During a draft, a kicker is the last thought on anyone's mind. Kicker remains a position in fantasy because the scoring is simple.
The difference between the No. 1 kicker every year and the middle of the pack is around one point a week. One point! It makes no sense to waste an earlier draft pick until the rest of the fantasy roster has settled. If not for leagues that require drafting a legal starting lineup, owners might be better off not drafting one at all, and instead picking one up before your Week 1 roster deadline.
One still has to be drafted, so let's take a closer look at the best kicker draft strategies, notables at the position and the complete rankings and projections for the 2013 starters.
Kicker draft strategies
1. Pick your kicker last. Everyone should be well-versed with this one by now.
2. Take a kicker with a late bye week. It's easiest to pick a kicker who you don't have to touch until late in the fantasy regular season. By then, everyone will have likely have settled on their kicker, and you can pick one up off the waiver wire without much resistance. The best of the late bye-week kickers are: Stephen Gostkowski (Week 10), Dan Bailey (Week 11) and Steven Hauschka (Week 12). If they are off the board, other alternatives are Alex Henery (Week 12), Mike Nugent (Week 12) and Greg Zuerlein (Week 11).
3. Take the kicker from offensive juggernauts. This is pretty obvious: The more an offense scores, the more action a kicker will get. The eight highest-scoring teams a year ago were (in order) New England, Denver, New Orleans, Washington, Green Bay, N.Y. Giants, Atlanta and Houston. Among those, the Redskins, Giants and Texans kickers are likely to be on the board through the last pick of the draft. Take one of them and be happy with the position.
4. Pick a kicker who will get FG chances. The caveat with strategy No. 3 is that an extra point just isn't as good as a field-goal for your fantasy kicker. Since NFL's offenses revolve around quarterback play, target a kicker from a team that has a great running game and a quarterback that doesn't excel at throwing touchdown passes. For example, look at Blair Walsh and the Minnesota Vikings, or the Houston Texans (Randy Bullock) or maybe even the Kansas City Chiefs (Ryan Succop) this year.
5. Know the strong-legged kickers. For those leagues that reward bonus points for field goals over 40 and 50 yards, know which kickers get the most of those chances and are most accurate at that distance. Walsh, Phil Dawson, Zuerlein, Robbie Gould, Justin Tucker and still Sebastian Janikowski are the best from distance.
• Reach: Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders. The Florida State Seminole is still likely to be picked in many leagues because he has a big name and does still have a strong leg, but that Raiders offense is a crapshoot. Let someone "cool" kicker and just pick one that will actually get some consistent opportunities.
• Steal: Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers. Because he comes from the fantasy obscurity that is Cleveland, Dawson is likely to be overlooked on draft day. He won't be No. 1 on anyone's board at the position -- are there even kicker "boards?" -- but he stands a great chance to get the most opportunities in the entire NFL. He has a solid, accurate leg and can enjoy a breakthrough finally kicker for a contender.
• Injury-risk: Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears. Gould is coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him drop almost 30 points off his scoring total. Now, the Bears turn to an offensive-minded coach in Marc Trestman, who should pick up the offensive pace and production. Gould might not get picked as a starter, but I bet he winds up becoming a steady one again this season.
• Top rookie: Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins. After a legendary year for rookie kickers like Walsh, Justin Tucker and Legatron, Zuerlein, an owner might be inclined to jump on a next big thing. That would be the fifth-round pick Sturgis, who beat out Dan Carpenter to be the Dolphin's placekicker this season. Dustin Hopkins, the only other kicker drafted (Round 6), still hasn't beaten out Rian Lindell. Either way, neither offense will make either kicker a top-15 scorer. Sturgis is merely a bye-week replacement.
Kicker tier explanations
1. Difference-makers. After talking about how a kicker doesn't matter, this top group comprises those that can be noticeably more consistently productive because of their talent and the productive teams they kick for.
2. Sure draftees. This second set shouldn't be picked before the last round, but they're all a pretty good bet to get selected in all drafts.
3. Likely draftees. Despite some up-and-down seasons, this final pair of starters warrant getting picked on name recognition and the potent offenses that will get them scoring opportunities on a weekly basis.
4. Starter-worthy options. These guys might not get picked in drafts but they stand a very good chance to prove productive in certain weeks throughout the season. You can draft one of these guys, but you won't be happy with their production every week. There are going to be some lean weeks.
Kicker rankings and projections
|Fantasy football kicker rankings and projections for 2013|
Check back all preseason for updates
Best of the rest
• Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals
• Nick Folk, New York Jets
• Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers
• Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs
• Shayne Graham, Cleveland Browns
• Josh Scobee, Jacksonville Jaguars
• Rian Lindell, Buffalo Bills
• Dan Carpenter, free agent
• Dustin Hopkins, Buffalo Bills
• David Buehler, New York Giants