Top Kickers to Target in Drafts (2021 Fantasy Football)
Kickers are a divisive topic in fantasy football. Every year, it seems that fantasy managers get on their soapbox to passionately argue for or against having a kicker (K) as a position group in fantasy league lineups. The argument for both sides is valid. It really depends on whether or not your league is willing to use a volatile position that typically delivers week-winning performances in close matchups.
Most leagues that play with a K in the lineup typically see the position fly off the board in the final rounds of fantasy drafts. Identifying high-volume kickers is crucial to winning the position, mirroring the importance of volume when drafting other skilled players. Offenses who can move the chains but sputter in the red zone are some of the best to target when you’re on the clock and sifting through the options at kicker. Let’s take a look at five kickers who produced high-volume and high efficiency in 2020 and assess whether or not they will be relevant again in 2021.
Justin Tucker (K – BAL)
The Baltimore Ravens have been massive recipients of the lengthy, clutch kicks K Justin Tucker has delivered throughout his nine-year career with the franchise. Unfortunately, the three-time All-Pro kicker is currently being drafted as the overall K1 with an ADP of 139.7, which is a steep price in the 12th round considering players like T..Y Hilton, Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE), and Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL) are still available. Although he’s known for his clutch 50-yard kicks, Tucker ranked 14th in fields goals made (26) in 2020 and wasn’t nearly as productive as others in his position. My suggestion would be to hold off on Tucker until the penultimate or final rounds to build up better value elsewhere on your bench.
Harrison Butker (K – KC)
Kansas City’s high-octane offense ends up being detrimental to the volume of their kicker, Harrison Butker. Butker enters his fifth year in the league, all with Kansas City, but has his ceiling capped due to the effectiveness of the Chiefs’ red zone offense, which saw Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) rank eighth amongst all quarterbacks in terms of red zone fantasy points per game (FPPG) scored (8.7) in half-PPR formats. As a result, Butker was limited to only 27 attempts in 2020, which lead to him finishing as the K9 despite ranking 13th in field goal percentage (92.6%) during his fourth season in Kansas City. Due to his extremely high ADP (135.7) at the beginning of the 12th round, I’m willing to wait until the final round for better high-volume options.
Jason Sanders (K – MIA)
One of the more difficult teams to predict heading into 2021 is the Miami Dolphins. A fresh arsenal of wideouts was signed through the Draft and free agency to help Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA) develop as a starter in his first full offseason with the team after rehabbing a hip surgery he had prior to being drafted as the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Dolphins front office drafted two tackles and signed free agent C Matt Skura (C – MIA) to attempt to improve a woefully bad offensive line that is ranked 29th heading into this season, according to Pro Football Focus. While having poor offensive line play tends to translate into losses for teams, from a fantasy kicker context, it opens up a goldmine of opportunities. Miami K Jason Sanders converted the second-most field goals in 2020 (36) on a 92.3 percent conversion rate, which ranked 14th amongst all kickers. The projected volume is higher than both Tucker and Butker and with an ADP of 146.8, he’s someone I’d consider in the 13th round, especially since he ranked second in attempts (39) alongside Younghoe Koo (K – ATL).
Younghoe Koo (K – ATL)
The league leader in field goals during 2020 was Younghoe Koo, totaling 37 conversions and earning a Pro-Bowl nomination during his second year with the Atlanta Falcons. Koo was extremely efficient with the second-highest attempt total (39) in the league, yielding an excellent 94.9 percent conversion rate. He’s currently valued as the K4 in fantasy drafts but his ADP has fluctuated throughout the offseason. The real question for drafting Koo in the back of the 12th round is whether or not the Falcons will continue to stall out in the red zone, as veteran quarterback Matt Ryan (QB – ATL) averaged 6.7 FPPG in the red zone, ranking 20th behind Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – WFT), Cam Newton (QB – NE), and Gardner Minshew II (QB – JAC). The signing of Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL) has received immense hype this offseason and throughout training camp, which could lead to the Falcons becoming more efficient in the red zone under new head coach Arthur Smith. Although I love Koo’s talent, his 12th round ADP and the potential for a potent offense that can finish in the red zone makes me wary of drafting the fourth-year Pro-Bowl kicker.
Rodrigo Blankenship (K – IND)
Another kicker who has been flying up ADP boards is Rodrigo Blankenship, who had a solid rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020. The bespectacled kicker made the fifth-most field goals (32) with the fourth-highest number of attempts (37) last season, earning an 86.5 percent conversion rate that was third-best amongst kickers with at least 33 attempts or more. Philip Rivers retired and was replaced by Carson Wentz (QB – IND), who suffered a setback undergoing foot surgery after aggravating it during training camp this past week. Rivers was 31st in red zone FPPG, averaging a meager 5.1 points with a 61.2% completion rate, ranking 25th amongst all quarterbacks. Wentz could be the difference in converting these red zone trips and with healthy players like Parris Campbell (WR – IND), Blankenship could see more extra-point attempts than field goal attempts in 2021. This possibility, plus his early 13th round ADP, makes me want to wait until the final two rounds (14th or 15th) to take a shot on a kicker like Matt Gay (K – LAR), who finds himself on the high-flying retooled offense of the Los Angeles Rams. Gay’s ADP (161.4) and past success as Tampa Bay’s kicker in 2019, where he scored 134 fantasy points and averaged 8.4 FPPG (seventh-best) is great value and prevents paying up for a more household name like Blankenship, who is being drafted higher and higher as the preseason gets underway.
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