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According to the Data: Do Elite Offenses Make Top Kickers?

Keith Platte

Keith Platte

Keith Platte writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Background

As a follow-up to an earlier piece about Kickers and Defense, here is a deeper dig on some kicker draft strategies. Usually drafting a kicker is the last thing I am thinking about on draft day. However, everyone needs a kicker. With that in mind, who should be targeted? The prevailing theory is to simply nab a kicker for a team that will be an offensive powerhouse like Denver, Philadelphia, New England or Green Bay or a great defense like Seattle, Carolina and Arizona. It seems straightforward and logical, but let's see if the data supports the theory.

Data

Three pieces of data need to be examined; the kicker data, offensive team data, and defense team data.

Kicker Data

I analyzed the last three years of data for kickers. This entailed FGs made as per distance and extra points scored. I converted three seasons of data into fantasy points for four common league providers (Yahoo, ESPN, NFL.com, and CBS). For teams that had more than one kicker in a year, I added their fantasy points together to get a "team" kicker. Next, I ranked the kickers for each of the respective years based on the four scoring systems with "1" being the highest point total, and "32" being the lowest. From these four rankings, I averaged four scoring systems to provide an average rank for each of the kickers for the three seasons. Finally, I calculated the three-year average for each kicker.
Below is a table of the average kicker ranking per year, sorted by the three-year-rank average.

2011 2012 2013
Team Avg K Rank Avg K Rank Avg K Rank 3 Yr Rank Avg
NE 3 2 1 2.0
SF 1 11.25 6 6.1
BAL 12.25 6.25 3 7.2
DAL 6 11.75 9 8.9
GB 5 19 5.75 9.9
HOU 5.75 5.75 25.5 12.3
ATL 13.5 3 20.75 12.4
NO 2 19.25 16.5 12.6
CHI 10 15.25 13.5 12.9
MIN 22 1 16.25 13.1
DEN 30.5 8.5 2 13.7
SEA 18.75 17.75 4.75 13.8
CIN 9.75 9 24 14.3
OAK 4.25 12.75 26.5 14.5
DET 10.25 6 28.25 14.8
SD 9.5 31.25 6.25 15.7
TEN 9 21.25 18.25 16.2
IND 28 16.25 6 16.8
PIT 23.25 16 13 17.4
BUF 18.75 25.75 10 18.2
TB 22 9 25.75 18.9
NYG 27.25 4.25 28 19.8
PHI 16.5 22 21.75 20.1
MIA 16.25 26.75 20.5 21.2
NYJ 23.5 28.5 11.5 21.2
CLE 23.25 12.25 30 21.8
CAR 20 30.5 15.25 21.9
ARI 30.5 24.5 11.25 22.1
KC 28 23.75 18.25 23.3
STL 32 23 21.75 25.6
WAS 15 31 31.75 25.9
JAC 25 28.5 31 28.2

Offensive Data

Over the same three-year time span, the data for the number of offensive touchdowns were gathered for the 32 teams. This information was then ranked for the league, with "1" being the team with the most offensive TDs and "32" being the team with the least. This data, along with the three-year average of this ranking, is shown in the table below.

2011 2012 2013
Team Off Rank Off Rank Off Rank 3 Yr Rank Avg
NO 2 2 3 2.3
NE 3 1 7 3.7
GB 1 3 9 4.3
DEN 20 3 1 8.0
DET 4 13 7 8.0
CAR 5 10 15 10.0
ATL 7 6 18 10.3
DAL 11 16 5 10.7
PHI 9 23 2 11.3
CIN 20 13 4 12.3
SD 7 22 10 13.0
NYG 6 6 27 13.0
MIN 11 19 10 13.3
SEA 23 8 10 13.7
SF 19 10 14 14.3
HOU 11 9 29 16.3
CHI 25 21 5 17.0
WAS 26 5 21 17.3
PIT 17 18 18 17.7
BAL 14 13 29 18.7
BUF 14 17 25 18.7
OAK 14 23 22 19.7
IND 28 19 15 20.7
TEN 23 27 15 21.7
TB 27 10 28 21.7
MIA 20 23 23 22.0
ARI 18 31 20 23.0
NYJ 10 29 31 23.3
KC 31 32 10 24.3
CLE 30 23 26 26.3
STL 32 27 23 27.3
JAC 29 30 32 30.3

Defensive Data

Over the 2011. 2012 and 2013 seasons, the data for the number of touchdowns allowed by the defense were gathered for the 32 teams. This information was then ranked for the league with "1" being the team allowing the least TDs and "32" being the team allowing the most. This data, along with the three-year average of this ranking, is shown in the table below.

