2017 Positional Rankings: Top Ten Ks & DEFs

If you were to ask someone to list the things they hate most in the world they would probably say: waiting for a left turn light to turn green, long grocery lines at the 12 and under check out, road work during rush hour traffic, sharting at work, and playing in a fantasy league that still has kickers and defenses in them. The trendy thing is to remove them entirely from your league.  Blasphemy! They still are a part of the real game and create another element of strategy come draft day and weekly submissions of your lineup. Josh and I had some back and forth regarding both the kicker and defense positions before we covered the top ten at each position – because some leagues have not abolished them just yet.  Below are the conversations between Josh and I as we put this list together. We hope you enjoy it!

It’s Wednesday Night and we both just got done putting the kids down for bed. Dinner is heating up and we are ready to drop some knowledge on some kickers and defenses. 

Chris: What it do son!

Josh: It’s time to talk kickers and defenses, young man. God making this list is so difficult each year. First, no one cares about either position and secondly, no one cares about either position!

C: TROPHY TIME! Let’s do the damn thang!

J: Wow (Owen Wilson voice)

J: Okay you’re not going to just keep saying Trophy Time are you?

C: …

C: Trophy…just kidding. I know you like to have kickers in your league. Why? Get with the times bro!

J: I think it adds another element of strategy as you try to set your weekly lineup. I agree that they aren’t extremely important and a position you shouldn’t waste any time researching prior to your draft.

C: For me, there’s just a huge variance in the outcomes and everything is so random with the position.

J: Yeah, I like the randomness and the other research that must be done when evaluating the position.

C: Yeah kickers kind of suck ass. Defenses aren’t as terrible for me, but I know some people want to ban defenses for the same reason.  Before you know it, tight ends will be on their way out in fantasy.

J: Say it ain’t so! I don’t know what I’ll do with myself if I’m not remembering every team’s depth chart at the tight end position. I think TE is here to stay but last year hopefully is a sign of things to come. This rookie tight end class could infuse life back into the position. 

C: Couldn’t agree more. Do you see a split between defenses and kickers when it comes to eliminating just kickers from a league?  Or do they go hand in hand?

J: I would say they go together, so if you remove kickers, you might as well remove defenses as well.  Thus, part of my reasoning for keeping kickers in my league is because I see them on the same playing field (pun intended).

C: We all know somewhere Doug is nodding his head when he reads about banning kickers.

At this point, Josh had to run and finish making his dinner.  The lasagna piece he had was ginormous. When he came back, we got down to breaking down the top ten kickers.  Below our the lists, followed by some analysis from myself on kickers, and Josh on defenses.  Oh, and more conversation!  Get the chips ready!

Top 10 Kickers:

  1. Stephen Gostkowski
  2. Justin Tucker
  3. Matt Bryant
  4. Dan Bailey
  5. Adam Vinatieri
  6. Matt Prater
  7. Mason Crosby
  8. Cairo Santos
  9. Will Lutz
  10. Caleb Sturgis

Well, well, well.  The hotly contested kicker position is at it again!  We know you’re all chomping at the bit for this top ten list, so here it is!  Stephen Gostkowski was our consensus number one, despite a down year from him last year when he kicked 84.4%, his worst since 2012.  The reasons are obvious.  He has consistently been at the top of the kicker position every year and the Patriot offense only got better from last year.  There have been years when he has outscored an average WR3, which is absurd!  But if you’re like us, you shouldn’t take a kicker until the last round and should stick with the streaming option as matchups, stadiums, weather, and team defenses can also heavily impact a kicker’s production.  Josh was a little lower on Gostkowski so he can sneak in and take him before any of us do, since we won’t be expecting it.

Justin Tucker, Matt Bryant, Dan Bailey, and Adam Vinatieri rounded out our top five without much difference between the three of us.  Justin Tucker might be the best pure kicker in the league, right up there with Stevie G.  Matt Bryant and Dan Bailey are both in domes and in high powered offenses, though we like Bryant a bit more because the offense and defense are both better, leading to more field goal attempts.  And Vinatieri is just an ageless wonder who will probably be kicking field goals until he’s 50. He has lost some distance on his leg, but he remains one the most accurate kickers in the game, in a high powered offense, and a dome.  These tend to be common factors for the guys who aren’t the elite of the elite (Gostkowski and Tucker).

Our six through ten rankings featured more variances than the top five, understandably.  Prater plays in a dome and an offense that seems to struggle scoring touchdowns, leading to many opportunities for the former Bronco.  Mason Crosby plays in a high powered offense but also had the second highest standard deviation of anyone in our top ten.  Doug had him as high as five and Josh as low as twelve!  Your boy had him right on the button at seven!  Cairo Santos is surrounded by a very solid defense and a game manager offense, which helps with good field position and no touchdowns – a great formula for kickers.  Will Lutz is in a dome and has a great offense around him, as we all know, and finally Caleb Sturgis, who had the highest standard deviation of anyone in our group.  I happened to again be in the middle at ten, while Josh had him at six and Doug at 15.  To me, he seems like a decent kicker, but he doesn’t seem to have any of the necessary pieces around him that you look for when grabbing a kicker.  Josh and I talked kickers below:

J: I just couldn’t put Gostkowski number one because of all the extra points he misses. I know one of the leagues we play in it is -2 points per miss now. That added level of risk is greater than what Tucker or Bryant have.

C: Makes sense.  Those missed PATs can really bite you in the buns!  Where do you come down on Lutz?

J: I love Lutz this year! I will love whomever is the kicker for New Orleans for as long as Brees and Payton are there. Plus, eight games in the dome each year doesn’t hurt either. I also really like Prater. Eight games in the dome as well, in an offense that is ascending. I was high on him last season but wasn’t able to own him in any of the leagues I play in.  

