Last Spring I wrote my first article for DLF and simultaneously embarked on a personal crusade to convince the fantasy world to rid itself of something that seems to be equally enduring and worthless, the kicker. Change is difficult and by nature we tend to resist it. For that reason, it was no surprise that my first article stirred up some strong feelings and lots of debate.
Now that it has been several months and the idea has sunk in a bit, it is time to revisit it. If you’re already on board with the idea, I hope that this article combined with the original and the one recently published will help you convince your leagues. If this is the first you’ve heard of the idea or you’re against it, all that I ask is that you take a breath and read this with an open mind. Change isn’t for everyone, and maybe you love your current system, but give me a chance to convince you to Kick the Kicker!
If you haven’t read the original article, go back and take a look at it, especially at the four reasons that people want to keep kickers. If you or someone in your league wants to keep kickers, it is probably for one of those reasons. Ask yourself, “Is it really a good reason?”
This two part series will look at the primary characteristics that we, as dynasty owners, hold in the highest regard: predictability of production and consistency of production. We want a player that will produce at a high level each and every year as well as from one week to the next instead of a one hit wonder. We also want to be able to predict when a player is going to see a sudden uptick in production, when it will continue at the same level, and when that production is going to drop off a cliff. It is only when we have consistent production that we can accurately predict that we can get real value out of a dynasty asset, so let’s see what happens when we apply those ideas to kickers.
Just to be clear, here were the ground rules that were used to evaluate the scoring of the kickers:
- In order to keep the scoring basic, all field goals were 3 points and extra points were 1. I did look at distance scoring briefly, but the vast majority of kickers were within 1 place regardless of the scoring method and the top 12 was still the same top 12 in 2012. Lawrence Tynes, Shayne Graham, and David Akers were the only kickers to fall more than one place in the rankings when distance scoring was used. Blair Walsh and Connor Barth were the only ones to gain more than one place in the rankings.
- Individual players were used as opposed to team kickers. Team kickers seem to be in the minority.
- All averages were calculated over a 16 game season. If a kicker missed a game due to injury or if their team was shut out, that was included.
- I will be focusing on the top 12 kickers since 12 team leagues are the happy medium and the vast majority of teams only carry one kicker on their roster at a time.
If we make the assumption you can actually predict which kicker will have a banner year (see the previous article for how unlikely this is), what exactly would that do for you? In order to answer that question, let’s focus on consistency for now, first consistency throughout the years, and later in this article consistency from week to week. The original article identified that kickers are extremely inconsistent from year to year with only six kickers that placed in the top 12 kickers three times or more over the past 5 seasons (2007-2011 seasons). This is just in the top 12, or the upper third, which isn’t saying a whole lot. The six were Mason Crosby (all five seasons), Akers (four), Stephen Gostkowski (four), Matt Bryant (four), Nate Kaeding (three), and Rob Bironas (three).
If we expand on that work and add in the 2012 season, the most consistent of the six, Crosby, wasn’t even close to the top 12. In fact he finished in the bottom half of kickers in the league. Not only that, but he was under 64% on the year and might lose his job as a result. Overall, that means he has equal numbers of top 3 finishes (just one) over the last six years as he has finishes in outside of the top 12. The other four seasons he finished near the bottom part of the top 12 even though the Packers have consistently been a top offense over the last few years.
Akers is next on the list and had been the most consistent kicker over the previous five seasons. Like Crosby, he struggled in 2012. He made just under 70% of his field goals, which isn’t anywhere near good, but managed to barely make it into the top 12 kickers based on bulk and extra points. To make matters worse, there is talk that the 49ers might decide to move on from him in the offseason or sooner. Regardless, of how he did it, this makes it five out of six seasons in the top 12, but 2012 was a bit of a letdown.
Gostkowski is one of the two kickers from the “good” six that actually produced in 2012. The other was Bryant. Both of them managed to place in the top 3 this season. Keep in mind, top 3 really just means that they are scoring you roughly 1 point more per week than the average top 12 kicker. Not that big of an advantage.
Kaeding and Bironas were both disappointments this year but for different reasons than Crosby and Akers. Kaeding hardly played this year after getting injured, waived, and then struggling to find a new team. Bironas had some accuracy issues, but also was a part of a bad offense. Neither of them were near the top 12 this season.
Looking at the “reliable” six that we had, only one third of them actually managed to produce at a level that was above the average of the top 12 this year. That doesn’t say much to the year to year consistency for the position.
Let’s take a look at the weekly consistency of kickers and see if that is any better. If there is a way to predict the “hot” kickers for the season, then an advantage can be gained week in and week out. Since the average points in a week for a kicker seem to be between 8 and 9 points, we will consider any score of a 10 or better to be a plus week, and anything at a 7 or less to be a minus week. A kicker that was equally above average and below average or that was just average every week should have a season total of 0. This will allow us to take a look at which kickers were actually consistently better than average on a weekly basis instead of having one week with 18 points and two weeks at 3 points, which gives us an average of 8 even though two of the three weeks were below average.
I expanded the sample to look at all of the kickers that had more than 10 games played, just to get a bit larger look at kickers as a whole and their weekly consistency. Remember their score represents how many more weeks they were above the average than below it. Of the entire group of kickers, only two of them, that’s a whopping 6%, had scores of 2 or better. It isn’t really a surprise that the two are Gostkowski with a score of 6, and Bryant with a score of 2. Six of the kickers, or 19%, had scores that were either -1. 0, or 1 meaning they were above average pretty much the exact same number of times as they were below average. The all of the other kickers were all -2 or lower.
That makes perfect sense when you consider that if a kicker is going to excel when it comes to scoring fantasy points, he needs one of two things to be true. He either needs to be on an offense that scores a massive number of points or on an offense that can move the ball but struggles in the red zone. An offense that does one or the other week in and week out is pretty rare, making the kickers very up and down. They might have 4 field goals and 3 extra points one week and then 5 extra points the next. The team actually does better, but the kicker does worse, in the second case.
What does all of this tell us if only 6% of NFL kickers are consistently above average week in and week out, and that very few kickers actually post top 12 numbers year in and year out? It tells us that the position as a whole is extremely inconsistent. That isn’t just from year to year but even week to week. If consistent production is one thing that we, as fantasy owners, want from our players, then we need to seriously look at the kicker position as a whole because the position itself just doesn’t fit.
This lack of consistency in the kicking position is yet another reason that you should do yourself a favor. Kick the Kicker from your fantasy leagues this offseason!