Late Round Manifesto: How to Draft a Kicker & Defense – Early & Responsively

There will always be smart drafters who will scream at you until they’re blue in the face that there is only one draft strategy that applies to drafting your K and DEF: “Thou shall only draft one Kicker and one Defense in the final two rounds of your draft.” To them I say: they’re probably right, but maybe there’s some middle ground to be had. 

Here is what I want to do:

  • First, I want to convince you to regard smart advice and take K & DEF in the late rounds. You can find this in Part I.
  • Now, I want to tell you how to break those rules, only if you are brave enough to do so. If you’re too lazy to read this thing, then you should probably just stick to what the smart people say.

Part II: Fuck the wisdom, let’s go rogue…

 

I can admit that I generally do not follow the expert’s advice, and I am the guy who is taking DEF and Kicker early(ish) in most drafts. However, I do set up rules for myself. Be warned, I will be getting into the weeds a bit, but I think I can make a case for drafting your D&K earlier than expected.

Rule 1: Only go rouge if you are confident you are nailing your draft

We have all been in the position where you find yourself playing catch-up in your draft…it happens to the best of us. If you are weak at WR or RB for whatever reason, you need to address the situation and sacrifice your early DEF draft pick to fix the holes in other positions.

Rule 2: Don’t even think about drafting a Defense until the 10th round. 13th round (of 16) for Kicker.

When I say early, I don’t mean early in the draft. Some people think you should fill out your starting roster before moving to the bench. That is dumb, and you should feel sorry for those people. There is too much value being squandered by using any higher picks.

Rule 3: If other players in your league start a DEF run in your draft earlier, do not follow.

I can make the argument that D&K can be drafted earlier than the last two rounds, but I just cannot justify using a pick before the 10th round on a player so risky. Drafting in a counterintuitive manner is a lot like drinking – do so responsively. Drafting a kicker in 11th round is simply idiotic, and someone may beat you to the elite folks. That is fine, remember that means you can scoop up whatever value is being left on the table.

The primary idea behind the argument is that you can find ways to use your 15 and 16 round picks on smart choices that are not Kicker and Defense. If you are confident that you are going to use those very last picks in a productive way, then you can move D&K to earlier rounds. The catch is that you must over-plan your end game with a backup plan if things do not break your way.

Basically, you want to put yourself in the best possible situation to use your late round picks productively.  You should feel comfortable using early picks for the DEF and K. In a nutshell, you want to be:

  • Taking a risk at WR with one of your late round picks. Your first 4 wide receivers should be relatively low risk picks, this makes your late round lotto pick more reasonable.
  • Saving TE for your late rounds, or at least deciding to only have one TE.
  • Drafting RBs with clear-cut handcuff options, who will be available in later rounds.

Please note – everything I write is from the prospective of Standard League scoring, with a single flex roster. The draft strategy I am using is with a 10 team, 16 round draft.  

To make this strategy work, the way you draft in the early rounds needs to set the building blocks for the latter rounds. If the two do not work in tandem, then you can find yourself weak at certain positions. However, my [crack-pot] plan should address those issues.

WARNING: I cannot stress this enough… this strategy may blow up in your face. You have to recognize that you are taking a risk. Just ask anyone who had Seattle’s Defense last year. Having an elite D&K will make a difference, but it may be only an extra 2 or 3 points per game. Before you move forward with this approach, you need to ask yourself if it is  worth it.

Set-up #1: Late Round RB Handcuffs

The most common scenario that allows for Early D&K drafting is when I have RB1s with handcuffs I can expect to be on the board in the latest rounds. This doesn’t work for RBs who’s backups will be going off the board in the 8-12 round range like Cincy’s Hill-Bernard combo or Cole-Freeman in ATL. You want Handcuff backups who are late round afterthoughts, who can slip by your other drafters unnoticed so you can wisely sweep them up with your picks that should have been reserved for Kicker and Defense.

