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Fantasy Focus: Buccaneers Kickers

Posted Jul 13, 2017

There’s a kicker battle brewing in Tampa Bay this offseason. Will either option have fantasy football relevance in 2017?

Oh, the humble kicker.

Kickers can be the unsung heroes of your fantasy team. Too often, owners will just draft a kicker in one of the final rounds and then forget about him, sticking with their original pick for the duration of the league when other, better options are ripe for the picking off the waiver wire.

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To begin, it is important to point out the school of thought to which this article prescribes: You should wait until one of the last two rounds to draft your kicker. Yes, Justin Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski and Matt Bryant are fantastic kickers, but, ultimately, the point difference between kicker options proves minimal, and predicting how great a kicker will be before the season begins is a maddening exercise.

For instance, let’s look at last season. Bryant and Tucker ran away with the kicker leads with very impressive totals, 9.7 and 8.8 fantasy points per game, respectively. Bryant’s 2016 ADP was “not drafted;” he ranked 20th at his position in ADP. Tucker was a bit more of a standard prediction as the fourth overall kicker taken in most leagues.

Moving down the points-total list, the third-best kicker of 2016 scored 8.1 points per game, the 17th-best kicker scored 7.1 points per game. That is 15 different kickers within one point per game of each other. Those kickers range from Stephen Gostkowski (7.6 ppg and the highest kicker ADP) to Will Lutz (7.9 ppg and not even drafted enough times to show up on the 2016 historical ADP list).

Wait on your kickers.

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Now, let’s get to the Buccaneers' options going into this season: Roberto Aguayo and Nick Folk. Aguayo, a second-year player drafted a year ago, is the incumbent; Folk played for the New York Jets in 2016.

Roberto Aguayo
Average Draft Position (ESPN): --
Position (K) Draft Ranking: 22
2016 Fantasy Point Production (Standard Format): 88
2016 Position (K) Rank: 24

Nick Folk
Average Draft Position (ESPN): --
Position (K) Draft Ranking: 35
2016 Fantasy Point Production (Standard Format): 104
2016 Position (K) Rank: 21

Another rule of thumb is that if there is a training camp kicking competition and your fantasy draft is being held before the teams’ final cuts, you are not going to want to draft either of those dueling kickers. That's a particularly long-winded rule of thumb, and if you want to ignore it, you can because it is really a no-harm, no-foul scenario. If you draft Kicker Option A and he does not ultimately win the job, it is very likely that you can just drop him and pick up Kicker Option B, who is sitting patiently in waivers for you.

There are many die-hard Buccaneers fans out there who realize that the difference in kicker points is minimal, so it is a great time to stay loyal to your team. To them: by all means, draft your Buccaneers kicker and start them proudly. As mentioned, it is just hard to know what a kicker will do each year. But we can look at a few clues to show that whichever kicker makes the final roster should certainly outscore their ADP this season. Those clues, namely, are the points and yards per game that a team's offense generates.

Eight of the kickers playing on the NFL’s highest scoring teams were among the 17 kickers to score seven or more points per game last year. There are a few notable outliers, but more often than not, a high-scoring offense is going to come with a high-scoring kicker. The Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Packers and Cowboys were the five highest-scoring offenses in 2016, and all five of their kickers finished in the top 12 for fantasy points. In terms of yardage, the Saints, Falcons, Redskins, Patriots and Cowboys led the league, all five kickers wound up in the top eight.

With Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Doug Martin, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and the rest of the Buccaneers' weapons, this Bucs offense is widely thought to be on the verge of an explosive breakout in 2017. With big plays comes big points. Touchdowns turn into an extra point for a kicker, and should the offense stall inside the 30, that can lead to even more. The key is moving the ball and taking advantage of opportunities. All signs point to the Buccaneers' offense making great strides, and fantasy owners can benefit.

Bottom Line: Don’t draft your kicker early, and probably avoid drafting a Buccaneers kicker unless your draft is held after the final rosters have been made. If you are a Buccaneers fan, or really believe that this offense is special and that the kicker will benefit, then there is little harm with drafting them with your final-round selection. Just remember to pay attention to the position throughout the season and adjust accordingly. Chances are that Aguayo or Folk will be sitting unused by the end of Week Four, and there is the potential that they could be among the leaders at their position.