The first thing I learned when I started playing fantasy football years ago was, draft running backs with your first two picks, and don't grab a kicker until the last round. I did as I was told until I'd been around long enough to figure things out on my own.
As we've seen in recent years, the draft two RB rule is eroding away as we see more running back by committee scenarios, and more pass happy offenses. Still the kicker rule tends to remain hard and fast, with the likelihood of league ridicule coming down on your head should you draft a kicker early.
Well let me say it now. Throw that rule out the window. This is not to say you won't find a suitable kicker in the final round, but you should not underestimate their fantasy value.
In 2009, Nate Kaeding (SDC) and David Akers (PHI) were the top two fantasy kickers. Depending on your league's particular scoring system that gave Kaeding about 156 points. Certainly not Adrian Peterson or Drew Brees type numbers, but you might be surprised at who Kaeding did outscore last season.
He was equal to or better than all but the top 5 fantasy defenses.
He was equal to or better than but the top 2 tight ends.
He was equal to or better than all but the top 12 wide receivers.
He was equal to or better than top 17 running backs, including guys like Michael Turner, Steve Slaton, Pierre Thomas, LaDainian Tomlison, and Matt Forte who were all round 1 and 2 picks last season.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Don't mistake this information as a argument for reaching early for a kicker, but certainly if you feel good about a particular kicker, you need not wait until the final round. They can put your team over the top.
Over the last three seasons no kicker has made the top position twice. That trend will likely continue in 2010, but certain guys seem to float near the top each season.
RANK PLAYER TEAM ONE LINER 1 David Akers PHI The #2 Kicker in 2009, and #3 in 2008. A strong option. 2 Stephen Gostkowski NEP Ranked #1, 2 and 6 the last 3 seasons. 3 Mason Crosby GBP Crosby has ranked #1, 4 and 7 over the last 3 seasons. 4 Nate Kaeding SDC Last season's top leg moved up from #8 in 2008. 5 Ryan Longwell MIN Always in or near the top 10 6 Rob Bironas TEN Top 10 the last 3 seasons 7 Jay Feeley ARI Feeley is going to have to turn some short TDs into FGs 8 Dan Carpenter MIA I like the Dolphins to continue improving on all fronts 9 Lawrence Tynes NYG The G-men will rely on Tyne's leg often 10 Matt Prater DEN The Broncs will struggle for TDs which boosts his value 11 Garrett Hartley NOS Was a Top 12 performer when he finally took over in 2009 12 Jeff Reed PIT Always a good play, but more so with Big Ben out. 13 Rian Lindell BUF No QB, no receivers... Look for a healthy dose of leg. 14 David Buehler DAL A towering offense should provide strong opportunities. 15 Robbie Gould CHI Should have more opportunity in 2010 16 Neil Rackers HOU Whoever wins the job is worth consideration 17 Ryan Succop KCC Good kicker, bad team = fantasy bling 18 Matt Bryant ATL Contract year and an improving team 19 Shayne Graham CIN Off year in 2009, but should score more in 2010 20 Adam Vinatieri IND A healthy Vin on a dominant offense
Be sure to catch up on our TE, RB and WR rankings as well.