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Kicking Around The NFL’s Proposed PAT Changes in Fantasy Football

Are kickers any more viable with the NFL's proposed rule changes to PATs?
Are kickers any more viable with the NFL's proposed rule changes to PATs?

As fantasy football advances further and further in mainstream popularity, the terribly unexciting and dicey kicker position is slowly being weened out of many competitive custom leagues. But as this is happening, a seemingly likely upcoming NFL rule change could change the landscape for kickers in fantasy.

The argument against kickers has never been that they do not score enough points – Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski outscored Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Vernon Davis last year – it is more to do with there being such little separation between starting options, plus the sheer unpredictability of the position on a weekly basis relative to the others. It amounts to a nigh random entity on teams.

New PAT Rules on Horizon

The NFL has evidently has had a similar frustration with the replacement level of kicker performance, and now the league has set its sights on increasing the distance of extra points from 20 yards to 43 yards. The same year the change was suggested, the NFL will begin testing extra points starting at the 25 yard line this upcoming season, so they mean business. With this a very real possibility to hit the regular season as early 2015, we want to explore what this means for kickers in fantasy.

Out of the 1267 extra points attempted in 2013, only 5 of them were shanked. For the math inept, that’s 99.6%. That kind of success rate makes you wonder if the 5 misses were due to untimely sneezes or a blinding angle of the sun. In 2013, the success rate of field goals in the 40-49 range was 83%. On the same number of extra point attempts, that rate would push the expected number of misses to 215. Much better than 5. If there was any way kickers could further separate themselves from each other in fantasy, this should be it. Let’s see if that’s what happens when we look at the numbers.

First, we have a chart showing the unadulterated top 16 fantasy kickers from last year and their fantasy point total (using ESPN standard scoring), along with how many more points they scored than the guy ranked a spot below them. That’s probably the most important part.

Top Kickers From 2013

Fantasy Kicker Chart 1

Second, we’ll change each kicker’s totals to what they would be expected if they converted extra points at the same rate as field goals in the 40-49 range. Numbers are rounded.

Top Kickers From 2013 (Adjusted For New Rules)

Fantasy Kicker Chart 2

Now that doesn’t look like much of a change at all. Perhaps we need to consider that a 43 yard field goal is worth 4 points in this format, while the equally difficult extra point is still worth just 1. If we adjust to make extra points worth 4 points and add a 1 point penalty for misses, this is what happens.

Top Kickers From 2013 (Adjusted For New Rules & Custom Points)

Fantasy Kicker Chart 3

As you can see here, there are a few outliers that skew the results due to the small sample size of 1 season. Because Prater, Bailey, Novak, Suisham, and Bryant made 100% of their 2013 field goals from 40-49, they get a large bonus when the formula assumes this means they will then make 100% of the extra points at a similar range. Especially Prater who had a ridiculous 75 extra point attempts last year.

We could fix the results by going back a season or two for a more accurate player average, but a look at the rest of the players outside that group of 5 should speak for itself. The proposed NFL rule is not going to fix anything for fantasy purposes. The problem is not how easy or hard it is to make a kick, it is that the nature of a simple and straight-forward task like kicking the ball just does not allow for a meaningful talent disparity.

Final verdict: Place kickers still suck for fantasy football. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.

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