Kickers. Most people could go without them (unless your name is Taco McArthur), but maybe they are more valuable to your fantasy football team than you think.
Before I continue, I would ask you to go through your last Fantasy Football season and check all of your close games – win or lose. If you take the kickers points off, I am going to guess that a lot of those results may swing a different way. So maybe a good kicker is more valuable than you think! To put this in perspective, Matt Bryant scored 170 points last year in standard scoring. That’s more than Brandin Cooks, Doug Baldwin, Isaiah Crowell and Todd Gurley, all of which I would think featured in your league at some point last season.
Now, I am not going to sit here and break down every NFL and NCAA kicker and tell you which one is the one you need to have on your team. Because ultimately, it is a tough one to judge. All you have to do is go back to the 24th October last season to the indoor University of Phoenix Stadium. Where two of the league’s top kickers were missing straight kicks for fun in a game which eventually ended in a 6-6 tie. Picking the right kicker is always going to be tough and depends entirely on a game situation. Although, I am lazy so my dynasty team just has Cairo Santos and Dustin Hopkins so I can switch between the two.
On the flip side of this, college football fans may remember the 1st October last season where a kicker changed the game in a different way. Nick Weiler nailed a 54 yard (season long) field goal to win the game for UNC in Tallahassee, Florida in front of the Seminoles home crowd. What followed was, in my eyes, one of the most iconic moments of last season as Weiler charged down the field, mocking the FSU fans with their own “Tomahawk Chop.”
During my strange train of thought about kickers, one thing that crossed my mind is “I wonder what is going through their heads as they are about to kick”. So I decided to find out. I was lucky enough to get in touch with Nick Weiler and discuss in depth what actually goes on in the mind of a kicker.
So Nick, what was it that made you get into place kicking?
I played Soccer growing up and my two siblings played Division-1 Soccer, so I had the kicking background. I started playing Football my sophomore year of high school and thought I could help the team out by kicking.
Was there much of a step up from kicking at high school to kicking at college?
The speed of the game was much faster. In college, we had to get the ball snap-to-kick in 1.25 seconds. Also, the pressure will always increase when you have thousands of people in the stands.
Fair point. So talk me through it, you are lining up, about to kick. What is going through your mind?
I like to smile as I go on the field and remember to have fun. Right before the kick, I visualize where I want the ball to go and then go through my mental checklist of kicking reminders.
So do you have any sort of rituals or superstitions?
Unintentional ones yes. After I take my steps, I tap my foot twice and wiggle my butt. I didn’t know I did that until someone pointed it out this year.
Ah right, so do you ever watch Rugby? Your pre-kick ritual is exactly the same as most Rugby players.
*Laughs* I’ve watched Rugby before, but not religiously.
Okay, so when you are in practice, what sort of drills would you normally go through?
I usually go through no-step and one-step kicking at a pole and tough angle kicks from the sideline.
Obviously, it can be a while in a game before you are called to action. How do you normally stay focused when you are on the sidelines?
Most of the time, I relax and have fun. I enjoy supporting my teammates and watching the game helps me to stay focused.
So, take me back to October 1st in Tallahassee. You are losing 34-35 to FSU and you have to nail a 54-yard field goal. How nervous were you feeling?
I was confident that I could make the kick, I just had to make good ball contact and rely on my natural muscle memory to make a confident swing. Obviously, nerves were running through my body, but nothing crazy.
I am pretty sure you get asked this a lot. What was it that inspired you to run the length of the field ‘tomahawking’ the FSU fans?
We had listened to their war chant all week at practice and their fans did it the entire game. I became so sick of it by the time the game started so I just wanted to shut them up. After I made the kick, I kind of blacked out and don’t really remember what I was thinking.
Did you receive any sort of backlash from the FSU supporters for it?
Yes! A lot through private messages on social media. (Check out this link for a video of Nick reading some of the messages.)
So you were 15 0f 21 on attempts last season and put up 96 points for UNC with your longest kick being the famous 54-yarder at FSU. What is the longest kick you have made in your lifetime?
I’ve been on some pretty windy fields and made upwards of 70-yard field goals.
Obviously, nobody is perfect so it is only natural that the odd kick would get missed. Generally, how do your teammates act towards you on a missed attempt?
My teammates were always supportive after a miss. We had a great football family at UNC.
That’s great, so what do you think you will miss the most about your time there?
I will miss the locker room with all my brothers, working year-round with them and grinding in the off-season.
I am sure you will be missed there. Moving on, it is obviously tougher for kickers at the NFL level. You are entering the draft this year, how are you preparing for the step up?
I’m working on my craft every day and improving all aspects of my physical and mental abilities.
Do you tend to study any current pro kickers and try to emulate them?
I study pro kickers and pro golfers for the mental side of the game, but I don’t emulate any kickers type of swing.
Do you play fantasy football?
No, during the season I was always so caught up with school and training that I rarely kept up to date with the NFL season. I would watch the prime time game, but not enough to do well in fantasy.
Finally, if you could pick a team to be drafted to, which team would you prefer to play for?
I just want to play for any team that will give me a shot to compete.
Thank you for your time, Nick.
So hopefully that gives you more insight into the workings of a kicker. I would like to extend my thanks to Nick Weiler for taking the time to chat with me and I wish him good luck in this year’s draft.
Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter (@DFF_JamesH) with any fantasy football (and Kicker) related questions.