2011 2012 2013
Team Def Rank Def Rank Def Rank 3 Yr Rank Avg
SEA 5 1 1 2.3
SF 3 3 4 3.3
BAL 1 7 7 5.0
MIA 8 4 5 5.7
CIN 13 6 3 7.3
PIT 2 4 19 8.3
ARI 8 10 9 9.0
NYJ 8 16 12 12.0
HOU 4 12 21 12.3
CHI 8 2 27 12.3
CAR 29 11 2 14.0
DEN 13 7 24 14.7
ATL 13 7 25 15.0
DET 18 21 9 16.0
NYG 26 14 8 16.0
NO 13 32 5 16.7
TEN 7 30 14 17.0
KC 19 23 9 17.0
CLE 5 25 23 17.7
STL 22 12 19 17.7
NE 24 16 14 18.0
SD 19 19 16 18.0
IND 27 16 12 18.3
DAL 12 21 30 21.0
GB 24 15 26 21.7
JAC 13 23 29 21.7
PHI 22 28 16 22.0
MIN 27 19 31 25.7
WAS 19 26 32 25.7
BUF 31 31 18 26.7
TB 32 27 21 26.7
OAK 29 29 28 28.7

Combined Data (Sorted by Kicker Three-Year-Rank Avg)

2011 2012 2013 Kicker Offense Defense
Team Avg K Rank Off Rank Def Rank Avg K Rank Off Rank Def Rank Avg K Rank Off Rank Def Rank 3 Yr Rank Avg 3 Yr Rank Avg 3 Yr Rank Avg
NE 3 3 24 2 1 16 1 7 14 2.0 3.7 18.0
SF 1 19 3 11.25 10 3 6 14 4 6.1 14.3 3.3
BAL 12.25 14 1 6.25 13 7 3 29 7 7.2 18.7 5.0
DAL 6 11 12 11.75 16 21 9 5 30 8.9 10.7 21.0
GB 5 1 24 19 3 15 5.75 9 26 9.9 4.3 21.7
HOU 5.75 11 4 5.75 9 12 25.5 29 21 12.3 16.3 12.3
ATL 13.5 7 13 3 6 7 20.75 18 25 12.4 10.3 15.0
NO 2 2 13 19.25 2 32 16.5 3 5 12.6 2.3 16.7
CHI 10 25 8 15.25 21 2 13.5 5 27 12.9 17.0 12.3
MIN 22 11 27 1 19 19 16.25 10 31 13.1 13.3 25.7
DEN 30.5 20 13 8.5 3 7 2 1 24 13.7 8.0 14.7
SEA 18.75 23 5 17.75 8 1 4.75 10 1 13.8 13.7 2.3
CIN 9.75 20 13 9 13 6 24 4 3 14.3 12.3 7.3
OAK 4.25 14 29 12.75 23 29 26.5 22 28 14.5 19.7 28.7
DET 10.25 4 18 6 13 21 28.25 7 9 14.8 8.0 16.0
SD 9.5 7 19 31.25 22 19 6.25 10 16 15.7 13.0 18.0
TEN 9 23 7 21.25 27 30 18.25 15 14 16.2 21.7 17.0
IND 28 28 27 16.25 19 16 6 15 12 16.8 20.7 18.3
PIT 23.25 17 2 16 18 4 13 18 19 17.4 17.7 8.3
BUF 18.75 14 31 25.75 17 31 10 25 18 18.2 18.7 26.7
TB 22 27 32 9 10 27 25.75 28 21 18.9 21.7 26.7
NYG 27.25 6 26 4.25 6 14 28 27 8 19.8 13.0 16.0
PHI 16.5 9 22 22 23 28 21.75 2 16 20.1 11.3 22.0
MIA 16.25 20 8 26.75 23 4 20.5 23 5 21.2 22.0 5.7
NYJ 23.5 10 8 28.5 29 16 11.5 31 12 21.2 23.3 12.0
CLE 23.25 30 5 12.25 23 25 30 26 23 21.8 26.3 17.7
CAR 20 5 29 30.5 10 11 15.25 15 2 21.9 10.0 14.0
ARI 30.5 18 8 24.5 31 10 11.25 20 9 22.1 23.0 9.0
KC 28 31 19 23.75 32 23 18.25 10 9 23.3 24.3 17.0
STL 32 32 22 23 27 12 21.75 23 19 25.6 27.3 17.7
WAS 15 26 19 31 5 26 31.75 21 32 25.9 17.3 25.7
JAC 25 29 13 28.5 30 23 31 32 29 28.2 30.3 21.7

Conclusion

The data indicates that while a powerful offense helps with identifying useful kickers, it is not a guarantee for a top one. In fact, only one kicker, New England´s (Stephen Gostkowski) showed up in both top-five averages. The offenses that had high average rankings (Green Bay, Denver, New Orleans and Detroit) all had average kicker rankings in the 10-15 range. It is safe to say the data does not support the "high power offense equals a top kicker" theory.

As for the theory concerning great defense supporting great kickers, this is also a mixed bag. On one hand are San Francisco and Baltimore, both of which have had good kickers and pretty good defenses. On the other, Seattle, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Miami punch holes in the theory. That said, here are some observations from the data:

New England, San Francisco, Baltimore, Dallas and Green Bay have had solid kicking teams the last three years (Denver the last two).

Indianapolis, San Diego and Seattle are kicking teams on the rise.

Houston and Tennessee are kicking teams on the decline.