Monday - Sep 28, 2020

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An Argument for Kickers and a Few Words on Taking One

Stop laughing. I know, I know. It’s kickers!  Kickers are often the butt of jokes both in the fantasy world and in real life. I start drafts (even ones without the position) advising people they should go kicker/kicker early to lock up the spot. The joke was tired 10 years ago but I still make it. I feel it is an obligation at this point. My love of bad kicker jokes has become a trademark of starting a draft, “Has Lisa made a kicker joke yet? Yes…okay let’s begin.”

I bid .02 on Robert Aguayo in a league recently just so he would feel loved and I could put my two cents in. I have seen people arguing from time to time that there shouldn’t be kickers in football. I can’t imagine that. A kickerless world would be a sad one.

The no kicker trend has really taken hold in fantasy leagues where the position is omitted now more than it is used. Many of you are creating your leagues now and will be deciding your lineups. Before you retire the position take a few seconds and give kickers some love.

I can’t say that I don’t understand why leagues are losing the position. I omitted the kicker position in my last startup and only kept team defense at the request of the league (I am becoming a big fan of IDP instead). With that said, I feel like kickers are unfairly and unnecessarily being given the boot. (Yeah, terrible jokes are also a trademark of mine.)

Kickers are derided as being unnecessary to football (which I adamantly disagree with). They are often omitted from rosters for being too random for fantasy (I still disagree but it’s not nearly as strong.)

The first argument, that kickers aren’t important in football always makes me wonder about what great games that person might have missed. I still remember the crushing pain of the Snowplow game. I think about all of the games that I have seen won by a last-minute field goal or less than 3 points and I imagine what they would have been without kickers. No, the kicker is not as exciting as the Hail Mary but if you haven’t screamed with joy or pain at a last minute field goal you clearly aren’t watching enough football.

People may think the games would be more exciting without kicking because it would force a more aggressive game instead of fighting for field position, but I think we would see more ties and lower scoring games. Kicking and punting are part of football (and really I think we have to call it American Rugby if we get rid of the only parts of the game involving the foot). Watching a kick or a punt returned may be the most exciting play in football.

Kickers in fantasy are becoming even more outdated than “standard leagues.” Fantasy changes, as new variations become popular old ones disappear. PPR has become the new normal, Dynasty and Keeper leagues are starting to really pick up steam, waiver wires are turning into blind bidding waivers (as they should), and Individual Defensive Player leagues are on the rise again.

Kickers are often missing from the roster of all these leagues. The wisdom of taking a kicker in the last round (great advice) has turned into a thought process that kickers are useless or unpredictable. Useless, no…unpredictable, somewhat. Potentially fun to have on the roster, yes. An advantage over other teams, absolutely.

Football is random and unpredictable. It is more than a game of stats and fantasy football should be the same. Why shouldn’t that same scream of joy or pain you had when that last minute field goal affected your team not extend to fantasy? It should.

Still worried about the inconsistency. There are no guarantees in football but you can capitalize on the kicker position and it doesn’t take a ton of time. If you are avoiding them because you think they are a completely uncontrollable position:

One – Read a stat-heavy article written by an analyst. Roll with their picks. That is still way too much math for me to invest in a hobby but it is an option. I don’t like facts or numbers to get in the way of my fantasy feels.

Two – My way (disclaimer – if you are in a deeper league this won’t be as effective and it works best in redrafts of 12 teams especially in those short bench leagues). This will actually take longer to read than do, that is how quick it is.

My thought process is that you aren’t going to have a job in the NFL if you aren’t money within the 40 and doing well outside of it. If you aren’t clutch as a kicker you will be cut and one of the 100s of guys waiting in line for a chance will be picked up. The offense, schedule, and coaching are what gives a kicker their value for fantasy. Will they stall in the red zone, are the teams they are playing going to keep you out of the red zone but let them get close enough and does the coach have faith in their kicker’s leg?

These things don’t always reveal themselves until the season starts. When I draft, I just grab the kicker with the latest bye week that has a middle of the road offense or a weak offensive line.

Once the season starts, I pay attention to which kickers are the highest scoring. I swap my kicker out for the kicker who is consistently scoring the highest. You are staring at this page right now thinking that is the most obvious and silliest thing that may have ever been written. You are only saying that because you have never read any legislation or governing law written by a government body.

The key is finding the kicker with consistent scoring. You will need to wait a few weeks, don’t try and chase the weekly high scorer all season. I like to wait until Week 4’s wire before I put the time in. You can do this in one league and the results will carry over to all leagues with remotely similar scoring so pick the league that let’s you sort your data best if you are on different hosts for different leagues.

Go to your free agent page, switch it to kickers and make sure to include kickers on rosters as well. Sort by either total points or weekly average. You are looking for consistency. A kicker who kicks five field goals one game and one the next is not going to help you. Look for the guy kicking at least 2-3 field goals per game. Now you have a 6-9 point baseline without distance bonuses, extra points, or great games. That’s your target. If your kicker is bringing you 8-12 points a week and everyone else is either ignoring the position or grabbing the guy who looks hot the week before it gives you an edge.  Your kicker is the one that helps you squeak out those 2-5 point wins.

There is a reason I said to include all kickers, your perfect kicker is the one who is not only sitting at the top of the stats but also has an early bye week. His owner will probably drop him rather than waste a roster space holding a kicker. You need to grab him after his Week 5/6 bye (or during if you have space.) You now have an advantage over the rest of the league. Yes, it is probably a 3-5 point advantage but think about how many games you have won or lost by that margin.

At some point your kicker may no longer be producing for a variety of reasons. The team has started to gel, the schedule gets harder, the star player who was injured (or suspended) has returned to the team and the team has more juice, or the kicker is Billy Cundiff. Whatever the reason, if you keep track by spending those two minutes each week, you can generally insure that you will get a relatively consistent score from an inconsistent position.


About Lisa London

I suffer from an undying obsession with fantasy football. Former Lee Evans owner, I am not proud. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, I would get to the second one but I have lineups to set. Follow me on Twitter @leedoglaw