2016 Fantasy Rankings – Top 10 Kickers
The kicker position has always been an intriguing one for me. When I first started playing fantasy football, it was just another position that you hoped to fill with one of the best kickers in the game. That was years ago. Then people started to push for the elimination of the kicker from fantasy. The extra point attempt was moved back last year, and now even more are attempting to rid their leagues of the most fluctuating and random position in fantasy. The majority of our leagues no longer carry a kicker, either for an extra bench spot, an additional flex spot, or nothing at all. I think we might slowly be seeing the end of the kicker position in fantasy. What makes the position so random are all the different elements that determine how valuable each guy is. You have to take into account how talented the kicker is (i.e. how accurate and how strong his foot is), the strength of his mind (i.e. his ability to block out distractions and have short term memory when it comes to missing a kick), how potent his offense is, how strong his defense is, what type of stadium he plays in, and what the weather is like each game.
The kicker position overall is so random that it basically eliminates any skill from drafting the position. So much of a kicker’s game is out of his control and therefore the scoring for the position is haphazard. This is one of the reasons why we suggest waiting until the later rounds of your draft to select a kicker. Why use an earlier pick on the most chance and luck driven position in fantasy football? Use that pick on a talent position and get yourself some key backups. There is simply no need to use a high pick on the kicker position; let someone else do it. With that being said, we still wanted to highlight our top ten kickers in order to give you an idea of the order in which we believe kickers should be taken/picked up in free agency. With so many factors playing into a kicker’s fantasy value, this was by far the position that we had the most trouble coming up with an order that we could all agree upon. Though the positon does include so many unpredictable factors, the stronghold that has year in and year out determined good kickers is the situation. If a kicker is on a team with a good offense or defense then that is a plus in addition to his talent. If a kicker happens to be on a team with both, well than that further improves their stock.
- Stephen Gostkowski – The perennial number one, Gostkowski has been the league’s best and most consistent kicker for a few years now. With a high powered Patriot offense leading the way and a borderline top five defense behind him, Gostkowski is regularly finding scoring opportunities. The loss of Brady for the first four weeks may scare some away, but the defense’s ability to get stops should keep Gostkowski at the top of the class. We anticipate a few less extra point opportunities due to the loss of Brady, but more field goals opportunities as we wouldn’t be surprised to see some drives stall out. Draft Gostkowski with confidence knowing that at the end of the year you’ll have a top five kicker.
- Steven Hauschka – As Gostkowski has mostly been your number one over the past few years, Hauschka has usually filled that number two spot. This has mostly been based on the Seahawks notoriously strong defense and partial inability to get the ball into the endzone. If any team has ever been known to win its fair share of odd scoring games, Seattle is your guy. You might be surprised to see a 19-13 victory come across the screen, only to see that it was Seattle that won the game and Hauschka kicked four field goals. If Seattle is ever to break through and become that dominant offensive team, expect to see a few less field goals and a few more extra points.
- Graham Gano – As the rule typically goes, good defense equals good kicker situation. Graham Gano is no exception to said rule. The Panthers have a stout defense, even with the loss of one year wonder Josh Norman (hopefully he reads this, obviously he won’t). The Panthers offense also looks to improve on a strong year with Kelvin Benjamin coming back from his torn ACL. Gano has a decent leg, but with the help of a Super Bowl caliber team around him, look for him to finish the year in the top five.
- Dan Bailey – One of the most accurate kickers in recent memory, Bailey has held his own even as his offense and defense have ebbed and flowed over the past few years. Kicking in a stadium half the year doesn’t hurt either, but Bailey has shown that he is plenty capable of making the big kick, having booted five 50+ yarders last year. He finished as the number eleven kicker last year and that was with offenses run by Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore for twelve games of the season. That’s reflected in his PAT attempts being only 25. Only 25 touchdowns were scored that the Cowboys kicked the extra point, which is absurd. That number has to go up, as does his finish among kickers this year. We’re projecting a top five year from Bailey as he continues to improve his game (still only 28).
