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2014 Fantasy Football Preview: Kicker Rankings

Posted Aug 28, 2014

SportingNews.com's Matt Lutovsky provides his expert analysis on the top fantasy football kickersheading into the 2014 season.

For more fantasy football analysis, follow Matt Lutovsky on Twitter (@MLutovsky) and listen to the Sporting News Fantasy Football Podcast.

What's the difference between the best fantasy football kicker and the 12th best? Last year (and the year before), it was around two fantasy points per week.

That's it.

Sure, two points matter, but not enough to draft a kicker higher than the second-to-last round.

MORE POSITION PREVIEWS: QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST

Look, I like kickers – a good one is vital to any team's real-life success – but there's really no need for kickers in fantasy football. How frustrating is it when a perfectly good matchup is ruined by one team's kicker springing for five field goals while the other team's has just two extra-point attempts?

Sure, something similar can happen at any position, but with kickers there's really no way to see it coming, especially once byes kick in. You can only “play the matchups” to a certain extent, and all the backwoods wisdom about which types of kickers are best tends to be wrong just as often as it's right. For example:

“I want a kicker on a good offense, but not an offense that scores a lot of touchdowns.”

Thanks for that killer strategy, Coach Lombardi.

Last year, the No. 1 fantasy kicker was Stephen Gostkowski. He tied for the seventh-most PAT attempts, so it wasn't as if the Pats were stalling out at the 25 all the time. They were a good offense that often put Gostkowski in position to score, and he took advantage thanks to his strong, accurate leg.

The No. 2 fantasy kicker was Matt Prater, who played for a Denver offense that definitely didn't have trouble finding the end zone. The No. 3 kicker, Baltimore's Justin Tucker, fits the mold of a guy on a  “can't-finish-the-job” offense, but the Ravens were top 10 in TDs the year before, so I'm not sure most owners would have guessed that on draft day.

MORE FANTASY FROM MATT: Twitter | Sporting News archive | TE preview podcast

Back to the original point – there's no federal, state or local law that says you must have kickers in your fantasy league. There's a lot of luck that already goes into fantasy football – why add another element in the form of guys who are on the field for nine snaps a game, if that?

But if your league is still stuck in the “this-is-the-way-we've-always-done-it” mode and continues to have a kicker spot, then, please – for me – don't draft one until the last two rounds. There's just not enough to gain even if you get “the best one.” Backups at other positions are more important, especially when you factor in the week-to-week volatility of the kicker spot and the fact that you'll be dropping them when their bye comes up. (And you should be dropping them – again, for me.)

So, now that we're on the same page about kickers, here's what you should look for when deciding who to draft:

Team offense, accuracy, leg strength, home stadiums with a roof, late bye weeks.

Don't worry about Weeks 14-16 (you gotta get there first, and you probably won't be getting there with your drafted kicker); don't try to guess which offenses will be good but not too good; don't try to impress the other owners in your league by kicking off the kicker run.

Keep it simple, get your kicker, and get the draft over with. Trust me, it's for the best.

Rankings

1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE
2. Phil Dawson, SF
3. Steven Hauschka, SEA
4. Justin Tucker, BAL
5. Dan Bailey, DAL
6. Mason Crosby, GB
7. Matt Bryant, ATL
8. Robbie Gould, CHI
9. Blair Walsh, MIN
10. Alex Henery, PHI
11. Adam Vinatieri, IND
12. Greg Zuerlein, STL
13. Shayne Graham, NO
14. Nick Novak, SD
15. Nate Freese, DET
16. Jay Feely, ARI
17. Mike Nugent, CIN
18. Dan Carpenter, BUF
19. Graham Gano, CAR
20. Nick Folk, NYJ
21. Josh Brown, NYG
22. Caleb Sturgis, MIA
23. Shaun Suisham, PIT
24. Ryan Succop, KC
25. Connor Barth, TB
26. Sebastian Janikowski, OAK
27. Josh Scobee, JAC
28. Kai Forbath, WAS
29. Randy Bullock, HOU
30. Maikon Bonani, TEN
31. Billy Cundiff, CLE
32. Matt Prater, DEN (Will be top-five once he returns after his 4-game suspension)