Late Round Manifesto: The Wisdom, Why to Draft Kicker & Defense Late

One Kicker. One Defense. The final two rounds.

The classic D&K approach is tried and true. Many o’ Taco have seen their drafts destroyed because they did not heed to this warning, and ended up with a terrible team. Let’s dive into the rationale behind the approach.

The basic idea behind drafting Kickers late is that the difference between a top tier vs a so-so kicker is so small that drafting the “better player” provides such insignificant benefit that you lose the chance to get a leg up elsewhere in the draft (like taking a lotto pick on an upside WR).

A way to conceptualize the difference between drafting an Elite vs a Middle-of-the-Road player, is to see how many more points per game you will receive by having the top player at a particular position; vs what you’ll get from a replacement-level player (someone off the waiver wire). Below is the difference in fantasy points per game between the 1st and the 10th best players at certain positions in 2014:

QB1 vs QB10 = +4.8 points per game

RB1 vs RB10 = +6.9 ppg

DEF1 vs DEF10 = +3.0 ppg

K1 vs K10 = +1.7 ppg

Stephen Gostkowski led all kickers with 168 fantasy points in 2014 – 28 more than No. 10 kicker Randy Bullock at the end of the season. On a weekly basis, that averages out to 10.6 vs 8.8 per game, respectively – a difference of 1.7 per game between the Stud who is commonly drafted early and the guy from (give me a sec, I just had to google which team Randy Bullock played for) the Texans.

What about defenses?

The above stat clearly shows that the draft-last strategy is certainly true for kickers, but what about Defenses? Though, there can be a noticeable advantage to having an elite DEF, but predicting who will be elite year-to-year is incredibly difficult. Buffalo was the largely undrafted last year, but finished as the top fantasy defense. The Eagles were an awful defense, but they had a crazy amount of returned TDs, which you just cannot rely on year-to-year. For 4 years running, the Bengals were a reliable top-10 defense option, but last year when they finished 25th. Get the idea, essentially Murphy’s Law is alive and well with fantasy defenses.

Most fantasy vets prefer another winning strategy for fantasy DEFENSES: Streaming! For the uninitiated; Streaming is when you pick up a player (in this instance, a DEF) from the waiver wire to play on your team for a limited time or maybe just a game. Defenses are particularly fit to stream, because unlike a WR or RB, you know without doubt that the DEF will be participating in the game. In addition, predicting the strength of an opposing offense is fairly predictable.


Pop Quiz – What do QB, DEF, and Kickers have in common? Most competitors only keep 1 or 2 of these positions on their roster at once. At any point in the season, you can easily go out and grab a Top-15 defense or kicker who can start on your fantasy team, but running Backs are much harder to replace on your team. When you’re on the waiver wire looking for a new RB, you’re not going to find players ranked in the Top-15, like you can at QB. The RBs left on the waiver wire are commonly 3rd down backs or the lesser player in bad committees – generally RB30 to RB40. Now, let’s take the points per game statistic from earlier and apply it to those guys:

RB1 vs RB20 = +10.0 ppg

RB1 vs RB30 = +11.3 ppg

RB1 vs RB40 = +13.2 ppg

Ouch. Now wouldn’t you have preferred to have drafted Chris Ivory (7.8 ppg) as an insurance policy instead of having to pick up Bishop Sankey (4.0 ppg) when your Stud RB goes down with an injury? Many people drafted Seattle’s DEF early and lost out in getting someone like Ivory, which could seriously mess up his/her season.

You got all that? Good. Now, if you dare check out the next installment to learn how to say “screw that” and draft the way every “expert”says you shouldn’t…

Draft smart… and everything I tell you is wrong.

fantasyreaList Writer: P. Christian Swafford


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