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Waiting On Your Kicker
David Dorey
July 12, 2010
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One of the more common mistakes made by those new to fantasy football is to draft their kicker too early. Bottom line – pick you kickers last.  Final round stuff. Anything earlier is more optimistic than the last time you emailed Jennifer Aniston and asked her out on a date.

Here’s why – you will pick the wrong one. Oh sure, you’re plenty good but kickers are the guaranteed bit of random luck in fantasy football. We all know that the kickers are drafted in the order of their finish the previous season. How else can you remember a kicker name anyway? But what happens when you use the last season’s top ten as a guide? Where did the top ten kickers from each previous year end up the next season?

Previous Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Avg.
1 5 7 21 24 24 20 16 7 9 6 14
2 7 14 16 8 7 9 8 11 1 2 8
3 27 18 26 15 9 8 10 25 7 21 15
4 15 5 7 27 27 30 15 21 26 30+ 19
5 21 2 2 21 25 3 23 31 30 18 18
6 16 30+ 1 7 2 27 30 8 19 28 15
7 1 19 19 6 6 6 3 29 15 10 10
8 25 11 3 11 4 11 21 18 29 3 13
9 30+ 27 9 10 11 11 9 15 21 4 13
10 2 30+ 20 20 1 12 4 5 4 1 5

That final column says it all. The average result for a kicker in the top ten each season is to be unworthy of being a fantasy starter the next year and it is the same for the highest scoring kicker down to the tenth best. Last year was one of the best with half of the top ten of 2008 returning a top ten performance in 2009.  Back in 2006, only one kicker returned to the top ten the next season.  Let’s put this into even better perspective – the top three kickers are generally the only “difference makers” in the position and yet for the last ten years if you ever selected a top three kicker from the previous season, you ended up back in the top three only twice of 30 chances.  Go ahead, reach for the top three kicker of last year and know you have a 93% chance of wasting a pick. And even then, it has never been better than the #3 scoring kicker.

Let’s say that you have your favorite kicker and you have to draft him. Unless he proves as some sort of a good luck charm, chances are you are just overvaluing the player. Taking a look back at the top ten scoring kickers from last year and how they placed in the previous five seasons, the news is not good.

Player 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Nate Kaeding 10 12 2 11 10 1
David Akers 4 30 20 20 2 2
Ryan Longwell 6 27 25 24 8 3
Mason Crosby x x x 1 9 4
Lawrence Tynes 12 4 15 19 injured 5
Stephen Gostkowski x x 18 2 1 6
Jay Feely 21 1 16 28 20 7
Matt Prater x x x x 18 8
Jeff Reed 3 8 21 16 17 9
Rob Bironas x 21 24 3 7 10
x -  not in NFL yet

Rest assured, Nate Kaeding, David Akers and Ryan Longwell will be among the top kickers drafted in your league. And taking a look at these results may seem to suggest that Kaeding, Akers, Longwell, Mason Crosby and Stephen Gostkowski appear to be the lowest risks.  Problem is that if you want them, you are going to need to spend an early pick on them since they will be the first kickers to go. The final piece of the puzzle is to understand how many points your kickers score.

Using just the standard three points per field goal and one point per extra point, the breakdown in points per game for those top ten kickers every year is the final nail in the coffin of desirability.

Rank 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
1 8.4 7.9 8.6 10.2 8.8 9.3 8.9 8.8 9.3 9.1
2 8.2 7.8 8.3 9.8 8.1 8.8 8.5 8.6 9.0 8.7
3 7.9 7.8 8.1 8.4 7.8 8.2 8.2 8.3 8.9 8.3
4 7.6 7.8 8.0 7.8 7.6 7.8 7.6 8.2 8.2 8.1
5 7.6 7.2 8.0 7.7 7.6 7.6 7.4 8.1 8.1 7.9
6 7.4 7.2 8.0 7.5 7.5 7.6 7.3 7.9 8.1 7.8
7 7.3 7.2 7.5 7.5 7.4 7.3 7.3 7.9 7.9 7.6
8 7.0 7.1 7.3 7.1 7.3 7.3 7.3 7.6 7.9 7.6
9 6.9 7.1 7.3 7.1 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.5 7.9 7.6
10 6.8 7.0 7.2 7.0 7.1 7.1 7.2 7.4 7.9 7.4

Perhaps it looks good to see an extra 30 total points between the #1 and #10 kicker in the average year. But taken as per game, the difference is rarely more than about two points per game.  If you are in a league of ten or twelve teams and your kicker scores like the average starter, you are losing out on only one point per game to the highest scorer. There is just minimal difference in overall points between the top kickers and that is if you even could get lucky enough to land a top player from the start.

Kickers are an appropriate position to use in fantasy football since it mimics an actual NFL team and there can be strategy in deciding which kicker to use in a given week. But overall? About the only decent measuring stick is that the top kickers from the past year are all but guaranteed to disappoint. The very same kickers who will be first drafted in your league.  Let other team owners squander earlier picks on kickers  while you build depth in other positions.  If you think you have to own one of the more desired kickers, so be it. At least it will give you something to discuss at dinner with Jennifer.

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