With fantasy football right around the corner it's time to start thinking about your upcoming draft.
One position that doesn't attract a lot of attention but can be a huge difference-maker is place kicker. Here is some advice pertaining to kickers, everything from where they should be drafted to what you should look for.
The potential of grabbing a touchdown-machine running back, a game-breaking wide receiver or a gun-slinging quarterback are exciting thoughts. However, kickers are easily forgotten in fantasy football, and neglecting the position can be a terrible mistake. Kickers can quietly gather a large amount of points throughout the year. With most good fantasy teams having solid players at the skill positions, a dominant kicker can be the difference between winning and losing.
The first thing you need to do when looking at kickers is become familiar with your league's scoring system. Knowing the scoring system will help you determine the impact a kicker can have in your league. Rank and draft kickers accordingly. (KFFL's Cheat Sheet Calculator is more than eager to assist you with this daunting and time-consuming task!)
After researching your league's scoring system you need to research these three factors:
Location: Kickers who play their home games indoors are generally the most productive. Having at least eight games without worries of bad weather gives indoor kickers a huge advantage over a kicker who plays in an area like Chicago.
Skill: Yes, the skill of the kicker is important, but so is the skill of the team's offense. A kicker who plays on a highly productive offense will generally have more opportunities to pick up points.
Coaching: Look for teams with conservative coaches. This isn't as important as the above factors. However, a kicker may have more chances to score on a team that will kick on fourth-and-one, rather than go for the first down.
When drafting a kicker it's important to not reach and draft one too highly. Also, do not wait too long and miss out on the "reliable legs." Depending upon league rules, you generally want to wait until the late stages of the middle rounds at the earliest before considering a kicker. Waiting this long enables you to draft a quarterback, at least three running backs, three wide receivers and a tight end with your previous picks. You can consider drafting a kicker depending on who's left on the board. If an elite kicker is available you could consider drafting him; however, if one is not, have patience and wait until the later rounds.
Research the kickers you are interested in and the aforementioned factors. When you're drafting decide which approach is best for you. Both can be effective, each coming with their own pros and cons.
Place kicker production is, generally speaking, very statistically driven. Outside factors, such as coaching changes, philosophy changes, free-agency moves, etc., should also be considered but not weighed as heavily as the numbers of consistency.
Drafting a defense is very similar to drafting a kicker, and the same two strategies apply. Either grab one of your top-rated defenses in the late stages of the middle rounds or wait and take a "sleeper" defense toward the end of the draft.
Like kickers, defenses come with a list of factors you should research before drafting. Generally, if you have to choose one or the other first, a top-tier fantasy defense typically offers up more for your fantasy squad. Again, this is just a generality and is based upon each individual scoring system.
Scoring System: This is the most important area to research. There is no point of drafting a defense in the middle rounds if you play in a league that barely awards defensive points. Some leagues are strictly turnover- and scoring-based formats, while others incorporate total yardage allowed into the scoring equation. Many leagues include each NFL team's special teams unit as part of the defense, thus calculating points for punt or kickoff return touchdowns. Knowing your scoring system is the very first step in determining any position's value.
Strength of Schedule and Division: A team may have a strong defense, but if they play in a division loaded with offensive stars and/or if they have a schedule filled with offensive powerhouses, their fantasy value takes a small hit. Don't overvalue this, but pay attention to it.
Additions and Subtraction: You also must pay attention to the key player additions and departures of a defense. Be wary of a team that has made a lot of personnel changes as it can take a defense with a lot of new players several games to mesh. Also, be wary of teams switching their defensive systems, i.e. a team switching to a 3-4 alignment may cause some growing pains during the season.
In conclusion, here are the main points to remember when drafting a kicker and defense. First, do your research. Make sure you're well informed about the potential picks and your league's rules. Second, don't reach with your picks. Kickers and defenses can have a large impact on your team's success; however, do not pick them before you are set at your other positions of need. Third, don't neglect the position. Sometimes people overlook the place kicker and defense positions on a fantasy team; overlooking these positions could come back to haunt you. Finally, have a backup plan. If the kicker and/or defense you value are picked before you have the chance to snag them, be sure to have a player or two to fall back on. However, don't make the mistake of selecting these positions too highly. Instead, be patient and wait for a reasonable place to select them.