Here is a short list of RBs who fit that situation (of course, you should stay informed in case a situation changes):

Jamaal Charles (KC) :: Knile Davis

Eddie Lacy (GB) :: James Starks

CJ Anderson (DEN):: Montee Ball

Alfred Morris (WSH) :: Matt Jones

Lamar Miller (MIA) :: Damien Williams, Jay Ajayi (hasn’t earned the spot yet)

Latavius Murray (OAK) :: Roy Helu

Justin Forsett (Bal) :: Lorenzo Taliaferro

 

I think the perfect RB for this scenario is lil’ Alfie Morris. He himself is rather cheap in the 3rd round, then I can wait till the very end of my draft to pick up Matt Jones. Matt Jones is practically off the radar for everyone, so he is essentially free. I was able to pick him up with my 15th round pick in a 14-team league, so trust me; no one will see it coming (https://goo.gl/t72Ag1). Congratulations! You can now move your D&K picks up one round.

Of course I cannot promise that no one will steal your guy and if that happens you will be screwed, but that is the price you pay for this gamble. If you pick up a few different RBs from this list then you have a much better chance to at least handcuff one of your RBs.

 

Set-up #2 – Ignoring the TE/QB

If you are the kind of person who likes having the security blanket of a Stud QB and TE then early D&F drafting is probably not for you. By drafting a DEF in the 11th or 12th round you are losing the chance to pick up a Lotto pick WR like Kevin White Breshad Perriman or a high cost handcuff like Duke Johnson, so that means you need to be rock solid with your Flex players before you go down this scary road. However, you can totally be loose with your TE and QB picks to make early D&K work. I would not be as caviler with the QB position as I am with TE – I recommend picking up a QB in the first ten rounds, even if its Ryan Tannehill.

If you read my crash course here then you will know that I hate TEs with a passion, never had any luck with them. Tight Ends are a lot like Defenses, in that they are hard to predict who will be productive, except they cost a hell of a lot more. One way to find value at the end of your draft is worry about your TE (or at least your back up TE) at the very end. It would be completely practical to grab two high-upside TEs (Austin Seferian-Jenkins & Vernon Davis) with your last picks and see how it works out.

 

Set-up #3 – Super Sleeper Receivers

It is widely known that the WR position is deep in fantasy, and every year someone emerges out of nowhere. Here are some wide-outs who are going in the twilight rounds or not at all: Pierre Garcon, Brian Quick, Kenny Stills, [insert any Titans WR], and Dwayne Bowe. Look, I am not going to say that any of these guys are going to be big contributors to fantasy this year, but an astute observer could see the upside in these guys.

Remember:

  • Garcon was receiving passes from the same guy throwing the ball 2 years ago that he (probably) will be this year.
  • Quick was killing it last year before his injury last year, and who knows… maybe Foles will turn that ship around.
  • Stills had the highest catch rate last year, and the Dolphins do not exactly suck.
  • Mariota anyone? Anyone remember what happened to Washington 3 years ago? Just saying someone can emerge.
  • The Browns may have a dumpster fire on their hands, but Bowe is 30… not 42. Andre Johnson is going in the 5thround and he is 34.

Okay this idea is not rocket science. If you have 4 WRs that you are confident in, I have no problem with grabbing Bowe as my Mr. Irrelevant. Of course this works better in 10 team leagues, because more WRs will be available. For more guys like this, check out this companion piece.

Let’s put it in practice!

Now we go far into the weeds. As any good drafter knows, you cannot ever truly plan every single detail of your draft, but you can prepare for certain scenarios. I will do a mock draft and put this idea into practice.

Quick recap – In this mock I will be:

  • Taking a risk at WR with one of my late round picks.
  • Saving TE for the late rounds, or deciding to have only one TE.
  • Drafting RBs with clear-cut handcuff options, preferably cuffs available in later rounds.

