So in most standard leagues, we end up having to draft a kicker and a defense/special teams. Which do you draft first, and where?
If there is one thing I have learned over the years, they are both kind of a crap shoot. Inevitably, it seems no matter who I draft in these positions, I frequently end up streaming somebody better. Even if you get a kicker or DST that seems like a sure thing, there’s always something that can impede performance. For kickers, it is a stalling offense. For DST’s, it’s injuries usually, although a stalling offense can affect them too.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean get the kickers and DST’s with the best offense. The Chiefs offense rarely stalls, but their defense hasn’t been exceptional either. Also, exceptional offenses like the Chiefs tend to produce more XP’s than FG’s.
For kickers, the key is an offense that moves great between the 20’s, and then stalls. FG time! The Falcons were masters of this last year, and Younghoe Koo was gold for his owners. Will they be that way this year? Possibly, but the key for Koo was the fact he took advantage of most of the opportunities he got, including the long kicks. But having said all that, “past performance is no guaranty of future returns”. This year, the Falcons could suddenly turn into a touchdown machine, and Koo could be relegated to XP duty. Or Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley could get serious injuries, and the Falcons offense turns into Adam Gase’s dream team! Either way, the key is a good, but not TOO good, offense, and a kicker who can take advantage of it.
For DST’s, you can ignore the “ST” part of the equation. Special teams is a nice bonus, but it is more of a lottery ticket than something on which you can rely. The defense part is the bread and butter, and specifically turnovers and sacks. The top 5 defenses last year (depending on your scoring system): Rams, Steelers, Colts, Dolphins, and Ravens. There isn’t a “secret stat” that made those 5 tops. The Rams and Colts were tops in TD’s, but the Colts were all the way down at 10th in points against. The Steelers and Rams were tops in sacks, but the next one of the top 5 was the Dolphins at 10th. The Steelers and Dolphins were tied for the lead in interceptions, with the next highest being the Colts tied at 7th. The Ravens were at 3rd place in fumble recoveries, while the Dolphins were tied for 4th, and the Colts were tied at 8th. But can you predict how the loose ball will bounce?
DST is the old adage about preparation and skill meeting opportunity. Any of those top 5 teams could be there again, or not. DST is about doing a lot of things well, and then having opportunities. Good luck predicting that. Not to mention, all it takes is a few well-placed injuries, and your all-pro defense suddenly becomes a sieve.
But this isn’t about which kicker or DST you should draft, as much as it is about WHERE to draft them, and you should wait for your last 4 picks. A better backup TE is more predictable than a top-rated kicker or DST. Consider: There is roughly a 40 point difference in the top 10 DST’s, whereas kickers have a 34 point difference in the top 10. That sounds big, until you spread it out over a season: 2.5 ppg for DST’s, versus 2.125 for kickers. But the first place DST versus the 10th place kicker: 13 points total, or 0.8125 ppg. In the opposite direction, the first place kicker over the 10th place DST gets a 61 point advantage, or 3.8125 ppg.
Admittedly, this is an exercise in splitting hairs, but when you reach the end of the draft, the point differentials are not league winning. You mainly want players who won’t give you goose eggs. Kickers in general produce more points than DST’s, but neither produces enough to win you most weeks. So it makes more sense to draft kickers before DST’s, but at the very end of most drafts.