Why You Should (Try To) Stop Disrespecting Your Kicker & Team Defense

Shawn Childs

FFWC Target Points Series
QB | RB1 & RB2 | RB3 & RB4 | WR1 & WR2 | WR3 & WR4 | TE | Flex | K & DST

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. Let me help you identify difference makers at both positions.

Top 12 Kicker fantasy point (FP) totals (2016 – 2019)

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Kicker: I know many fantasy owners don't respect the position. Over the last four years, the top kicker in the league averaged over 10.9 FPs per week. The gap from the top kicker to the 12th-ranked kicker typically falls in a 40 to 45 point range (45.6 in 2017, 45.3 in 2018, and 41.7 in 2019). Kickers are often a very frustrating part of the game. Last year the average top 12 kickers averaged 147.63 FPs for the season and 9.23 FPs per week in leagues that awarded three points for each field goal plus 0.1 points for each additional yard from the 30-yard line.

FFWC Point Totals Kicker Observations

The goal is to score more than nine FPs every week from the kicker position. 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. If you play matchups, you will get many weeks wrong while hitting on some weeks. The trick when playing matchups is finding a way to outscore the top kicking options over the long haul. The key to finding the right kicker lies in identifying a solid defensive team with an above-average offense. Turnovers create scoring opportunities while a strong defense removes some of the need to score TDs when playing from the lead. There will be times when playing weekly matchups when a highly-ranked defense will also deliver a strong game from their kicker as long as the defense produces turnovers. There's no exact science and even recent results are far from a perfect predictor for future performance. Play the percentages and monitor offenses that leave something to be desired in red zone efficiency. 

Kickers 13 to 24 fantasy point totals (2016 – 2019)

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The difference from the top-12 kickers to the next 12 kickers in most seasons is about two FPs per week. If a fantasy owner doesn’t address a failing kicker, he could give away 50-plus points throughout the season. Put another way, a drop-down at a position (such as an edge created by an RB1 over an RB2).

Top 12 Defense fantasy point totals (2016 – 2019)

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Defense/Special Teams Position: There is such a wide range of scoring systems out there in fantasy football that it is tough to pinpoint an exact draft value. A top defense can be an edge if they deliver on your expectations. Most leagues award points for sacks, interceptions, fumbles, defensive TDs, and return TDs. The FFWC rewards a fantasy owner only slightly for holding their opponent to a low game score. In 2019, the top 12 defenses averaged about 138.25 FPs or about 8.64 points per week. The 12th-ranked fantasy defense last year scored only 117 FPs, or 69 FPs fewer than the top-ranked defense (New England). The Patriots held a 26 FP edge over the second-ranked fantasy defense.

FFWC Point Totals Defense Observations

I know 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 QB, you might need to own three QBs. If you have a stud, 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 up for the stretch run.

Defenses 13 to 24 fantasy point totals (2016 – 2019)

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In the FFWC scoring, there was a lot of mediocrity (5.05 FPs per week) at the defensive position in 2018 after the top 12 options. Last year the gap from 13th to 24th was 25 FPs with a net gain overall of this group by 1.14 FPs per 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 defense late 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 right answers. Other weeks there will be one or even no correct plays. 

If you wait at running back or wide receiver, you can end up with too many similar players, which leads to tough rosters 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 succeed 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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