Draft These Kickers In 2022 Fantasy Leagues

·8 min read

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Everyone wants Justin Tucker on their fantasy squad. I get it: He knocks the skin off the pigskin, he's deadly accurate, and he was born with a clutch gene that must be studied by science.

But not every fantasy manager can draft Justin Tucker, as there's only one Justin Tucker (you have to be a fantasy football analyst to know this). The same goes for Evan McPherson, the cocky king of kicker swag, and Daniel Carlson, who may or may not have been fortunate in 2021.

If you can draft an elite kicker in your 2022 redraft leagues, by all means, go ahead and do that. A locked-in, ever-week starter means you won't have to work the waiver wire for kickers with favorable matchups. In other words, you can maintain some semblance of dignity.

You shouldn't reach for the Tuckers of the fantasy world either. If your league mate takes Tucker in the 12th round of a 15-round draft, so be it. That's an objectively awful decision. Please, whatever you do, don't tilt your face off and draft McPherson with your 12th-round pick after seeing Tucker fall off the board. Just wait until the second to last or last round and select one of the kickers highlighted below: Guys who, by my best estimation, have every chance to become plug-and-play fantasy starters in 2022.

I'll be generous and offer a shortcut that might save you from reading 1,000 words of fantasy kicker analysis. If any of the following kickers are available in the last or second to last round of your redraft league, just click their names and be done with it: Tucker, McPherson, Carlson, Tyler Bass, Matt Gay (assuming Matthew Stafford's elbow is working), and maybe Harrison Butker. Otherwise, go after the following dudes.

Jake Elliott (PHI)

Elliott was quietly excellent for fantasy purposes in the second half of 2021, when the Eagles committed to an uber-run heavy offense that generated far more positive game script than they had in the season's opening weeks.

Elliott, who notched a solid 2.4 field goal tries per game in the season's final ten weeks, outscored every kicker in the league over the second half of 2021. He managed multiple field goal attempts in eight of his final 10 games of the 2021 regular season as the team nursed leads or kept the game close against one of the NFL's softest schedules. Things were good for Elliott once Nick Sirianni figured out how to run an offense with Jalen Hurts as the signal caller. And it was good to see Elliott bounce back following a lackluster 2020 season.

The Eagles enter 2022 with the NFL's second easiest schedule, per Sharp Football Analysis. A bunch of games against the garbage NFC East and the less-than-great AFC South should mean consistent positive script and plenty of scoring opportunities for Philadelphia's offense.

Adding A.J. Brown to an offense helmed by Hurts, who has reportedly improved as a passer this offseason, is a decidedly good development for Elliott. He easily has top-5 in his range of outcomes.

The Eagles kick off 2022 as 4.5-point road favorites against the Lions. It's an excellent spot for our boy Jake.

Rodrigo Blankenship (IND)

Our bespectacled, roller-skating kicker king otherwise known as Rodrigo Goatenship has officially won the Colts kicker job after a lengthy training camp competition. He'll return in 2022 after a disastrous 2021 campaign in which he missed three of his 14 field goal tries before injuring his hip and missing the season's final 12 weeks.

Blankenship is reportedly back to full health and has even bulked up a bit from his puny college days. I guess that's good. He profiles as an ideal final-round fantasy pick because the Colts offense should be vastly improved with Matt Ryan under center. It doesn't hurt that Indianapolis has the league's third easiest schedule, according to Sharp Football Analysis.

There's little reason, outside a Ryan injury, to worry about game script being an issue for Blankenship this year. We want kickers on teams that can attempt field goals in the second halves of games, not guys who can have their opportunity curtailed as the team's offense chases points in the third and fourth quarters.

Blankenship is a mere two years removed from being a top-five fantasy kicker thanks to 37 field goal tries -- the fourth most in the league. Ryan as a stabilizing force and a cake schedule could supercharge Goatenship's field goal opportunity in 2022. Hot Rod will be a premiere Week 1 kicker option, with the Colts 8.5-point favorites against Houston.

