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2012 Draft Prep: Kicker and DST strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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• Dave Richard's tiers and strategies: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end

Kickers and defenses are the ugly stepchildren of Fantasy Football. They're necessary but not popular. The summer months are spent researching and analyzing players at four other positions and not spent breaking down the trajectory of rookie placekickers field goal attempts or why a team's secondary depth is among the best in the league.

But you still have to draft kickers and defenses/special teams units (DSTs) and thus a strategy is necessary.

It's not a very complicated strategy, however. Assuming there isn't a wacky scoring nuance that makes kickers or DSTs valuable, both should be considered late round picks if not last two-round picks. I habitually take a kicker with my last pick except for rare situations where I'll spend a second-to-last round pick on one just because I want to get a guy I feel is a quality option before the people picking after me have a chance to get him. DSTs are a bit different and deserve more attention.

Down and dirty with DSTs

Assume you have two strategies when it comes to DSTs: Draft one you're willing to ride all season or draft one that will do well in Week 1 and then move on. I like to call this "DST Roulette."

Any DST in my Top 5 could be considered a must-start option from week to week regardless of the matchup. They're explosive, they create turnovers and they can help. It's never bad to have a top DST if only so you don't have to go to the trouble of finding one you feel confident enough to start on a weekly basis. The Top 5 DSTs will go first off draft boards starting as soon as four rounds before the end of the draft.

But I almost prefer to change my DSTs from week to week based on the matchup. Sure, the 49ers DST is considered tops in the league but if you can start a DST that has a good to great matchup from week to week, wouldn't you? That DST has not one name but multiple names and is made up of the free agent choices on waivers.

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
Lions (vs. STL, at SF, at TEN) Broncos (vs. PIT)
Saints (vs. WAS, at CAR, vs. KC) Falcons (at KC)
Vikings (vs. JAC, at IND, vs. SF) Seahawks (at ARI)

Finally, I'm occasionally asked if it's OK to carry more than one DST at a time. My answer is no except in the case when a red hot DST is on bye and you don't want to risk losing it to someone else on waivers. Don't draft two unless your league rules force you to. I'd rather pick a sleeper running back or a backup quarterback or a tight end than a second DST. If you only need one, draft one.

A leg up on the competition

Rarely is there significant space between the top-finishing kicker in Fantasy and the second-highest producer, but it happened last season. David Akers was worth more than 30 points higher than John Kasay, who was second-best. There were 13 kickers within 30 points of Kasay, providing the point that usually there isn't much separation between the best kickers in Fantasy and the near-best kickers. Kicker production is dependent primarily on accuracy and opportunities. Akers tried 52 field goals in 2011, making 44. No one else came close to that many chances and therefore Akers was a superstar. Billy Cundiff had the second-most attempts with 41, which happens to be the number of kicks the leaders in the space tried in 2010. If you're lucky your kicker will attempt between 33 and 37 kicks and make at least 28. That's a reasonable expectation.

Do powerful offenses mean lots of field goal attempts? Of the 11 kickers with at least 33 tries last season, eight were on teams ranked in the Top 16 in total offense, so that's a pretty good place to start.

Top 10 Fantasy kickers, last five years
Player, # of times Player, # of times
David Akers, 4 Robbie Gould, 2
Rob Bironas, 4 Sebastian Janikowski, 2
Mason Crosby, 4 Nate Kaeding, 2
Stephen Gostkowski, 4 John Kasay, 2
Matt Bryant, 2 Neil Rackers, 2

But attempts are not the end-all, be-all for kickers. For instance, if a kicker attempts 33 tries and makes just 21, a kicker who makes 24 of 28 field goals is better. Unless, of course, the kicker who makes fewer field goals makes more extra points to make up for the point differential. And all of these kicking chances are contingent on the offense, not the kicker himself. Heck, even if the offense scores a touchdown and goes for two the kicker gets nothing. Then what good does he (or the offense he plays on) do you?

Simply put, kickers are the ultimate Fantasy crapshoot. Yes, total offense is a pretty good baseline to get a read on which kickers to chase but it's not foolproof. Not only are kickers up-and-down, but they're a dime-a-dozen. If there's any kind of barometer in which to look for a kicker, find the ones who have finished as Top 10 options over the last several seasons. The most reliable legs stay in the NFL a long time and have good track records.

