Ever venture into the woods on the first day of regular deer season in central Pennsylvania?
Falling in late fall, early winter, the weather is usually cool to cold. Colorful leaves are mostly off the trees and laying as a carpet on the forest floor. Many times, the surroundings are fairly drab in browns and grays and sometimes a little white.
So, a hunter wearing head-to-toe flourescent orange can really be a jarring sight. You can literally see a hunter for miles away in some areas. They’re hard to miss.
So are rookie owners in your respective fantasy football leagues.
They are the ones who actually care about fantasy kicker rankings.
In fact, rookie fantasy owners are actually cute, in a way. They actually worry over which kicker to select. They debate on when they will take their kicker. They are the ones whose fantasy football magazines are dog-eared on the kicker ranking page. It’s hard not to laugh at the whole scene.
That’s because picking a kicker at your respective fantasy football draft is as easy as picking which pair of tighty-whiteys to wear each morning.
The strategy is simple.
1. Pick about five kickers who aren’t ranked in the top five in your respective fantasy magazines. These guys should be on teams with solid defenses. More on that on a moment.
2. Wait until the last round of your draft. Not the next-to-last. Not the middle of your draft. The very last round.
3. Pick someone on your list. Anyone who’s still available.
Easy, wasn’t it?
Oh … and don’t forget the step where you mock and laugh at the guy who wastes an eighth-round pick on Stephen Gostkowski.
I find it funny, actually, that alleged fantasy gurus deliberate so much over kicker rankings, and then basically rank last year’s top scorer as this year’s top option.
Pop quiz. Who was the last NFL kicker to lead the league in fantasy scoring two years in a row? I know I can’t think of one.
The top fantasy-scoring kicker in 2007 was Green Bay’s Mason Crosby. Last year, he finished seventh — 21 points behind Gostkowski.
Of course, 21 points isn’t a whole lot when averaged out over a whole season. That’s what makes kickers such a crap shoot, and not worth more than a second’s thought.
Last year, Gostkowski lead the league with 159 fantasy points (in standard scoring leagues). Ryan Lindell finished 10th, with 136 points. That’s a difference of 23 points, but just 1.6 points per game for the first 14 weeks of the season. After Gostkowski and Akers (the No. 2 fantasy-scoring kicker last year), the next eight were seperated by just nine points, or a .06 point-per-game difference.
It wasn’t just a one-year fad, either. In 2007, Phil Dawson ranked 10th with 132 fantasy points, while Crosby scored 156, a difference of 24 points, or 1.7 points per game.
Figuring out which kickers to target doesn’t take rocket science, either. First, contrary to popular belief, you don’t want a kicker from a really prolific offense. Sure, in 2007 when the Patriots were an offensive juggernaut, Gostkowsi killed the competition with 74 PATs. However, Crosby (who talled 26 less PAT that season) outscored Gostkowski by 16 fantasy points.
That’s why I personally feel that Gostkowski will be a relative “flop” among fantasy kickers. With Tom Brady back for the Patriots, expect Gostkowski’s FG opportunities to morph into PAT chip shots.
So, which kickers to target in the last round of your respective draft?
I look for kickers from teams who have solid defenses. You don’t want your kicker’s team to blown out week after week, abandoning the kicking game in an aerial attempt to keep up. I also want kickers from teams with offenses that are good enough to get into the red zone consistently, but not good enough to punch the ball into the end zone time and time again.
For this season, that leaves a slew of kickers who I think will score up there with the rest of the league. Guys I’m personally considering at the end of drafts include:
Lawrence Tynes, NYG. The Giants follow my formula: solid defense and an offense behind Eli Manning and some fresh WR faces that will be good enough to move the chains, but may not score a ton of touchdowns. Tynes could easily be the best kicker in fantasy football this season, as long as he stays healthy.
Kris Brown, HOU. Sure, the Texans could have a huge offensive year, but I also expect them to be in enough tight games with teams such as the Titans, Colts, etc. to keep Brown active from field goal range. He’s improve his kicking totals consistently the last three seasons, and his defense will keep the Texans in games each week.
Rob Bironas, TEN. Sure, Bironas hardly qualifies as a kicking sleeper, but people can forget about him on an offense that features a 100-year-old Kerry Collins. However, he’s in the perfect position to produce well for yet another season.
Jay Feely, NYJ. Want a super-kicking-sleeper? Try Feely. The Jets defense will be solid this year, the offense, not so much. I’m gambling that the Jets running game and a few impressive heaves from Mark Sanchez will keep Feely active in the field goal department. The Jets play in an improving division and will be in a number of close games where Feely’s leg will be used strategically.
Nick Folk, DAL. The Cowboys kicker didn’t finish in the top 10 in kicking fantasy points last year. However, the Cowboys follow my formula, having enough of a defense to keep games fairly close, and just enough offense (sans Terrell Owens) to give Folk scoring opportunities.
Who are your kickers to watch? How much time do you spend thinking about fantasy kickers at a draft?