Using the Kicker Slot to Gain an Edge

 
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For those who have not abandoned the kicker position entirely in their leagues, owners should recognize that the spot can be used for the betterment of their squad outside of simply adding a few points to their weekly total. There are two main strategies in which to do this:

1.      The Stash and Stream

2.      The Monday Night Stream

The Stash and Stream is essentially exactly as it sounds. When waiver wires open (players become free agents) for the week, an owner will drop their kicker from the previous week in lieu of a free agent position player. The owner then monitors the acquired player’s status/situation until having to drop him or another option for a kicker. This works well with running back handcuffs that are widely available. For instance, Mark Ingram is limited in practice on Wednesday, his owner then drops his kicker for Tim Hightower until Ingram’s status is confirmed as active on Sunday. At which point, the owner then drops Hightower for a kicker. Conversely, if Ingram was inactive, the owner already owns Hightower to start and then would drop another less valuable bench option for a kicker.

The Monday Night Stream is a little more complex and requires more variables to execute, but essentially when waiver wires open an owner will add the most desirable kicker stream option in the Monday night contest. By having the Monday night kicker it will allow owners to add and drop players who are part of the Monday night contest, after the Sunday games have completed. The reason this is of value is because it gives the owner a lottery ticket type stash on Monday Night Football if their contest score does not warrant the use of a kicker (i.e. the player is trailing, or leading by such a significant margin that the kicker’s performance will not directly impact the outcome of the owner’s match). How that is executed is by dropping the Monday night kicker and picking up a backup skill position player who may hold value in the future. For example, dropping Wil Lutz (the Saints kicker) to add Tim Hightower prior to the contest.

Reasons why we advise utilizing one of these strategies:

1.       The value of players fluctuates, sometimes greatly over the course of a practice week, so adding roster depth is always going to benefit an owner.

2.       The actual fantasy point value of top tier kickers is not as significant as their perceived value (explained below).

3.       In the instance of the Monday Night Stream, owners beat the opposition to the following week’s potentially high-end waiver wire claims.

4.       Expand owners’ rosters by maximizing bench spots.

5.       Save waiver priority/FAAB by acquiring players as free agents prior to the waiver period the following week.

The Reason Why it Works

Traditionally speaking, the kicker position has extremely low variance over the course of an entire season. The difference between K1 and K20 in 2015 was just 55 fantasy points and the difference between K1 and K20 in 2014 was 48 fpts. On a per game basis that means the difference in owning Stephen Gostkowski (K1) and Dan Carpenter (K20) was only 3.44 fpts per week (10.69 per week vs. 7.25). However, in standard leagues no one should own two kickers. So, assuming the top five at the position are never dropped, owners can pick from the K6 to K16 tier on almost a weekly basis, meaning that owners don’t even have to go as deep as K20. Last season, the total difference between Cairo Santos (K6) and Mason Crosby (K16) was only 22 fpst, or 1.38 fpts per game (9.13 per week vs. 7.75). Anyway, all of this is essentially a long-winded way of proving the irrelevance of wasting a bench spot on a kicker when avoidable and as such owners should look to own a kicker for the fewest number of days throughout a given week because the value of owning another bench flyer is so much greater.

The Practical Application

Examples of the philosophies over the course of the first three weeks of the season.

Week 1: I added Shaun Draughn post-waiver period based on Carlos Hyde’s uncertainty. On Sunday morning when Hyde was near certain to play, I dropped Draughn to pick up Chris Boswell (Monday Night Stream kicker). At the completion of Sunday, I had a 170 to 110 lead (opponent had Jordan Reed left but I deemed the lead insurmountable), so I dropped Boswell for Rob Kelley. In this instance, Kelley was a handcuff and depth free agent. Matt Jones’ health situation was uncertain and the workload could have shifted Kelley’s way. Had Jones been injured or shared workload, I’d have owned a potentially starting running back and conceivably a high waiver claim player the following week because of the strategy. For what it’s worth, Boswell put up 9 fpts had he been needed and Kelley did not supersede Jones for a lead role.

Week 2: With both Caleb Sturgis and Connor Barth widely available (Monday Night Stream kickers), after waivers cleared I dropped Kelley for Sturgis. After the completion of Sunday, I had an insurmountable deficit so prior to the Monday night game, I dropped Sturgis for Jordan Howard. However, I also had my pick of Ka’deem Carey, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Dorial Green-Beckham, etc.

Week 3: In a separate league, with both Matt Bryant and Wil Lutz available, after waivers cleared I dropped my Week 2 kicker for what I deemed the best available running back stash, Dwayne Washington. Now given the nature of how the practice week unfolds (Ameer Abdullah’s status, the Lions naming a starter at running back, the Lions making any signings, etc.) I will either wind up dropping him or another bench player for Bryant on Sunday morning, prior to rosters locking. If I have a large lead or overwhelming deficit I will drop Bryant prior to the Monday night contest for the likes of Tim Hightower, Jacob Tamme, Mohamed Sanu, Coby Fleener, Michael Thomas Travaris Cadet, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Coleman, Aldrick Robinson, or Taylor Gabriel depending on depth, team need and availability.

Limitations and Mitigating Factors

These strategies will work in most standard ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and NFL.com leagues provided there is a free agent period following the waiver wire. However, here are a few instances where it may be hard to execute the strategies:

1.       If a league only uses waivers or is strictly a FAAB league. Meaning, at no point is there a FA period following the FAAB waiver process.

2.       If others have a similar strategy or pick up on you doing it. This means the Monday Night Stream kicker or kickers of choice may have to be added earlier in the week to ensure they’re not scooped up by another owner.

3.       If the Monday night kickers are desired by more owners than just Monday Night Streamers. Week 3 is a good example of this, seeing as though Bryant and Lutz will be popular streaming options for all owners in general, not just Monday Night Streamers. As such, owners should employ the Stash and Stream or monitor the free agent list extra carefully.

4.       If both teams have an abundance of Monday night players, thus the outcome of fantasy matchup will undoubtedly still be in jeopardy on Monday night, employ the Stash and Stream.

5.       If the Monday night matchup features two kickers which are already owned, employ the Stash and Stream.

Steps to Applying the Monday Night Stream

Tuesday Post-Midnight / Wednesday Morning (Post-Waivers): Drop kicker. Add “Player A”

Thursday/ Friday / Saturday: Monitor news associated with “Player A” and his situation. Monitor the availability of Monday night kickers.

Sunday prior to lineup lock: Drop “Player A” (if news didn’t pan out) or Drop bench depth player for Monday night kicker.

Sunday evening / Monday morning: Gage score of fantasy contest and either start Monday night kicker (if needed) or drop for available depth player on Monday night.

When possible the Monday Night Stream is the ideal strategy of choice. It works especially well in leagues with shallow rosters and small benches where maximizing roster depth is critical. In a few non-kicker leagues, the strategy has been amended slightly to work with defenses but the variance in defenses if much more significant than that of kickers so the Stash and Stream can be utilized but not the Monday Night Stream. Anyways, the long and the short of it all is leave the kickers in the free agent pool for as long as possible and maximize the depth of rosters with an extra bench spot.