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Fantasy Football Kicker Primer: Week 12

by Andrew Swanson | @FFtoday_Andy | Featured Writer
Nov 20, 2018

Cody Parkey had the look of a nervous middle school student standing in front of his school to make a student council speech as he prepared to kick the eventual game-winning kick against the Vikings on Sunday Night Football. After a dreadful Week 10 performance against the Lions in which he missed two field goal attempts and two extra points, many thought Parkey would be the latest field goal kicker looking for a job in the unemployment line. But head coach Matt Nagy stood by his kicker to the dismay of many Bears fans and Parkey came through for his head coach with three field goals in a 25-20 win for Chicago.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Graham Gano joined Parkey, Mason Crosby, and Caleb Sturgis as the latest kicker to go full Ray Finkle with a missed chip shot field goal and a shanked extra point en route to burning fantasy owners with -2 points on Sunday. I want to say that Gano will fix his troubles and turn around the season, but he has been one of the most inconsistent fantasy kickers this season with five games of six or fewer fantasy points. It may be time for the 60% of Gano owners to look elsewhere for kicking points during the playoff push.

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Week 11 strong performances from widely-available kickers

Daniel Carlson (OAK) @ Arizona: 2% ownership on Yahoo
With 13 combined fantasy points in his previous three games, including a two-point stinker on Thursday Night Football November 1 against the 49ers, it is not surprising that Daniel Carlson has a 2% ownership percentage on Yahoo. Frankly, I am surprised it is not 1% based on the ineptitude of the Raiders offense this season and the lack of opportunity for the rookie kicker. Carlson’s 12 points against the Cardinals was an excellent performance, but fantasy owners should not consider playing him against the Ravens next week or the Chiefs after that.

Josh Lambo (JAC) vs. Pittsburgh: 12% ownership on Yahoo
For some reason, the fantasy community is not buying into the viability of Josh Lambo as a top-10 fantasy kicker, even though Lambo has 37 points in his last three games. I continue to tout Lambo’s value based on the ineptitude of Blake Bortles and the Jaguar offense in the red zone, and Lambo continues to put up solid numbers. Perhaps this week people will catch on and get Lambo’s ownership percentage up to the 50% range.

Brett Maher (DAL) @ Atlanta:  19% ownership on Yahoo
Six points against Washington Week 7 followed by a goose egg against the Titans after the bye chased fantasy owners away from Dallas kicker Brett Maher. Maher was one of the best kickers in October with games of 15, 12, and 21 points against Detroit, Houston, and Jacksonville. With three home games coming up against Washington, New Orleans, and Philly, Maher may be a playoff-clinching asset for fantasy owners and should be a popular waiver wire add.

Week 11 Dud Performances from heavily-owned kickers

Jake Elliott (PHI) @ New Orleans: 62% ownership on Yahoo
Pretty much every single Eagle not named Josh Adams killed fantasy owners this week, so it comes as no surprise that kicker Jake Elliott was also a dud. It is pretty difficult to put up fantasy points when your team is getting demolished, especially when you play for a head coach like Doug Pederson who likes to go for it on fourth down while in field goal range. There will be better days ahead for Elliott, assuming that the offense and Carson Wentz can turn things around.

Chris Boswell (PIT) @ Jacksonville: 73% ownership on Yahoo
I have been writing about my dislike for Boswell as a fantasy kicker for some time now, but the fantasy community does not want to let go of the idea of playing a kicker on a high-scoring offense. Yes, a kicker on a top-rated offense often is a lock for a high floor of field goals, but Boswell has been surprisingly inaccurate this season, and the Steeler offense excels in the red zone. Despite only one game of double-digit fantasy points on the season, Boswell continues to be owned at a high percentage based on flawed rankings. 

Kicker Rankings

Rank ECR Name TEAM Opponent Spread O/U OPP RZ D RZ EFF* OFF RNK  K Score** Weather
1 1 Wil Lutz NO vs. ATL -14 60 29 28 4 61 Dome
2 2 Stephen Gostkowski NE at NYJ -9 47 8 22 10 40 55F, 7 MPH Wind
3 3 Justin Tucker BAL vs. OAK -12 43 10 21 12 43 55F, Light Wind
4 14 Ka’imi Fairbairn HOU vs. TEN -6.5 41 2 3 13 18 Dome
5 4 Matt Bryant ATL at NO 14 60 28 23 6 57 Dome
6 5 Jake Elliott PHI vs. NYG -7 46 6 11 19 36 55F, 7 MPH Wind
7 6 Adam Vinatieri IND vs. MIA -10 51 15 24 9 48 Dome
8 9 Dan Bailey MIN vs. GB -4 48 11 9 14 34 Dome
9 11 Mason Crosby GB at MIN 4 48 1 18 8 27 Dome
10 7 Cody Parkey CHI at DET -3 45 17 20 16 53 Dome
11 16 Brett Maher DAL vs. WAS -9 41 5 8 27 40 Dome
12 8 Robbie Gould SF at TB 3 54 32 4 17 53 80F, 7 MPH Wind
13 10 Michael Badgley LAC vs. ARI -13 44 12 13 7 32 73F, Light Wind
14 12 Matt Prater DET vs. CHI 3 45 21 7 24 52 Dome
15 23 Aldrick Rosas NYG at PHI 7 46 7 6 23 36 55F, 7 MPH Wind
16 24 Jason Sanders MIA at IND 10 51 9 0 28 37 Dome
17 15 Chris Boswell PIT at DEN -3.5 48 19 30 5 54 45F, 8 MPH Wind
18 13 Graham Gano CAR vs. SEA -3 47 18 29 15 62 53F, Light Wind
19 17 Brandon McManus DEN vs. PIT 3 48 13 10 11 34 45F, 8 MPH Wind
20 18 Cairo Santos TB vs. SF -3 54 16 15 1 32 80F, 7 MPH Wind
21 19 Josh Lambo JAC at BUF -3 38 25 5 21 51 41F, Light Wind
22 20 Dustin Hopkins WAS at DAL 9 41 3 12 25 40 Dome
23 21 Ryan Succop TEN at HOU 6.5 41 30 14 30 74 Dome
24 22 Sebastian Janikowski SEA at CAR 3 47 31 25 20 76 53F, Light Wind
25 25 Randy Bullock CIN vs. CLE -3 48 24 31 26 81 53F, 6 MPH Wind
26 26 Jason Myers NYJ vs. NE 9 47 20 1 29 50 55F, 7 MPH Wind
27 27 Greg Joseph CLE at CIN 3 48 23 19 18 60 53F, 6 MPH Wind
28 28 Steven Hauschka BUF vs. JAC 3 38 14 17 31 62 41F, Light Wind
29 30 Daniel Carlson OAK at BAL 12 43 22 2 22 46 55F, Light Wind

