Fantasy Football: Never Reach for the Kicker

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History shows there's just no reason to go "early" on the kicker position

History shows there's just no reason to go "early" on the kicker position

You read it, hear it, see it every season: Don't draft a kicker until you absolutely have to. Numbers don't lie. There's just no need to do it. Yet, people still do it. This draft season already, I've seen it happen with eight rounds to go, seven rounds to go, you name it.

Three rounds to go should be the absolute minimum and that is only if it is a deep roster and you've already filled out all the bench spots you can.

Here's why.

The greatest point differential from the first- to 12th-ranked kicker over the last decade has been 57 points, and that is nearly 25 points above the average point differential of 32.1 during that timespan.

There is very little consistency to the position, and the payoff for selecting a kicker any earlier than the last round is no greater than 2.0 points per game over the last 10 years.

And that differential is only at its fullest if you were to have selected the top-scoring kicker, a distinction that only one player has managed to accomplish more than once in the last 10 years. Jeff Wilkins holds that honor, but even the former Rams kicker did not remain in the top three in the year between his two first-place finishes — he was 22nd in 2002.

Only David Akers has been a top-three kicker each of the last three seasons, including No. 1 last season. And with the Eagles drafting Alex Henery, Akers was out of a job before signing with San Francisco.

That's this position in a nutshell.

Year No. 1 K No. 6 K No. 12 K Pt Diff. PPG Diff. Top Three Scorers
2010 143 125 110 33 2.1 Akers, Janikowski, Vinatieri
2009 146 125 108 38 2.4 Kaeding, Akers, Longwell
2008 148 127 124 24 1.5 Gostkowski, Carney, Akers
2007 141 127 118 23 1.4 Crosby, Gostkowski, Bironas
2006 143 117 113 30 1.9 Gould, Kaeding, Wilkins
2005 148 121 110 38 2.4 Feely, Rackers, Graham
2004 141 120 109 32 2.0 VInatieri, Elam, Reed
2003 163 120 106 57 3.6 Wilkins, Vanderjagt, Stover
2002 138 120 111 27 1.7 Feely, Carney, M. Gramatica
2001 127 115 108 19 1.2 Wilkins, Vanderjagt, Brown

The 10-year average is 32.1 points difference from 1-12 for an average of 2.0 points per game.

Oh, Henery!
So the Philadelphia Eagles parted ways with fantasy football's most consistent kicker over the last three seasons.

David Akers, the top kicker in fantasy football last season and the only kicker to stay in the top three each of the last three seasons, was shown the door following the selection of Nebraska's Alex Henery.

It may remind many of a similar scenario in 2006 when New England drafted Stephen Gostkowski to replace Mr. Clutch, Adam Vinatieri. Gostkowski came in as a rookie and scored 103 fantasy points — good for 18th among kickers. Vinatieri went on to the Colts and finished as the 12th-best kicker (113.0) that year.

So what should be expected from Henery, a first-team All-America selection at Nebraska? He was 54-of-54 on PATs and 18-of-19 on field goals — including 8-of-8 from 40-49 yards and 2-of-3 from 50-plus yards with a long of 53 — in 2010. And he takes over for Akers, who averaged 142.0 points per season over the last three years, including 143 points last season. Akers’ consistent scoring totals went from 144 to 139 to 143 over the last three seasons.

With Philly having primarily the same offensive pieces in place, there's no reason to shy away from Henery. And he might be a steal if other drafters avoid the rookie kicker. He does have an ADP of around 8 when it comes to kickers, but don't feel bad if you land him as the bigger names go off the board.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

THIS WEEK'S POSITIONAL STORIES: QBRBWRTEKDST

More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs

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011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
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011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams

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