Last Week's Question
In my column for July,
I asked FFers whether leagues should do something in response to
kicker parity. The answers I received to this question were far
too varied to be easily categorized, though I’m sure a number
of readers will be amused to learn that more than a few folks wrote
in with extremely draconic solutions to the problem.
Take Tonia’s response, for example:
Simple solution, don't have kickers at all. They add nothing
to Fantasy Football, so we got rid of the position 3 years ago
and haven't missed them at all. I highly recommend [that other
leagues do the same].
James was even more dramatic in his aversion to kickers, as he
labeled the use of kickers in fantasy football “un-American.”
I hope this doesn’t mean that those of us who like the new
Neil Rackers commercial are aiding and abetting the terrorists!
Chris reports that his league’s decision to eliminate kickers
was “probably the best move we ever made,” so clearly
there are plenty of leagues out there that get along fine without
paying any attention at all to this position. Colin wrote in to
explain that his league may move in precisely this direction:
My league is going through this issue right now. We had
a 5-5 vote to "boot" the kicker position out of our
league. I personally enjoy kickers because I feel that they
are a strategic part of the real NFL game, and therefore should
be represented in the fantasy game. The major opponent of kickers
in my league points to the "Top 3" kickers (all the
rest being good, but not as good) as the reason to get rid of
them. He feels that 3 teams will get an unfair advantage when
they draft one of those Top 3. I think that is where a part
of the strategy lies — when to draft your kicker. I also
feel that a position like kicker that ranges from 0 to 15 points
on any given week is not nearly as (potentially) game-changing
as a defense, which can range from negative points to 30 or
40 on any given week. No one argues to get rid of D's, so why
argue that kickers are any more random (or unfairly game effecting)
than any other position?
We play a 10-team, head-to-head CBS Sportsline league,
starting 2 QBs, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D and 1 K. Any thoughts
on the K position in my league? Can you think of a compelling
reason to keep them?
I don’t think I can give Colin a better reason than the
one he suggests himself. Kickers may be the butt of 90% of all
football jokes, but they nevertheless routinely determine the
outcome of NFL games. The extent to which you think kickers are
integral to fantasy football is probably a measure of the extent
to which you think fantasy football should be rooted in reality,
and different commissioners will obviously have very different
opinions on this point.
You may not have to put things to a vote, however. Many leagues
have simply evolved in response to the supply-demand problem presented
by kickers. Bob’s dynasty league (with 40-man rosters) lets
teams horde so many kickers that getting just one of the mediocre
kickers clumped together statistically can be a challenge:
I've been in the title game 4 years in a row (this is
a 22-year-old league) because I grab 'em all. Kickers, that is.
Figure 32 teams have 32 kickers. In our 16-team league, every
manager could have 2 "starters", but if I grab an "extra,"
someone else as to scramble. Rookie projections and second-tier
journeymen all have a place in our league. Both Gramatika brothers
are on rosters. Remy Hamilton was a mid-season pickup last year.
After playing catchup, most of the rest of the league has started
trying to pick up 3-4, driving up the "value" of the
position. For years they read and followed the "draft a kicker
late" advice in EVERY pre-season mag. But now they've learned.
Of course, most leagues limit roster size to a number considerably
smaller than 40, and such leagues may want to consider adjusting
their scoring system so as to exaggerate the otherwise minimal distinctions
between kickers. John suggests a simple, graduated system:
Why not change the scoring to make kickers more (or
Leon’s league does something similar:
10-20 yard FGs = 1point
That might give some serious incentive to draft the long-ballers
and reduce the value of the guys who get the 20 yard cheapies.
You could also add -1 for a missed FG (and -3 for a missed extra
point) to a)reward accuracy and b)offset some of the above value
if you don’t want to place TOO much emphasis on the position.
