PPR Good Players
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 6th, 2010

This installment in the series examining PPR leagues will focus on the very good starters, the Top 30 players overall. In the last article, we observed how the quarterback position led the way in the Top10 players. Most years, there is a good number of running backs in the top 11-20 players overall, as we shall see in this article,. The majority of the rushers that finish in the Top 20 are ones that are good receivers out of the backfield. Ball carriers who catch at least 50 passes give their owners such an advantage. The wide receivers begin to gain ground on the other positions in the 21-30 range, and fully emerge in the 41-50 range (as we will see in the next article). This makes total sense. Each NFL team has one quarterback and one primary runner at the very most. The receiver position offers value after the Top 20-25 players with most being the top pass catcher on their respective NFL team. On average, in the Top 30 players overall, there are around thirteen quarterbacks and nine backs. The 2009 season skewed these a little with the strong play by the quarterbacks and just a few great running back performances.

The fantasy effect of the elite players (Top 10) is strong but the good starters (Top 30) are players that can also make a difference on a fantasy team. Once again, we will look for trends that may appear throughout the eight years of data. The players were sorted based upon their points per game averages, with a minimum of nine games played. The use of points per game is to offset the players that accumulate stats but offer no advantage to their owners. There are several quarterbacks that would be poor every-week fantasy starters that finish well when sorted by total points because several other passers missed games. This is true for all of the positions. While the argument can be made for total points, Matt Schaub was a great example from 2008 why points per game average is the best measure for this study. Schaub finished as the eighth ranked player overall in points per game, but missed five games. His owners could have easily started Sage Rosenfels those games if they had no better options. On a per game average, Rosenfels scored about the same as Jason Campbell, roughly five and a half points per game behind Schaub. Since Schaub showed in 2008 that he was able to put up great statistics when healthy, he was one of our sleepers going into 2009. Even Steve Smith (CAR) missed two games because of suspension in 2008. His owners knew it was coming and could adjust their draft strategy accordingly. There are several players that rise to the top when looking at the per game averages in the Top 30. Even a couple of missed games by Wes Welker was enough to move the sure-handed receiver from 14th overall in points per game last year all of the way down to 20th.

Below is a chart of how each position fared in the Top 10 players overall, players 11-20, and 21-30, as well as the Top 30 overall.

Top 10
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
8
7
5
5
1
5
1
4
4.5
RB
2
0
2
5
6
4
7
4
3.8
WR
0
3
3
0
3
1
2
2
1.8
Rk 11-20
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
4
5
5
3
3
6
7
3
4.5
RB
3
4
1
3
2
3
2
6
3.0
WR
3
1
4
4
5
1
1
1
2.5
Rk 21-30
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
4
1
2
2
7
3
4
7
3.8
RB
0
7
3
3
2
1
2
1
2.4
WR
5
2
5
5
0
6
4
2
3.6
TE
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0.3
Top 30
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
16
13
12
10
11
14
12
14
12.8
RB
5
11
6
11
10
8
11
11
9.1
WR
8
6
12
9
8
8
7
5
7.9
TE
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0.3

There are some quick observations to note:

  • As stated in the last article, the quantity of backs who finished in the Top 10 is trending down. In addition, the number of runners in the Top 20 in each of the last three seasons is considerably less than the previous five years.
  • The number of passers in the Top 10, Top 20, and Top 30 has remained fairly constant throughout the eight seasons. Yes, the past two seasons were huge by the fantasy quarterbacks, mostly effecting the Top10. This could be another trend with the wide-open passing attacks employed by NFL teams.
  • The wide receiver position has been all over the place. There have been some seasons where the receiver position dominated (2007 for example) and others it barely made an impact (2002 and 2008). This should make it difficult to predict in the coming seasons. Also, the turnover of the top receivers makes predicting future elite seasons difficult except for the truly elite players (i.e., Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald).
  • Below are the tables that detail the Top 30 positional distributions in ten player increments, including the points per game averages. One thing to notice is how the points per game differentials narrow with each additional group of ten players. This further illustrates the value of having elite (Top 10) players on your fantasy team. Trends and general observations are included.

    Top 10
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    8
    7
    5
    5
    1
    5
    1
    4
    4.5
    25.1-20.7
    23.5-20.3
    28.4-20.6
    23.0-19.2
    21.3
    27.0-20.6
    23.5
    25.9-22.5
    RB
    2
    0
    2
    5
    6
    4
    7
    4
    3.8
    24.9-20.8
    n/a
    24.8-23.0
    30.2-20.8
    23.7-20.8
    22.8-21.4
    27.9-20.8
    31.6-21.7
    WR
    0
    3
    3
    0
    3
    1
    2
    2
    1.8
    n/a
    22.1-19.5
    24.1-20.5
    n/a
    21.3-20.6
    20.7
    23.7-22.4
    23.9-23.0

    The Top 10 was examined in the previous article. The recent success by the quarterbacks stands out when compared the other positions.

