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:

2007

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

2006

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

2005

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

2007

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

2006

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

2005

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