Fantasy Football: 2013 Final Kicker Rankings
Fantasy Football 2013 Final Kicker Rankings
Now I know you’re probably thinking that picking a kicker in fantasy football is a total crapshoot. Normally, you wouldn’t waste your time reading about one unless it was to check a player's bye week before selecting him with one of your last two picks in your fantasy draft. At the same time, I think if you walk into any sports bar and sit down with a group of veteran fantasy football owners to swap tales of woe, you will inevitably find that each of them has a story about a time when a kicker saved their bacon with a big game, or booted them straight in the spiritual twig and berries to cost them a playoff run.
I believe that selecting a kicker can be more than just a crapshoot where you look at the list and pick the highest one available. Let’s also be clear that I’m not promising you the ultimate kicker guaranteed to vault you instantly to a fantasy football championship.
Instead, you should think of this breakdown as my way of helping you find the kicker that is least likely to let you down when you really need him the most.
My system takes into account the offense of the team, as well as the general kicking conditions the kicker will see on his home field. However, I find that the most important aspect of selecting a kicker comes down to where he is playing during the fantasy playoffs on weeks 14 through 16. During that time of year, kickers that are playing up north and outdoors are more likely to turn in a poor performance compared to kickers who spend those three games in the south or kicking in domes.
All that taken into account, here is my top-15 ranking for kickers that are least likely to let you down.
15. Steven Hauschka
The stout defense of the Seattle Seahawks tends to keep them in good field position. Even if a drive stalls out, they are often in field goal range for Steven Hauschka to put one through the uprights. Last year, Hauschka drilled six from 50 yards or beyond, so he’s got a strong leg for leagues that award bonus points for long field goals. Seattle can be a harsh place to play at times weather-wise.
14. Phil Dawson
In the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers parted ways with David Akers, choosing instead to bring in Phil Dawson to handle their kicking duties. Candlestick Park is known for swirling winds in the fall, which can be a factor against the kicking game which will be asked to provide punctuation for drives that will likely start and stall out on a short field.
13. Justin Tucker
The Baltimore Ravens have seen more turnover on their roster through trades, retirement and free agency than any other defending Super Bowl champion in recent years. They are a team with a lot of question marks on all sides of the ball, which might make for long drives that get stuffed outside of Justin Tucker's range.
12. Stephen Gostkowski
In a lot of rankings, you see Stephen Gostkowski ranked in the top three of all kickers. This is more based on the offensive strength and opportunity provided by the New England Patriots offense than it is the 82 percent accuracy rate of Gostkowski’s leg. The Patriots offense has a lot of question marks this season, which could lead to streaky production. Add to this the fact that Gostkowski’s leg is not strong. He’s only made only three field goals over 50 yards in the last three years.
11. Mason Crosby
At the end of last season, Mason Crosby suddenly became cross-eyed and noodle-legged. Hopefully, he regains some of his focus in 2013. The Green Bay Packers' high-powered offense will give him the opportunity to prove that last year’s foibles were just a fluke. Lambeau field is known for being a frozen nightmare smattered with questionable weather late in the season.
10. Robbie Gould
The Chicago Bears come into the 2013 season with perhaps an improved defense from last year and a new offense installed by Mark Trestman. The defense should be able to keep them on a short field, while the offense will probably struggle at times to find chemistry in the first year. All of these factors point to a monster number of opportunities for Robbie Gould.
I even considered putting him in my top-five kickers if it wasn’t for the fact that Soldier Field is such a tough place to kick in. Lake Michigan has a knack for changing the weather wildly from one quarter to the next, and those rarely provide for a kicker who seems to be losing a little bit of his long range abilities.
9. Matt Prater
The Mile High City has been kind to Denver Broncos kickers over the years. Matt Prater is sure to see a lot of opportunities provided by a Peyton Manning-led offense. Weather can be a major factor late in the year for the Broncos.
8. Sebastian Janikowski
It is quite possible that Sebastian Janikowski is the Oakland Raiders' best offensive weapon. He has a cannon leg and holds a tie for the longest field goal in NFL history. If he were on another team, he might be the top-rated kicker. Unfortunately, the Raiders' offense is abysmal, so they will be blown out and going for it on fourth down a lot, thus limiting his opportunities.
7. Dan Bailey
Last year, Dan Bailey didn’t get a lot of media attention with rookie kickers putting on a show of their own. The reality is that Bailey only missed two field goals all year. He will be kicking for the Dallas Cowboys' high-powered offense, which should create a lot of opportunities.
6. David Akers
In the offseason, the San Francisco 49ers let David Akers move over to replace Jason Hanson, kicking for the Detroit Lions. Akers has essentially become the next Gary Anderson as he has been putting up strong, consistent numbers since just after fire was invented. Kicking inside a dome for 10 games this year will certainly help him extend his career, and the improving offense will also give him opportunities.
5. Adam Vinatieri
Turning 40-years-old this year hasn’t slowed the Indianapolis Colts kicker down one bit. The offense and defense are both improved, and will likely provide him opportunities aplenty through the season. Adam Vinatieri is the original clutch kicker and has a rather nice schedule during the fantasy playoffs
4. Matt Bryant
At 38-years-old, Matt Bryant’s leg is showing the twilight of his career. He still had enough gas in the tank last year to convert 33 of 38 field goals, including booting four in from over 50 yards out. Kicking for the Atlanta Falcons' high-powered offense is definitely a plus, as are the 10 games he’ll be kicking indoors this year. Current reports state that he should be mended from his back injury in time to play Week 1.
3. Blair Walsh
The Minnesota Vikings are a team with a serviceable defense and a dynamic return game fielded by rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. The offense moves the ball great on the ground, but looks like a gangrenous wounded bird through the air. Blair Walsh boasts a powerful leg, converting 10 field goals from beyond 50 yards last year.
These ingredients and the fact that he will kick indoors for 10 games this season add up to a lot of opportunities to kick a lot of long field goals at the end of stalled-out drives in perfect conditions.
2. Connor Barth
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team rising on the hopes of an improved defense and the running ability of Doug Martin. Suspect quarterback play may cause a lot of drives to stall out in the red zone. Connor Barth also has the best fair weather schedule of any kicker in the league.
1. Garrett Hartley
The last two years have not been kind to Garrett Hartley’s stat line. In 2011, he was sidelined with a hip injury and last year, the New Orleans Saints offense floundered with so much of the coaching staff lost to suspensions. This year, the Saints' offense and Garrett Hartley are going to get back on track, putting up the kind of big offense we are used to seeing from them.
During the first 13 weeks of the season, Hartley has the second-best fair weather and dome schedule of any kicker.