Fantasy Football Rankings: How to Choose Your Kicker

Andrew NortonCorrespondent IIISeptember 17, 2011

Fantasy Football Rankings: How to Choose Your Kicker

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    Nobody is perfect. But I mean, let’s face it, I’m pretty goddamn close. However, a few of my blog's readers have found a flaw from last week and that would be my kicker rankings. In fact, for nearly every single fantasy football blog or advice site you go to, you will see that this is the weak point. I don’t want to say that it is impossible, but really, there is so much inconsistency that luck plays about 90 percent of the role.

    Why is it so damn hard to predict? In 2010, nine kickers averaged eight-plus fantasy points per game. Only one player on that list also had eight-plus points in 2009, David Akers. Also, the difference between the fifth highest scoring kicker from 2010 and the 15th highest scorer was a mere one fantasy point per game. Just one.

    But I'm the author of an advice site. And you came here for advice. So I will advise. Though there has never been, and likely never will be an accurate system for picking kicker performance, I’ve been trying to find any sort of formula to accurately predict kickers. Below are a few strategies that might be worth your while. Best of luck to you.

Strategy 1: Playing the Kicker on the Highest-Powered Offense

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    As previously stated, nine kickers averaged over eight fantasy points per game last season. Sebastian Janikowski, David Akers, Josh Brown, Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Neil Rackers, Dan Carpenter, Nick Folk and David Buelher. Just to round this out and have an even number, Mason Crosby would be the 10th highest scorer.

    Of these 10 kickers, seven* of them were on one of the 2010's top 10 highest scoring offenses. So, if you are going strictly by top scoring team, you can see that you stand roughly a 70 percent chance of having a highly-rated kicker.

    *The kickers from the Patriots (highest scoring team) and Giants (eighth highest scoring) would probably have made the top 10 kickers if their seasons were not shortened by injury, which would increase this number to either 80 or 90 percent.

    These are statistics from the 2010 season, so predicting the highest scoring offenses in 2011 is where this strategy gets tricky. It is possible to single out the powerhouses, though, and choosing their kicker to be your starter is the strategy that I have always gone by.

    Using this strategy, it is safe to assume that kickers like Gostkowski (Patriots), Crosby (Packers), Henery (Eagles), Bryant (Falcons), Janikowski (Raiders) and Rackers (Texans) would be among the top 2011 performers when all is said and done.

    In Week 1 of the NFL, five of the top scoring fantasy kickers were on the top 10 scoring teams.

Strategy 2: Picking Your Kicker Based on Matchup

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    This is wild, and I have never tried it or really heard anyone who has tried it, but it could be worth a shot. We all factor in the opponent for every other position. If your running back is going up against a team that is fantastic at stopping the run, you might think twice about using him. I have used the Shuffling Defense Strategy for years, playing a different defense every week based solely on the offense that they are up against. So, will this work for kickers?

    Here is a list of the 2010 defenses that allowed the most field goals (extra points do not come into play):

    1. Arizona Cardinals (40)
    2. Tennessee Titans (39)
    3. St. Louis Rams (35)
    4. Indianapolis Colts (31)
    5. Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos (29)
    6. Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins (28)

    We can see that this list isn't exactly the best defenses. In sorting by points per game allowed, six of the 11 teams made the list. Sorting by yards per game, five of the 11 made the list. So, while they are not the best defenses in the league, they are also not the worst. Predicting the defenses that will let teams march down the field, but hold them out of the end zone, is a bit dicey.

    It is also likely not a good idea to run off of the previous season's numbers. Of the 11 teams listed above that gave up the most field goals in 2010, only four of them made the top 10 in 2009.

    Just for fun, though, let's compare last year's results with the outcome of Week 1 this season. Only three of the top performing kickers of Week 1 (Janikowski, Scobee and Rackers) played against these teams. So much for that strategy.

Strategy 3) Basing Your Kicker Predictions Simply on the Kicker

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    We previously listed the top fantasy point-producing kickers of 2010, so you don't have to scroll back up, here they are again: Sebastian Janikowski, David Akers, Josh Brown, Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Neil Rackers, Dan Carpenter, Nick Folk, David Buelher and Mason Crosby.

    So, here's a novel fantasy kicker strategy, why not base it on the kicker's 2010 performance? Seems like a no-brainer because that is what we do with every other position, right? Not so much. This seems to be the strategy most often used among fantasy football players. There is no real way to predict, so just go out and grab a name that sounds familiar. Well, I'd advise against that.

    Of the top 10 scoring kickers from last season, only three made the top 10 performers of Week 1. David Buelher isn't even the Cowboys' kicker any more. And as stated at the beginning of the article, only one of the top-performing kickers from 2009 repeated as a top performer from 2011.

How to Choose Your Fantasy Kicker Wrap-Up

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    In conclusion, of the three strategies listed above, playing the kicker of the highest scoring offense seems to be the way to go. In Week 1 of the 2011 season, this paid off 50 percent of the time. And in 2010, 70 percent of the highest scoring kickers (higher if it weren't for injuries) played for the highest scoring teams. Compare that data to the 30 percent success rate in Week 1, and the 40 percent and 10 percent success rate, respectively, from 2009 to 2010 of the two other strategies.

    And really, since the margin separating 2010's highest scoring kicker from the 17th highest scoring kicker was only 39 points, I am happy to accept that no strategy might be the best strategy. 

    If you have run across a better formula for finding your starting kicker, by all means, please post it in the comments. But for now, I will be running with the strategy that I have since my very first fantasy football team: The best offense often provides the best kicker.


    For expert one-on-one fantasy football advice and more articles like this one, including breakdowns on offensive position rankings, fantasy draft strategy, player profiles, fantasy football sleepers and busts and much more, visit Incomparable fantasy info so you stop sucking.