Introduction To PPR Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 6th, 2010

Each year, standard scoring leagues become less of the norm. One type of league that is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds is PPR (point per reception) scoring. This scoring system is usually offered as a way to minimize the traditional strategy of hoarding running backs. In standard scoring leagues, running backs are gold. So, PPR leagues have popped up in a big way to level the playing field. The WCOFF uses this scoring and sometimes PPR leagues are called "WCOFF Scoring".

There is a perception that wide receivers dominate PPR leagues. But, that is not necessarily the case. As we will see in this series of articles, quarterbacks and running backs who catch the ball do very well in this scoring system. These articles will take a closer look at the distribution of each position under the PPR scoring. We will see how many of each skill position finish in the Top 10, the Top 30, Top 50 and the Top 100 players overall. Only those players appearing in nine games were used for the data set. The scoring in PPR leagues awards points as follows:

Passing

  • Yards passing - One point per 20 passing yards. (e.g., 240 passing yards = 12 fantasy points).
  • 4 points for every passing TD.
  • Minus one point (-1) for every interception thrown.
  • 2 points for every 2-point conversion.
  • Rushing

  • Yards rushing - One point per 10 rushing yards. (e.g., 100 rushing yards = 10 fantasy points).
  • 6 points for every rushing TD.
  • 2 points for every 2-point conversion.
  • Receiving

  • Yards receiving – One point per 10 receiving yards. (e.g., 73 receiving yards = 7.3 fantasy points)
  • 6 points for every receiving TD.
  • 1 point for every catch.
  • 2 points for every 2-point conversion.
  • Even in PPR leagues, the Quarterback position is underrated. In the last four seasons, at least five passers finished in the Top 10 overall scorers … which might come as a surprise to many. In fact, the quarterbacks have dominated the past two years in a huge way. The quarterback position does well even with getting only four points per passing touchdown. That may come as a surprise to those who advocate the use of six points per passing score. Also, through the last eight years, there is an average of nineteen quarterbacks in the Top 50 overall. But, when we look deeper, the elite QBs outscore the rest by a good margin on a per game basis. The best passer each year averages around 25 points per game (and sometimes much more) while QB20 averages about 15 points per game. The difference is large enough to make owners decide on a strategy. Some owners are very willing to forgo taking a passer early on, knowing full well that they need to hit on a sleeper or they will lose several points at the position every game. But, the trade-off is that waiting on a passer allows the owner to take backs and receivers in the early rounds of the draft. The best path might be taking a passer that has a good chance to finish in the QB8-QB10 range. The passers in this range average over 18 points per game. This means fantasy owners are only giving up a handful of points to the owners who drafted an elite passer in the first two rounds. There is an assumption that the higher drafted passer has the best chance to finish toward the top of the rankings at the end of the year. In addition, QB8 usually has an ADP (average draft position) at the end of round six to the beginning of round seven. This strategy, to take a quarterback in rounds six through eight, might be the best in striking a balance of getting good QB production while stocking up on running backs and wide receivers early in the draft. The talent drops off at the Running Back and Receiver positions around this time in the sixth or seventh round. The fantasy quarterback taken in the sixth through eighth rounds offers more surety and upside than taking a shaky fantasy starter even later while drafting a RB4 or WR4 in round seven. One other thing to consider is that the difference between backup quarterbacks is very minimal on a per game basis so it does not pay to spend the higher pick on the position unless you are especially uneasy with your starter. Many times, there are ample backups on the waiver wire during the season. Three of the top twelve quarterbacks in 2008 on a points per game basis, were not drafted in the majority of leagues (Matt Cassel, Tyler Thigpen, and Shaun Hill). This was not the case in 2009, but a few of the top quarterbacks (Rodgers, Romo, Schaub, Favre, and Eli Manning) were not selected high in most drafts. All were bargains for their fantasy owners.

