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Fantasy Forecast(R): Kickers and Defenses Don’t Matter

All veteran fantasy football general managers know the age-old maxim: Never draft a kicker or defense until the last picks of your draft. With rare exception, this is an immutable law of fantasy football; but is it sound advice?

Getting Your Kicks

I researched the issue, so I instructed the Sports Grumblings’ computer,
Mighty Max, to pull up the top 12 kickers, by season, since 2010. For this example, we’re using scoring for kickers:


Looking at the results, we see some interesting trends:

  • Only
    one kicker has been in the top 12 for three seasons running,

    Sebastian Janikowski
    , and his production has slipped each consecutive season.
  • On average, the 12th-rated kicker can be expected to produce close to 77 percent of the top-rated kicker’s output.

The lesson: trying to determine the top-rated kicker from season to season is a crap shoot. Furthermore, unlike the other positional players, selecting a “top” kicker isn’t likely to result in a top performance. Think about it: we can debate whether

Adrian Peterson

Doug Martin
Arian Foster will be the top-rated runner, but we can likely agree that all three will be within the top 12 at their position. No such luck with the kickers.

Getting Defensive

Many of my readers know that I am a huge proponent of using individual defensive players (IDP) in fantasy leagues; but realizing that many leagues have not seen the light of fantasy football salvation, I’ll try to provide some insight into the performance of defense/special teams selections.

Again, I imposed on
Mighty Max to provide me with data on Defense/Special Teams fantasy scoring since 2010. The results:


 Again, some interesting trends are presented by the results:

  • Only
    three teams finished in the top 12 three years running:
    Bay, New England and
  • Much like the kickers, the 12th-rated defense/special teams could be expected to produce, on average, about 73 percent of the top-rated defense/special teams.

These findings would indicate that selecting defensive teams
might be a bit easier than kickers in that defensive teams seem to display a bit more consistency amongst the top performers; however, this is a
positional consistency, that is, in the aggregate. Predicting which defense/special teams will
actually place well in the scoring is still very hit-or-miss: look at
Philadelphia (top-5 in 2010 and 2011, out of the money in 2012) or
San Diego (top-8 in 2010 and 2012, out of the money in 2011) as examples of boom-or-bust defensive selections.

The Payoff

OK, all this information is interesting, but does it support the theory that you should wait on kickers and defensive teams in your draft? In general, the closer you are to the 12th-rated spot than to the top-rated spot, the longer you can wait to draft that position. Given kickers and defense/special teams, the numbers indicate that there is no reason to select a kicker ahead of a defense/special teams, or vice-versa.

But what about when these two positions are compared to the other offensive positions? The
same type of analysis
indicates all four offensive positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end) shake out ahead of the kickers and defensive teams.

Sometimes, those old age-old maxims actually deserve to be age-old maxims!

John T. Georgopoulos is an 18-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. His
Fantasy Forecast series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on eight occasions. You can also listen to his weekly non-sports opinions



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