But Kickers have Feelings too! (the fantasy relevance for kickers and defenses)

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Fantasy football is a fickle friend. Where last weeks studs can be this weeks duds, players can suffer season ending injuries, and there’s no such thing, as a sure thing. But there are two tried and true rules that I ALWAYS live by. At the beginning of the season I heavily suggested taking a defense and kicker in the last two rounds of your fantasy draft. I am now suggesting as the season continues, to only carry one kicker and one defense. Don’t worry, I’m going to explain why this makes sense. We’ll also take a look at why waiting on a defense and kicker was a good draft strategy.

The reason I lump kickers and defenses into the same category is that they have similar value. But, what makes up a players value? Basically three things: Points they produce, scarcity of position, and how many roles they can fill for your team: basic supply and demand. (foreshadowing for next article) The scarcity of position and role fulfillment of both kickers and defenses is equal. There are 32 teams and each team starts one defense and one kicker.  On standard fantasy rosters kickers and defenses can only occupy one position. So you have 32 possible players to fill one role.  The takeaway from this is there are a lot of available players to fill a small part of your roster. For comparison, each team starts one running back for a total of 32 RB “starters”. Every now and then there are teams that produce two fantasy relevant running backs so we’ll bump that number up to 45. But standard rosters require two running backs, and most will allow you to play a running back in your flex position as well, which is up to three roles. So while the number of startable players is slightly higher for running backs, the demand is up to three times higher. This makes running backs much more valuable.

So that’s two points covered: Supply and Demand. But the other point, which is literally points, is more important. Lets take a look at the top 10 kickers.

  1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE
  2. Dan Bailey, DAL
  3. Cody Parkey, PHI
  4. Adam Vinatieri, IND
  5. Phil Dawson, SF
  6. Nick Novak, SD
  7. Justin Tucker, BAL
  8. Chandler Catanzaro, ARI
  9. Matt Bryant, ATL
  10. Graham Gano, CAR

Of those top ten there is only a 3 point difference in their game averages. The highest being 12.2 and the lowest 8.8. The worst ranked kicker in the league Sebastian Janikowski, OAK has an average of 4 points per game. That’s only about a four point difference from the top 10. Let’s say thats a total 7 point spread. Now, let’s go back to our comparison with the running back. These are the top 10 running backs:

  1. Demarco Murray, DAL
  2. Matt Forte, CHI
  3. Arian Foster, HOU
  4. Marshawn Lynch, SEA
  5. Le’Veon Bell, PIT
  6. Giovani Bernard, CIN
  7. Darren Sproles, PHI
  8. Ahmad Bradshaw, IND
  9. Justin Forsett, BAL
  10. Antone Smith, ATL

Now, between these top 10 there is a 9.9 point spread in game averages. If you look at the 45th ranked running back, Chris Johnson NYJ, his average is 5.7. This is 4.7 points lower than the 10th ranked back. If you add those totals its 14.6. This is a much larger point discrepancy.

So what does this all mean? What it breaks down to is that not only is the point discrepancy between a “starting” kicker and a kicker you can pick up off the waiver wire very small., but there is also a low demand. It makes more sense to carry one kicker and use the bench spot for a position with more value, such as a running back. Your goal should always be to have as much value on your team as possible. This also translates to your draft. Wasting a pick on a player that you can replace easily with the waiver wire sabotages the strength of your team.
The same rules apply to defenses. The Seattle Seahawks defense was drafted on average in the 8th round. They are currently ranked 20th. Between the top ranked defense and the last (32nd) ranked defense there is only a 12 point difference in average points per game. But even the Eagles (ranked first) have had a game in which they scored only one point. Defenses have a much bigger swing in game to game point production than the average position. For this reason, it’s not smart to blow a 8th round pick on a defense when you could get the likes of Steve Smith Sr. (ranked 4th) or Rob Gronkowski (6th). There are some good defenses out there, but any defense is playable against the right offense. Target these defenses, which will change on a week to week basis based on opponent.

In conclusion ONE defense, ONE kicker. Those type of players are not shoes. You do not need a different pair for every occasion. They are more like socks; wear ‘em, wash ‘em, repeat. Good luck gals!

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