I received an unexpectedly revealing bit of kicker data last week that I feel compelled -- by the power of the process -- to share with you, dear fantasy football information consumer.
The data, compiled by my Twitter buddy and savvy fantasy footballer, Eric Belair, helps explain why some kickers fall so far behind their expected field goal attempts. Expected attempts, for the uninitiated, show how many field goal tries we’d expect based on an offense’s yardage totals.
Eric’s data shows how often NFL teams try field goals on fourth down inside the 33 yards line -- which would make for a 50-yard attempt -- in neutral game script.
It now makes a little more sense that Mason Crosby is 16.04 field goal attempts under expectation this season. Green Bay is extraordinarily aggressive on fourth down plays inside the 33 yard line in neutral game script, settling for field goals just 35.71 percent of the time -- the lowest rate in the league by quite a bit. Robbie Gould, meanwhile, is 9.46 field goal attempts under expectation as the 49ers go for field goals on 57.14 percent of fourth downs inside the 33 in neutral script.
Jason Sanders has been the beneficiary of a Dolphins team that almost always settles for three points in this situation. Miami’s conservative approach has put Sanders -- fantasy’s No. 2 kicker -- 6.79 field goal tries above expectation this year. Then there’s Younghoe Koo, fantasy’s top kicker, who sits 6.33 field goal attempts over expectation thanks to Atlanta attempting field goals 85.71 percent of the time in this scenario. Rodrigo Blankenship has seemed to defy his team’s field goal attempt rate inside the 33 yard line. Blankenship -- Goatenship, for the truthers -- is sixth in field goal tries and fifth in kicker fantasy points despite the Colts kicking field goals a lowly 50 percent of the time in the above scenario.
Carolina’s penchant for trying field goals in the aforementioned situation has kept Joey Slye afloat in fantasy despite the big-armed kicker missing seven field goals this season. He’s second in attempts and eighth in fantasy scoring because the Panthers try field goals 86.67 percent of the time inside the 33 in neutral script.
These offensive tendencies shouldn't be the decisive factor in which kicker we roll with in a given week, just as red zone possessions or implied total alone shouldn’t determine who we pick. It is good to know that all (seemingly) decent field goal opportunities aren’t created equal though.
Week 14 Review
Our streamers fared OK in Week 14. Stephen Gostkowski saved his day with a 53-yard bomb to give him nine fantasy points against Jacksonville -- the seventh most among kickers this week. Incredibly, he became just the third kicker this year to not have multiple field goal tries against the Jags. I'm not mad. I'm laughing. I find this funny.
Matt Gay scored six points, making his lone field goal attempt against New England. Ka'imi Fairbairn fell victim to nightmarish game script against Chicago. He scored one point and didn't have a field goal try.
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Week 15 Kicker Plays
Matt Gay (LAR) vs. Jets
Expected field goal attempts: 30.41
Actual field goal attempts: 22
The expected field goal numbers here are for the Rams as a team this season. Gay has only kicked for LA since Week 11. He has at least two field goal tries in three of his four games as a Ram, and as you can see in the chart above, the Rams seem perfectly fine with trying field goals in neutral situations (81.82 percent rate). Like any wretched team, the Jets give up a lot of field goal opportunity -- the fifth most, to be exact. Six kickers have had at least three attempts against Gang Green in 2020 and only one -- Harrison Butker, somehow -- had zero attempts against them. One roadblock to a big day for Gay: the Rams’ red zone proficiency. They’ve scored touchdowns on 64.57 percent of their red zone visits this season, the tenth best rate in the NFL. Still, Gay fits the process like I used to fit into my softball jersey. The Rams are astounding 17-point favorites with an implied total of 30.75 points. Gay is out there on 91 percent of waiver wires.
Tyler Bass (BUF) at Denver
Expected field goal attempts: 29.3
Actual field goal attempts: 31
I figured, incorrectly, that I’d be done writing about Tyler Bass as a streaming option after his glorious six field goal explosion in Week 7 against the Jets. He’s only rostered in 35 percent of leagues, so fair is fair: I get to tout him and there’s nothing you can do about it. Bass has turned into a top-5 fantasy kicker in part because Buffalo leads the league in red zone possessions. The Bills’ pass-heavy offense has continually put Bass in position to rack up fantasy points. In Week 15, Bass takes on a Broncos team allowing the most field goal tries and the most points per game to enemy booters of the pigskin. Buffalo is a 6.5 point favorite with a 28.25 point implied total; only four teams have a higher Week 15 total. The Bills have been on the aggressive side inside the 33 yard line in neutral script, but that hasn’t suppressed Bass’ opportunity. The Dolphins, Falcons, and Panthers are the only teams with more field goal tries this year. Bass has multiple field goal tries in six of his past seven games. Fire him up.
Mason Crosby (GB) vs. Carolina
Expected field goals attempts: 31.04
Actual field goal attempts: 15
No kicker has fewer attempts this season than Crosby. Yet I’m touting him, which is curious. But I’d be remiss -- and I’m never remiss -- if I failed to mention a kicker whose team is an 8.5-point favorite with the week’s second highest implied total (29.75) against a Carolina team allowing tenth most field goal tries this year. The Panthers have given up multiple field goal attempts in seven of their nine losses. If you think the Packers have a good shot at disposing of the Panthers -- they do, per my calculations -- Crosby should serve as a fine floor option in Week 15. Crosby is available in 60 percent of leagues.