In fantasy football, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people start drafting kickers and defenses in the seventh and eighth rounds. Kickers and defenses should be the last two positions that you draft for your roster and should not be taken before the last three or four rounds of your draft. The people that take kickers and defenses extremely early have no idea what they are doing when it comes to fantasy. These people never win their leagues. Don’t be one of these people.
There is one kicker this year that is worthy of an early pick and that is Justin Tucker. Since he came into the league in 2012, Tucker has proven that he is far and away the best kicker in the game, and he can lead your team to a fantasy championship. However, in my opinion, you should still not use a pick on Tucker before the tenth round.
If Tucker is still available in the tenth round, I am taking advantage of it. In the seventh and eighth rounds, when a lot of people are beginning to take their kickers, there is still so much talent and depth on the board. Players such as Zach Ertz, Tyrell Williams, and DeVante Parker, all whom I like more, are all currently being drafted after Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski, and Mason Crosby.
Personally, I like drafting my kickers before my defense because I find kickers to be more predictable and consistent than defenses. Sometimes its not a bad strategy, if your league allows it, to not even draft a kicker or defense. I have done this in the past so that I could have an extra running back, receiver, or tight end on my roster coming out of the draft. This allowed me to have more options heading into week one. Then, right before week one started I dropped the guy I liked the least for the position that I needed. Many experts in the industry are known to do this too.
I will explain what I look for in a kicker and a defense below but you can view my mid-training camp rankings here. I will be updating my rankings one last time after the final preseason games.
First, lets discuss kickers. The top guys, like Justin Tucker, Matt Bryant, and Dan Bailey are slam dunks year after year. Some of you may be wondering why Stephen Gostkowski wasn’t listed. I have him ranked as my number two kicker but that is mainly due to volume. Gostkowski’s 84.4% field goal percentage in 2016 was his lowest since 2012 and that doesn’t include his three missed extra points. Gostkowski might be past his prime at this point and the risk involved with him is exactly why you should not be drafting a kicker early.
After the top kickers, here is what I look for. Guys on teams with high-powered offenses. This isn’t rocket science. The better offenses score more and are going to be in field goal range more. The kickers for the Saints, Packers, Lions, Steelers, and Raiders are going to get boosts in this category. This is just to name a few, and there are a few others who I did not mention.
I also look for kickers who are on teams that have trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone. This is part of the reason of why Justin Tucker is so valuable. He is a great kicker nonetheless, but the fact that the Ravens can’t score most weeks only increases the number of points Tucker puts up.
Kickers on teams that don’t turn the ball over are at an advantage as well. The kicker that gets the biggest boost in my opinion is Ryan Succop for the Titans. Marcus Mariota has never thrown an interception in the red zone ever. This is huge for a kicker when you know that easy points aren’t going to be taken away from you because of a turnover.
The last thing I look at for kickers is weather and where they play. I give a slight boost to kickers who play in warm weather or play in a dome. You would prefer to not have your fantasy championship on the line in Buffalo with 25-mile-per-hour winds with snow. You would much rather have it come down to sunny and 60 degrees in Florida, or indoors if you can help it. Brandon McManus also gets a boost here due to playing in Denver with the altitude and the ability to hit 50+ yard field goals consistently.
For teams that go for two-point conversions more than normal (Pittsburgh), I drop their kickers a few spots in my rankings due to easy points being taken away from them.
Like I stated above, Kickers are fairly easy to predict. If you follow the guidelines I spelled out above, you should be fine at the kicker position. When it comes to defenses, they are much harder to predict.
Last season, Jacksonville was expected to be one of the better defenses in the league. They ended the season as one of the worst. The same can be said about the Rams. On the other hand, the Chargers were expected to be a bottom five defense in the league and they ended as a top 12 fantasy defense last season. Defenses are very unpredictable from year to year, and is the one fantasy position that players can stream from week to week if needed. If you don’t feel comfortable streaming your defenses every week, here are a few things that you should look for in a defense.
Obviously the biggest thing is sacks and turnovers. This can be a reward for giving up more points, or just put you over the top if the defense doesn’t give up many points. When it comes to turnovers, this also increases the likelihood of defensive touchdowns.
Side note: Don’t overdraft Seattle’s defense. Year after year, Seattle is the most over-drafted defense due to their reputation. In reality, they are a great “real football” defense, but they are not a great fantasy football defense. They get a decent number of sacks, but they do not force turnovers and rack up fantasy points.
The second thing I look for is a team with a dynamic return game. A team like the Chiefs is a great example. Teams who score on special teams are extremely valuable and can win you a fantasy matchup or even an entire league.
The last thing I look at is defenses for teams that have great offenses. Teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers are going to score a lot of points. This is going to force opposing offenses into predictable passing situations in an attempt to keep up with or catch up to their offenses. This makes it easier on the defense and increases the chances of sacks and turnovers.
There isn’t much else to discuss when it comes to defenses. My recommendation is that you either take one of the top four or five defenses, or wait until the very end and potentially stream them every week.
Image Credit: Bleacher Report