By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @JacobBourgieFFB
I decided to do some actual math on kickers to solve what feels like to many a solved problem. This article is aimed at your redraft league commissioner or in rare cases, your best-ball, and dynasty league commissioner as well.
First. I love kickers. I’m a born and bred Pats fan, so 98% of my life has been Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostowski.
Second. I’m pretty good at the Kicker position in my redraft leagues that maintain that spot.
Third. All leagues should get rid of Kickers. Here’s why. (Stick to the end for my top 10 kicker rankings anyways!)
~~Data from www.FantasyPros.com stats. Heart emoji.
When I try to do analysis, I’m looking for correlations between something that can be measured that’s not directly fantasy points, and fantasy points. For kickers, they come on the field when their team wants to kick at some distance, and either succeed or fail. There are three variables – total chances, accuracy, and length.
Total chances can be broken into any offensive metric you want, bad redzone offenses makes the most sense, but those teams also tend to just be bad – the perfect soup is a good team that stinks in the red zone. Teams that can’t run tend to fit this so that you want to target good passing offenses. Here is the correlation between 2020 Fantasy Points and Total Passing Yards:
Is this strong enough to draw a conclusion? Is there a definite correlation above? I say no. Here’s Total Offense in both Yards and Points to be sure.
I’d again submit that correlations here cannot be drawn. Maybe our instincts are bad and kicker opportunities are actually tied to rushing success (or lack).
So here’s something, only 1 of the top 5 rushing offenses even has a kicker on this list for evaluation. And Justin Tucker (highest accuracy among kickers and considered in conversation for GOAT) is the only one who breaks top 15. So one rule of thumb we might have stumbled upon is avoid top 10 rushing offenses in general. This is intuitive in its relationship with redzone success. One problem tho – half of the kickers on bad rushing offenses are in the bottom of fantasy point producers, so this doesn’t give us a positive correlation (no one to target, but players to avoid).
What if you’re like me, and you say forget about all those “potential” correlations, I’ll just grab my guys based on last years finish, or their average finish.
If you squint your eyes and back-away from the screen you can start to see, that there really isn’t much of a definable correlation. Sure Younghoe Koo has a great name and is on a 2/2 career hot streak. But Sanders, Bass, Carlson, Zuerlein, Blankenship, and Succop came out of no where – by “no where” I mean, our waiver wires.
Accuracy & Distance
What about trying to correlate a kicker’s accuracy and leg strength (kick length) to Fantasy Points (the below has been sorted by average PPG across the last three years, as the stats are an average of kicks over the last three years (to increase sample size… DM me for 2020 specific numbers on this – its the same):
No identifiable correlations. Note: Total % is all kicks in over all kicks attempted (PATs and FGs). No correlation for average long, max long, or total number of 50+ yard FGs either.
Sobering Final Thought
These data sets kind of “tell on themselves” as the kids are saying these days. One chief thing to recognize is that in ‘average fantasy points’ excluding an outlier or two at the top and bottom, all players score within two points of each other across the last three years. But that very small average delta could play randomly on a week by week basis as many have experienced. I’ll leave it to my betters to write an article on week over week variability at kicker, but it’s a lot greater and less stable than overall actual difference. Riding Justin Tucker in your dynasty league over the last three years got you a little less than a point and half over your league-mate who forgot to set their lineup and has been starting Joey Slye.
Homework: if you can show that there are strong positive correlations (not negative ones like avoid these players) on an in-season week by week basis (i.e. vs. top 5 defense, or vs. bottom 5 defense, or something) where playing the matchups yields dividends .. then I’ll relent.
Aside from the data not yielding much (as above), there isn’t a lot to analyze, and “film studies” would likely go quick and leave us with an empty feeling, leaving us too much time to assess their PMA and interview skills etc…
I’m of the people, and I, like all people, will read this and say, so give us your top 10 kicker rankings, which I will do presently:
One — Younghoe Koo (ATL) — never ever ever argue against fantasy points, and teams with good offenses and no running backs.
Two — Justin Tucker (BAL) — it seems that he needs to leverage his GOAT accuracy against his own GOAT rushing offense, but I like his chances.
Three — Greg Zuerlein (DAL) — accuracy leaves you wanting, but that offense will literally hum (probably the O-linemen).
Four — Rodrigo Blankenship (IND) — despite Jonathan Taylor being a thing, I can picture them stalling out enough in the redzone to give the glasses some chances.
Five — Wil Lutz (NOS) — Second most accuracy to Justin Tucker, and on a good team.
Six — Harrison Butker (KCC) — he’s the kicker on the Chiefs.
Seven –– Tyler Bass (BUF) — lets run it back with the Bassman after a strong rookie campaign.
Eight — Jason Sanders (MIA) — notable lack of elite rushing, 2020 fantasy points galore, and 98% on PATs.
Nine — Jason Myers (SEA) — put one in from 61 and was pretty accurate.
Ten — Ryan Succop (TBB) — if there is one correlation we CAN make its that Tom Brady’s kicker is elite.
Notable non-ranked: all other starting kickers. 😉