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Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series of recommendations for your Fantasy Football 2010 draft.    The series will run until the NFL kicks off on September 9th.

Rule #5: KAGNOF. An acronym I am stealing from one of my favorite, and funniest, fantasy baseball blogs, Razzball.com, KAGNOF is similar to Razzball’s term SAGNOF: “Saves Ain’t Got NO Face” (and also “Steals Ain’t Got NO Face,” but the latter is more common). In this case, my term is Kickers Ain’t Got NO Face (I know, I’m very creative and original. What can I say?).

KAGNOF. 10 points to the first who can tell me the name that goes along with this face, and the team he played for.

KAGNOF simply means that all kickers are pretty much the same. They are valuable only in that they are the ones chosen by their NFL team to go out and kick an oblong ball between two uprights, spaced 18 feet and 6 inches apart, and 10 feet off the ground.

I tried to find a single statistic that could determined the fantasy success of a kicker. Many “experts” advise drafting kickers on a strong offensive team that moves the ball and racks up yards. The logic follows that teams that can move the ball downfield will get the ball in the kicker’s range more often, leading to more field goal attempts. More field goal attempts will result in a higher number of successful conversions and higher fantasy points. If the team moves the ball into the end zone for a TD, than the kicker will get one point for the extra point. Either way, the kicker scores fantasy points. The main problem with this theory is that it does not account for teams with strong defenses that force turnovers and put their team in good field position. Since good field position, by definition, means fewer yards for the offense to travel to the end zone, these teams often don’t rank very high in yards per game. But on these teams, the ball is in the kicker’s range more often (because of the good field position) leading to a higher number of attempts. And, just like before, a higher number of attempts results in a higher number of successfully converted field goals.

New York Jets and their kicker Jay Feely are a perfect case of my point. The Jets ranked 20th among all offenses, averaging 321 yards per game, compared to the top-ranked New Orleans Saints, who compiled on average 403.8 yards/game. The Jets defense however, was tops in the league, allowing a stingy 252.3 yards/game and 14.8 points per game, both stats leading the league in their respective category. Feely meanwhile, finished 5th among fantasy kickers, only 26 points behind the top scorer, which comes out to a difference of 1.7 points per week. Not much. Seems like this theory is as consistently correct as Martin Gramatica’s ability to safely celebrate after a successful field goal conversion.

As long as Lucy from Peanuts or Tony Romo is not the holder, almost any Kicker will suffice.

Another idea that floats out there wildly, like a Mike Vanderjagt field goal attempt during the playoffs, is that kickers on teams that score more points per game, instead of just racking up meaningless yards, benefit from the high scoring, which transfers over to fantasy points. Either the kicker contributes by kicking field goals or extra points. It would seem to follow that kickers that kick more extra points, and are therefore on high octane offenses, would also translate to fantasy success. But fantasy games are usually not won on extra points, which are only worth one point each, but instead by long field goals of 50-plus yards, or multiple, shorter, field goals. But teams that score touchdowns are more likely to lead in the scoring category without giving their kicker a chance to score tons of fantasy points. In fact, last year, four of the top ten fantasy kickers were on teams that were ranked outside of the top ten in points per game. Three of the four, Rob Bironas of the Tennessee Titans, Jay Feely of the New York Jets, and Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos, were ranked 16th or worse (16th, 17th, and 19th respectively). Bironas scored the 4th highest fantasy points among kickers while Prater and Bironas were tied for 5th. Similarly, In 11 games, temporary New Orleans Saints place kicker John Carney had as many point afters as fantasy leading kicker, Nate Kaeding, of the San Diego Chargers, had in all 16 games. In those eleven weeks, Carney scored a total of 87 fantasy points, an average of 7.9 points per week. An average that, extrapolated out to cover a full season, would give him roughly 126 points, good enough for 9th among fantasy kickers. Carney was eventually replaced by the 22 years-younger Garret Hartley, who finished with very similar statistics as Carney. Hartley scored 32 fantasy points in his five games. If you add Hartley’s points in 5 games, and Carney’s points in 11 games, to make a full, 16 game, season, the Saints kickers’ fantasy total comes out to 122 points, tied with Pittsburgh Steelers’ Jeff Reed for 10th. Not great for the team that lead the league in TDs and extra point attempts (the Saints also did not attempt a single 2 point conversion in the 2009 regular season). Like Vanderjagt’s attempt, this idea didn’t have much of a chance from the moment it left the ground.

But it really doesn’t matter that I was not able to find a reliable stat to predict the success of fantasy kickers. Last season, the #1 fantasy kicker, Nate Kaeding, finished with 155 points. The worst starting kicker, or the #10 fantasy kicker, was Jeff Reed, who scored 122 points. The difference between the two is 33 points. Last year the difference between the best and 10th best was an even smaller 25 points. In 2007 and 2006, just 37 and 31 points respectively. This is even smaller than the difference in Defenses and Special Teams (D/ST), which I wrote about in Rule #4.

