We should ban kickers from Fantasy Football. Give kickers the boot!
Apologies to the dart-throwing aficionados, but it’s time to change things. After all, we’ve seen changes throughout the years already. PPR is becoming more popular, and your typical Fantasy Football roster now consists of three wide receivers, when it used to be only two. In fact, Fantasy Football started by only scoring touchdowns. There have been changes to the game – for the better – so why not take the logical step of eliminating kickers?
Were any of you playing in 2007 and happened to face someone with Rob Bironas in Week 7? How did that feel losing your matchup thanks to eight field goals, two extra points and 29 Fantasy points by Bironas? Fit of rage?
Even owners couldn’t have felt pride in owning Bironas. He had eight field goals in five games prior to his explosion and wasn’t even highly owned, as Bironas went undrafted (K21).
I could cherry-pick examples all through history, although, is it really cherry-picking when options are overflowing? In any case, I went back to 2004 and collected preseason ADPs to compare them to end of season final standings. Why 2004? Well, I originally started with a decade a few years back, when I wrote about eliminating kickers the first time. Instead of throwing away data I already had, I just updated it through 2015.
Before we get into the full numbers, let’s look at last year alone. If we take the Top 12 kickers by ADP, we have an average final ranking over 10 spots lower. Adam Vinatieri, Mason Crosby, Cody Parkey, Matt Bryant and Connor Barth all finished at least 11 spots lower than their ADP. Parkey got hurt three games into the season, but even if we exclude him, we still get an average difference of -8.3. In fact, we have to drop down to the 14th drafted kicker, Blair Walsh, to find a kicker that finished higher than his ADP. Out of the Top 12 drafted kickers, only five finished as a K1 with McManus and Dan Bailey squeezing in at 10th and 11th. Do the quick math. Seven Top 12 kickers from 2012 came off the board outside the Top 12, and just so you know, five were outside the Top 20.
Starting to get the hint? Well, why stop there. If we look at the entire 12-year history, the Top 3 kickers all have an average finish at least 10 spots lower. The Top 12 has a -8.5 final position drop with the fourth highest ADP kicker coming the closest to his position, missing by -3.2.
Now, I must take a quick detour and give credit where it’s due. That credit goes to Stephen Gostkowski. He does swing the top positions a bit, especially first overall. Since 2008, Gostkowski has finished no lower than fourth (outside of his 2010-injury season) and was the top-drafted kicker and top scorer each of the last three years. But that’s merely Gostkowski’s consistency, as he wasn’t always the top drafted kicker. Even limiting the selection to the 2008-2015 seasons, we only improve the No. 1 kicker’s average finish difference to -8.8. The Top 3 are -8.8, -13.1 and -10.8 as opposed to -10.2, -11.9 and -13.7. Not that much improvement. Interestingly enough, kicker ADP No. 4 performs best again with a -4.1 difference (-3.2 over the 12 seasons).
Getting back to the numbers, time to go deeper. When talking 2015 end of season rankings, what’s often overlooked is the number of weeks a player finished as a K1 (in the Top 12). Not surprisingly, Gostkowski led the way with 12 K1 weeks. The next closest was nine with Dan Bailey. Justin Tucker and Brandon McManus had eight each, and it goes down from there all the way to Bryant with just two. Only Gostkowski and Bailey had more K1 weeks than not. This list includes the Top 16 ADP kickers, as Parkey was hurt, Josh Scobee lost his job and then I added an extra two kickers to allow for variance of which kickers were taken in most leagues. See, I even tried to be nice and forgiving with the numbers.
BUT… the numbers don’t lie. You could have easily streamed kickers and finished with Top 5 production, maybe even outscoring Gostkowski if you were truly skilled lucky. And that’s the rub. There is no rhyme or reason to picking kickers each week. Sure, you could target the top scoring teams, as Graham Gano and Chandler Catanzaro both had 10 K1 weeks, but on the other hand, Gano was undrafted and Catanzaro was K20, basically undrafted too. People didn’t expect these to be the top two scoring teams. Meanwhile, Adam Vinatieri and Mason Crosby, both expected to be on top scoring teams, finished 17th and 15th with seven K1 finishes each. It happens every year too. Matt Prater had the second-highest ADP in 2014 due to expected opportunity and finished 28th. Walsh and Bryant were second and third in 2013 ADP and finished 16th and 19th. I could go on, but you get the point.
Kickers are random. No one drafts them before the last round. Their performances are unpredictable. They ruin the fun. I’m not amused.
I’ll give good ol’ Gostkowski his due, but if you want to argue that we should keep kickers because of one guy, you’re possibly insane.
Now you’re asking, “Well, what do we do without kickers?” First, celebrate your freedom! Second, you add another flex spot. With the standard 12-team league setup of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 Flex, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST and a six-man bench, a league owns 192 players. That leaves some solid options on the waiver wire each week for streaming. It makes trading a bit more difficult because most team’s benches are solid, and if they need help, there are decent choices out there.
If you truly want to test your Fantasy Football ability, dig deeper into the player pool with deeper starting rosters. Ideally, you can make the extra Flex spot a Superflex, allowing it to be a quarterback as well. Now, you add another layer of strategy to drafts – do you take a second quarterback or a solid RB/WR – and open up the number of options for the extra spot, thereby not forcing you to start a backup quarterback as in two-QB leagues.
No matter what you do with that extra spot – make benches seven instead of six, have rosters of 15 each, etc. – the best thing to do for your Fantasy Football sanity and fun is to eliminate kickers. Gostkowski is the exception to the rule, and in fact, if you want to draft him in my league and play him in the Superflex spot, by all means, have at it. Just know that you’d score a zero anyway because my leagues have banned kickers for years! And we’re so much happier for it.
Main Image credit: carmine19jock