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2011 Draft Prep: Kicker and DST draft strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Dave Richard's Strategies & Tiers: QB | RB | WR | TE

Kickers miss field goals at the buzzer. Defenses go from bad to worse in the fourth quarter. The Giants punt to DeSean Jackson with 14 seconds left. Things happen, and they impact our Fantasy universe for better or worse because, for reasons I cannot explain with grace and civility, we have a need to use kickers and defense/special-teams units (DSTs).

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That's right. If it were up to me, we wouldn't have kickers getting us three points at a time or DSTs taking up the last spot of our active roster (we'd use individual defensive players). But since I'm not the Unquestioned Emperor of Fantasy Football, I respect the laws of everyone's leagues and will address kickers and DSTs.

Kickers and DSTs are late-round choices. I habitually take a kicker with my last pick except for rare situations where I'll spend a second-to-last round pick on a guy just because I want to get a guy I feel is a quality option before the people picking after me in Round 172 have a chance to get him. DSTs are a bit different and deserve more attention.

DST keys

There are two schools of thought to drafting a DST: Take one that you're willing to ride with all season (except for the bye), or take one that will get you off to a good start to the season and then play "DST Roulette."

You probably know all of the elite DSTs worth drafting already: The Steelers, Jets, Packers and Eagles top the list. Unless some nutball in your league is a fan of the hometown team, those four will be the first to go in every league. The recommendation here is to only reach for one of these DSTs if you're in Round 10 or later and you're really happy with your first nine picks. If you're not happy and would rather add depth, or if you just want to add depth, there is no obligation whatsoever to take a DST until your draft is almost over.

And that's the smart play, especially since there are some really good DSTs that should perform as well or better than the elite DSTs, and they'll go very late. No one is giving the Patriots, Chargers, Bears or Giants any respect. But they'll be good. And you can get them in or around Round 172.

But some would say that the smarter play would be to spend that 172nd-round pick on a DST that has easy matchups to begin the year. After all, Fantasy Football is about the matchups, right?

You might not draft any of these defenses because of their stout run D or impressive secondary, but you might draft them because of who they're playing.

Early-season matchups Just Week 1
Broncos (vs. OAK, vs. CIN, at TEN) 49ers (vs. SEA)
Cardinals (vs. CAR, at WAS, at SEA) Browns (vs. CIN)
Titans (at JAC, vs. BAL, vs. DEN, at CLE) Chiefs (vs. BUF)

Likewise, here are some DSTs that I have ranked highly but face tough matchups to begin the season -- maybe drafting them isn't such a good idea, though picking them up later on should be.

Bears (vs. ATL, at NO, vs. GB) Rams (vs. PHI, at NYG, vs. BAL)
Falcons (at CHI, vs. PHI, at TB) Saints (at GB, vs. CHI, vs. HOU)

The last point I'd like to drive home on DSTs: The only time when it's OK to carry more than one is if one is a top DST that's on a bye. Don't draft two unless mandated by your league's rules. You could ask me 100 times and I'll tell you 100 times that I'd rather spend a roster spot on a sleeper or a flier off waivers or a backup quarterback or a player that might help my opponent this week than a second DST.

Get your kicks

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Thinking about picking a kicker that will finish at the top of your league in Fantasy points? Good luck. The difference between last season's top Fantasy kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, and last season's 10th-best Fantasy kicker, Billy Cundiff, was 33 points. That's basically two points per week on average. And get this -- not many people drafted either kicker last year!

Kicker production is dependent primarily on the accuracy of a player and the opportunities that player gets. So, one could easily assume that kickers who have good career field-goal accuracy and play on teams with powerful offenses that create field goal chances are good. However, there's no guarantee from week to week that they'll have said opportunities, or kick accurately when they get on the field.

Would you believe that the Raiders and Dolphins led the league in field-goal attempts (41), with the Jets and Rams finishing behind them (39)? Would you call those offenses poweful? And, would you believe that only one of those teams hit on more than 80 percent of their field-goal attempts (the Rams)?

Obviously there's not much stability or consistency with kickers. Only one kicker -- David Akers -- has finished as a Top 10 Fantasy producer at his position in standard leagues over the last three seasons (second in '08, '09 and '10). So why not take a page out of our DST Strategy Playbook and play Kicker Roulette from week to week with free agents, starting in Week 1?

Using our trusty Interactive Defensive Matchup Tracker or my exclusive schedule analysis, we can find the teams with favorable early-season matchups and get the kickers from those teams. The Bengals, Browns, Chiefs, Giants and Patriots all start the season with mostly favorable slates (and the 49ers, Bears, Panthers, Raiders and Seahawks could struggle).

