News & Analysis

Kickers are the Baltic Avenue of fantasy -- and that's a good thing

Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz (3) kicks a field goal against the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter in the NFC Divisional Playoff football game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: Every Sunday, we’ll wrap up the week on PFF Fantasy with some topic one of our writers has been thinking about of late, and recap the features, columns, and podcasts you could find on the site that week.)

Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues are pretty pointless in Monopoly. You literally can’t land on one of them the first time around the board, and there’s only a 1-in-18 chance of landing on the other. If they were excised from the game altogether, made into free squares, 90 percent of Monopoly games wouldn’t be any different. Even if you get both, build hotels on both, become the slumlord of the game, charging exorbitant rent on cheap housing, the chances Baltic and Mediterranean will make the difference between winning and losing are low.

Catan is a popular game among some, but if you are unfamiliar, it starts with you choosing some intersections of resources to establish your position. During the game, you roll the dice, and if your number comes up, you get resources. So obviously, you want to start out on the popular numbers — 6’s and 8’s (7’s don’t count). You start out on 2’s and 12’s if forced, but you aren’t counting on those, because … well, because they’re 2’s and 12’s. But on occasion, because of the vagaries of dice rolls, 2’s and 12’s are dominant in the game, and the person who ends up starting out on a crappy number stumbles into a win because of those numbers.

In chess, sometimes a random pawn makes it to the far end of the board and becomes a queen, making the difference between victory and defeat. You could take the 2’s out of a deck of cards and poker wouldn’t change much … except for the time someone hits a set of 2’s on the flop and wins a big pot. Nobody’s ever won a game of Uno because of the few zeroes in the deck — except for the people who have.

Every game has seemingly extraneous parts that could probably go away without significant impact, except that they do come into play sometimes, and without them it wouldn’t be the same game. And call it a tortured metaphor if you want, but that’s the kicker in fantasy football.

Most of the time, the kicker doesn’t matter, and you’re picking a name more-or-less at random and hoping for the best. If you feel like you have a good feeling whether Wil Lutz or Dan Bailey is going to have a better Week 6 (especially if you have that feeling on draft day), let’s just say I’m skeptical. But over the grand scheme, we know that Stephen Gostkowski is going to do pretty well, whoever kicks for the Jets is going to do pretty poorly, year in, year out.

Sometimes a random kicker has a huge day, and it makes the difference in a measurable number of fantasy matchups. You know what? That’s a feature, not a bug. My family won’t play Boggle with me anymore, because there is roughly a 100 percent chance that I not only will win, but I’ll win by double, triple, quadruple their score. I am really good at Boggle. At the same time, I won’t play one-on-one against my buddy who was a reserve for the UK basketball team. There’s no point. Introducing a bit of randomness into a game that is predominantly skill is a perk. You want it there.

I know it’s trendy these days to hate on the kicker position in fantasy football, but I go the other way. Let’s have multi-kicker leagues. Go all out. I love the kicker position, and will be sad when it inevitably goes away.

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