Don’t Forget about Kickers. While I agree with most fantasy analysts that kickers are not worth more than $1, or at the most $2, it is not bad to try to plan ahead for bye weeks for kickers. In a perfect world, I try to buy a kicker with a later bye week, and then drop them at some point to get a kicker through waivers for $1 who has already has had their bye week. There are a few kickers who may be worth keeping through a bye. If you think you have one of those based on the current year’s statistics, just plan ahead and try to pick up a kicker the week before you need them, so you have a better selection. Also, never be afraid to drop a kicker who is not living up to expectations. There will always be a couple of kickers who surprise us, or whose teams do better and create more opportunities for their kickers to score.
Also, unlike a snake draft, you don't have to wait until the end of the auction to buy a kicker. Most fantasy participants have been conditioned that good players don't draft kickers until the last round. In an auction, most players have been conditioned to not pay more than $1 for a kicker. So, if you nominate a kicker you like at the beginning of the auction, one of two things will happen, both of which are probably good for you. First, you can nominate the kicker for $1, and no one else will bid and you will get the kicker you want. Second, another manager will bid $2, taking extra money away from them, and in theory, making them pay double what a kicker is worth. I have been in auctions where someone nominated four kickers in a row, with other managers paying $2 for the first three, before they ended up with one they were still okay with for their $1 opening bid.
Defenses & Special Teams (D/ST)
Defenses & Special Teams (D/ST)
Definitely Do Not Forget About Defenses. I do not agree with most fantasy analysts in regards to defenses. While defensive scoring can be slightly unpredictable based on turnovers and actual defensive or special team touchdowns, I think we can tell rather quickly in a given year which defenses are better than most. While I agree you should not overpay for a defense to start the year, that does not mean they are a throw-away roster position. I think it is important to focus on yards and points allowed, as opposed to actual defensive or special teams scoring, as touchdowns are highly unpredictable. How your league has defensive scoring setup is key here, but most have a combination of yards allowed and points allowed.
In every other position on our fantasy rosters, with the exception of kickers, fantasy experts are always talking about having good backups available and playing the match-ups, and it makes sense to do so. Most of them then forsake this advice when it comes to defenses. Again, the key to having a successful fantasy team is to have players, or teams, that are going to start multiple games for your team. While I am all for having a couple of backup running backs with talent on your roster in case an injury occurs, and always want some wide receiver options, I am also for having a second defense on your roster that enables you to play match-ups. First, we know most defenses do better at home, and no matter how good the best defense may be, they still only get eight home games. This may translate to only six home games during the fantasy regular season. We also know that certain offenses struggle each year, and so defenses that get to play these offenses are also good plays. I would argue there are two or three top twelve defenses each year that will not get selected in your draft, and do not become apparent for a couple of weeks every NFL season. You need to be watching for these teams, and be willing to pick them up before your regular defense has their bye week. Also, you need to be on the lookout for when other mangers drop good defenses because of bye weeks. If you did not spend anything on a defense at your draft and someone drops one in the earlier part of the season, go back to understanding their value. If you can get a top five defense that will start for your team 6, 7, 8 or more weeks, it is okay to pay maybe half the price for them as another player, or 15% of your FAAB. The key is to maximize your scoring each week, and if there is a defense that can do this for you, go ahead and pay for them. The difference between using waiver wire funds for defenses during the year is that you are not necessarily costing yourself at another position the way you are in an auction draft. If you drafted well, and avoid injuries, it is very possible you will never need to spend much of your FAAB budget. So, if you see a defense that will help your team multiple weeks, it is okay to pay for one.
The other important thing to remember in regards to defenses, is to minimize downside. Again, fantasy experts talk a lot about ceilings and floors with players, but rarely with defenses. You need to make sure you are starting a defense that has a high floor, as opposed to a high ceiling. You want to make sure they are going to give you a reasonable number of points, and not put you in a position to score negative points. This is another reason why I advocate carrying two defenses. There are certain offenses that are difficult to stop, and if a good defense is on the road against one of these top offenses, it is okay to bench them for a decent team that is at home against a mediocre or bad offense. It may take a little time to determine match-ups and plan around bye weeks, but if you can look ahead and do so, you will be in a better place, and will probably be able to purchase defenses for the minimum amount. This becomes more important the larger the league. My main league I have done for over twenty years is a twelve-team league, and we have several managers who will carry two defenses. A couple of them may even roster three during certain weeks of the season. As there are only 32 teams in the NFL, you can see how there may be a strategy opportunity here. If each player in a 12-team league has one defense, that is 12 off the board. If each team had 2 defenses, that would be 24. A majority of weeks, you don’t want to be stuck picking from the bottom 12 defenses, because the odds are it won’t be pretty. If you are in a 14 or 16 team league, this can become even worse, depending on roster and bench sizes. Again, it is my opinion it is not all bad to carry a second defense that actually will start for your team three or four times in a fantasy season, over that upside running back who collects dust on the end of your bench the entire year. Dropping players in seasonal leagues that will not start for your team unless there is an injury is probably going to happen during bye weeks anyway, so you might as well be taking an extra defense that will start for your team. Fantasy seasons are won on a week-to-week basis, and having players, or in this case teams, that are going to start multiple games, can help you win one or two more games a season. So, while it may be true at the end of the year the difference between the top few defenses and the middle of the road defenses is only a few points, on a weekly basis, the variation is much higher, and taking advantage of this can help you win.