Each football season, a top kicker or defense can help a fantasy team win three to five matchups. Of the two positions, a defense can create a significant edge if the team chosen delivers a separator score.
Top 12 kicker fantasy point totals (2017 – 2020)
Kickers 1 to 12
Many fantasy owners don't respect kickers. Over the last four years, the top kicker averaged over 10.90 fantasy points per week. The gap from the top kicker to the 12th ranked kicker in most seasons usually falls in a 40 to 45 point range (45.6 in 2017, 45.3 in 2018, 41.7 in 2019, and 38.3 in 2020).
Kickers are often a very frustrating part of the fantasy game. Last year the top 12 kickers averaged 158.92 fantasy points for the season or 9.93 fantasy points per week in leagues that awarded three points for each field goal plus .10 points for each additional yard from the 30 yards line.
The goal is to score more than 9.0 fantasy points every week from your kicker. This target number becomes extremely difficult when you play the same kicker all season long. I'm a one kicker guy as I'm not particularly eager to over-manage the position.
The goal is to beat the medium kicker average by playing matchups while battling the peaks and valleys of chasing the top kicker of the week. The trick when playing matchups is finding a way to outscore the best kicking options over the long haul of the season.
The key to finding the right kicker lies in identifying a team with a good defense with an above-average offense. Turnovers create scoring opportunities, while a strong defense removes some of the need to score touchdowns when playing from the lead. At times during the season, identifying the best defensive team will lead to an excellent game for that team's kicker.
Kickers 13 to 24 fantasy point totals (2017 – 2020)
The difference from the top 12 kickers to the second 12 kickers in most seasons is about two fantasy points per week. If a fantasy owner doesn’t address a failed kicking problem, he could give away 50-plus points throughout the season or a decline at the position (such as an edge created by an RB1 over an RB2).
Top 12 Defense Fantasy Point Totals (2017 – 2020)
Team Defenses 1 to 12
There is such a wide range of scoring systems in fantasy football that it is tough to pinpoint an exact draft value for this position. A top defense can be an edge if they deliver a high number of sacks and turnovers, but scoring touchdowns on special teams or defense create winning fantasy points.
Most leagues award points for sacks, interceptions, fumbles, defensive touchdowns, and return touchdowns.
In 2020, the top 12 defenses averaged about 120.33 fantasy points or about 7.52 points per week. Last year's 12th ranked fantasy defense scored 102.00 fantasy points, 35.00 fantasy points lower than the top-ranked defenses (Colts and Steelers). The Patriots held a 26.00 fantasy point edge over the second-ranked fantasy defense. The gaps from the best defense to the 12th option were much more significant in fantasy points over the past three seasons (2017 – 87, 2018 – 105, and 2019 – 69). Last year's COVID-19 issues may have been a big part of defenses struggling to find their chemistry early in the season.
There are a lot of fantasy owners that like to manage their defenses by matchups. To me, this is another decision that leads to mistakes. I want to own a top defense, but I know I can't overpay, especially in the high-stakes market. The crucial part of most drafts is the 12th round in 12-team leagues. The overall player pool tends to dry up in this area, so it is possible to draft a top defense just after round 12 if you believe they are an edge. By owning multiple defenses, you give up roster depth at other positions. In the end, it comes down to team structure. If you are weak at quarterback, you might need to own three options. If you have a stud quarterback, you only need a backup for a bye week and possible insurance. Early in the season, it is more critical to own roster depth at the vital skill positions. Once you clear the bye weeks, you can reevaluate your team structure to set it up for the stretch run.
Team defenses 13 to 24 fantasy point totals (2017 – 2020)
There was mediocrity in defensive fantasy scoring (5.05 fantasy points per week) at the defensive position in 2018 after the top 12 options. In 2019, the second grouping averaged 6.19 fantasy points, leading to an increase of 1.14 fantasy points per week. Last season, the 13th to 24th ranked defense averaged 5.70 fantasy points each week.
A fantasy owner needs to be alert early in the season for a developing defense. Many times a hot early defense will fade. A fantasy owner should keep an eye open to transition to another option later in the year.
Fantasy football is a game full of decisions. The goal is to draft a team to eliminate as many decisions as possible. If you own a top quarterback, you remove one decision. If you wait at quarterback, you could have a choice between two or three options each week. Some weeks, there will be two correct answers. Other weeks, there will be one or even no winning plays.
If you wait at running back or wide receiver, you can end up with too many similar players, leading to challenging roster decisions each week. By owning too many mediocre players, you have no chance of winning. You need to have edges at different positions, plus you need to have a solid core of players behind your stars. The playing field will change every year, and there is more than one way to develop a winning roster.
To have success in fantasy football, you need to understand the player pool, draft flow, and the value of each player within the draft. Even with plus knowledge, you can still get beat by injuries or when players underperform expectations. By understanding the average points for each position, you will have another tool to help you make winning decisions on draft day.
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Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. A inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!