2020 Fantasy Football Kicker Primer
Welcome to fantasy football draft week! As we are just over seven days away from the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season, many drafts are scheduled to take place this weekend. Kickers have been a hot topic in recent years as there is a growing population of fantasy owners who believe they shouldn’t be part of our rosters. I think that is blasphemy and so I wrote 1100 words on your kicker primer for this year. Enjoy!
Tier 1: Harrison Butker (KC), Justin Tucker (BAL), Will Lutz (NO)
The Tier 1 kickers are no-brainers. Butker, Tucker, and Lutz are part of high-powered offenses that will provide ample opportunities to score points. Butker was fantasy’s number one overall performer in 2019, and we can expect more of the same this year. Kansas City ranked just 11th in Red Zone offense last year, so as high powered as the Chiefs are, Butker was first in field goal attempts in 2019.
Tucker has one of the most robust legs in the league but attempted just one field goal of over 50-yards last season. He still ranked third among kickers in points scored, so if he gets a few more attempts from long-range, he could supplant Butker as the top fantasy kicker. Lutz is the most potent combination of long-range shots and extra points, something that will continue as long as Drew Brees is in New Orleans.
Tier 2: Zane Gonzalez (ARI), Matt Gay (TB), Greg Zuerlein (DAL), Chris Boswell (PIT), Brandon McManus (DEN)
The Cardinals had one of the worst Red Zone offense in the NFL last year, which is why Gonzales led the league in field goal attempts inside the 30-yard line. If part of our process leads us to believe Arizona will be a more proficient offense this year, we have to approach Gonzales with some caution. He would see more extra-point attempts but would potentially lose out on field goal opportunities. For now, I think buying into Gonzales makes sense as he is being drafted behind kickers who are in a worse offensive environment.
Tampa Bay ranked third in the league in Red Zone offense, so while this may surprise you, Gay was a top-five kicker last season. He ranked fourth in the league in extra-point attempts and eighth in field goals made. Replacing Jameis Winston with Tom Brady should help, but to what extent may need to be considered for Gay’s purposes. Despite the hype surrounding this year’s version of the Tampa Bay offense, the 2019 edition was one of the best in the league. The good news is that Tom Brady and Bruce Arians have both supported top-5 kickers throughout their respective careers.
Zuerlein is this year’s worst kept secret, and he’s going to be chosen ahead of almost every kicker in this tier. With the Dallas offense looking like one of the best in the NFL, scoring opportunities will be plentiful. He will be a significant upgrade to Brett Maher, and he has the ceiling of a top-three kicker. There is some concern as Zuerlein made just 70.3 of his kick from inside of 49 yards. The good news is that five of his last seven games this year are indoors so that he will escape the nasty weather of the NFC East.
If Zuerlein is the worst-kept kicker secret, Chris Boswell might be the best. The Pittsburgh offense was horrific last year, finishing dead last in Red Zone offense and 27th in scoring offense. Despite that, Boswell managed to finish as a top-10 option, and he quietly bounced back from a nightmare 2018 season. With Ben Roethlisberger back and the Steelers offense looking like it will score points in bunches, Boswell is my preferred target over any other in the top two tiers.
McManus benefits from kicking at high altitude for eight games a season, but he will also stand to gain from the Broncos’ revamped offense. With Drew Lock coming into his second season and the additions Denver made on offense, McManus should see more chances to score.
Tier 3: Robby Gould (SF), Matt Prater (DET), Dan Bailey (MIN), Jake Elliott (PHI), Jason Myers (SEA), Joey Slye (CAR)
This tier is filled with guys who play in above-average offenses though each of them has some question marks, they would be the last group I am comfortable with entering the year. Gould ranked 12th in field goal attempts last year but made just 74,2% of his attempts. If you play in a league that penalizes missed kicks, Gould isn’t an ideal target. Prater might be my favorite option in this tier as he has a lot of things going for him. He plays his home games in a dome, and he ranked second in the league in kicks made beyond 50-yards. The Detroit offense should give him plenty of opportunities to score.
Dan Bailey also benefits from dome life, and the Minnesota offense should be stable. Bailey was accurate on field goal attempts last year, although he did miss four extra points, so, again, avoid him in leagues that penalize kickers for missed kicks. Jake Elliott and Jason Myers both play for teams who score a lot of points, so they get plenty of extra-point attempts. This cuts into their field goal attempts, which can cap their ceiling a bit, but the biggest problem for these two are they play in bad weather. In Elliott’s case, the playing field is horrendous, so tread lightly later in the year, but they are concrete early-season targets to get you to the bye weeks. Slye led the league in field goals from beyond 50-yards last year, and with the arrival of Teddy Bridgewater, he makes an excellent target for your last pick.
Tier 4: Younghoe Koo (ATL), Ka’imi Fairbairn (HOU), Mason Crosby (GB), Michael Badgley (LAC), Randy Bullock (CIN)
This Tier has some options that could end up being top-10 kickers for the season. Koo and Fairbairn are both in great offensive environments and play indoors. Crosby had a tremendous year from an efficiency standpoint last season. The Packers will score in bunches, but the weather in the NFC North is a cause for concern. Badgley is a bit of a wild card. The Chargers should put up points, but if Tyrod Taylor scuffles and they use Justin Herbert, things could dry up offensively. I think I like Bullock more than anyone in this tier because I believe in the Cincinnati offense. With Joe Burrow running the show and some legitimate weapons around him, Bullock could be an excellent sleeper pick late in drafts or someone to pick up early in the season.
Tier 5: Justin Rohrwasser (NE), Chase McLaughlin (IND), Daniel Carlson (LV), Dustin Hopkins (WAS), Brett Maher (NYJ), Greg Joseph (TEN), Jason Sanders (MIA), Graham Gano (NYG)
If you play in a league this deep, Rohrwasser, Joseph, and Gano are the best dart throws of the bunch. I am partial to Gano because his grandparents live next door to my parents, and they’ve assured me of a bounce-back season.