One of the biggest gimmicks ever created, and one my own personal pet peeves, involves dog food. Gourmet dog food.
You know … the dog food that looks healthy enough for humans. The stuff that has more vegetables than a rural produce market. When you open the can, the dog food looks like grandma’s homemade stew.
The problem with all this? Dogs are carnivores. They eat meat. Ever see a wild dog, coyote or wolf stop in Farmer Johnson’s field to dig up some carrots or pick a few ears of corn to go with the rabbit they just tore into shreds?
What dog food companies are doing is selling food that looks good to you, not something necessarily natural or even good for Fido.
Sort of like fantasy kicker rankings. In my opinion, they are just another marketing gimmick developed to help newsstand magazine sales …
Blasphemy, you say?
When was the last time a projected top fantasy kicker in your fantasy magazine actually followed suit and scored more fantasy points than others at the position? I’ve never seen that happen. Ever.
Last year, most people were tooting the Stephen Gostkowski horn. He finished seventh in fantasy points. Behind guys that I had pushed hard a year ago when writing my “kick the kicker rankings” post.
This column seem similar? It should. The strategy works. Why re-invent the wheel?
My three-step guide to drafting a fantasy kicker is nearly foolproof, and $7.99 cheaper than most fantasy football kicker rankings you’ll find on the newsstand.
1. Choose about five or six fantasy kickers who are not listed as “top” options for 2010. These guys should have some things in common.
For one, they should come from teams with solid defenses. Much like my “super-sleeper” suggestions last year of Lawrence Tynes and especially Jay Feeley, kickers who play for squads who boast solid defenses find themselves in more close games and ultimately have more opportunity for field goals as the football games become more a chess match than a high-scoring marathon.
Secondly, your kicker should play for a team that has an offense good enough to move the ball, but not one that will score on every possession. A field goal is three times more valuable than an extra point. This is why whoever is kicking for the Colts or Saints will likely never be the top fantasy kicker … in the top 10, for sure, but not top option.
2. Wait to the VERY last round of your draft. Not the next-to-last. Not the middle. The last round. Picking a kicker earlier is the first step towards fantasy suicide.
3. Pick any kicker off your list who is still available. Doesn’t matter who. Last year’s top kicker was Nate Kaeding, with 158 points. The 10th kicker was Jeff Reed with 126. That’s 32 points difference over a full season, or around two points per game.
With this all being said, who are my five kickers targeted in 2010 fantasy drafts? Simply look for players that follow my formula above. Very solid defense. An OK offense that is good enough to move the ball into field goal range fairly consistently, but not good enough to punch it in every time they’re in the red zone. Some candidates include:
Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh. The Steelers almost always find a way to put together a solid defense. However, the offense won’t be as potent this season. Big Ben will miss at least four games due to suspension and main receiving threat Santonio Holmes is playing for the Jets. The Steelers play a tough schedule against other squads that will be grinding out games on the leg of their kicker.
Shayne Graham, Baltimore. The former Bengal finds himself on a team with an annually good defense and a coaching staff that isn’t above playing to 9-6 wins. Sure, the addition of Anquan Boldin makes the offense more potent than in years past, but that also means they’ll find themselves in the red zone more often. I don’t think the Ravens punch in as many touchdowns as teams like the Colts or Saints. This means more field goals and less PATs, and a quietly solid fantasy season.
Rob Bironas, Tennessee. He was on my list last year, and struggled the first half of the season as the Titans struggled to get into the red zone consistently outside of Chris Johnson jaunts. Vince Young helps the squad get into scoring position, but isn’t the type of QB who will single-handedly score a ton of TDs. Enter Bironas to mop up field goal opportunities on the plays where Chris Johnson doesn’t get to the end zone first.
Matt Prater, Denver. Solid defense and mediocre offense, although the Broncos border on the lesser side of offense. If the squad can muster enough offense to get into the red zone, than Prater becomes golden. I’m not sold that Kyle Orton, a somewhat gimpy Knowshon Moreno and a bunch of after-thought receivers (with a few rookies thrown in) will be TD juggernauts.
Matt Bryant, Atlanta. Want a deeper sleeper? The Falcons will be a better offensive machine this season, and their defense will do enough to keep most games close. I’m not sure the offense is good enough to turn a majority of their red zone visits into TD dances, so Bryant could see a very nice workload of FG opportunities.
Nick Folk, NY Jets. The green and white were the perfect squad in terms of proving opportunities for a kicker last year, as Jay Feely soared up the kicker ranks. A super-stout defense and an offense that can consistently get into the red zone, the Jets will continue to provide field goal opportunities for whoever is kicking for them. At the moment, it is Folk.
Who are the kickers you are targeting in your draft? Do you believe in fantasy kicker rankings? Why or why not?