FF Tips

ESPN Fantasy Football The Magazine: I Don’t F***in’ Hate It

By Lenny Pappano 7:35am EDT 6/25/14

For the past few summers, it was an annual DS rite to trash ESPN’s fantasy football mag. Everything from its hyperbolic cover headlines (“57 fantasy sleepers!”) to its form-over-function layout screamed that some overpriced Manhattan marketing guru had his way with the writing staff.

I imagine Matthew Berry being treated to a 5-martini lunch while a sub-par copywriter writes headlines. 

But as I hold the 2014 edition, I have to admit: I don’t f***in’ hate it. That doesn’t mean I won’t critique the magazine. Yet gone are the litany of cheesy cover headlines, replaced by three thoughtful teasers that got my attention. And when Matthew Berry writes an article pimping the “7 Habits of Highly Successful Drafters,” I’m gonna bump him to the top of the bathroom reading list. 

Ah, enough of the pleasantries. On to my critique. 

I’m really only going to throw out one juicy one because I want DS readers to thoughtfully consider.

When Should You Draft Your Fantasy Kicker? 

The mag has a pretty interesting spread on bucking conventional draft wisdom – always an endearing topic to me. One blurb challenges the “Draft Your Kicker Last” strategy. Well for starters, it’s debatable how conventional that wisdom is. Most fantasy football experts we’ve competed against draft their kickers far too early for our tastes.

On page 19, Ken Daube suggests “snagging your PK1 as early as Round 14.” As the ESPN scribe explains, “The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has been the NFL’s best fantasy kicker the past two seasons, outscoring the No. 10 kicker by an average of 55 points each year.”

By contrast, Kaube claims, you can only nab the #34 RB or #36 WR in the 14th round of most drafts. “Those two slots aren’t 55 points better than comparable 16th-rounders or waiver wire claims.” Kaube finishes his argument by noting that “13th- and 14th-round selections were dropped more than any other in ESPN standard leagues last year. If you want a pick that sticks, kicker is the way to go.” 

Kaube has a point – of sorts – but his piece may be a lesson in missing the point.

To begin, doing player rankings for kickers is probably the most challenging position. Sure, Gostkowski has had back-to-back top dog seasons. But only he and David Akers share that distinction the past 10 years. In fact, those two kickers are the only kickers who have had back-to-back top-3 finishes since 2003.

So does it make sense to grab Gostkowski again this year in the hopes he pulls a three-peat? No. Looking at last year’s ADPs, both WR Julian Edelman and QB Philip Rivers had a round 14 ADP. Sure, there were other guys who were duds – but it makes more sense to take a flyer on someone who could be a starter at QB, RB, WR or TE over a guy who might (emphasize “might”) be the #1 kicker. 

Ok, there is an initial thought. After more bathroom time with ESPN’s fantasy football mag, I’ll share more thoughts in the coming weeks. Lemme know if you’ll be drafting a kicker with your 14th pick!

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