Brandon McManus (DEN)

You knew I was going to tout McManus if you read my July column on 2021 field goal attempts over expected. Never the most accurate kicker -- although we should remember accuracy doesn't matter -- McManus is set to benefit from a much-improved Denver offense quarterbacked by Russell Wilson.

Wilson's Seahawks offenses have supported fantasy-viable kickers for most of the past five seasons. In 2020, Jason Myers was fantasy's ninth-highest scoring kicker. Myers scored the 11th most kicker points in 2019. The Wilson-led 2020 Seahawks, before their second-half collapse, led the league in red zone possessions per game. They were sixth in red zone trips per contest in 2019 and were top-10 in 2018. Suffice it to say Wilson's Seahawks were inside the 20 quite often before the horrors of the 2021 season.

We're not targeting McManus because he has 32 field goals of more than 50 yards over his eight NFL seasons. Need I remind you: Long field goals don't matter. We're targeting him because he should be in a highly productive offense that should be able to maintain enough neutral and positive game script to create ample field goal opportunity.

One wild card with McManus: How aggressive will new head coach Nathaniel Hackett be on fourth downs in or near the red zone? It's something to monitor in the first couple weeks of the regular season.

Denver has the 17th easiest schedule in the NFL this season, per Sharp Football Analysis. It's not fantastic but it doesn't concern me, as long as Wilson stays upright and healthy. The Broncos are hefty 6.5-point favorites against Seattle in Week 1. Let's ride, things of that nature.

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Wil Lutz (NO)

The zoomers don't remember Lutz as an elite fantasy option before hernia surgery wiped out his 2021 season. Lutz, powered by Drew Brees' positive-game-script-creating offense, was fantasy's second-highest scoring kicker in 2018 and 2019 before finishing 11th in 2020.

Lutz is back, and if there were any doubts about his recovery from hernia surgery, he vanquished them with his career-long 59-yarder last week against Green Bay. It is once again Lutz Szn.

New Orleans has the league's ninth softest schedule, with a glut of games in domes. In fact, 11 of the team's 17 games will be played under a dome. It's usually a factor fantasy managers overemphasize, but it's nice to know when a kicker won't be subject to the elements -- especially in November and December. It's why there's never a compelling reason to roster the Browns kicker since the entire state of Ohio is one swirling winter storm from Halloween through the new year.

I firmly believe fantasy drafters are undervaluing the entirety of the Saints offense this season. Assuming Jameis Winston's foot issue is cleared up, no team did more to boost its pass-catching group. And a stellar defense playing a favorable schedule should do wonders to help create the sort of game script that could make Lutz an every-week fantasy starter.

Lutz starts his 2022 season in a decidedly good spot. The Saints are 5.5-point road favorites against what should be a shreddable Atlanta defense.

Greg Joseph (MIN)

The Kirk Cousins-led Minnesota offense has been a veritable yardage machine despite playing under points-hating head coach Mike Zimmer, who was replaced this offseason with the forward-looking Kevin O'Connell. What his failings may be, Cousins has consistently generated yards and set up Vikings kickers for success.

The Vikings in 2021 posted the 11th most offensive yardage, which actually marked a drop off from 2020 when Cousins and company had the fourth most offensive yards. This penchant for yardage has created quite the friendly fantasy environment for Minnesota kickers, not all of whom have taken advantage of the situation. The team's kicker curse is real, per the analytics.

The Vikings are a year removed from totaling the fourth most field goal tries (38) thanks to a late-season surge in attempts. Finally finding a home after bouncing around the NFL for a few years, Greg Joseph (very) quietly finished as fantasy's sixth-highest scoring kicker in 2021. The mainstream media won't tell you this. We at NBC Sports and Rotoworld refuse to be silent, however.

Joseph had multiple field goal attempts in ten of his 17 games in 2021, including a hearty 2.87 attempts in Minnesota wins. While the Vikings' schedule isn't exactly soft -- Sharp Football Analysis says they have the 16th easiest slate this year -- Joseph, a top-three kicker in 2021 before a December slump, should again suffice as an every-week starter in 12-team fantasy leagues.