    The Running Back position benefits quite a bit from PPR scoring. There are several backs who catch forty passes or more every year. The multi-threat backs dominate the position as a whole. Of the Top 10 players overall each year in PPR leagues, almost four are backs. But, there has been a steady decline of the number of rushers who finish in the Top 10. In these last few years, there has not been the plethora of dominant fantasy runners as in the previous seasons. The 2008 season did skew the RB totals some with zero runners finishing in the Top 10 players overall. Much of this was due to injuries and backs mired in committees. The the average number of runners drops down to a little less than one-third of the Top 30. When looking at the Top 50 overall players, only twelve are running backs. The points per game averages will bear out how the elite backs give their owners a big edge. There are fewer elite fantasy backs now than ever before. The RB1 each year can average between 23 and 25 points per game. This past year, the drop-off came after Frank Gore, at RB5. There is usually a big drop-off each year after the first handful of runners. With so few running backs outside of the Top 20 making a big fantasy impact, the running backs drafted for depth should be taken with an eye for potential upside. On average, out of the Top 100 players, twenty-nine are backs. The difference between RB20 to RB30 is less than three points per game. But, the issue is that a fantasy owner has to draft the RB20 more than three rounds earlier. So, the savvy drafter might take several players in the RB30 range, and select rushers based solely on upside.

    The big issue with PPR leagues is how to best use the wide receiver position. With only a few receivers in the Top 10 or even Top 20 players overall, the receiver position starts gaining ground, relative to the other positions, around player 40 or 50 overall. In addition, predicting which pass catcher will finish first, or even in the Top 12, at the position in a given year seems as difficult as predicting the weather. Let's think back over the past few years. In 2008, few people predicted Antonio Bryant to finish in the Top 10 at the position. Many liked Greg Jennings and Roddy White as sleepers, but they finished in the Top 10 with fantasy WR2 ADPs. In 2009, the surprises included names like Miles Austin, DeSean Jackson and Sidney Rice. Also, injuries to quarterbacks affect the pass catchers which adds another level of risk to the equation. Take Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chad Ochocinco for example. All three brought high expectations into the 2008 season, but disappointed due to injuries to their respective quarterbacks. Many times, the unpredictability of these wide receivers makes waiting on the position a smart move, even in PPR leagues. Also, it is a wise decision to fill the bench with receivers compared to running backs. A wide receiver can produce points off the bench much easier than a back if needed to start due to injury or bye. The difference between WR12 (lowest WR1) and WR36 (lowest starting receiver in most leagues as WR3) is between three and four points per game most years. This is not a huge difference at all considering where those two players were drafted. The WR36 is drafted about five rounds later. Also, there are receivers every year that can produce decent points at a cheap price in the later rounds. The aging veterans are usually the overlooked bargains in PPR leagues.

    Most years, few tight ends are affected by PPR scoring. The 2009 season was an exception with an abnormally strong year for the position. Over the last five years, only five tight ends, on average, finish in the Top 100 players overall. And that is with the 2009 tight ends doubling the average. Think about that for a second. Many more than five tight ends are selected each year in the first eight and a half rounds of fantasy drafts. Last year, the difference between the TE1 and TE7 was only four points per game. Neither the Gates or Witten owner gained much advantage for drafting them early. Dallas Clark, Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley will be high selections this season. With the extreme depth at the position, it is best to wait until four or five tight ends are off the board.

    Many leagues that have PPR scoring also offer a flex position. The addition of a flex starter has a great influence on roster management. When looking for bench depth, and a spot starter for bye weeks or injury, the Wide Receiver position is the place to look. Think about it this way, it is much easier for a NFL starting receiver to get 4 catches for 50 yards than a poor starter or even a backup running back to total 90 combined yards off the bench. Many starting backs do not get that many yards each week. This is why ball carriers on the fantasy bench need to be big upside guys.

    If you join a league this year with PPR scoring, try to get at least one stud running back, a decent quarterback, and fill your roster with plenty of receivers. Wide Receiver is the position that players come out of nowhere and you can get great production at a cheap price. Also, think about your roster makeup and plan before the draft even starts. Many owners either use generic cheatsheets for PPR leagues or try to overcompensate by drafting wideouts too early. The savvy owner will know better.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.