Fantasy kicker math

Monday, Aug 28, 2023 at 8:29 pm ET

I have long followed the way of streaming kickers in fantasy football based on matchup, but a few kickers from good offenses are ranked low this season, and it made me think about what matters more for kickers: playing on a good offense or playing against a bad defense. I went through the last five seasons and looked at the top five and bottom five kickers by fantasy points-per-game, noting four statistics: field goals made, field goal percentage, his team's points-per-game, and the team's rank in overall scoring

I also looked at the top five and bottom five defenses against kickers over the last five seasons and looked at similar stats: field goals against, field goal percentage against, the team's points-per-game allowed, and the team's rank in points allowed. My goal was to see if offense or defense had more of an impact on how kickers perform in fantasy.

The kicking stats came from Fantasy Football Today, and the total points and team rankings came from Team Rankings. All kickers played at least 13 games in the respective season. I averaged all top-five and bottom-five performers over the past five seasons (25 kickers/teams each), so the first table shows that the average top-five fantasy kicker from 2018-2022 had 31.8 field goals made at an 89.6% rate, and his team scored 26.7 points-per-game, ranking eighth or ninth in the league.


Category Top 5 Average Bottom 5 Average Difference
Field Goals Made 31.8 19.0 12.8 (40.3% decrease)
Field Goal % 89.6 78.8 10.8 (12.1% decrease)
Team Points/Game 26.7 20.2 6.5 (24.3% decrease)
Team Points/Game Rank 8.6 22.8 14.2

A few things are obvious without numbers: kickers who make a high percentage of kicks on the most attempts are the best fantasy players. Those players generally come from teams who score a lot of points. You didn't need a table to tell you that, but we can see the degree to which the top and bottom performing players differ.

  • No top-five player in the sample was on a team that scored outside the top-20 in points, and only two were lower than 16th. Sixteen out of the 25 players (64%) were on top-10 offenses.
  • Conversely, only one kicker in the bottom-five sample was on a top-10 scoring team (Chris Boswell on Pittsburgh in 2018), and only one other player was on a top-half of the league offense (and that was 16th). The top kickers regularly come from top-scoring teams.
  • Only one top-five player had a field goal percentage below 80% (Robbie Gould on the 2019 49ers, at 74.2%).
  • Nearly three players per year in the bottom-five had percentages below 80%, so conversion rate does matter for kickers.


Category Top 5 Average Bottom 5 Average Difference
Field Goals Against 20.1 33.6 13.5 (40.2% increase)
Field Goal % Against 80.5 87.1 6.6 (7.8% increase)
Team Points/Game Allowed 19.8 26.3 6.5 (24.7% increase)
Team Pts/Gm Allowed Rank 6.7 24.4 17.7

A few notes on the top-five and bottom-five defenses against fantasy kickers from 2018-2022:

  • Only two teams who were bottom-five against kickers were top-10 defenses. Only one other was higher than 20th. The best defenses limited the scoring opportunities for kickers on a regular basis.
  • No top-five defense against kickers was ranked lower than 15th in total scoring. Eighteen of the 25 (72%) were top-10 defenses overall.
  • Eight of the 25 bottom-five teams (32%) were ranked 30th or lower in total defense. The best defenses shut down kickers, and the worst defenses give ample opportunity.

The results are similar in both tables. Comparing them helps answer the questions I started with:

  • The difference in points allowed rank between top and bottom teams is noticeably larger than it is for the points scored rank (the bottom row in each table). A difference of almost 18 spots versus a little over 14 (a chasm almost 20% larger) gives evidence that the defense a kicker faces is more important than the offense he plays with.
  • On both the kicker and defense tables, the field goals made/against are over 40% different between the top five and bottom five. Points scored/allowed is over 24% different between the top and bottom.
  • On the flip side, kicking percentage is only about 12% different among kickers and less than 8% for defenses between the top and bottom. This gives evidence that opportunity and team performance mean more to fantasy production than accurate kicking. Of course, you want a kicker who makes most of his plentiful kicks, but opportunity is more important than conversion.

What does it mean?

