Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the ExpertsFantasy Football Picks: 2006 'Sleeper' Kickers -- By Russ Bliss
Yes, there really are sleeper kickers. Need proof? Ask yourself: did you draft Jay Feely, Neil Rackers, or Lawrence Tynes as your starting kicker in 2005? Were they drafted at all in your league? Or just smart free agent pickups by someone paying attention? Feely, Rackers, and Tynes were 3 of the top 4 kickers in most fantasy football rankings at the end of last season and clearly out-produced drafted fantasy starting kickers like Adam Vinatieri, Ryan Longwell, and Sebastian Janikowski. Every year there are kickers who pay dividends to smart owners who wait until the last rounds of their fantasy football drafts to get a guy at this position.
Here are 4 guys who could really be much better than anticipated in 2006:
Ryan Longwell: 2005 was brutal on Longwell as it marked the first time in his career that he scored fewer than 100 points. The move from Lambeau Field to the comfy Metrodome should also increase his accuracy (a respectable 81.6% on FGA’s despite kicking his entire career for Green Bay). Currently being selected as the 11th kicker off the board, Longwell has averaged 120 pts per season throughout his career before 2005’s disappointing 90. Longwell is a prime candidate as a sleeper to return to the top 6 fantasy kickers in 2006.
Rian Lindell: Despite the harsh Buffalo conditions, Lindell has been remarkably good as a fantasy option the past 2 seasons. The Bills offense was pretty bad in 2005 but Lindell still managed to score 113 pts. That ranked him tied for 10th amongst all kickers last year. He scored 117 in 2004. Lindell isn’t even being drafted in most leagues that don’t require more than 1 kicker on a roster. The Bills don’t appear to be really any better offensively in 2006, so he probably hovers right around 115 pts. That should place him around 10th again. Even if he goes undrafted in your fantasy football league, he should be a guy you keep an eye on as a priority free agent at the position.
Mike Nugent: As bad as the Bills were offensively, the Jets were worse. Nugent as a rookie in 2005 scored 90 points and although far from adequate fantasy-wise, he showed promise. Boosting a strong leg, Nugent can only benefit from both the experience of his first NFL season, and the promise of a better offense behind QB’s who can actually move the team downfield a few more times. Like with Lindell, Nugent isn’t being drafted, but is a guy you should keep your eye on. If the Jets offense shows some life early in the season, Nugent could be a surprise.
Joe Nedney: Despite kicking on the leagues 32nd ranked offense in 2005, Nedney was a rock. Converting 26 of 28 FGA’s, and scoring 97 points, Nedney proved he is fully recovered from the torn hamstring injury that cost him the entire 2004 season and the torn ACL that cost him all but one game of the 2003 season. The 49ers offense should be a little better in 2006, but since Alex Smith can’t be expected to make TD’s out of good field position regularly yet, Nedney’s strong leg and accuracy should put him in line for 100 pts or more. Nedney’s not being drafted in most fantasy leagues, but again, he’s one of those guys you keep an eye on as he may prove better than a few others who are starting in fantasy football leagues.
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