To the vocal and frothing-at-the-mouth part of the fantasy football industry hoping to ban the kicker position: What if I told you that your contention that kicker scoring is random and totally unpredictable and just stupid and dumb and poopy-faced was incorrect?
What if I told you that your hatred of the kicker position in fantasy is not based on evidence, but on some mania that has taken hold?
What if I told you that the importance of flossing is a lie perpetrated by Big Floss, whose power is insidious and universal and terrifying?
As the indomitable Chris Raybon so succinctly wrote last summer, “the only position more consistent [than kicker] is quarterback." Running back, wide receiver, tight end: they are all less predictable, week to week, than the wonderful kicker.
(My unfounded but totally plausible hot taek on the wild-eyed anti-kicker movement is that guys oppose the position because it's not a traditionally masculine role on the gridiron, and they don't like swinging and missing on a "girly" position. It demeans them. It dings their fragile masculinity. Kickers aren't warriors. You buckle your chinstrap, take a few steps, and kick a pigskin. You don't try to kill the f**king head so the body will die. The goal is not to humiliate and torment the opposition. Kickers likely won't spend their golden years begging for death and cramming prescription pain killers into their gullets as their brains and bodies falter thanks to years of playing a sport humans were not meant to play. Kickers aren't the roided-out, hyper masculine freaks that we idolized as kids. So they serve as the recipient of our disdain. But that's neither here nor there.)
Kicker selection, like all player selection, has an added element in daily fantasy, where we can't simply survey the waiver wire and choose the kicker who best fits our criteria for optimizing the position. Price, as always, is a consideration -- the consideration -- when deciding on which kicker is going to join our otherwise perfect daily fantasy lineup.
But first, what is it we're looking for in a solid kicker option? Regression analysis has pumped out almost identical results over the past few seasons, with each breakdown pointing to a small range of factors that correlate closely with kickers' fantasy production.
Field goal accuracy, it turns out, has almost nothing to do with how we should prioritize kickers from week to week. Accuracy was among the least correlated factors in a persuasive regression analysis from 2013. It means, in short, that our thoughts on how good or bad a kicker is are either meaningless or close to it. I know that pokes a gaping hole in how most fantasy footballers make their kicker choices. But it's a good tidbit to keep firmly in mind.
Back to what matters in a kicker's fantasy production: field goal attempts, total points scored, the passer rating of the quarterback at the head of the kicker's team, and passing yardage (more than rushing yardage). Oh, and wins -- productive fantasy kickers come from teams that win. Probably that seems obvious to most people who watch football. A team with a lead is a lot more likely to settle for a field goal than a team trailing and desperate to score as many points as possible for two or three quarters of the game.
Vegas lines, as always, will be our close and sometimes deceitful friend when evaluating weekly DFS kicker plays. We'll focus on games with the highest projected point total, prioritizing good/great passing attacks favored by Vegas in matchups against middling/bad pass defenses. Nothing is surefire in this little game we play, but a fantasy footballer has to have a process.
It's the only thing that separates us from the unapologetic chaos agents behind the anti-kicker movement.
Stephen Gostowski (NE) at Arizona Cardinals ($5,000): The gold standard of fantasy kickers, Gostowski and the Brady-less Patriots go into this one as a 5.5-point underdog. They're on the road. Arizona's defense allowed a meager 1.7 field goal attempts in home tilts last season. Only four defenses allowed fewer passing yards in 2015 home games than the Cardinals. Gostowski might be the easiest kicker fade of the season's opening week.
Chandler Catanzaro (ARI) vs. New England Patriots ($4,900): The Catman, as he's affectionately known, has a lot going for him in Week 1. He's at home, favored, on a team sporting one of the NFL's most potent, most consistent aerial attacks. If you somehow have the luxury to pay up for a kicker, Catanzaro makes for a superior play. The lone number that worries me: Arizona attempted 1.8 field goals per game in 2015 -- 10th fewest in the league.
Steven Hauschka (SEA) vs. Miami Dolphins ($4,800): The Dolphins' secondary is projected to be a total mess this season, and they're on the road, in the Thunderdome, massive (10.5 point) underdogs against a Seattle passing game that scorched opponents through the air during the latter half of 2015. For $100 less than Catanzaro in a plush matchup, Hauschka is my favorite high-priced kicker option for Week 1. The one factor Hauschka is missing: a high projected total. This one has a meager over-under of 44. Seattle attempted an average of two field goals per home game in 2015. That's not hateful.
New Orleans Saints Kicker (NO) vs. Oakland Raiders ($4,600): The Saints' opening day kicker is unknown as of this writing. It doesn't matter whether Kai Forbath or Connor Barth wins the job -- either would check a lot of our boxes. The downside here is that only four teams attempted fewer field goals on a weekly basis in 2015. That's part of a trend: New Orleans kickers had the third fewest attempts per game in 2014. Probably that has to do with the Saints be horrendous and having to forgo field goals while trying to close big deficits.
Sebastian Janikowski (OAK) at New Orleans Saints ($4,600): Oakland is a slight underdog here, but the point total is Week 1's highest, so the 37th-year Raiders kicker looks damn good on paper. There's little -- if any -- indication that the Saints' laughably bad secondary will be much better this season. That likely means less-than-bad things for the Oakland passing attack. The Raiders, like the Saints, weren't big on kicking field goals last year. Only three teams attempted fewer kicks per game.
Chris Boswell (PIT) at Washington ($4,600): No team kicked more field goals per week last season than the Steelers -- who were also among the lead leaders in field goal tries in 2014 -- and Pittsburgh heads into Week 1 favored to beat the Washington football team. Washington was bottom-8 in passing yards allowed in 2015. The Saints, Browns, and Giants were the only teams last season to allow more yardage per play than Washington. They'll likely be an exploitable defense again in 2016, unless you think the signing of Josh Norman can solve all ills. This matchup has the week's second highest Vegas total too. Boswell is my second favorite Week 1 kicker, just a hair behind Hauschcka.
Matt Bryant (ATL) vs. Tampa Bay Bucs ($4,500): Bryant is a home favorite in a game that Vegas expects to be among the five highest scoring affairs of the week. Only nine teams allowed more field goal attempts in 2015 than the Bucs. Tampa's pass defense was middle of the road in 2015, so this doesn't jump off the page as a particularly appealing option in the way of an aerial onslaught from the ghost of Matt Ryan. I don't think you can do better than Bryant at the rock-bottom minimum on FanDuel.
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