By the ninth round I want my team to look like this:

  • 4 RBs (3 starters w/ handcuff potential, 1 upside passing back)
  • 4 WRs
  • 1 QB (later round)

 

You always need to let the draft unfold and adapt to how others are drafting. Nevertheless, based on mob draft tendencies, I can visualize how I want my last rounds to look if everything goes to plan:

10 [Defense]

11 [Tight End 1]

12 [Backup QB]

13 [First available RB Handcuff]

14 [Kicker]

Note – Drafting a kicker before this is silly and unnecessary. This pretty much guarantees you Gostkowski, Parker, or Vinatieri. If those players are gone by this point, then your friends are probably idiots, and you have already won your draft.

15 [Tight End 2 or 2nd RB Handcuff]

16 [WR5, crazy lotto pick]

Okay I am ready to mock draft with the plan of taking a DEF and K early. In this draft, I am drafting 7th out of 10. I will provide commentary for relevant picks…

THE MOCK

  1. Dez Bryant
  2. Jeremy Hill – I want to cuff him with Gio, 6thround will be my safest bet.
  3. Alfred Morris – handcuff potential with Matt Jones, late round potential.
  4. Brandon Cooks
  5. Andre Ellington –handcuff potential with David Johnson.
  6. Gio Bernard (handcuff to Jeremy Hill) – good lock up, he could’ve been there later… but I did not want to risk it.

With 4 RBs this early, I know I should be fine at RB. The two RB handcuffs I am most interested in are bold, but otherwise I will ignore the position until the end.

  1. Jeremy Maclin
  2. Cam Newton
  3. Zach Ertz – A descent TE, so now it’s best to ignore getting a backup till the very end, if at all.

Now I am considering taking a DEF, especially because someone has already swooped in to grab Seattle. However, I am a bit weak at receiver so that must be addressed first. In addition, I just do not feel comfortable rolling into battle with Cam. So with plenty of QB available that are starting-caliber, I want to take care of that soon.

  1. Larry Fitzgerald
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. Matthew Stafford

Let’s look over the roster at this point:

  • I got 4 RBs, and that already includes one handcuff. I am sitting comfortable. I only need either Morris or Ellington’s handcuff to really sure up my RB crew. Either one will do.
  • I have a decent TE. I decide to wait till the end for a backup.
  • 4 WRs. I feel really good about my WR core, a late round flyer will do just fine.
  • DEF and QB are sure up. No need to look for any more.

See what we’ve done? With 4 rounds remaining, I would feel fine using my last 3 rounds on my RB5, WR5, and TE2. This will allow me to move up to pick a Kicker. However, no one is going to be looking at Kickers in the 13th round (assuming I have a bunch of smart people in my league), therefor I will wait till the 14th. Here is the end of our mock…

 

  1. Matt Jones (RB5, handcuff to Alfred Morris) – Handcuffs are the most risky late round picks, because some owners get RB happy and snatch up as many as they can. I don’t want anyone to steal my stuff. Since this is going well, I am going to use this pick to lock up my RB depth chart.
  2. Adam Vinatieri (Ace Kicker)– Someone picked up Stephen Gostkowski waaaay too early, and I feel fine letting him go. I grabbed up a Kicker with a week 10 bye (so I don’t need an extra kicker on my roster early in the season) and who plays indoors for an offense that is maybe second to Green Bay.
  3. Eddie Royal (WR5) –I noticed Royal sitting at the end of the draft despite being posed for a WR2 role in Chicago. With Kevin White just coming out of surgery, I know that a speedy vet like Royal is not the worst option for pick 15.
  4. Tyler Eifert (TE2) – Yeah, yeah. He stunk it up last year, but he is athletic and big. Not a bad lotto pick for last pick.

The result:

QB – Cam Newton, Matt Stafford

RB – Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard

RB – Alfred Morris, Matt Jones

WR – Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin

WR- Brandon Cooks, Eddie Royal

Flex – Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald

TE – Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert

DEF –  Buffalo Bills

K – Adam Vinatieri

 

I don’t know about you, but I like this team. Maybe you wish for more upside in Running Backs, or a Stud in your QB spot. However, if you like this brand of balance of risk and safety, please try this method out for yourself. I don’t need royalties.

Draft Smart and remember that everything I told you will blow up in your face.

 

fantasyreaList Writer: P. Christian Swafford

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