Kickers are the most random players in fantasy football. Predicting kicker production in a given week, therefore, is a very difficult proposition.
But that’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.
Value in fantasy football is about a player (or team’s) skill and opportunity. Opportunity more heavily influences a kicker’s production than most other players’. Skill guys can score a touchdown from 80 yards away and end up with a productive 14-point fantasy day on just one touch.
Kickers can’t do that—not as kickers, anyway. They’d have to line up at receiver or catch a fake field goal pass or something that doesn’t happen very often.
But opportunities for kickers are more difficult to predict than other positions. A well-oiled offensive machine is able to score touchdowns more frequently than those that are reduced to putting three points up per scoring drive.
For quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends, that’s a great thing. For kickers, that’s the difference between one point and three to five (or six, in some cases bordering on the record-breaking).
Here’s the order in which I would start fantasy kickers heading to Sunday’s games in Week 3.
1. Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams (at Chicago Bears)
Zuerlein is a rookie with a rocket leg. If the Rams struggle to find the end zone in Soldier Field, he can drill field goals like nobody’s business from almost anywhere in Bears territory.
2. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens (vs. New England Patriots)
Tucker is also a rookie who wrestled the starting job away from Billy Cundiff in Baltimore. Coach John Harbaugh trusts him to get the ball between the uprights.
3. Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers (at Seattle Seahawks)
The stadium in Seattle is notoriously loud. If it disrupts the Packers’ offense, Crosby will be around to get them three points at a time. He may get fantasy owners more than that.
4. Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
Walsh is at home against a nasty defense. But he just has to kick the ball.
5. David Akers, San Francisco 49ers (at Minnesota Vikings)
Akers tied the NFL record for longest field goal made in Week 1 of this season. He’s getting the green light from all over the Vikings’ side of the field if the 49ers reach fourth down.
6. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots (at Baltimore Ravens)
Despite missing what would have been a game-winning kick in Week 2 at home against the Cardinals, Gostkowski is still an accurate force in the kicking game.
7. Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)
The winless Saints are at home and should be able to put up some points against the also 0-2 Chiefs.
8. Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears (vs. St. Louis Rams)
The Rams’ defense is underrated.
9. Matt Prater, Denver Broncos (vs. Houston Texans)
Prater will be kicking in the thin air of Denver against a talented Texans defense.
10. Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles (at Arizona Cardinals)
The Eagles will be on the road against a solid Cardinals defense. They might need their kicker to put some points up.
11. Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons (at San Diego Chargers)
The Falcons’ high-powered offense travels three time zones to San Diego and may rely on Bryant to put up a few points.
12. Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions (at Tennessee Titans)
The Titans’ defense hasn’t been very productive this season. Hanson should at least get a few PAT opportunities.
13. Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs (at New Orleans Saints)
The Saints’ defense has been struggling, but the offense still puts up some points. The Chiefs will have to keep up somehow.
14. Rob Bironas, Tennessee Titans (vs. Detroit Lions)
Bironas will be called upon if the Titans can get the ball into the red zone without scoring a touchdown. With precious little production in the running game so far this season, that is a strong possibility.
15. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
Janikowski has a strong leg and should be able to use it at home against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that will be missing safety Troy Polamalu.