What makes a good fantasy kicker?


As in real life football, kickers are the black sheep of the fantasy football world. Nobody likes thinking about them, no one likes talking about them, and drafting one is sort of like picking a number out of a hat.

But fantasy owners should utilize a basic strategy when drafting a kicker. 
I spent a little time this weekend comparing fantasy kicker numbers to team statistics over the past five years to see if there was a good indicator of kicker performance. I looked at yards gained, first downs and points scored. Unsurprisingly, points scored was the strongest indicator. 
Intuitively, this makes sense. If a team scores a lot of points, then the kicker will too. Duh.
Want some numbers to back it up? I have numbers. Over the past five years, 39 out of the 50 kickers (78%) that finished in the top 10 played for teams that finished in the top 15 in scoring. Limiting to just the top 10 scoring teams each year, and the percentage drops to 62%, which is still significant.
Conversely, just two kickers per year (on average) will finish in the top 10 in fantasy scoring while kicking for a team that is in the bottom half of the league in scoring.
So who should you be targeting in fantasy drafts? The top of 4for4's kicker rankings are dominated by high-scoring teams.
Alex Henery (#2) is the new kicker for the Eagles, who are a good bet to have one of the top offenses this year. Matt Bryant (#3), Nate Kaeding (#4), Adam Vinatieri (#5), Josh Brown (#6), Neil Rackers (#8) and Garrett Hartley (#9) all kick for good offenses who play in either warm weather or in a dome. Conversely, Stephen Gostkowski (#7), Lawrence Tynes (#10) and Mason Crosby (#12) kick for good offenses that play outside in cold-weather situations more often than their counterparts. Rackers, Vinatieri and Gostkowski appear to have the best fantasy playoff schedules.
Last year's top kicker, Sebastian Janikowski (#1), kicks in good weather for an improved offense. The Raiders were actually #6 in total points scored last year and the OC, Hue Jackson, was promoted to head coach. Janikowski has a big leg to boot.
Don't be the owner who drafts David Akers (#23) just because he was a top fantasy kicker the last few years. The 49ers' offense looks like it will struggle and it's going to be tough for him to finish in the top 10 again.
Also, don't be the owner that burns a 10th-round pick on a kicker. There are plenty of solid options at the position. Owners can often wait until the final round and one of the aforementioned names will still be available.
That's it -- now stop thinking about kickers!
Filed Under: Preseason, 2011

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