The fantasy football season is quickly approaching, and it is time to get your fantasy football cheat sheets together. Although there is still a lot of time before the NFL season kicks off (if it kicks off), it is never too early to do your homework. These are just the first round of fantasy football rankings, and there will undoubtedly be some developments during the offseason that will shake up the rankings.
How the rankings work: Every year when we get together to make our fantasy football positional rankings, projections and cheat sheet we have to take a few variables into consideration. We calculate fantasy football strength of schedules for certain players and teams, decide a realistic number of games for injury-prone players and take into account the supporting cast for each player.
As the season progresses you will be able to see the change in rankings as we continue to tweak the projections.
Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Kickers 1.0
Ah yes, the kicker. The kicker is sometimes the forgotten hero and oftentimes the thorn in your side. I have never been a fan of kickers and often have preferred leagues sans the kicking specialists. They do represent a major piece to the puzzle in leagues that require them, however. Every year there are one or two kickers that are solid contributors week in and week out, but more often than not kickers go hot and cold depending on their matchups.
The tentative list of kickers now will be mostly based on last year’s ending position, combined with their fantasy strength of schedule for the upcoming 2011 season. So without further ado...
1. David Akers, PHL
Akers has been a consistent fantasy kicker for the entirety of his career. Although he has missed some time due to injury in the past and saw his team draft a kicker in the fourth round, Akers should stay one of the best kickers in fantasy.
Akers missed six kicks in 2010, none of which were less than 30 yards. There was one very poor performance from Akers last season in a 37-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons. In that game Akers missed three field goals, one from 50-plus. Still, Akers should be able to hold up for another year, but in the case he starts to show his age, you might want to look toward Alex Henery on the waiver wire. BYE: Week 7
2. Josh Brown, STL
Brown is one of the more accurate kickers in the NFL, even at long distances. Last season Brown missed only three of his 13 kicks from 40-plus after a disastrous start to 2010. The issue with Brown is that the Rams do not put him many positions to add points via his toe.
This year Brown will have an easier schedule as a kicker and will be playing for a much-improved offense. Brown could be a regular fixture on your team, making you only change kickers one time in 2011. BYE: Week 5
3. Neil Rackers, HOU
Rackers is automatic from within 40 yards, as most NFL kickers should be. He is tested and proven and plays for an improving offense and will kick with perfect conditions for the majority of the season. Last season Rackers was the eighth-best kicker in fantasy, and he should again be in the top 10 with potential for top five. It is still very early to make any assumptions, but I think if you don’t draft Akers or Brown, you may be forced to go with a kicker based on matchups week to week. BYE: Week 11
4. Matt Bryant, ATL
The Falcons will put Bryant in position to make kicks just about every game. A kicker playing for a high-octane offense will usually be a league leader in points, especially if he is as sure of a thing from close up as Bryant is.
The issue I have with Bryant is the increased difficulty of his schedule this season. You can expect that the Falcons offense could only be better with the additions of rookies Julio Jones and even Jacquizz Rodgers. Bryant isn’t as great from long distance, however, so if the Falcons aren’t breaking the red zone, his stock will drop. BYE: Week 8
5. Nate Kaeding, SD
Kaeding had a down year in 2010, missing three games via injury, and really struggled kicking from 50-plus yards. Playing for the Chargers should automatically put Kaeding in the top 10 every year, but last season his points per game average made Kaeding only the 17th-ranked kicker in the NFL. The Chargers offense was almost too good and didn’t need Kaeding as much as projected.
I am hesitant to say Kaeding is the best fantasy kicking prospect going into the season because he has yet to really impress as a fantasy starter. BYE: Week 7
6. Sebastian Janikowski, OAK
Janikowski used to be known for his ability to hit the long field goals but saw his accuracy from 40-plus drop 20 percent in 2010 from 2009. BYE: Week 8
7. Rob Bironas, TEN:
One of the NFL’s most accurate kickers and comes with a big leg. The issue will be whether or not the Titans quarterback (insert random name here) can get Bironas close enough. BYE: Week 6
8. Billy Cundiff, BAL
He became extremely valuable thanks to his penchant for causing touchbacks, and Cundiff was also fairly accurate. BYE: Week 5
9. Shaun Suisham, PIT
It is very tough to kick at Heinz Field—just ask Kris Brown and Jeff Reed. Suisham came in and performed admirably for the Steelers but missed some kicks in garbage games at the end of the year. Suisham could be in for a big year fantasy-wise, but that is only if he can stay on the active roster. Considering Suisham doesn’t have the best track record, you may want to keep an eye on him this offseason. BYE: Week 11
10. Stephen Gostkowski, NE
Missed most of 2010 with injury—should be back as one of the NFL’s best. BYE: Week 7
11. Mason Crosby, GB: BYE: Week 9
12. David Buehler, DAL: BYE: Week 5
13. Dan Carpenter, MIA: BYE: Week 5
14. Adam Vinatieri, IND: BYE: Week 11
15. Nick Folk, NYJ: BYE: Week 8
16. Jeff Reed, SF: BYE: Week 7
17. Garrett Hartley, NO: BYE: Week 11
18. Clint Stitser, CIN: BYE: Week 7
19. Phil Dawson, CLE: BYE: Week 5
20. Jay Feely, ARZ: BYE: Week 6
21. Graham Gano, WAS: BYE: Week 5
22. Lawrence Tynes, NYG: BYE: Week 7
23. Connor Barth, TB: BYE: Week 8
24. Josh Scobee, JAX: BYE: Week 9
25. Robbie Gould, CHI: BYE: Week 8
26. Olindo Mare, SEA: BYE: Week 6
27. Matt Prater, DEN: BYE: Week 6
28. Ryan Succop, KC: BYE: Week 6
29. Rian Lindell, BUF: BYE: Week 7
30. John Kasay, CAR: BYE: Week 9
31. Ryan Longwell, MIN: BYE: Week 9
32. Jason Hanson, DET: BYE: Week 9
Notable Free Agents and Rookies
Alex Henery, PHL: BYE: Week 7
John Carney, NO: BYE: Week 11