By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
I rarely talk about kickers. But when I do, it’s to make fun of them.
Do you think a year-end recap will be any different?
Yes, it’s pretty clear I don’t like kickers. Nothing against them as people (I’m sure many of them are a delight, and I’ve become quite fond of a few punters recently through their social media accounts), but as a position, they’re frustrating.
We watch football because it’s exciting. Players hit each other, often violently, and there’s an exhilarating feeling in that. When a kicker kicks a ball, I usually just mutter something along the lines of, “He did his job.” Or, if they miss, “You had one %$&@!$# job!”
Colorful, I know. But it’s true. This frustration leads me to disregard the position altogether when I do my rankings. I do a preseason rank, which really means nothing, because the kickers that usually end up doing the best are ones that play on high scoring teams or ones that are red zone inept. And those scenarios are hard to predict at the outset of the season, but usually take shape after week 4. Prime examples – the top two scorers from 2016, Justin Tucker (Ravens ranked 25th in NFL with 2.9 scoring attempts in the red zone in 2016) and Matt Bryant (Falcons ranked 2nd).
It’s hard for me to fathom the idea of taking a kicker in a fantasy draft before round 14 (usually it’s 16, but we use keepers in Club Fantasy leagues, so that sometimes alters a kicker’s draft position). Take the consensus, number one ranked kicker going into 2016 fantasy drafts, Stephen Gostkowski. He’s been the model of consistency among fantasy kickers over recent years, but 2016 was hardly his year. He finished 13th and averaged less than eight points per game. And people selected him as high as the 8th round!
If you took a kicker as high as the 8th round, you likely missed out on some highly productive players like Matt Ryan (13th round), Melvin Gordon (9th), Jay Ajayi (10th), LeGarrette Blount (10th), Spencer Ware (10th), and Martellus Bennett (12th). Sure, there were a lot of players who were selected in those rounds that bombed as well. But would you rather miss on a bench player who you’re not expecting to make more than one or two starts in a year for your team, or a player you’re drafting to play 15 games for you?
And to throw salt on the wound, the position took a hit when the NFL moved the point after touchdown, or PAT, back starting in 2015. In 2014, NFL kickers missed a total of eight PATs. When the PAT became the equivalent of a 33-yard field goal, kickers missed 71. That number rose to 77 in 2016. And now that PATs are from 33 yards out, many leagues penalize kickers three points for a miss instead of the usual one. That’s a big difference in your weekly scoring!
If you take anything from this recap, it’s to stop wasting quality mid-round picks in your fantasy draft on kickers that are too unpredictable, and go for broke on players that are equally as unpredictable but provide a better reward if you hit on them. You may even borrow my draft day mantra: For God sake’s just wait on a kicker!
Below are how the kickers of 2016 finished. Scoring is from weeks 1-16 and scoring is in Club Fantasy format: