StrategyOctober 14, 2004


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The Kicker Quandary
Who might be this year's hidden studs?

By Greg Sines

It seems as though we never know who the best kickers will be in a given year of fantasy football until we reach the middle of the season. I know many owners like to play kicker matchups from week to week, but I don’t. I would rather have a kicker that will consistently score about ten points each game for the whole year. Additionally, if your league has a transaction limit (as mine does), it becomes harder and harder to switch your kickers and defenses throughout the year.

At this point in the season, you may be “kicking yourself” at the poor performance of your kicker. How is he stacking up to the league leaders? Well, after five weeks the top twelve kickers are:

KickerPtsGamesPts/Game
Jason Elam – Den52510.4
David Akers – Phi49412.25
Steve Christie – NYG4458.8
Phil Dawson – Cle4458.8
John Carney – NO4358.6
Kris Brown – Hou4258.4
Nate Kaeding – SD4158.2
Jeff Wilkins – StL3957.8
Adam Vinatieri – NE3649.0
Sebastian Janikowski – Oak3657.2
Matt Stover – Bal3456.8
Doug Brien – NYJ3448.5

Results were sorted by points scored: XP = 1, FG (39 yards and below) = 3, FG (40-49 yards) = 4, FG (50+ yards) = 5. I also included points per game. It’s an important stat since I think a good kicker should be able to get you at least 8-12 points a game.

By leaps and bounds, the best fantasy kickers this year have been David Akers and Jason Elam. Finding these two players at the top isn’t a big surprise, and they were surely drafted in every fantasy league. At the same time, guys like Ryan Longwell, Josh Brown, John Hall, Jay Feely, and even kicker extraordinaire Mike Vanderjagt are all at 30 points scored or below … not exactly great numbers for starting fantasy kickers after four or five games played.

I’m not advocating completely dumping these underachieving kickers, but the Ks highlighted in bold face above are “out of nowhere” guys that may not have been drafted in many leagues, and may still be around in yours. They are all scoring 8+ fantasy points per game.

At this point of the year, is it safe to assume that these players are going to be the top kickers? It very well may be the case. Let’s take a look at the kickers in bold type.

Steve Christie and John Carney had single games where they kicked four and five field goals, respectively, so, their game to game stats are a bit skewed. Yet Christie is playing on a Giants team that is winning and scoring touchdowns. The defenses he faces in the NFC East lend themselves to kicker scoring. They have the ability to stop a team driving for the end zone, which will give Christie more chances for FGs.

The Saints will be playing some good defensive teams like Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta and Tampa Bay the rest of the way. They may be able to keep the Saints’ offense out of the end zone, giving Carney the chance to kick those long FGs that are worth more points. Lest we forget, Carney plays his home games in a dome.

Nate Kaeding and Kris Brown have been pretty consistent fantasy scorers. They are playing on teams that have scored well so far this year (San Diego: 140 points, Houston: 118 points). Brown has had three games in which he scored eight points or above (8, 12, 14), and Kaeding has had four (8, 9, 8, 10). If these trends continue, these two kickers could have very respectable numbers by the end of the year.

Phil Dawson plays on a Cleveland team that can move the ball just enough to get into field goal range. He is second in the NFL in field goals made (11). Something tells me he’ll be piling up the 20-35 yard FGs this year for a Browns team that is having problems getting into the end zone. Three-point FGs are still a good source of points if they are kicked in bunches. So far, Dawson has done just that, kicking multiple FGs in three of five games.

Another sneaky play (and the guy I’m interested in most) would be Doug Brien. So far this year, he has put up fantasy scores of 7, 10, 7 and 10 points – an extremely consistent record. The Jets are playing some good football on offense this year, and their schedule seems to favor kickers. They play “bum” teams like San Francisco, Buffalo, Miami, Cleveland and Arizona that they should be able to score on. However, these teams also have good enough defenses to keep the Jets out of the end zone a few times a game, thus creating FG opportunities for Brien.

The Jets also play teams like Seattle and New England (twice) that will probably limit the end zone appearances for Chad Pennington and company. But, since the Jets offense can move the ball fairly well, it may give Brien some good shots at longer FGs. Brien’s fantasy playoff schedule (which for most leagues is weeks 15 and 16) includes the two teams I just mentioned. The Jets are at home in both of these games, so Brien should be familiar with the winds and weather that may influence his kicks. Also, these games may very well be low scoring affairs where the kicking game is more important in determining the winner.

Brien scored 132 fantasy points last season, good for 8.25 points a game. His kicking stats are headed eerily in the same direction as last year. So far, he has made seven of eight FG attempts in four games. Last year, he succeeded on 27 out of 32 tries in 16 games. But, Brien only kicked 24 extra points last year. In 2004, Brien already has 11 XPs. It’s a pretty good bet with the teams the Jets are playing that Brien will far surpass those XP numbers from 2003. This will add at least 10 to 20 points to his final numbers.

If you’re looking for a kicker as we head into the middle portion of the fantasy season, take a look at guys like Steve Christie, John Carney, Nate Kaeding, Kris Brown, Phil Dawson and Doug Brien. If they are still available, they might be able to give you some good consistent scoring for your fantasy team.

 
Apart from posting as Mercer Boy in the Cafe Forums, Greg Sines also writes a blog on topics ranging from laundry to lockpicking.

Greg welcomes your thoughts and comments on this article. Don’t ask him about laundry, though.

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