Better Late than Nev...Okay, fine, its just late. I had a horrible week with school and work, had family visiting, and left my WCG readers in the cold yesterday. To top that off, today my article is going to spoon feed you information about...Kickers? Its almost too much to take. To start repairing the damage, next week we will dive into IDP leagues, and I am taking suggestions on how to fill the rest of the time from now until the draft. Without any FURTHER delay...
To begin, let's refresh some of the scoring parameters: Kickers got 3 pts per field goal, with +2 for each of 50+ yards, and 1 pt for each extra point kick. Missed kicks had no penalties (and usually don't in standardized scoring). D/ST had 2 pts per fumble recovery, 2 per interception, 6 points per TD scored (by the D or ST), 1 pt per sack, 2 pts per safety, and a scaling scoring system based on points and yards against.
I never have much to say about kickers, and Tuesday we will see some IDP write ups, but let's go ahead and get through this segment.
Kickers: Many say always draft your kicker in the last round...I flex to the last 2 rounds, because I am generous, and its nice to have a kicker I've heard of at least, but its a good rule. Kicker performance is so erratic and based more on the rest of the team than their own performance, even good kickers aren't secured enough opportunities some weeks to matter. Worse yet, the point differential between the #1 overall kicker and the #10 overall kicker is probably the smallest differential for any fantasy football position. In 2010 that differential was 29, or about 1.6-1.7 points per week. The 20th ranked kicker was only 45 points off from #1, or 2.6 points per week. Kickers just don't have the predictability, or the point differential by positional ranking, to really matter that much...Still its nice when you have a kicker get 4-5 field goals in one game and get a win for you. With that in mind...I pick kickers based on the offense they play for, more than their skills (unless they are a career sub 78% kicker). In 2010, Janikowski surprised, Rackers was resurgent, Buehler made it in Dallas. Viniateri stayed near the top and so did Akers. Poor Gould dropped off from a fantasy perspective, but his "shorter" career range and the Bears year in year out offensive woes make him miss most top 10 lists anyway, despite being one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL.
D/ST Units: Defenses are also a later round draft choice for most, though its more like 8th round than last, and in some keeper leagues with the right scoring systems they become luxury picks in the 3rd-4th. The top 10 list for 2010 read Pittsburgh, New England, Green Bay, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Atlanta, Oakland, Baltimore, Arizona and New York Giants. I would not have picked that as a top 10 list to start the season, so lets see what happened.
The Usual Suspects: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, the Jets, and our Chicago Bears (more from ST lately though) have all been in the running for top 10 defenses most years.
Back to business: the Giants had an off year (or two), but have had some great talent waiting to have a good fantasy season for a while. Their Defensive Backfield is still weak, but man did they re-vamp that pass rush and front 7 (don't we know it). The New England Patriots got back to their defensive ways, but it did take me by surprise. I thought the defense was missing too much in the area of prime veterans. They have some old guys, and a lot of young guys, but not a lot of 25-29 year old starting studs, and they have been finishing lower defensively the last couple of years...but man did they find a way to make it work, especially in the second half of the season.
Defensive Scoring: Arizona got into the top 10, despite being an awful team that gave up over 21 points in 11 of 16 weeks, because their defense knew how to score. I bet they missed Warner as an offensive compliment, because this D/ST unit scored 12 touchdowns in 2010. Oakland did it with 9 D/ST touchdowns,and had a better season, but still gave up over 21 points in 9 games. Despite reaching top 10, they were horribly erratic fantasy wise, having way more single digit, near negative scoring games than 10+ point games.
Consistency: Atlanta just had a solid, under the radar year. They only gave up over 21 points 4 times all year, and finished the season with 4 straight 10+ point fantasy games, making them a very nice playoff run defense. I don't know where that went come NFL playoff time, but they closed the season strong and earned their spot (more so than Oakland, in my opinion, who had a far more brutal second half of the season).
Closing thoughts: What does it all mean? There will be a couple surprises in 2011, but watch the teams that are usually up top and have good defense and special teams. Pittsburgh, the Jets, Green Bay, and Chicago will probably all have top 10 D/ST again next year...and I bet New England does too. I am suspicious of Baltimore because they can't seem to find long term secondary solutions, and any season now Ed Reed and Ray Lewis will be done. That might not sink in for some, but I live out in MD right now, and let me tell you...Ngata or not, and he is a monster, without Lewis and Reed this defense doesn't get it done. Look at Baltimore's secondary before Reed came in this season for all the evidence you need. I think the Lions actually push into the top 12 next year, by getting some DB and LB support to compliment a ferocious front 4. My surprise defense of 2011 is St. Louis. They played well the second half of the season, even if they didn't get the job done, especially week 17. I think they pull it together.
Things still to come: A Year in Review: 2010 (1 more to go), Post-Draft Fantasy Update, Fantasy Football Team Reports (8 part series, by division)