Field goal 0-19 yards: 3 points
Field goal 20-29 yards: 3 points
Field goal 30-39 yards: 3 points
Field goal 40-49 yards: 4 points
Field goal 50+ yards: 6 points (instead of 5)
Each extra point: 1 point
Each missed FG (-1)
With this system, long distance kickers who are accurate,
Rackers, have much more value. Rackers (#1) had 169 pts,whereas
Josh Brown (#12) had 117 pts. This difference can be exaggerated
even more if you make FGs under 40 yards worth -2 and/or FGs
over 40yds worth 5 pts.
There are endless variations on this theme, but I’ll include
just one more (from a reader named Chris) because it includes
end-of-season data that may be useful to commissioners who are
contemplating a change to the way kickers score in their leagues.
FGs: range of 2.5 to 6 points,
with 0.1 pts awarded per yard (i.e. 55 yds = 5.5 pts)
Missed FGs: 0-29 = -2; 30-45
= -1; 46+ = 0
Extra Pt: = 1
Missed Extra Pt: = -2
John, Leon, and Chris were in the company of dozens of other readers
who wrote in with various scoring systems adopted by various leagues
in order to make kickers more meaningful to fantasy football.
The consensus among these readers is that if your scoring system
doesn’t do much to separate the 5th kicker from the 15th,
then you should consider tweaking and retweaking the system until
that difference is clear.
But if you don’t want to eliminate kickers from your league
or adjust the scoring of the position, you should consider Tony’s
The simple solution to the problem of rampant kicker swapping
in our league was to limit the number of waiver wire transactions
to some number lower than the total number of games. So in a
14-week season, we would get 12 waiver wire pickups for the
whole season. If you want to blow all your transactions on kickers
week-to-week, so be it, but you lose out on picking up surprises
at other positions. It doesn't eliminate the kicker concerns,
but it does at least add a balancing act to it.
In reality, it forces players to stand by their kickers
unless a Neil Rackers hits the waiver wire. [Because of concerns
at other positions, it isn’t] worth blowing waiver wire
pickups on kickers.
Another solution along the lines of league mechanics comes from
In our league, we have 10 teams, 18 man rosters, but
require that 2 tight ends, defenses, and kickers be kept at all
times. Because of this, pickings are usually slim on the waiver
wire for kickers (and the other positions really). This way the
top 20-ish are usually locked up throughout the season, although
that will fluctuate depending on byes and stuff like that. It's
worked for us.
Craig reports similar success by limiting waiver wire moves
in his league. As he puts it, “If owners want to use their
2 waiver wire picks in an extremely shallow pool of players on kickers,
it’s their dime.”
An extremely unorthodox (but nevertheless sensible) suggestion comes
from Juan, whose system might be the best compromise for people
who are on the fence about eliminating the kicker position entirely:
There is a way to make kickers more appealing. In a
league that I have been playing in for a couple years now, we
have combined kickers and Def/ST. Technically, kickers are on
special teams, so we decided to keep them there. Example: If I
have IND defense and they end up with 1 int (2pts), 1 fumble recovery
(2pts), a kick return TD(6pts), and 1 FG less than 30 yards (3pts);
I would end up with a total of 13 pts. By doing this, the Balanced
DEF/ST's/K's have a lot more value and importance. Not for everyone,
but it was worked great for us.
Todd suggests something similar, though he makes a distinction
between “the kicking team” and team defenses:
I have experimented recently with this same issue. I
tried incorporating the kicker into the whole special teams concept.
It actually worked out quite well, except for the fact that most
of the league owners were used to seeing a "kicker"
in their lineup. What I mean by this is that when owners see "NEP"
they usually think of a "Team DEF", not a kicker. It's
mildly confusing to a guy who has played fantasy football for
25 years. Anyway, without being overly specific, the kicker was
now replaced by the Special Teams Unit. The Special Teams was
really the kicker in disguise and received not only TD's on punts
and kickoffs ( there weren't too many, 8 and 11 respectively last
year, which helped bring the scoring in line with the "skill"
positions) but also on the kickers' performance, i.e FG's and
PAT's. This particular version of Special Teams is something of
a misnomer, because it was more of a "Kicking Team".