    Rk 11-20
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    4
    5
    5
    3
    3
    6
    7
    3
    4.5
    20.5-18.9
    19.2-18.6
    19.6-18.5
    19.0-17.2
    19.9-18.4
    20.0-19.0
    20.8-18.5
    20.4-19.4
    RB
    3
    4
    1
    3
    2
    3
    2
    6
    3.0
    20.6-20.2
    19.5-19.2
    18.4
    19.2-18.7
    18.9-18.8
    20.6-19.3
    20.2-19.4
    21.2-19.6
    WR
    3
    1
    4
    4
    5
    1
    1
    1
    2.5
    20.4-18.5
    18.7
    20.1-18.8
    19.0-17.7
    19.4-17.9
    20.1
    18.8
    20.7

    Players in the 11-20 range all had tremendous seasons. The quarterbacks and running backs dominate the Top 20 just like they did in the Top10. When we look at just the 11-20 players, we quickly notice that the differences in points per game averages, between the top players and those near the bottom, in the group narrows to less than a point and a half per game in almost all years at all positions. It is also very interesting that only one receiver fell into the 11-20 range in four of the eight years. Further, in only two seasons did the Wide Receiver position top 20% of the Top 20 players. This may come as a shock to many. Four, or fewer, pass catchers finish in the Top 20 overall many years.

    Rk 21-30
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    4
    1
    2
    2
    7
    3
    4
    7
    3.8
    18.3-17.0
    17.1
    18.4-18.3
    16.5-16.3
    17.7-13.9
    18.5-17.9
    18.2-17.3
    19.4-17.7
    RB
    0
    7
    3
    3
    2
    1
    2
    1
    2.4
    n/a
    17.8-16.9
    18.4-17.7
    17.1-16.2
    17.4-17.1
    17.9
    17.8-17.7
    18.9
    WR
    5
    2
    5
    5
    0
    6
    4
    2
    3.6
    18.1-16.9
    17.9-17.8
    18.1-17.6
    17.0-16.8
    n/a
    18.7-18.0
    18.1-17.2
    18.3-18.1
    TE
    1
    0
    0
    0
    1
    0
    0
    0
    0.3
    17.0
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    17.3
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a

    The 21-30 group of players is where we first see a tight end. But, only twice in eight years has a tight end broken through the Top 30. It is also when the wideouts start to gain a little ground on the running backs. The wide receivers are still lagging the running backs but the margin is smaller than the Top 10. This will be a definite trend. The further down the Top 100 we go, the more wide receiver will emerge as the position of value. The differences in points per game averages within a position narrows even more in this group than the one before (players 11-20 overall).

    Top 30
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    16
    13
    12
    10
    11
    14
    12
    14
    12.8
    25.1-17.0
    23.5-17.1
    28.4-18.3
    23.8-16.3
    21.3-16.9
    27.0-17.9
    23.5-17.3
    25.9-17.7
    RB
    5
    11
    6
    11
    10
    8
    11
    11
    9.1
    24.9-20.2
    19.5-16.9
    24.8-17.7
    30.2-16.2
    23.7-17.1
    22.8-17.9
    27.9-17.7
    31.6-18.9
    WR
    8
    6
    12
    9
    8
    8
    7
    5
    7.9
    20.4-16.9
    22.1-17.8
    24.1-17.6
    19.0-16.8
    21.3-17.9
    20.7-18.0
    23.7-17.2
    23.9-18.1
    TE
    1
    0
    0
    0
    1
    0
    0
    0
    0.3
    17.0
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    17.3
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a

    As with the Top 10, the quarterback position is very prominent in the Top 30 players overall. Almost 13 passers finish in the Top 30 on average each season and those numbers look fairly consistent from year to year. The number of quarterbacks in the Top 30 has risen each of the past four seasons. This seems to be a trend. But, the thing to note about the 2009 numbers is that the difference between the top passer and the last of the group is very close to eight points per game. What a huge advantage Aaron Rodgers gave his owners last season. There were at least ten running backs finishing in the Top 30 players in all but three seasons. With the points per game differences becoming smaller and smaller, the focus will soon be on value for similar production expected. Fantasy owners do not benefit from having one player versus another, so a savvy owner will take advantage by acquiring the players that cost the least. In addition, this puts even a larger premium on the elite players, the ones who are able to give their owners a scoring edge each and every game. The advantage of the elite players is evident in the graphic above. In 2007, the Tom Brady had a ten point per game edge on other fantasy starting quarterbacks who still finished in the Top 30 overall. In 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson had a fourteen point advantage over RB11, who still ended the season in the Top 30 overall players. The advantage of the elite players will be even more apparent in the next article, which focuses on the fantasy starters (Top 50 overall).

    It is interesting that the Top 30 includes twelve fantasy starters at quarterback, one for each team in a twelve team fantasy league. Only eight fantasy teams, on average, in the same league would have a wideout in the Top 30. These teams with a top receiver do not gain that much ground most seasons over their competition. This will be shown in the next article looking at the Top 50. Most seasons, the difference between the top pass catcher and the rest at the position in the Top 30 is around a three or four points per game. In the Top 30 players overall, the difference in the point per game averages of the top player and the bottom is the smallest at wideout. This is because more quarterbacks and running backs have elite seasons. Take the 2009 season for example. If the top pass receiver is player 14 overall, there should be less difference between he and the eighth best at the position. With fewer wide receivers in the Top 30, the less room there is to have wider variances in points per game averages.

    The next article will look at the fantasy starters, the Top 50 players overall. This article will illustrate the increased depth of quality players at the wide receiver position. The final installment in the series will focus on roster distribution, depth, and other trends. It will include the Top 100 players overall.

    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.