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Kickers, Mark? You can’t be serious!

Oh, I am. I most certainly am.

You see, I had Justin Tucker on at least three of my teams to start the year, including a team in my deepest league.

Yet I dropped him during his bye week and as I watched Justin Tucker continue his dominance on Sunday, I cringed a little more each time he kicked a field goal.

Kickers are the most ignored position in Fantasy and it’s a crime we need to correct, especially in deeper leagues where kickers are even more important.

Let me tell you why….

Fantasy Kickers: Why you Should Care

Let’s start with the reasons unrelated to Fantasy. For one, kickers know how to kick-off a press conference…

But any time some talking head on TV picks his All-SuperficialMeanginglessSillyWord Team, you notice that if they pick a kicker, they almost always pick a kicker that makes a key tackle?

Taco League - I like kickers. They're the toughest.

Ask any blue-collar fan how excited they get when a kicker makes a key TD-saving tackle. And as much as we all hate Sebastian Janikowski, tell me you didn’t love to him hate him in the early years? Also, how awesome are kickers with swagger? I love Tucker’s ability, but watch his reaction after he makes the 57- yarder again…

 

Okay, Tucker Love-In aside, let’s get to Fantasy reasons. The reasons why kickers are often interchangeable are true — in shallow leagues. But in deeper leagues, kickers are a much bigger factor. Let’s look at a few.

The Top Talent is Not the Top Talent Every Year

If you are in a shallow league, that’s true. Looking at the 2015 top 10 kickers, only two of them were in the top 10 in 2014. Or a pathetic 20%. But, now let’s expand to a deeper league. Of the top 16 kickers in 2015, nine are not in the top tier again. That’s still not great, but the percentage of worthy kickers is nearly double.

Let’s not confine ourselves to a one-year sample, however. If we look at the previous year, we see a “match rate” in a shallow league of 60%. Or put another way, only four or 40% aren’t there. But if we expand it to 16 teams again, that number only jumps to five, or about a 25% increase, despite the number of our field increasing by 60%. If we look at this year, it falls smack in the middle with 40% for a shallow 10-person league, but jumps to 56% for kickers repeating in deep leagues the following year.

If you got lost in the math, let me put it more simply: When moving from a shallow league to a deep league, you are far better having a top kicker from the previous year than not. That becomes even more significant when you consider one of the other arguments being mentioned recently —

Fantasy Kickers Are Missing at a Historic Rate This Year

Kickers are missing at a historic rate this year. Extra points are becoming exciting. No need to rehash the stats, but that just makes the top kickers all the more valuable. It should be no surprise that Tucker is the top kicker and hasn’t missed an extra point yet. But Tucker plays for a team that is not scoring a lot TDs either. Despite the Raiders and Cowboys not stalling as much near the goalline and being prolific at scoring touchdowns (34 and 37 respectively), both of their kickers (the aforementioned Janikowski and Dan Bailey) have not missed an XP and find themselves as top kicker options.

Difference Between the Top and Bottom Fantasy Kickers

For example, the difference between the top kicker and the “average” kicker in say a 10-person league for each of the last three years is between 19 and 21 points, or just barely over a point a week. But what if include the top 20 kickers? Those numbers jump to 30 or more points and the gap is widening each year.

With less points to go around, how many of you deep leaguers have lost by just a couple of points? But of course there is this argument against kickers…

How important can Fantasy kickers be if Randy Moss can kick in dress shoes?

Okay, no argument against that — but here is one additional argument:

The Deeper the League, the More Likely the “Zero”

When you have deep leagues, you are going to have players who give you a zero more often than in shallow leagues. Given that there are only about two or three shutouts every year, a player that is guaranteed to give you points is a valuable commodity. Nick Novak is the only kicker in the top 20 kickers this year to put up a single “zero.”

The non-zero rate of positive points from your top 20 is 95% rate. No other position has a higher success rate, and often its quite lower.

Tight Ends

Tight end is an obvious one, but Rob Gronkowski, Zach Miller, and Antonio Gates are three easy examples, and they all started their games in the lineup.

Running Backs

RB for example has an extremely low rate (Theo Riddick, Spencer Ware, Jay Ajayi and Mark Ingram are just a few top 20 RBs who failed to score even one point, and Ingram even had a negative week in Week 8!).

Wide Receivers

WR is not much better, as the zero-shaped turd that Brandin Cooks put up this week cost a lot of owners a win (including yours truly, who lost by less than one point AND had Michael Thomas on the bench. Oh Fantasy Football, why must you torment me so?”) but that is in addition to the zeros put up by A.J. Green among other examples.

Quarterbacks

Even the “reliable” position of QB has a bunch of top-20 QBs who have put up zeros. Okay, you knew about Tom Brady long in advance. You also probably knew about Luck and Roethlisberger not starting before their games began, but a) how easy is it to find a decent replacement in those deep leagues, especially during a bye week and b) no, I don’t consider Scott Tolzien or Landry Jones a decent replacement. And even if we do, is it worth dropping a player from your team to pick them up? Not in a deep league.

So, deep leaguers, let’s give kickers a little respect! Otherwise, we might see more videos like this one…

Need a kicker?  Try My Playbook to find additional deep league kicker options.

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg remembers making Jerry Rice his first round selection as well as taking a flyer on a young pitcher named Doug Drabek. His Fantasy analysis has spanned multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and even golf. A FSWA finalist, his fantasy analysis has been featured in various outlets including but not limited to SI.com, USA Today national magazines, Yahoo! and RotoExperts.

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