When to Draft a Defense and Kicker in Your Fantasy Football Draft

They may be your last two draft picks, but kickers and DSTs are still super important to your fantasy football success.

Preparing for a fantasy football draft is indeed time-consuming; however, it is important to be aware of all positions for which you will be drafting. While considerable attention is heaped atop quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs—and tight ends to a somewhat lesser degree unless you're talking about Rob Gronkowski—it is also necessary to take a look at perhaps the two most under-appreciated and overlooked roster positions in any fantasy draft: defense/special teams (DSTs) and kickers.

Remember the old adage that defense wins games? Well, that's true. And you mustn't neglect the kicker. Again, how many times has a kicker been instrumental in a team's success or failure? Kickers need love too—just saying. While these two positions are indeed important on an entire team, their point potential per game ebbs and flows like the Pacific Ocean. Thus, you should still wait until the end of the draft to fill these spots. (Try Draft on iOS or Android)

Kickers

Justin Tucker

Kickers are typically not selected until the last round of a fantasy football draft, because let's face it, people don't really pay much heed to kickers unless they manage to score a ridiculous number of points in a given week or are super consistent.

The top-ranked kickers for the upcoming 2017-2018 season based on last year's stats include:

Player

Team

FGs

XPs

2016 Points

1. Justin Tucker

Baltimore

38/39

27/27

174

2. Matt Bryant

Atlanta

34/37

56/57

176

3. Stephen Gostkowski

New England

27/32

46/49

135

4. Adam Vinatieri

Indianapolis

27/31

44/44

145

5. Dan Bailey

Dallas

27/32

46/46

135

If you'll notice, these kickers get many, many opportunities. Obviously, look for kickers on teams that get several first downs and are relatively high-scoring; however, also take a look at kickers on teams that aren't the greatest in the red zone as they will likely have ample field goal opportunities.

Now, for comparison's sake, let's look at kickers in the middle of the pack and their 2016 fantasy points. For example—and this includes only those kickers who played all 16 games—San Diego's (now Los Angeles) Josh Lambo managed to score 122 points. As you can see there's not a significant difference between Bailey and Lambo to warrant choosing a kicker in an earlier round in order to find someone who may be just slightly better. Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro amassed 112 points, also not substantially fewer than the mid-to-upper tiered kickers. For further comparison, two of the worst-scoring fantasy kickers last season were Miami's Andrew Franks with 86 points and Chicago's Connor Barth with 85; however, both are projected to do better this year. Thus, while there appears to be a sizable difference between the top and the bottom, the middle-tier kickers don't have much of a difference, and you will likely have the opportunity to select a decent kicker toward the end of the draft.

Essentially, you should still wait until the last round to actually select a kicker because of the relatively narrow variation in points per game among them all; however, if a perennial superstar like Stephen Gostkowski or Matt Bryant is available in the next-to-last round, nobody would begrudge you that selection.

Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)

Defenses are equally somewhat neglected and often not selected until later rounds. DSTs can be tricky, however, because of the different types of scoring in a given league. Whereas some leagues reward sacks and turnovers heavily, others may give more points to those defenses that give up fewer points or yards. Be sure you know with the point structure in your particular league before attempting to rank your DSTs.

As is the case with virtually all positions, there are some DSTs that are repeatedly successful. The Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks, Texans, Cardinals and Patriots are historically safe and successful choices in any fantasy football draft.

The top-ranked DSTs for 2017-2018, based on last year's stats, include:

Team

SACK

INT

FR

TD

PA

YA

2016 Points

1. Denver Broncos

42

14

13

4

297

5057

146

2. Seattle Seahawks

42

11

8

1

292

5099

113

3. Kansas City Chiefs

28

18

15

8

311

5896

140

4. Houston Texans

31

11

6

2

328

4821

102

5. Minnesota Vikings

41

14

13

7

307

5038

157

Now, when we compare these numbers with some of the, shall we say, under-performing defenses, the differences are notable. Among the worst DSTs in 2016 were the Chicago Bears with a measly 66 fantasy points all season and the Washington Redskins with only 59. However, given the massive player trades, free agent acquisitions, and draft picks, one year's worst DST could be the next year's best. In other words, selecting a DST in any fantasy football draft is really a crap shoot and something—like kickers—best left for later rounds.

The Bottom Line

There is a broad consensus that you shouldn't select a kicker until the last round of any fantasy football draft, and I agree with this. As for DSTs, again, it is imprudent to use a high draft pick for a DST; however, in a 15-round draft, if you make it to round 12 and the Broncos or Seahawks DST is still available, by all means, snatch one of them up.

Fantasy football draft strategy is not set in stone. Use your rankings as a guide, but also be cognizant of the best available players when you're on the clock to ensure you draft the best possible team you can.

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Topics: FANTASY SPORTS