C: My Name is Jeff!

J: I was told to look for the Mexican Wolverine!

C: Every time that movie is on FX I have to watch it. But back to what we were talking about, what was your thinking on Sturgis?  Up and coming defense there in Philly?

J: I believe that Philly’s offense will be improved by the addition of Alshon Jeffery but I am not sold on Carson Wentz improving in the red zone where he struggled last season. I think Philly should see an increase in drives that move into their opponent’s territory and I feel it should allow Sturgis the opportunity to replicate his top ten finish of last season.

After over an hour of texting movie references back and forth, Josh completed his breakdown of our top ten defenses.

Top 10 Defenses:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. Seattle Seahawks
  3. Houston Texans
  4. Minnesota Vikings
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars
  6. Kansas City Chiefs
  7. New England Patriots
  8. New York Giants
  9. Arizona Cardinals
  10. Los Angeles Rams

“Defense wins championships” and in fantasy football this statement still rings true. Even though not nearly as important as their positional counterparts, a steady and productive defense can be a valuable asset to own during the long fantasy season. Just look at the Denver Broncos from 2015 and the production they were able to put up for fantasy owners lucky enough to own them.

  • Heading into 2017 our clear number one is the Denver Broncos. Losing Wade Phillips wasn’t enough to knock them out of the top spot for Chris and Doug. Still, with the best secondary in football and Von Miller, the Broncos are still the apex defensive unit to own.
  • Seattle once again finished as a top five scoring defense allowing only 18.3 points/game and that was without the quarterback of their secondary, Earl Thomas, who missed five games after suffering a leg injury. If they can stay healthy, which has been tough the past few years, they should once again be a top three defense. It doesn’t hurt that they may have the best home field advantage in the entire NFL.
  • Houston finished as the number one statistical defense in the NFL last year and that was without J.J. Watt! Houston should once again be an elite defensive option and should drastically improve on their 2016 finish of 20th in fantasy. I can’t wait to see Watt and Clowney for an entire season. It should be magical!
  • The Vikings have been on the rise and they finally put it all together in 2016 finishing as the number two defense in fantasy. Seven total defensive touchdowns are going to be tough to duplicate but with some of the best linebackers in the game and a young secondary, I see no reason they shouldn’t finish in the top five again.
  • Jacksonville might be a surprise for some, but it looked like things finally clicked for the Jags as the season was winding down. With so much young talent on the defensive side of the ball and the additions of Calais Campbell, Barry Church, and A.J. Bouye, we think the Jaguars defense might be one of the best in the NFL in 2017.
  • The top fantasy defense of the 2016 season the Kansas City Chiefs come in at six on our list. Reason being, last year they relied heavily on turnovers, defensive touchdowns, and return touchdowns to earn the top spot. Tyreek Hill is not returning kicks and defensive touchdown production is too hard to predict…next!

After Kansas City, we round out our top ten with New England, The G-Men, the Cardinals, and the LA Rams. New England is a much better real life defense than fantasy one! They just don’t create enough turnovers or defensive touchdowns. Guess how many defensive touchdowns the Patriots had last year… I’ll wait… you Google it yet? ZERO! They had more safeties than they had defensive touchdowns. Both the Cardinals and Giants finished as top six fantasy defenses last year on their ability to turn turnovers into touchdowns. Injury concerns to the Honey Badger are a major concern as Mathieu is a major piece of the defense and the loss of Campbell could impact their ability to pressure the passer this year. Big Blue is optimistic under Steve Spagnuolo as they showed major improvements in his second year and finished second in total points and points/game on the defensive side of the ball. To round out our top ten list for defenses we have the L.A. Rams. The Rams have all the pieces in place but just haven’t been able to put it all together to finally become the dominant defense we know they can be. Insert Wade Phillips and the City of Angels could finally be the Broncos 2.0! The talent on the defensive side of the ball is unbelievable, anchored by Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. If the Rams don’t finish as a top ten defense this season I will be shocked.

Chris: Being able to create turnovers is what takes the cake for defenses, and I think that’s why we have some teams where we do.  I agree completely on Houston and think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.  You seemed down on Denver a bit, ranking them third compared to Doug and I who had them first.  Does their lack of offense scare you into thinking that the D will be on the field too much?

Josh: I don’t have a really good reason outside of the loss of Wade Phillips and the continued offensive production issues worry me. I ranked them third so I don’t think they are going to fall too far.

C: Looks like Doug was the lone man out on the Chiefs defense as we both had them at five and he decided to put them ninth.  Strange man that Doug, huh? Lol.

J: He hates Kansas City. He went there once for a conference when working at Best Buy and didn’t have great things to say about it. That and he drives a Ford Focus. Kansas City did rely heavily on defensive touchdowns last year which is concerning heading into this season.

C: I agree with you there and I agree with you completely on the Patriots, as we see them as more of a strong defense that doesn’t like to take chances because they know they don’t have to and they don’t like to give up the big play.  I think I may have to lower them in my rankings! Again you and I agreed on the Cardinal defense whereas our co-worker Doug went a little lower on them.  I wonder if he thinks it’s because of all the pieces they lost but I certainly see them as a big play defense that still has its core playmakers and Patrick Peterson as a return man as well.  I think some may be sleeping on Arizona this year!

J: You motor boating son of a bitch!

C: Trophy Time!

That is going to do it for our annual positional rankings of 2017.  Follow me on Twitter at @TheFantasyBoys and Josh @TFFGurus. Make sure to let us know if you disagree by sending us an email at TrophyTime@TFFGurus.com. Remember to check out the Trophy Time Podcast which can be found on the Trophy Time tab above and all the major podcast networks – iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher Radio. Until next time, kickers & defenses for life baby! Trophy Time!

Written by

Follow me on Twitter, @TheFantasyBoys.

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