I mentioned some of these before, but let's hit the most important points:

  • When choosing your fantasy football kicker each week, remember that opportunity is the most important thing. It's impossible to know who will get the most field goal tries week-to-week, but the best offenses usually get into scoring position the most. Top-five kickers almost never come from bottom-half offenses.
  • I have never subscribed to the theory that some teams "score too many touchdowns" for their kicker to be useful. It's better to have a team getting in the endzone than one that can't cross the 50. The numbers bear that out, as the kicker on the best offense has been top-five in fantasy three of the past five seasons.
  • A bad defense matters more than a good offense, though. Don't go out and get the kicker from the 32nd offense just because they play the 32nd defense, but keep it in mind when looking for your kicker each week. If a team is giving up points, they are a potential feeding ground for kickers.
  • Don't worry too much about your kicker in the draft. Have a few streaming options planned (I'll leave a few at the bottom), but if you get to the last few rounds and a player is there you like, grab him. Justin Tucker won't be the top scorer every year, but we've seen his consistency, and it's very rare. Don't go crazy, though: wait until the last three or four rounds AT LEAST to draft a kicker.

Impact on 2023

Justin TuckerSo, why does this all matter? After all, kickers are random and (often) the worst part of fantasy football. Weeks are won and lost because of big kicker performances every year, and you'll be wishing you spent a few more minutes on the position if you lose by three points and your kicker only scored two.

Keep an eye throughout the season on which teams are scoring the most and allowing the most points, as kicker success is directly tied to these stats. A few teams are expected to struggle on defense and offer upside when streaming kickers. This CBS tool projects points allowed, and the top nine teams stand out as ones to target early: Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals, Raiders, Bears, Lions, Rams, Giants, and Colts. These teams gave up a lot of points last year and don't project to be much better.

There are a few kickers who face these teams multiple times early with varying degrees of certainty surrounding them.

Week 1 Options

Jason SandersThese kickers have good matchups in Week 1 and can easily be drafted in most fantasy drafts:

  • Jason Sanders of Miami faces the Chargers to open the season. Miami also has potential for big games, and Sanders is ranked near the 10th overall kicker.
  • Brandon McManus, new Jaguars kicker, is also ranked around 10th overall, and he matches up with the Colts Week 1.
  • Washington has plenty of question marks on offense, but they play the Cardinals to open the season, and Arizona might be the worst team in the league. Joey Slye should get opportunities, and you can get him at the end of your draft.
  • The Dallas Cowboys regularly have an efficient offense, and their kicker is a beneficiary (the Dallas kicker was top-five twice in the last five years). Brandon Aubrey is a first-year player, but he has played in the MLS and USFL previously, and he will open the season as the kicker. He isn't being drafted in most leagues, but he could be a top 10 kicker and opens the season against the Giants (Week 1) and Cardinals (Week 3).
  • Brett Maher is the ex-Dallas kicker, leaving this offseason after catching a case of the yips in the 2022 Playoffs. He's now with the Broncos, who have a nice matchup at home against the Raiders in Week 1, and he isn't drafted in most leagues.
  • I'm scared by the floor of the Tampa Bay offense, but they do have good matchups to start the year with the Vikings and Bears their first two games. Chase McLaughlin is kicking for the Bucs and isn't being drafted in most leagues. I am staying away, but we might be surprised how much he scores the first two weeks.

The Best Options

Harrison ButkerThese are the kickers I like most to start the season, and they could each be full-season options.

  • Harrison Butker kicks for the best quarterback in football and was a top-five kicker twice in the last five years, including first overall in 2019. The Chiefs are expected to roll on this season, and Butker plays three of these teams early in the season: the Lions (Week 1), Bears (Week 3), and Vikings (Week 5). Notice how he still has four others games against the Raiders and Chargers who are also on this list. Butker is my top overall kicker, but you'll have to grab him right away when kickers start going. Don't reach too early if your league has a run on kickers.
  • Jake Moody was expected to take over as the new kicker for the 49ers, but a recent injury has his status to open the season in doubt. He was a stud in college and was the first kicker drafted this year, and he is rated around the 15th-best kicker. He should have a lot of opportunities in San Fran, and his Weeks 2-4 are against the Rams, Giants, and Cardinals. He might be one of the top fantasy kickers of the first month (if he's healthy).
  • Seattle's Jason Myers was the top kicker in fantasy last season after being in the bottom five in 2021. (An interesting note: each season from 2018-2022 had at least one kicker jump from the bottom five to the top five the next season, or vice versa; this shows the instability of the kicking position.) Myers' first month includes the Rams (Week 1), Lions (Week 2), and Giants (Week 4). After being the top kicker last year, Myers has a chance to start the season near the top again, and he is ranked near the 10th-best kicker in drafts.

Join the Discussion

RogueRaider CommentedAug 30, 2023 11:42 am

Jason Myers only kicks well during even years. Last year 2022, he was great, look at 2021, stunk. This being 2023 and if you are superstituous stay away from Myers!

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