Fantasy Football Basics: How to Draft a Kicker
Kickers often go almost completely overlooked in fantasy drafts. While they are the least important fantasy position, their points still count just like everybody else's. The issue isn't their lack of points since last year's No. 1 kicker would have ranked as an RB2 or WR2. The issue is how close kickers finish to each other in points and the unpredictability of the position.
A kicker will probably not make or break your fantasy team, but there is that week in every fantasy owner's career in which you either win or lose your matchup by single digits, and a kicker makes the difference. It sounds silly, but that one win or loss can be the difference between making a deep playoff run and being left out of the bracket. In this strategy guide, we will be going over a few tips and tricks to help you get the best kicker possible.
Rule 1: Draft a Kicker on a High-Scoring Team
While field goal attempts are very unpredictable, high-powered offenses scoring points are not. If you draft a kicker on a team that scores a lot of points, you're racking up those extra points at the very least. There is nothing worse than looking at your lineup and seeing a big zero in the box score, even if it's from a kicker. High-scoring offenses are also in an opponent's territory quite often. So even if they are facing a strong defense, they may get stopped short of the goal line and be in position for a field goal. There is no downside to having a kicker on a prolific offense.
Rule 2: Red Zone Struggles Equal Field Goal Opportunities
If a team can move the ball but stalls in the red zone, its kicker should get easy field goal opportunities. It may be hard to judge this quality of an offense when drafting, but here are a few tips that may help. If a team lacks a power running game, they may have a hard time punching the ball in to the end zone when they get close. The lack of a tight end or large wide receivers who can use their big bodies to their advantage can also be the downfall of a long drive. This is not an exact science, but if you see a team struggling to finish drives, don't hesitate to pick up its kicker.
Rule 3: You Can't Go Wrong with a Big Leg
Sometimes you can't always draft a kicker on an ideal team. When this happens, you can always go for a "home run hitter," those guys who have the leg to kick 60-yarders or in that realm. They may not be the most accurate nor on a great offense, but they can put up points in bunches. This strategy is a dangerous, high-risk, high-reward plan. These types of kickers have the potential to put up a goose egg as well as double-digit games. This is more of a desperation tactic, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Rule 4: Denver is Your Friend
A Broncos kicker always has an advantage, as do their opponents if they're playing in Denver. The thin air of the Mile High City adds noticeable distance to a field goal. It's no coincidence the longest field goal in NFL history (64 yards by the Broncos' Matt Prater in 2013) and two of the four 63-yarders were kicked in Denver. This not only leads to more points for distance, it also leads to more opportunities. Coaches may take a shot at a long field goal in Denver that they usually would not attempt in any other stadium. Unless he is a total disaster, the Broncos' kicker is always a good bet. An opponent playing in Denver is usually a solid waiver-wire add as well.
Rule 5: "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number"
Do not read too much in to age when it comes to kickers. A 35-year-old kicker is not too old. Kickers and punters can kick well in to their 40s. The oldest player in NFL history, George Blanda, kicked until he was 48. More recently, in 2007, Morton Andersen was kicking field goals after his 47th birthday. If a kicker is in a great situation and isn't coming off a train-wreck season, do not pass on him because of his age. While a 30-year-old running back is on his last legs, a kicker may just be getting started.
Rule 6: Things Can Go Downhill Very Quickly
The psyche of a kicker can be extremely fragile. One big miss can lead to a downward spiral usually reserved for teenage celebrities. The most notable story that comes to mind is that of Mike Vanderjagt. He was a member of the Indianapolis Colts for eight seasons and was the most accurate kicker in NFL history. In 2003, he was the only kicker ever to go a full regular season and postseason without missing a kick, going 40 for 40 on field goals and 58 for 58 extra points. Fast-forward to a 2005 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the Colts trailing by three points, Vanderjagt missed a 46-yard attempt with 18 seconds left on the clock. The kick ended the Colts' season and became one of the most infamous kicks in league history. It was his Ray Finkle moment, and he didn't bounce back much better than Finkle did.
In 2006, Vanderjagt signed with the Cowboys and was miserable. He was replaced twice and eventually cut in late November. In 2012, Vanderjagt was suspended from his middle school coaching job after he was accused of grabbing and screaming at a child who taunted him about his infamous missed field goal. Laces out, Hunter Smith!
Rule 7: Wait 'Til Late!
This is the most important rule of all, simple but crucial: Do not draft a kicker until the end of your draft. The final round is ideal but never before the last one or two rounds. Do not try to get cute and draft the best kicker in the seventh round. You will be missing out on a starting skill- position player for a kicker. This is a death wish for your championship dreams. No matter how good you believe the kicker may be, do not do it. It will be a mistake of epic proportions. You really don't want to be "that guy."