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. The kickers and DSTs will be there for you with your last picks.

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
Chargers shuffle active roster Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:31 pm ET) The Chargers made several moves Tuesday, adding running back Shaun Draughn and linebackers Kevin Reddick and Cordarro Law to the active roster. The team also placed running back Danny Woodhead on injured reserve and released defensive lineman Lawrence Guy.

The Chargers added three players to the practice squad Tuesday as well: running back D.J. Adams, tight end David Paulson and outside linebacker Colton Underwood. Adrian Phillips was released from the practice squad, while Marcus Cromartie was released from the reserved-injured list.


Saints sign Orson Charles to practice squad
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:24 pm ET) The Saints signed tight end Orson Charles to the practice squad Tuesday, NOLA.com reports. Charles was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2012.


Streaming kicker options for Week 4
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) In Jamey Eisenberg's Week 4 waiver-wire column, Chargers kicker Nick Novak, Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, and Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham are named as the top streaming options for this week's set of games.

Novak has connected on all six of his field-goal attempts this season, and gets to face the Jaguars Sunday. Carpenter faces the Texans having made a league-high nine field goals in 10 tries. Suisham has yet to miss on eight tries, and is 4 for 4 from 40 yards heading into Sunday against the Buccaneers. 


Two running backs have tryout with Chargers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) Running backs Shaun Draughn and D.J. Adams worked out for the Chargers Tuesday, according to ESPN. San Diego is looking for roster depth after placing running back Danny Woodhead (leg) on injured reserve.

Titans waive WR, add TE to roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Titans announced Tuesday they signed tight end Chase Coffman. To clear a spot on the roster, wide receiver T.J. Graham was waived.

Steelers, Dolphins, Chargers top streaming options in Week 4
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) In his Week 4 waiver-wire column, Jamey Eisenberg tabs the Steelers, Dolphins and Chargers DST units as the best streaming options for Week 4.

The Steelers have a date with the Buccaneers coming up in Week 4, and that has been a good thing for other defenses this season. Opposing DST units are averaging 18.3 Fantasy points per game against the Bucs, including two games above 15 points.

The Dolphins travel to London to face the Raiders, who have yet to top 14 points on offense this season. Opposing DST units have scored 12 Fantasy points in each game against Oakland.

The Chargers are coming off a strong performance, as they racked up 13 Fantasy points against the Bills, on the strength of three sacks and a safety. They get the Jaguars in Week 4, who have allowed opposing defenses to rack up at least 15 Fantasy points in each game, for an average of 19.0. 


Phillip Supernaw takes Dennis Pitta's spot on Ravens roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:17 pm ET) The Ravens announced Tuesday they placed tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) on injured reserve. To take his spot on the roster, tight end Phillip Supernaw was elevated from the practice squad.

Rex Ryan: 'Everybody is behind Geno Smith. He's our QB'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:13 pm ET) The Jets have lost two straight games and quarterback Geno Smith has had his struggles in both outings. However, coach Rex Ryan gave the second-year quarterback a vote of confidence Tuesday following Monday's loss vs. Chicago.

"Everybody is behind Geno. He's our quarterback. Our football team believes in him," Ryan said, per the New York Daily News.


It's a 'possibility' Chris Ivory will get more playing time
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:02 pm ET) After totaling 94 yards (44 rushing) during Monday's loss against the Bears and averaging 5.7 yards per carry through three games, Jets running back Chris Ivory might start to see more reps moving forward.

"Maybe Chris Ivory will get more time," coach Rex Ryan told reporters Tuesday. "He's running hard and there's not a whole lot of guys who want to tackle him. Will we play Chris Ivory more? That's a possibility."


Looking ahead at Week 4 WR waiver wire options
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(4:58 pm ET) Jamey Eisenberg considers Jordan Matthews of the Eagles, Brian Quick of the Rams, Allen Robinson of the Jaguars, James Jones of the Raiders and Hakeem Nicks of the Colts the first five receivers you should be targeting on waivers ahead of Week 4.

Additionally, Riley Cooper, Greg Jennings, Jarrett Boykin, Kenny Stills and Miles Austin are mentioned as possibly worth dropping if you need the roster spot right away.  


 
 
 
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