I had no process and I raged at the results.
The golf bug hadn't bitten me at 16 -- it sunk its fangs into my flesh and burrowed deep inside. I was obsessed, like millions of hopeless hackers before me. That first year found me on the range at every opportunity, mostly hitting drivers and mid-irons until my blisters grew blisters. Everyone likes the long ball: it's fun to hit, fun to watch, fun to talk about.
A high school friend once told me he spent half his range time on the practice green, putting and chipping. I laughed. What kind of low-T nonsense was this? C'mon, let's go lash at the ball with our drivers for thirty minutes and pretend we're improving our games.
I deeply enjoyed golf, except for when I found myself around the green, clueless about how to approach the shot. Forget knowing how to hit the proper chip or lag putt -- I didn't even know how to think about the short game. I had, in short, no process for how to approach the shots that matter the most, those around the green.
I'd seen Phil Mickelson hit full swing flop shots on TV. That looked cool. Why couldn't I do that? Every flop shot attempt ended with a humiliating chunk shot or a skulled shot that threatened every living thing within fifty yards of the green. The ball back in the stance, at the front of the stance, in the middle of the damn stance -- nothing worked. Even when I miraculously nipped the golf ball off the grass, I had no idea how hard to swing or where to aim. A long, languid swing? A quick, choppy swing? Bursts of temper followed: thrown sand wedges, kicked sand wedges, broken sand wedges. I had no process. I was process-less.
Short game frustration drove me toward my first lesson. I couldn't do this myself. I needed help.
The instructor's name was Dale. He had played in a few PGA Tour events in the 70s and 80s and he came to my lesson smelling like he was made of nicotine, armed with some very definite ideas of how to chip the golf ball. After stifling laughter at my utterly flopped flop shots, Dale gave me a process: use an eight or nine iron, play the ball back in your stance, make sure your weight is well forward, and hit down on the ball. Don't scoop it. Punch down on that thing and let it run.
Through plumes of cigarette smoke, Dale taught me about feel, about touch around the green. Picture yourself, Dale would say between long cigarette drags, tossing the ball underhand. Where would you land it? OK, he'd say, now do that with the club.
Dale's chipping method certainly lacked the sex appeal of Phil's gorgeous, high arcing flop shots, but I could live with that, if just barely.
A week of practice with the Dale method and I was shaving five and six shots off my usual scores. Most importantly, I had confidence around the green. I was no longer perplexed, befuddled, infuriated by the mystery of how one gets up and down from the greenside. Dale had given me a process for my short game. Many chips shots were far from perfect, but consistently good contact with the ball and a solid concept of how the shot was supposed to look and feel improved by game unlike anything I've done since. If a shot went wrong, I could at least review my process and try to understand what went awry.
Which brings me to kickers in fantasy football. Like scrawny, teenage me around the greens, most fantasy managers have no kicker process. They flail when it comes to selecting kickers. They either don't know there is a process for finding good kicker plays or they aren't curious to know. Sometimes they loathe the position so much -- not even concussions among kickers, maybe -- they seemingly undermine themselves with objectively bad kicker options to prove some sort of point about kickers in fantasy.
They have no process and they rage at the results.
You'll be happy to know there is, in fact, a process for finding solid kicker plays. We want kickers on teams that are favored, have a (fairly) high implied total, and in the pre-COVID times, play at home.
Kickers on the league's best teams leading the NFL in field goal attempts year after year isn't some form of innocuous black magic. Those kickers have consistent opportunity because their teams generate plenty of positive game script, meaning they can kick field goals throughout the game. These teams aren't chasing touchdowns in the second half, forgoing field goal tries in hopes of scoring six. Hence, their kickers end up with lots of opportunity to score points, also known as the only thing that matters in fantasy football. This realization might dawn on you when your kicker loses out on a couple late-game field goal chances because his team is desperate for a touchdown.
In my never-ending mission to pinpoint worthwhile kicker plays, I've created Expected Field Goal Attempts, which uses a team's total yardage to determine how many field goal tries a kicker should have. We want kickers under their expected attempts. While we don't shun kickers who are over their expected field goals, we should be wary of guys who are well above their expected attempts.
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Now that you're acquainted with the kicker process, let's get into Week 11's best waiver wire kickers.
But first, a note on the hottest kicker in fantasy, the guy triggering anti-kicker fantasy footballers into oblivion: Tyler Bass, the second highest scoring kicker in our little game, is now over his expected field goal attempts by 2.4. It's not alarming by any means, but it adds to the reasons I wouldn't hold on to him through the Bills' bye week. People develop emotional attachments to kickers who put up fat stat lines -- I get it -- making it seemingly impossible to ditch the guy after a week-winning performance. It feels like a betrayal.
There will always be viable kicker options on the wire though (see: Tyler Bass the past couple weeks). Probably you can use Bass' roster spot in a far more productive way as we wind our way to the fantasy playoffs.
Week 11 Kicker Plays
Mike Badgley (LAC) vs. Jets
Expected field goal attempts: 21.82
Actual field goal attempts: 19
If the process says we seek kickers on home favorites with big implied totals, hardly anyone fits the process better than Badgley in Week 11. LA is a 7.5 point home favorite with an implied total of 27.5 points against the hapless Jets. They are utterly without hap of any kind. The Jets allow the fourth most kicker points per game, which is a bit deceiving considering kickers have hit a meager 79 percent of their field goal tries against New York. Only Denver and Chicago have given up more field goal attempts than Gang Green. Badgley, available in 78 percent of leagues and under his expected field goal tries, has had multiple field goal tries in six of nine games this season. Nice. We want kickers attached to offenses churning out yardage week in and week out; the Justin Herbert-led Chargers fit that description pretty damn well. The Chiefs, Seahawks, and Cardinals are the only teams averaging more yards per game than the Bolts. Fire up Badgley, for the love of the process.
Chris Boswell (PIT) at Jaguars
Expected field goal attempts: 18.64
Actual field goal attempts: 14
We have another superb streaming play under his expected field goal attempts on the season. Hardly any team has enjoyed as much positive game script this year than the Steelers, who will continue to create ideal conditions for Boswell (we call him the Boz). Pittsburgh enters this game as 10.5 point road favorites with a hefty 29.25 point implied total (the week's third highest total), facing a Jags defense allowing 415.6 yards per game, the second highest mark in the league. It all lines up for the Boz, who's made five field goals in his past couple games. Kickers have had multiple field goal tries in seven of nine games against Jacksonville. The red-hot Steelers passing attack should add to that total in Week 11. The Boz is available on 67 percent of waiver wires.
Randy Bullock (CIN) at Washington
Expected field goal attempts: 19.41
Actual field goal attempts: 21
Yes, the Bengals are one point underdogs here, and yes, Bullock is on the wrong side of his expected attempts. We can't have it all with every streaming play though, and I feel compelled by the power of Not In My League Twitter to include a kicker play with low ownership. Available in 84 percent of leagues, Bullock -- who was fantasy's top kicker as of three weeks ago -- should see decent opportunity if you (rightly) believe the Bengals will see lots of neutral and positive game script against the Football Team. Washington has allowed multiple attempts in five of their seven losses. Bullock, meanwhile, has at least three field goal tries in six games this year. That's ... not a little. Many are saying it's a lot. While Cincy's humble 22.75 point implied total doesn't inspire much confidence, Joe Burrow and the Bengals passing attack could be set for a bounce back against a Washington secondary that was ripped by a usually-stagnant Detroit offense in Week 10. That'd be good news for Bullock.