’t even draft at all may not be the most appealing subject. The truth is if I can present data and perspective for any position that makes you think a little differently moving forward, then it’s worth the time and research. Join me on this rollercoaster ride as we discover whether or not kickers should get the boot in fantasy football.
For an in-depth look at kicker scoring, check out Boom-Boom Kickers from 2017 part of our 25 Statistics series. Also, on Episode #150 of the podcast, the Ballers discussed whether kickers should be removed from fantasy football.
Did you know that Rams kicker, Greg Zuerlein scored more points than Todd Gurley in 2017? Before you start hyperventilating, let me clarify that it was real life NFL points, NOT fantasy football points. Last year, Todd Gurley led all RBs/WRs/TEs with 19 total TDs equating to 114 NFL points. Greg Zuerlein kicked 38 FGs & 44 XPs equating to 158 NFL points. Yes, Zuerlein actually scored more real-life points for the Rams than the best running back in the league did. As impressive as that sounds, it’s honestly expected. Kickers are put on the field on a specific, single play in which the sole purpose of that play is to kick a football through the uprights, resulting in (most of the time), you guessed it, points. But that’s real world points and the motivation for this article was to find out their real impact in fantasy football.
Greg Zuerlein kicked his way to 170 fantasy points in 2017. What does 170 standard fantasy points mean for your fantasy team? Well, it’s enough points to be the RB12, ahead of backs like Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, and Lamar Miller. Zuerlein scored enough fantasy points to be the WR4, just behind DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and Keenan Allen! As far as tight ends go…yeah, Greg Zuerlein would have been the #1 overall TE by almost 12 points ahead of Rob Gronkowski! These stats are based on standard scoring but it’s still pretty amazing for a position that most of us mock in fantasy football.
You’re probably thinking “Nate, this is great and all, but you’re only talking about the best kicker in the league last year.” That’s a fair point. So I’ve provided some other top kickers from 2017 in the chart below and show you where they would have landed in each position (RB, WR, TE) in standard fantasy points.
|Kicker||Fantasy Points||RB Finish||WR Finish||TE Finish|
|Stephen Gostkowski (NE)||164||RB14||WR6||TE1|
|Robbie Gould (SF)||153||RB15||WR9||TE2|
|Matt Bryant (ATL)||153||RB15||WR9||TE2|
|Justin Tucker (BAL)||151||RB15||WR11||TE2|
|Chris Boswell (PIT)||150||RB15||WR11||TE3|
|Harrison Butker (KC)||150||RB15||WR11||TE3|
I’m not suggesting we should all start drafting kickers in the same range as an RB1, WR1, or TE1. The point here is that kickers could provide you with some great late round (or waiver wire) value that could result in you beating your opponent who may not take the position as serious you’re in a league with a kicker spot. What we’ve done by eliminating kickers in a fair share of fantasy football leagues is replaced that spot with a flex position where you can play another RB, WR, or TE. Typically, that flex position will be filled by some low-end RB/WR2, high-end RB/WR3 at best. All the top kickers that I’ve listed in this article would completely dominate in fantasy points over your flex option.
Since kickers are typically granted just one roster spot, let’s discuss whether or not having kickers would just raise the points for everyone in your league or if they can truly be a difference maker for the few that approach the kicker position more seriously than others.
Last year, there were 40 fantasy points that separated the #1 and #12 ranked kickers. This is a difference of just 2.4 points per week. That is the fewest point separation between the #1 and #12 of any other position. This means that this position would have the least impact in point differential between everyone in your league. Since everyone owns just 1 kicker, we can assume the 12 teams in your league will have the top 12 kickers or very close to it. They can still provide upside if you happen to have a better kicker than your opponent in any given week but even that isn’t easily predictable. For example, although Greg Zuerlein was the best fantasy kicker in 2017, he had dramatic point shifts from week to week. He scored anywhere from 1 point to 23 and everything in-between. This is usually the case with the majority of kickers which makes the position very volatile. It’s likely the reason why so many steer away from having kickers in their leagues.
So are they difference makers? The truth is, not enough to make a significant difference in point differential on a weekly basis between you and the other owners in your league.
For Those Who Still Roster Kickers
Just kidding. The truth is, they can provide value on your roster but will likely not be enough to separate you from your league-mates. If anything, kickers could be a distraction as it is just another roster spot to manage. When you get into the flex spots on your team, you want to fill those spots with a player that has an opportunity to outperform your opponent’s flex by a large margin. You are unlikely to come across that on a consistent basis with kickers.
Before all you kicker truthers come at me with your torches and pitchforks, I’m not suggesting that everyone stop using kickers. For those who are in leagues with a kicker position, I would recommend that you still add a flex spot. A flex spot raises the value of the positions you involve in the flex simply because it’s one more roster spot that needs to be filled. It makes the game more fun and provides a “wild card” for you and your league-mates to have to think about. Afterall, we are playing fake football so we should always be looking for different ways to make it more enjoyable every year!
For more kicker insights, check out Method to the Kicker Madness on how to strategize and distinguish between top kickers.