Ever since I’ve been paying attention to fantasy football, it has been all about six positions (not talking IDP). People argue about which of the big three (QB, RB, WR) is the most important, and even that has changed over the years. However, if you asked 100 fantasy football players which of the six positions is the least important, you would most likely get a unanimous answer: the kicker.
Kickers have long been a fantasy afterthought at best. Every fantasy guide for beginners that you read will have one piece of advice in common, “Pick your kicker in the last round of your draft.” Most of us have probably been in a draft once upon a time with an individual who drafted an entire starting lineup before they picked any backups. Meaning they took their kicker in the middle rounds and everyone else snickered a little bit. Some of us might have even been that guy during our first year! That isn’t the only example of how people feel about kickers. It is pretty common to read a post or article where the well-respected writer makes a comment along the lines of “Drop your kicker to free up an offseason roster spot” (Tim Stafford just gave this advice in a mailbag post) or when it comes to bye weeks, “Just pick up a different kicker because they are all the same.” Just in case you need more examples, DLF doesn’t even have a kickers ranking on their website. Hopefully I can convince you that not only should kickers be an afterthought, but that they aren’t even worth a single thought. Remove them from your league!
So, why do people like kickers?
Even with the commonly held belief that kickers are by far the least important position on a fantasy roster, they still hang on. My question is why? I asked a few people and these were the four common responses that I received with a counter argument for each one:
1,) Kickers are a part of a NFL team, so they should be on a fantasy team.
True, they are a part of an NFL team. However, so are offensive linemen, punters and long snappers. However, I’ve never seen any of them on fantasy rosters.
2,) We’ve always had kickers on our roster.
Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean it is the best or the right way to do it. When you were first born, you always wore a diaper – I’m guessing that isn’t the case right now. We change and improve as time goes on. It’s time to improve your fantasy roster as well.
3,) Kickers add luck to my fantasy games.
If you really wanted “luck” to be the governing factor for your fantasy team, you would draw the names of players you were drafting from a hat and flip a coin every time you were made a trade offer. The whole reason we spend the time that we do is to make educated choices and remove as much luck as possible.
4,) I can still gain an advantage by having the best kicker.
I’ll talk about this one in a little bit, but the major issue is that it is almost impossible to predict before the season starts who the best kicker will be at the end of the season. Not only that, but it is very inconsistent from year to year. Not to mention that the “advantage” you gain for all of your hard work in predicting the right kicker is very, very limited.
Before I go any further, let me talk about the ground rules I used in looking at kickers. I needed a perspective, so I just made some choices I thought were the most common.
- I worked under the scoring assumption of three points for a FG and 1 point for an XP. No bonuses for distance, penalties for misses, or anything else. I kept it simple.
- I tracked individual kickers, not team kickers.
- I chose to look at it from the perspective of a 12-team league where teams only roster one kicker. That means that the top 12 kickers are the only ones on fantasy rosters.
- Averages were calculated using 16 games. Meaning if a team was shut out, that was factored into the average.
- Bye weeks were ignored as was the idea of playing matchups. If Mason Crosby is your kicker, you obviously used someone else at least one week of the year, but that gets way too complicated.
So, who are the best kickers?
It is a very good question and with just a few exceptions, the short answer is that there aren’t any “best kickers” in fantasy. Using the ground rules above, I looked back at the last five NFL seasons. I found the top 12 kickers for each year. There have been four different top kickers over the last five years. There also ended up being 31 different kickers on the list! There was only one kicker who was on the top 12 list for all five seasons, three kickers who were there for four seasons, and two more who were there for three seasons. That means of the 31 kickers that ranked in the top 12 during at least one of the seasons, 25 of them (over 80%) were either one and done or performed well in just two of the five seasons – that means we’re talking about inconsistency even worse than that of running backs when it comes to repeating top performances.
Let’s talk a little bit about those top six kickers. They are Mason Crosby (five seasons), David Akers (four), Stephen Gostkowski (four), Matt Bryant (four), Nate Kaeding (three) and Rob Bironas (three). While they did finish in the top 12 more than anyone else, that doesn’t exactly mean they are all superior to everyone else.
Let me explain.
Bryant didn’t have any top three finishes, Kaeding had only one season (2009 when he was #1) where he was above the average of the top 12 kickers as did Bironas (#3 in 2007). That leaves three kickers that seem to be superior to the masses. However, Crosby has only one top three finish, which was 2007 when he led all kickers in scoring. In the other four seasons, his top mark was 0.3 points per week above the average with two seasons below average. That left only two kickers remaining, Akers and Gostkowski, out of all 31 options who have been consistently (four of five seasons) above average – that’s 6% of kickers who are consistent. Aside from them, you might as well throw darts.
What advantage do I get by having a “good” kicker, you ask?
For the sake of argument, let’s say you happened to pick the right kicker. Again, many different kickers have finished in the top 3 over the last 5 years, and only two (Akers and Gostkowski) have done it more than once. What do you gain by doing that? If we compare the best kicker to the worst kicker over the last five seasons, you get a whopping 1.7 points per game advantage! Now, you’re not always going to play the worst kicker in the league, so that number is a bit too high. If we compare the best to the average, you gain just about a one point per week advantage. In contrast, the team with the 12th best kicker only loses 0.7 points per week when compared to the average. Even if you could pick the right kicker, is it really worth your time to do so for a point or less?
Personally, I would much rather focus my time and roster spots on the other positions and just forget that kickers even exist, especially in a dynasty league. They are unpredictable, inconsistent, an afterthought at best, and present very little return on any amount of time spent.
Now is the time to “Kick the Kicker” from your fantasy league!