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Fantasy owners should have PK strategy

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Posted July 24, 2010 @ 3:55 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

This is the 19th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.

When will the first placekicker be selected in your draft this season? And who will it be?

If you haven't given these subjects much thought, I don't blame you — after all, most owners don't select their starting kicker until very late in the draft, when your fellow owners are gathering their things and getting ready to dash out the door after making their final selections.

However, the kicker questions posed above are worth a few moments of consideration. Owners shouldn't be spending a mid-round pick on a kicker, but they must consider when they need to move to get a capable season-long starter.

The question is, if you want a highly regarded kicker, how long can you wait?

Our top-ranked kicker, San Diego's Nate Kaeding, comes off a brilliant regular season (32-of-35 field goals converted, 50-of-51 extra points) … and one wretched postseason game (three missed field goals) still fresh in everyone's mind. He also comes off groin surgery.

Undoubtedly, Kaeding deserves to be one of the top-ranked kickers, but will owners move to take him before the final two rounds? In short, if you like Kaeding, will the way he finished last season work to drive down his stock and allow you to wait to take him? By contrast, will it drive up the value of kickers like Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski, the Eagles' David Akers and the Vikings' Ryan Longwell — the next three kickers on our draftboard and all reliable performers in potent offenses?

A sleeper to be the first kicker of the board is New Orleans' Garrett Hartley, who was unflappable as the Saints rolled to the Super Bowl XLIV title, connecting on all five of his FG attempts and all 12 extra-point tries. Hartley, who racked up 37 points in five regular-season games, is slated to play as many as 11 games indoors this season, and the Saints' offense again looks like one of the NFL's most potent. In short, Hartley might be the most intriguing kicker available.

In my view, Kaeding, Gostkowski and Hartley are kickers I would consider before the final two rounds of the draft, and if all three were gone in, say, Round 14 of a 16-round draft, I would pass on filling the PK position for another round or two. In short, I would not want to get caught in a "run" on kickers that early if my top targets were off the board.

Fantasy owners will devote the vast majority of their preparation time to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, but spending a few minutes reading up on kickers before your draft is wise. Find out who's struggling, and who's thriving, in training camp. Perhaps a kicker does merit being selected a round or two earlier than expected. Or maybe the kicker you're targeting will be available in the final round. Regardless, give this oft-forgotten position a little thought.

 

For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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