Week 1: Anything but Kickers

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.”

“But dad…”

“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.

Pricey Plays

Matt Bryant (ATL) at Chicago Bears ($4,900): While we’re rarely head over heels for kickers on the road, this is a well reasoned exception. Bryant, who notched 2.1 attempts per contest in 2016, is attached to an Atlanta offense sporting a hefty implied total of 28.75 points. The Falcons are a full touchdown favorite over the hometown Bears, who allowed the sixth most field goal attempts a season ago. Only four times in 2016 did Bryant fail to try multiple field goals. He’s what the kids might call solid.
Dustin Hopkins (WAS) vs. Philadelphia Eagles ($4,800): For $100 less than Bryant, you can grab Hopkins, the reigning champ of field goal opportunity (he led all kickers with 2.63 field goal tries per game). He’s at home, Washington is favored by a couple points, and the team has no pretense about a pass-first — and sometimes, pass only — offensive attack. That’s always a good formula for kicker opportunity. Hopkins, who tried six field goals in two games against the Eagles in 2016, is my preferred high-priced option for Week 1.
Chris Boswell (PIT) at Cleveland Browns ($4,800): It’s somewhere between stupefying and baffling that last year’s 22nd highest scoring fantasy kicker is the fourth most expensive kicker on the Week 1 slate. Yet here I am, whining about it while recommending Boswell, who could (should) be the beneficiary of some old-fashioned positive game script. Pittsburgh’s muscles are flexed with a 28-point implied Vegas total. They’re favored to beat Cleveland by nine. My armpits sweat at least moderately when considering paying up for a kicker who attempted a measly 25 kicks in 15 games a season ago. But it’s tough to turn up your nose at a guy in such a good spot.

Mid-Priced Plays

Graham Gano (CAR) at San Francisco 49ers ($4,700): With the strange caveat that Gano could be traded as we approach Opening Day kickoff, he makes for a high-floor play if he indeed is booting the pigskin for Carolina in Week 1. Gano, even with two games in which he didn’t have a single field goal try, averaged 2.37 attempts per game last season. That’s something, as my wife says to me when I blather about my fantasy teams. Something indeed. The Panthers are 5.5 road favorites with the week’s fourth highest implied point total.

Low-Priced Plays

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.

Leave a Reply

Real-Time Lineup News

Free Articles & Predictions

Get your daily bet predictions, special offers PLUS free articles like this one.