Conceptually it worked out great. In real life, it was a little
difficult remembering that your kicker was "New England"
and not "Vinatieri", and that you weren't getting defensive
points if you had NEP Kick team. (note: This is less of a problem
in IDP leagues, where there typically is no team "DEF").
Since the real problem in some leagues is that players go
through gobs of kickers from week to week without really committing
to any one player at the position, Robert has a reasonable suggestion:
Raise the cost of a kicker transaction to prevent constant
K slot tinkering. If a normal p/u costs $5, then perhaps raise
a kicker transaction to $10 or even $15. No scoring rules would
have to be changed. Obviously this would only influence leagues
that charge for transactions.
One of the solutions to this problem proposed by FF Index was
to force players to stay with the kickers they draft for the entire
season, but I asked readers to reflect on the sorts of problems
that injuries would present in such a system. Ray responded with
an idea that I like quite a lot:
Have owners draft team kickers, not individual players.
Take the Colts’ team kicker for instance, instead of Vinatieri.
I’m generally reluctant to go with strategies that involve
“team player” concepts. If your league automatically
awards you Michael Turner just because you picked up LaDainian
Tomlinson, then you are removing a good deal of strategy from
the annual draft/auction. I wouldn’t have wanted to play
in a league that automatically awarded Larry Johnson to whichever
owner started out with Priest Holmes last year, but things are
different with kickers. If you think that the best way to keep
people from going through kickers like mad is to force them to
make a commitment on draft day, then I think Ray’s solution
is great for avoiding questions about injured kickers.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in with a response to my question
on kickers. I apologize to those whose responses were too similar
to other responses to justify their inclusion here.
This Week’s Question: When is it too late
to start a fantasy league?
I’ve participated in leagues that draft just as the preseason
gets underway. I’ve participated in leagues that draft on
the Saturday after the first Thursday night game. I know that
most owners appreciating having as much information as possible
(which usually means postponing the draft for as long as possible),
but does anyone participate in serious leagues that draft well
into the season (say Week 4 or 5)?
I’m delighted to report that Matt Schiff will be attending
to LMS picks for us once again in 2006. In addition to providing
us with picks for Week One, he has done some reflecting on LMS
strategy. Take it away, Matt . . .
Matt’s Strategy and Picks
In 2005, I went 35-10, and while that is a great percentage on
a betting basis, there are probably some readers who used one
or two of my picks to move on to the next week in their pools
when I stumbled. To those people I apologize for the errors of
my ways and I promise to try harder. If there is one consolation,
I give three picks each week and in every week I had at least
one pick last year that was a winner. I also offer up the “trap
game” of the week. This is the game that looks like a lock,
where everyone picks it, and most people are knocked out because
of that game. Sometimes those games result because of divisional
match-ups, mismatched personnel or once and a while, a team that
is looking ahead to that next “big game”.
Taking a look at all the “experts in the media” I
thought that I would add some of my own thoughts, sprinkled in
with an opinion or two from the broadcast public and give you
some ideas about how to play a Survival Pool this year.
So let’s get to Week 1’s picks:
- The NFC East looks like it might be the strongest of all the
divisions in the NFL. Yes this is a no-brainer, but you will
want to avoid the divisional matchups in your survival pool
games since the teams know each other well and will use every
trick in the book to steal a victory.
- Look at the teams that you think will be good in the future
and try not to use them until there is a week when you know
there are tough matchups. So many Survival Pool participants
just pick a team and hope for the best. Look at the overall
season schedule before choosing the Steelers over the Raiders.
You might need the Steelers against the Saints later on in the
season. (P.S. these are the only two lock games that the Steelers
have this year).
