My dad stopped me before we entered my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. His face was stern, serious: he had something to say.
“Tell the family,” he said, staring at me, through me, “that you write about running backs. Or quarterbacks. Or receivers.”
“Anything but the truth,” he said. “Anything but kickers.”
There you have it. My great family shame, the pox on my household, the stain on my father’s legacy: writing about the fantasy football prospects of NFL kickers. But I will persist — I must persist — because the people need their kicker takes. I cannot deprive the world of kicker analysis, for it is what I was put on this planet to do. So join me for another season of analyzing kickers on FanDuel, as we examine the most predictable position in this little game of fake football.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a primer for the uninitiated, those who have yet to see the glorious light of kicker analysis. We don’t care in this space about how good a kicker is, what his accuracy percentage might be, or if ice water flows through his veins when he boots the ball as the clock hits zero. That’s for the storytellers — those lost in the treacherous sea of narrative. We care only for kicker opportunity, and the ways in which we might predict that opportunity. Nothing besides field goals made correlates more closely with kicker fantasy production than field goal attempts, after all. Kickers get more opportunity when their team piles up yardage through the air, not when their team is shredding defenses via the ground game. And perhaps most importantly: we want kickers on winning teams, for game script is a hell of a drug for kickers, as it is for running backs in fantasy football.
I’ll rarely recommend a kicker on a team pegged by Vegas as an underdog. NFL teams tied or leading in the fourth quarter are much more likely to attempt field goals than those trailing. You knew that though. We want winners, not losers (and haters).
A couple quick notes about this here kicker column: I only cover the FanDuel main slate with these picks — Thursday and Monday kickers don’t exist in this universe — and many of these recommendations translate to season-long leagues, especially the low-priced plays who are likely available on your local waiver wire.
Let’s get into Week 1.
Nick Folk (TB) at Miami Dolphins ($4,500): The dispatched Bucs kicker who shall not be named had decent opportunity in Tampa victories last year, averaging 1.9 field goal tries. For one to believe the Bucs’ aerial attack will be much improved in 2017, as I’ve written, one must be bullish on their kicker’s chances to, well, have chances. Once again we’re focusing on the kicker on an away team favorite. Folk is a nice option if you like Tampa to put up numbers via the air against a so-so Miami secondary. Tampa is two years removed from attempting the third most kicks per game in the NFL.
Phil Dawson (ARI) at Detroit Lions ($4,500): Arizona is a 1.5-point road favorite and a good passing team squaring off against a Lions’ secondary that allowed almost 250 yards per game through the air in 2016. The dispatched Chandler Catanzaro last season notched 2.05 field goal tries in Arizona wins, meaning that when the Cardinals didn’t suck, kicker opportunity was there. I’m guessing Dawson will be more highly owned in Week 1 than Folk due to name recognition alone. He’s still a good play.