- Chandler Catanzaro – To continue our trend of good defense equals good situation for the kicker, we have Catanzaro, who improved his game last year from his rookie year. Still only 25, there is some room for improvement in his leg as he needs to get more consistent booting the ole pigskin. His accuracy improved year over year from 87.9 percent to 90.3 percent and we expect that number to go up again this year. Arizona improved their defense with some additions on the defensive line and this will lead to more opportunities for Catanzaro. He does need to improve his leg strength as last year his didn’t hit any kicks over 50 yards. Why we’re optimistic: attempted the second most PATs last year (53). Why we’re a bit cautious: missed the third most PATs last year (5).
- Justin Tucker – Another up and comer that should be a reliable kicker for years to come, Tucker has made a name for himself with some big kicks. Taking over for a Patriot favorite in Billy Cundiff, Tucker has become one of the league’s best kickers. The problem is his situation is not ideal. The Baltimore defense is not what it used to be, and the offense is counting on the return of a lot of big names. Steve Smith, Justin Forsett, and Joe Flacco are all coming back from injury and most of the skill positions are log jammed with players. The Ravens have stockpiled running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, but none of them are huge name guys that could make this offense potent. At the same time, Flacco is not all that great as a quarterback either, so don’t expect the offense to frequently be putting up big points. On talent alone, Tucker should be in the top five, but until Baltimore can actually give him more opportunities and better field position, we have to leave him on the cusp.
- Mason Crosby – Add Crosby to the list of players who should return to form with the arrival of Jordy Nelson back into the Packers lineup. Who would’ve thought one guy would have such an impact. Crosby finished fifteenth last year as the Green Bay offense was a shell of itself for most of the season. He only had 36 PAT attempts and only three times all year did he attempt three or more field goals. So in thirteen games on the year he attempted anywhere from zero to two field goals and he finished the year with just an 85.7 field goal percentage. These numbers have to go up. But as much as we want to bank on Nelson returning the Packers offense to the high powered machine that it once was, we must bake in some risk to the situation.
- Josh Brown – Sometimes the older guys are able to hang around with the young guns for a while. Somehow father time seems to have no effect on these guys which is just the case with our number eight kicker and someone else further down the list. Brown had an incredible 2015 campaign, kicking for an underrated Giants’ offense and finishing as the number five kicker in fantasy. He held a 93.8 field goal percentage and only missed one PAT on the year, going 44 of 45. With the offense adding a few key pieces this offseason, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown have another successful year. Couple that with an improved defense and Brown could move his way up this list. The reason we have him at eight is because he is on the back nine at 37 years old and we’re not sure how much longer he’ll be able to convert those big kicks, especially outdoors for eight games a year.
- Blair Walsh – The Blair Witch Project comes in as our number 9 kicker heading into the season. The Vikings are a team on the come up and their offense is adding weapons and improving. Teddy Bridgewater should be given more rope this year and we hope he and AP can finally get this offense really moving. Couple that with a strong and underrated defense and Walsh could have himself a really good year. He’s got a huge leg, but consistency has been his issue the past few years. Still only 26, Walsh should be able to figure things out and moving indoors to the new stadium this year can only help his skillset. Walsh is a sneaky pick to finish in the top five but could also find his way out of the top ten if he can’t remain consistent.
- Adam Vinatieri – The other old man who continues to defy father time is somehow still getting it up at the ripe old age of 43. I’m referring to the football through the uprights by the way. One of the best kickers in the history of the league, Vinatieri should be able to improve on his finish of seventeenth last year as the Colts’ offense can only improve from the abysmal year they had. Andrew Luck should return to form from two years ago when the Colts had a high scoring offense. The defense does not provide much assistance to Vinatieri’s situation, but being inside for half the season certainly helps. Here’s hoping the old man can improve on his numbers from last year and continue down the path of Julio Franco.
And that does it, all top ten lists are complete. We hope these lists have been useful for you guys and that you’ve enjoyed this annual tradition of the top ten at each position. Use these lists wisely heading into your drafts this season and we look forward to delivering you more fire packed information as the season inches closer.