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Kickers and Defenses and Clowns, Oh My!

We’ve all participated in clowning the first person to draft a K or DEF, but maybe we’re the clowns…

The standard wisdom is don’t draft a K or DEF until the last two rounds, but are there exceptions to this rule? After all, a fantasy point is a fantasy point is a fantasy point whether it comes from a RB or a WR or a K. As you know, we don’t care how many points a player scores, we only care how many more points he scores than the average player. Put another way, if your RB scores 2 points more than your opponent’s RB and your K scores 2 points more than your opponent’s K then your RB and K are equally valuable (that week).

The traditional advice regarding K and DEF is based around the idea that, while top K’s and DEF’s are valuable, it’s difficult to predict who the top ones will be. But is that really true? We can be reasonably confident that David Johnson will finish near the top of RB’s and Antonio Brown will finish near the top of WR’s, but how confident can we be that Justin Tucker or Stephen Gostkowski will finish near the top of the K rankings?

Let’s look at Stephen Gostkowski’s results from 2009 to 2015 and see where his final rank among K’s was.

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
2 13 2 1 1 1 1

So what does this tell us? That person who reached to draft Stephen Gostkowski might not be a clown after all… depending on how far they reached. Pretty impressive. Outside of finishing 13th in 2010, Gostkowski finished as the 1st or 2nd best kicker 6 out of 7 years! But what about 2016?? Well, he fell to 9th. But 6 out of 8 is still pretty good! After four years as the top K, I’d say we can forgive a lowly 9th place finish. After all, some RB’s and WR’s fall off after a good year as well (hello Todd Gurley and Allen Robinson!) After Gostkowski, the next few K spots show some consistency, but not nearly as much, then it declines pretty rapidly.

There are a lot of other factors to consider like week-to-week consistency, upside potential, points for long field goals, and on and on, but we can generally say that we would advocate “reaching” for a *top* K if one critical condition exists… you believe the other players you want to draft will still be available for your last pick. For example, if you want Rex Burkhead and Josh Docston as your sleepers, you can probably get them in the last two rounds. If you believe that to be true, then you might as well grab a top K or DEF a couple rounds early because you can still get your sleepers later. If you’re weak at a position, though, like RB or WR, don’t play around! Keep grabbing bench depth with high upside, because if one of those players hits (Doug Baldwin or Devonta Freeman a few years ago or Will Fuller last year) that player’s value will more than trump the top K’s value. If you’re confident in your starting RB and WR though, feel free to jump up a round or two and draft a K or DEF that you feel strongly about. After all, value comes from getting the top players at a position, even if that position is K or DEF.