The only reliable indicator of fantasy kicking success is that the kickers that had the highest number of successful field goals tended to be ranked among the top fantasy kickers. A real surprise! Right? There are just too many variables at play to find a reliable predictor for the following season. How can you predict which team will give their kicker the opportunities to successfully kick more field goals? We ruled out teams with strong offenses, both in yardage and scoring. Perhaps strong defenses, like the Jets? Nope. That was one of the least reliable indicators I examined.

But not only do you have to predict a statistic for a team, you also have to factor in the value of each tier of kick. In ESPN standard leagues, a kick under 39 yards is 3 points, a kick between 40 and 49 yards is worth 4 points, and a kick over 50 yards is worth 5 points. And it’s not rare to see those values vary. Additionally, a field goal missed, at any distance, is -1 points. With all that in mind, it’s practically impossible to correctly predict kickers’ fantasy numbers.

Therefore, the top 10 kickers (you, or anyone else in your league, would be crazy to draft more than one kicker, or maybe just unprepared and unknowledgeable like this guy), are almost equivalent, so why waste a pick by taking a kicker before the last round? I don’t care what your buddy says about how many times the Minnesota Vikings are going to get into the Red Zone with the gun-slinger back in purple and leading them down the field. KAGNOF! Draft them with your last pick. Always. Or if you’ve made a mistake earlier in the draft and see a steal, don’t draft a kicker at all: grab the “steal” and pick up the booter in free agency before week one. In case you still doubt me, I’m not alone.

Contact: If you have a fantasy football question, comment, insult, or compliment for Dr. Z, send it to [email protected] or call in to The Nightcap on KSPC Mondays 8-10 PM at (909) 626-KSPC. No inquiry is too big or small. It might even be featured in Dr. Z’s next column! Please include your first name and from which city you are writing.

Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio sports talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPCstream.com or KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM. Want to join the radio show this year? We are looking for new people! Email us at [email protected]!

4 COMMENTS

  1. My goal for kickers has been to find one on a team with a good offense, that doesn’t have an RB who can consistently run it in from the goal line. You get a fair amount of short field goals, and a lot of extra points. Bonus points if the coach is crazy, or old school and relies to much on safe football.

    Philly has been like this forever, since Westbrook was never a bruiser, McCoy is a bum, and Andy Reid is insane. New England can never get the RB situation stable. San Diego last year only had an aging LT who couldn’t punch it in (only reason he had some many TDs is because of all the chances he was given). Same goes with the Giants, Pittsburgh, and Denver last year. These teams’ kickers were all in the top eight.

    The only other kickers to score in the top eight belonged to Minn and GB. I love Ryan Grant and consider him a bruiser, but a lot of people think he’s soft at the goal line.

    So you have 6 or 7 out of eight teams with crappy RBs who can’t finish but a good offenses whose kickers were in the top 8.

    This year, I think the list will be similar. But I’d downgrade Denver’s offense (and the kicker), and I’d be afraid that Bradshaw will score for the Giants too consistently.

    Focus on the SD, PHI, GB, and NE kickers. Pittsburgh might be a toughie as I think Dixox and trading Holmes downgrades their offense immensely.

    I’d maybe add HOU to the mix, but I believe in Arian Foster being a top 10 back, and a strong finisher. And if you believe in the Derek Anderson-Fitz connection, add the ARI kicker. I don’t.

  2. My goal for kickers has been to find one on a team with a good offense, that doesn’t have an RB who can consistently run it in from the goal line. You get a fair amount of short field goals, and a lot of extra points. Bonus points if the coach is crazy, or old school and relies to much on safe football.

    Philly has been like this forever, since Westbrook was never a bruiser, McCoy is a bum, and Andy Reid is insane. New England can never get the RB situation stable. San Diego last year only had an aging LT who couldn’t punch it in (only reason he had some many TDs is because of all the chances he was given). Same goes with the Giants, Pittsburgh, and Denver last year. These teams’ kickers were all in the top eight.

    The only other kickers to score in the top eight belonged to Minn and GB. I love Ryan Grant and consider him a bruiser, but a lot of people think he’s soft at the goal line.

    So you have 6 or 7 out of eight teams with crappy RBs who can’t finish but a good offenses whose kickers were in the top 8.

    This year, I think the list will be similar. But I’d downgrade Denver’s offense (and the kicker), and I’d be afraid that Bradshaw will score for the Giants too consistently.

    Focus on the SD, PHI, GB, and NE kickers. Pittsburgh might be a toughie as I think Dixox and trading Holmes downgrades their offense immensely.

    I’d maybe add HOU to the mix, but I believe in Arian Foster being a top 10 back, and a strong finisher. And if you believe in the Derek Anderson-Fitz connection, add the ARI kicker. I don’t.

  3. Kickerpicker, you bring up a very interesting idea and theory. I decided I had to look up some stats and see if you were on to something. While it would be helpful if we could get a specific definition of a “bruiser,” RB, it is not necessary. Unfortunately, advanced stats like Red Zone conversion percentages are premium stats and not easily accessible, so I instead looked up stats and fantasy results from the 2008-2009 season.