- The Eagles are not as bad as everyone thinks (this comes from
Merrill Reese – Voice of the Eagles). While I am a Giants
fan, I have to agree. Their schedule is the easiest in the division
and if the team is healthy, they could steal the division. They
have SF, NO, Green Bay, Houston, and Tennessee outside the division,
all of which may be locks for a win.
- Beware of the Chargers – Philip Rivers needs some time
to get comfortable as the starting quarterback but once he does,
this team may be the 2nd best team in the AFC West. KC is hurting
on the offensive line, and they have a new offensive coordinator.
Denver is aging at WR, and Aaron Brooks is not the answer at
QB in Oakland. The San Diego defense is very good and may have
the best front 7 in football, but LT will be seeing a lot of
8-man fronts. Use them at the right time and you may get further
than a lot of other Survival Pool participants.
- The Bills will steal some games – They might even steal
the first game against the Patriots, but when there is that
matchup that the Bills look totally overmatched, you might just
want to avoid taking the favorite. The defense is better than
last year, and McGahee has a chip on his shoulder. Whoever ends
up as QB should have the full trust of the team, and if they
get a lead, forget it, few teams will generate enough points
to get back in the game.
Trap Game: Buffalo at New England
Hands down the Patriots should win this game. The Bills don’t
have a quality starting QB, the offensive line has more holes in
it than swiss cheese and New England’s defense has now added
more veteran leadership. BUT Tom Brady is without his two starting
receivers from last year, has a running back that will turn 32 this
season with very little tread left on the tires, and is on a team
that has come out flat in the early part of the season the last
two years. On top of all this, there is that dreaded “D”
word – divisional game. While New England may win this game,
you might want to avoid it and wait until the Patriots play the
Jets for the lock.
at Green Bay (0-0 Season):
In years past this would have been blasphemy. Ahman Green is coming
back from a season ending injury last year and Brett Favre has one
reliable target, Bubba Franks. While Rex Grossman may not by Joe
Montana, the two-headed attack of Benson and Jones should shred
the Packers defense. In fact, forget who is in the backfield for
the Bears, it won’t matter. The Bears will add a turnover
for a touchdown for good measure and stake an early claim on the
NFC North Division title.
Seattle at Detroit (0-0 Season):
This game screams upset to me. Mike Martz is now in Detroit and
knows the weaknesses of the Seahawks and with a receiver named Williams,
whom he thinks is the best he ever coached, Jon Kitna should be
able to connect with Williams for at least one, if not two TDs.
However, this is a pretty good running back in Seattle named Alexander
who should run for over 125 yards and a touchdown while his quarterback
will find his new receiver Burleson uncovered three or four times
in the game. The difference maker here is that the Seahawk defense
should be able to control what Martz does with the offense. Look
for a solid win out of the reigning NFC Champs.
Denver over St. Louis (0-0 Season):
I really thought about taking the Eagles over the Texans, but there
are many more games where the Eagles will have a favorable matchup.
As such, the Broncos and their new rookie running back, Mike Bell,
will light up the scoreboard on the fast Dome floor in St. Louis.
This game may end up a little close for comfort because of the weapons
that are available on the Rams offense, but Rod Smith still has
enough in his legs to have a good season and Javon Walker could
be exactly what Jake “the snake” needs to send the ball
A reader named Michael has also written in with his LMS picks for
Week One. He approaches things very differently than Matt (so much
so that he likes Matt’s trap game as the second-best lock
of the week and has gone with 3 divisional matchups). Let’s
see how he does.
3. Carolina over
I'm not happy with trying to find a "sure thing" third
game (not that any of my other picks are sure things). But I'll
take the home team, which should be pretty good, over their division
2. New England over
Pats at home. If they can't handle the Bills, it's going to be a
1. Arizona over
Cardinals at home, and what better time to take the usually bad
franchise. If you lose in the first week, this gives you plenty
of time to find a league starting up in week 2.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.