Fantasy forecast

All veteran fantasy football GMs know the age-old maxim: never draft a kicker or defense until the last picks of your draft. With rare exception, this is an immutable law of fantasy football; but is it sound advice?

I researched the issue, so I instructed the Sports Grumblings' computer, Mighty Max, to pull up the top 12 kickers, by season, since 2005. For this example, we're using the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCOFF) scoring for kickers:


Mason Crosby, GB: 156 Rob Bironas, Ten: 150 Nick Folk, Dal 142 Josh Brown, Sea: 141 Stephen Gostkowski, NE: 140 Jason Hanson, Det: 139 Robbie Gould, Chi: 138 Shayne Graham, Cin: 136 Kris Brown, Hou: 132 Phil Dawson, Cle: 129 Shaun Suisham, Wsh: 128 Nate Kaeding, SD: 127


Robbie Gould, Chi: 155 Jeff Wilkins, StL : 148 Josh Scobee, Jax: 133 Jason Hanson, Det: 130 Matt Stover, Bal : 129 Shayne Graham, Cin: 125 Joe Nedney, SF: 125 Neil Rackers, Ari: 125 Josh Brown, Sea: 124 Nate Kaeding, SD: 124 Jason Elam, Den: 123 Adam Vinatieri, Ind: 122


Neil Rackers, Ari: 165 Jay Feely, NYG: 162 Shayne Graham, Cin: 138 Jeff Wilkins, StL : 134 Laurence Tynes, KC: 133 John Kasay, Car: 133 Mike Vanderjagt, Ind: 128 Jason Elam, Den: 126 Rian Lindell, Buf: 126 Josh Brown, Sea: 124 Matt Stover, Bal: 124 Jeff Reed, Pit: 123

Looking at the results, we see some interesting trends:

• Over the past three seasons, two kickers made the top 12 each season: Josh Brown and Shayne Graham. This is a return to the norm from last year, when four kickers made the cut.

• No kicker was in the top five all three years.

• While the top kicker's score was varied 6-8 percent in either direction, the 12th-rated kicker's score was amazingly consistent..

• On average, the 12th-rated kicker could be expected to produce close to 77 percent of the top-rated kicker's output.

The lesson: trying to determine the top-rated kicker from season to season is a crapshoot. Furthermore, unlike the other positional players, selecting a "top" kicker isn't likely to result in a top performance. Think about it: we can debate whether LaDanian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook will be the top-rated runner, but we can likely agree that all three will be within the top 12 at their position. No such luck with the kickers.

Many of my readers know that I am a huge proponent of using individual defensive players (IDP) in fantasy leagues; but realizing that many leagues have not seen the light of fantasy football salvation, I'll try to provide some insight into the performance of defense/special teams selections.

Again, I imposed on Mighty Max to provide me with data on defense/special teams fantasy scoring since 2005. The results:


San Diego: 126 New England: 117 Green Bay: 104 Seattle: 99 Dallas: 96 NY Giants: 94 Indianapolis: 88 Tennessee: 84 Jacksonville: 83 Minnesota: 81 Detroit: 80 Chicago: 80


Chicago: 145 Baltimore: 138 San Diego: 103 Minnesota: 101 Tennessee: 98 Miami: 96 Buffalo: 95 Philadelphia: 93 Arizona: 91 Green Bay: 89 Seattle: 88 Pittsburgh: 86


Chicago: 110 NY Giants: 104 Indianapolis: 95 Minnesota: 95 Seattle: 93 Pittsburgh: 93 Jacksonville: 90 Carolina: 89 Tennessee: 89 Miami: 88 Atlanta: 85 St. Louis: 85

Again, some interesting trends are presented by the results:

• Four teams have finished in the top 12 three years running: the Bears, Seahawks, Vikings and Titans.

• No team was in the top five all three years.

• The 12th-ranked team's totals remained within 7 percent of each other..

• On average, the 12th-rated D/ST could be expected to produce about 67 percent of the top-rated D/ST.

These findings would indicate that selecting defensive teams might be a bit easier than kickers in that defensive teams seem to display a bit more consistency amongst the top performers.

OK, all this information is interesting, but does it support the theory that you should wait on kickers and defensive teams in your draft? In general, the closer the 12th-rated spot to the top-rated spot, the longer you can wait to draft that position (especially if the points produced by the position are close). Given kickers and D/ST, the numbers indicate that D/ST should be drafted ahead of kickers.

But what about when these two positions are compared to the other offensive positions? The same type of analysis indicates the following order of value: WR, RR, QB, TE -- and all four shake out ahead of the kickers and defensive teams.

Sometimes, those old age-old maxims actually deserve to be age-old maxims!

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