    In the 2008-2009 season, of the top 10 fantasy kickers (according to ESPN scoring), 7 of the top ten DO NOT match your description. The #1 kicker was New England’s Stephen Gostkowski. This happened to be one of the few years that the New England Running Backs were powerful and productive (Sammy Morris 10 TDs in 13 games; LaMont Jordan 4 TDs in 8 games; BenJarvus Green-Ellis. 16 total TDs. All “bruisers.”). #3 kicker John Carney was playing for the New York Giants. Like the Pats, the Giants had a great running game in 2008, with “bruiser” Brandon Jacobs scoring 15 TDs. Next was #5 Ryan Longwell of the Vikings. Although Peterson isn’t usually considered a “bruiser,” in the same sense as a guy like Brandon Jacobs, Adrian can be effective in the red zone (remember, this is pre-Favre retirement saga). The Tennessee Titans come in next with the #6 kicker, Rob Bironas and the #4 TD rushing RB LenDale White (Chris Johnson had 9 TDs). #9 is Mason Crosby with Ryan Grant as the Running Back for Green Bay. Matt Bryant rounded out the top ten, kicking for Tampa Bay. A running back committee full of “bruisers” (Earnest Graham, Carnell Williams, Warrick Dunn and B.J. Askew combined for a total of 12 TDs. Williams missed the first 10 games recovering from an injury suffered the previous season, and Graham missed the last 7 games due to injury. Except for week 11, Tampa Bay had a proven “bruiser” in their backfield every week). And 1 fantasy point outside of the top 10 were 49ers and Rams Kickers Joe Nedney and Josh Brown, respectively. Without a doubt, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson are at the top of the list for quality “bruisers” in the NFL.

    Perhaps if you could more specifically define what you deem a “bruiser” running back it would be easier for us to determine if this could be a predictor (believe me, I want to a find a reliable predictor of fantasy kickers just as much as you do). I think that what we have is a position whose fantasy scoring complicates the scoring enough, and opportunities in real games vary greatly from year to year. The decision by a coach to send a kicker onto the field for a field goal attempt hinges on so many different factors (field position, score, time remaining, coach, wind direction and speed, etc.). This is what makes fantasy kickers scores and rankings inherently so difficult to successfully predict. Because of this I prefer to wait until the end to draft a kicker. It’s simply not worth it to pass on a low-risk high-reward player to grab one of the “elite” kickers. KAGNOF!

  4. Kickerpicker, you bring up a very interesting idea and theory. I decided I had to look up some stats and see if you were on to something. While it would be helpful if we could get a specific definition of a “bruiser,” RB, it is not necessary. Unfortunately, advanced stats like Red Zone conversion percentages are premium stats and not easily accessible, so I instead looked up stats and fantasy results from the 2008-2009 season.

    In the 2008-2009 season, of the top 10 fantasy kickers (according to ESPN scoring), 7 of the top ten DO NOT match your description. The #1 kicker was New England’s Stephen Gostkowski. This happened to be one of the few years that the New England Running Backs were powerful and productive (Sammy Morris 10 TDs in 13 games; LaMont Jordan 4 TDs in 8 games; BenJarvus Green-Ellis. 16 total TDs. All “bruisers.”). #3 kicker John Carney was playing for the New York Giants. Like the Pats, the Giants had a great running game in 2008, with “bruiser” Brandon Jacobs scoring 15 TDs. Next was #5 Ryan Longwell of the Vikings. Although Peterson isn’t usually considered a “bruiser,” in the same sense as a guy like Brandon Jacobs, Adrian can be effective in the red zone (remember, this is pre-Favre retirement saga). The Tennessee Titans come in next with the #6 kicker, Rob Bironas and the #4 TD rushing RB LenDale White (Chris Johnson had 9 TDs). #9 is Mason Crosby with Ryan Grant as the Running Back for Green Bay. Matt Bryant rounded out the top ten, kicking for Tampa Bay. A running back committee full of “bruisers” (Earnest Graham, Carnell Williams, Warrick Dunn and B.J. Askew combined for a total of 12 TDs. Williams missed the first 10 games recovering from an injury suffered the previous season, and Graham missed the last 7 games due to injury. Except for week 11, Tampa Bay had a proven “bruiser” in their backfield every week). And 1 fantasy point outside of the top 10 were 49ers and Rams Kickers Joe Nedney and Josh Brown, respectively. Without a doubt, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson are at the top of the list for quality “bruisers” in the NFL.

    Perhaps if you could more specifically define what you deem a “bruiser” running back it would be easier for us to determine if this could be a predictor (believe me, I want to a find a reliable predictor of fantasy kickers just as much as you do). I think that what we have is a position whose fantasy scoring complicates the scoring enough, and opportunities in real games vary greatly from year to year. The decision by a coach to send a kicker onto the field for a field goal attempt hinges on so many different factors (field position, score, time remaining, coach, wind direction and speed, etc.). This is what makes fantasy kickers scores and rankings inherently so difficult to successfully predict. Because of this I prefer to wait until the end to draft a kicker. It’s simply not worth it to pass on a low-risk high-reward player to grab one of the “elite” kickers. KAGNOF!

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