Shayne Graham, come on down (USAT)
It's not uncommon to hear or read grousing about the kicker and defense positions in fantasy football. It's all luck, some say. It's too freaking random, someone might offer. Just flip a coin and get it over with, that's how many seem to view this part of the game. I've seen leagues that eliminate the kickers and defenses altogether.
Those lines of reasoning never made sense to me. In my view, ranking kickers and defenses is the easiest thing a fantasy football scribe does every week. More than any other position, the success of your kicker and defense is usually tied to the success of his club. (It's not quite that simple, but that's the best way to start — follow the heavy favorite.) And while some others grouse and rely on poorly-conceived methods to fill these spots, we have a chance to steal some points in this area most weeks. It's a fun, and rewarding, spot to do weekly shopping on the wire.
Fantasy Pros keeps track of the expert ranking accuracy for kickers and defenses, but those grades aren't included in the overall accuracy standings. I wish they did count, in part because I've fared well in them through the site's four-year history. My kicker accuracy rank reads this way: 1st, 5th, 2nd, 2nd. Defense accuracy rank: 3rd (Yahoo! consensus is first), 6th, 2nd, 2nd.
This isn't any kind of a brag (or even a humble brag), because again, I don't think there's any great skill to ranking these positions. But if some industry folks (and fantasy owners) want to go on thinking it's a messy area, fine with me. Let's keep stealing points every week.
With that in mind, here's a look at my kicker and defense ranks for this week. And when the full Yahoo! staff ranks come out later on Wednesday, I strongly suggest you consider those as well. My esteemed colleagues all know what they're doing.
Nothing's guaranteed on game day, of course. As Eddie Felson said back in the 80s, "the balls roll funny for everybody, kid." Some of these ranks will surely look ridiculous after the games are played — the NFL is like that. But the idea is to give yourself the best shot at a win, the best logical chance for points. We are committed to a sound process, trusting over the long haul, the outcomes will work out.
If they deal me 11 against a dealer 6 at the blackjack table, you better believe I'm doubling down. And I'm not going to change that mindset because the last time I doubled down the dealer pulled a five-card 21 while I caught a brick. See this exercise for what it is.
I will update these rankings on the Yahoo! site and on the Fantasy Pros site (but probably not in this specific blog) as the week goes along. I will likely add a Cincinnati kicker into the mix when we know who it's going to be. And I'll tweak some rankings for sure as I get deeper into the matchup analysis. Any ranking you ever see on a Wednesday, from Yahoo! or any other source, should come with the tentative asterisk. There's no reason to lock into decisions with kickoff still 96 hours away in most cases. But I'm presenting the ranks now as a waiver-wire consultation piece.
Enough preamble. Here's the kicker and defense board for Week 15, Volume 1.0. I've always maintained game-result handicapping matters more in this area than any other; keep that well in mind. And with those defenses, let's pick on the weak quarterbacks and avoid the elite ones. A simple plan, but it works.
Go steal some points, gamer.
Week 15 Kicker Ranks
1. Shayne Graham (HOU vs IND)
2. Jason Hanson (DET at ARI)
3. Stephen Gostkowski (NE vs SF)
4. Lawrence Tynes (NYG at ATL)
5. Matt Bryant (ATL vs NYG)
6. Sebastian Janikowski (OAK vs KC)
7. Garrett Hartley (NO vs TB)
8. Connor Barth (TB at NO)
9. Steven Hauschka (SEA at BUF)
10. Dan Carpenter (MIA vs JAC)
11. Shaun Suisham (PIT at DAL)
12. Matt Prater (DEN at BAL)
13. Dan Bailey (DAL vs PIT)
14. Phil Dawson (CLE vs WAS)
15. Greg Zuerlein (STL vs MIN)
Week 15 Defense Ranks
1. Detroit Lions (DET at ARI )
2. Miami Dolphins (MIA vs JAC )
3. Seattle Seahawks (SEA at BUF )
4. Houston Texans (HOU vs IND )
5. St. Louis Rams (STL vs MIN )
6. Cincinnati Bengals (CIN at PHI )
7. Green Bay Packers (GB at CHI )
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT at DAL )
9. New York Jets (NYJ at TEN )
10. Denver Broncos (DEN at BAL )
11. Oakland Raiders (OAK vs KC )
12. Carolina Panthers (CAR at SD )
13. Kansas City Chiefs (KC at OAK )
14. Chicago Bears (CHI vs GB )
15. Cleveland Browns (CLE vs WAS )