Or, you could just draft Akers, except even he's a wild card since he's now on the 49ers after the Eagles cut him loose for rookie Alex Henery.

But whatever you do, don't sweat kickers and DSTs. Put that energy toward the important players in Fantasy Football -- the ones that will be the catalysts for success in 2011.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Patriots adjust TE Rob Gronkowski's $10 million bonus
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:14 am ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was due a $10 million option from the team, will instead receive the money in two split payments, per the Boston Globe

The team adjusted the payments on July 30, giving Gronkowski $4 million at the start of training camp and $6 million at the end of the league year. 

Gronkowski, who has 52 career touchdowns, is signed with the Patriots through the 2019 season. 


Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham ready for increased blocking
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:51 am ET) New Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham knows that he will have to become more than just a pass-catcher in Seattle's offense in order to succeed, per the Seattle Times

Graham, not known for his blocking while a member of the Saints, will be in a two-TE set with the Hawks, forcing him to block, by his estimation, "75 percent" of the time. 

"Now here I'm blocking quite a bit, and I love it," he said. "It's very important to me to be a part of that here. That's about 75 percent of the offense here. When you have a back like that, you want to be in there on those explosive runs, and you want to be a part of that."


Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson proclaims self 'diabetes-free'
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:29 am ET) Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he worked hard in the offseason to lose weight and slow the Type 2 diabetes that affected his play last season, per the team website. 

Peterson was diagnosed during the early part of last season, but still managed to make the Pro Bowl after making 50 tackles and grabbing three interceptions. 

"It's a big step, especially after you first find out about something like that, you worry it's life-threatening. But it's definitely something that's controllable," Peterson said. "The team doctors and (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed have done a great job monitoring, and I've been great so far. I'm ready to move forward."


Packers rookie Quinten Rollins practices for first time
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Packers second-round rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins made his training camp debut on Monday.

Rollins missed the first three days of camp with a hamstring injury. He was cleared from the non-football injury list and participated in individual drills. 

"It’s definitely good to get cleared," Rollins said, per the Journal-Sentinel. "It’s hard watching from the sideline, especially when you’re a competitor. But it felt good. Obviously I didn’t get team reps today, but just the fact that I was out there, fully dressed, and got to do individuals and walk through was definitely beneficial. Hopefully I can take small steps forward."


Lovie Smith: Doug Martin will be Buccaneers lead back
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Doug Martin will be the number one running back for the Buccaneers this season, coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. 

"We talked about being able to establish the run," Smith said, per TampaBay.com. "Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it's very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing."

Martin had 494 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 11 games last year. 


Ereck Flowers misses Giants' practice with hip flexor injury
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Giants first round draft pick Ereck Flowers missed Monday's practice with a hip flexor injury, per ESPN.

The tackle is listed as day-to-day, but coach Tom Coughlin didn't think the injury was serious. 

"He doesn't seem to be too bad," Coughlin said. "This morning he was sore, but by the time I caught him in the meeting room, he was (stretching his leg). Hopefully it's just a short amount of time."


Bears not sure when Kevin White will be able to practice
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Bears rookie wide receiver Kevin White opened camp on the PUP list, due to a shin injury he suffered during OTAs.

Coach John Fox said he's not sure when White will be cleared to practice, and he may not be ready by the time camp breaks on August 16.

“I’m looking at it day-to-day. I can’t predict,” Fox said, per ESPN. “Sooner rather than later is what I hope, but that’s just a hope.” 


Saints' Terron Armstead leaves practice early on Monday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Saints tackle Terron Armstead left practice early on Monday morning, per ESPN

The team didn't disclose the reason for Armstead's early departure and wouldn't confirm whether it was injury-related. 

Armstead watched the afternoon walk-through from the sideline but didn't participate. 


Panthers' Star Lotulelei out with stress reaction
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei suffered a stress reaction in his right foot, per the Charlotte Observer.

Lotulelei had surgery to repair a broken bone in that foot in January. 

He'll be shut down and reevaluated in "a few weeks". 


Redskins' David Amerson, Akeem Davis slowed by injury
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) The Redskins lost two defensive backs to injuries, Monday. 

David Amerson is being evaluated after suffering a left-shoulder injury, and Akeem Davis is getting evaluated for an injury to his left thumb, per the Washington Post

Davis played in 13 games as a rookie last year. Amerson has played in 31 games over the last two seasons.


 
 
 
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