*Red Zone Efficiency is based on the inverse of how well the kicker’s offense does in the red zone. For example, the Ravens rank second in red zone efficiency; therefore Justin Tucker has an RZ EFF score of 31. The lower number, the better for kickers, as playing on a team that struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone equates to more field goal opportunities.

**The K Score is the sum of a player’s opponent red zone, the red zone efficiency of his offense, and the overall rank of his respective team in terms of total yards. A low score indicates that a kicker has variables working in his favor for a good fantasy kicking performance.

Kicker rankings are based on numerous factors, including matchups, Vegas lines and score projections, weather conditions, the ability of a kicker’s team offense and their ability to move the ball into field goal range, offensive red zone efficiency, and how well the opposing defense limits touchdowns in the red zone. These factors are a guide, but not a definitive way to predict kicking success, as other variables and negative game scripts significantly impact the outcome.

Based on all of the variables mentioned above, the following two kickers are players ranked outside of the FantasyPros ECR top 10 who could be an excellent play Week 12.

Ka’imi Fairbairn (HOU) vs. Tennessee: 42% Ownership on Yahoo
I am not sure why the fantasy experts who comprise the ECR continue to not rank Fairbairn as a top-10 kicker. The Texans’ offense ranks 13th in the league in yards per game, but they continue to struggle in the red zone as the No. 29 red zone offense. Add in the fact that the Titans boast of the best defenses and limit opposing teams to the second-fewest points in the red zone, and you have an excellent formula for success for Fairbairn. It also doesn’t hurt that the Texans are playing at home in a dome.

Brett Maher (DAL) 19% ownership on Yahoo
Maher kicked three field goals last week against the Falcons, including a 50-yarder, to give fantasy owners 12 fantasy points for the day. Although Maher has been shaky at times, you have to like his home matchup on Thanksgiving against a Washington team that ranks fifth in red zone defense. A home matchup in a dome for a kicker with a K Score of 40 or less provides excellent chances for a strong game. Maher on Turkey day meets those requirements and should be ranked higher than 16th in ECR.

Prediction Review

Each week I suggest two kickers ranked outside the FantasyPros ECR top 10 who I believe will be solid performers based on the variables described in the K Score section. The following is a review of my picks from the previous week to see where I was successful and where I missed the mark.

Ka’imi Fairbairn (HOU) @ Washington:
ECR Rank: 12 / My Rank: 4
Week 11 Finish: Kicker Tied #7

Fairbairn made three field goals and two extra points in Houston’s road victory over Washington. It was the fifth time this season in which Fairbairn reached double figures in fantasy points, and he would have been a top scorer Week 12 had he not shanked two 45-yard attempts. As long as Houston continues to struggle in the red zone while facing tough red zone defenses, Fairbairn will continue to be a reliable fantasy option. With Houston hosting a tough Titans’ defense this week at home on Sunday Night Football, Fairbairn has another shot of posting 10 or more fantasy points as my No. 4 ranked kicker.

Giorgio Tavecchio/Matt Bryant vs. Dallas:
ECR Rank: 18 / My Rank: 8
Week 11 Finish: Kicker #1

The K Score predictive tool worked like a charm this week in identifying the kicker for the Falcons as a strong play at home against a Dallas defense that ranks sixth in red zone defense. A home matchup in a dome for a top-6 offense in average yards per game against a team like Dallas with an above average defense typically results in a massive kicking day for the home kicker. In hindsight, I should have ranked Tavecchio/Bryant as a top-5 play last week based on the metrics.

Waiver Wired

Top Add

Dan Bailey (MIN) vs. Green Bay:  18% ownership on Yahoo
With three consecutive games of six or fewer points, Bailey has been a bust as of late and most owners have moved on to other more attractive options. Although I am not a huge fan of Bailey down the stretch run, he is a strong play at home this week against the Packers. His K Score is one of the best of the week.

Others to Consider

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Andrew Swanson is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive or follow him @FFtoday_Andy.

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