PPR Starters
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 6th, 2010

This is the fourth article in a five-part series focusing on PPR (points per reception) leagues. The series examines how each skill position fared against the others. We have already looked at the elite players (Top 10 overall) and the good starters (Top 30 overall). This article will focus on the Top 50 players overall which covers most every-week starters on fantasy teams. With each additional group of ten players covered, the differences in points per game average decreases. As we will see in the players 41-50 overall, all of the players in that tier produce almost the same points per game. At the same time, the value of the elite players compared to the these average fantasy starters becomes very apparent. This article will look at the points per game averages and the differences between the players in the Top 10, Top 30 and the Top 50. The final installment in the series will cover the Top 100 overall players, and the drop-offs from the Top 50 players to the Top 100 players. The differences in the points per game averages will shrink down to almost nothing in the last article. Many players will score about the same.

Fantasy starters in the Top 50 are at a big disadvantage compared to the elite players (Top 10 overall). For an example of this, we will look at the quarterback position in the 2008 season. Drew Brees led all passers with an average of 23.5 points per game. Many consider Peyton Manning to have enjoyed a good season while Jason Campbell really struggled during the last half of the year. There is an interesting statistic for these quarterbacks that illustrates the impact of an elite player having a great season. Brees (23.5 points per game) outscored Manning (19.2 points per game) by more points per game than Manning (19.2 points per game) outscored Campbell (15.0 points per game). Brees was the top scorer in PPR leagues. Campbell was player 50 overall. This should speak volumes about the elite players and the effect of their elite seasons. Last year, the difference between the top fantasy quarterback (Aaron Rodgers (25.1 points per game) and QB5 Peyton Manning (21.3 points per game) was greater than the margin between Manning (21.3 points per game) and QB14 David Garrard (17.6 points per game). Making this even more remarkable is that Manning was the fifth ranked player overall. Studs win championships.

This study covers the last eight years and looks to identify trends and find ways to take advantage of value plays available. The players are sorted by their points per game averages, with a minimum of nine games played need to quality for the study. Below is a table detailing the number of players at each skill position in a certain tier.

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
Rk 31-40
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
4
3
2
4
7
2
3
5
3.8
RB
3
4
5
1
1
3
4
2
2.9
WR
3
2
2
5
2
3
3
3
2.9
TE
0
1
1
0
0
2
0
0
0.5
Rk 41-50
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
2
5
3
1
3
4
3
2
2.9
RB
4
2
2
4
3
2
2
2
2.6
WR
2
3
4
5
4
4
5
6
4.1
TE
2
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0.4
Top 50
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
Avg
QB
22
21
17
15
21
20
18
21
19.4
RB
12
17
13
16
14
13
17
15
14.6
WR
13
11
18
19
14
15
15
14
14.9
TE
3
1
2
0
1
2
0
0
1.1

In the previous articles, we discussed how the quarterbacks dominate the top of the rankings even though the wide receivers get enormous love in PPR fantasy leagues. Yes, the career length of players at the Wide Receiver position is longer than that of the ball carriers. The wideouts might have value for a longer period of time, but it is not until the tail end of the Top 50 players overall that the wide receivers draw even with the backs. For dynasty leagues, wide receivers might offer more long-term value, but it is not on the basis of scoring. As we will see in the next installment of the series, wide receivers will reign the ranks of players 51-100 overall. This is expected with the number of wideouts starting and catching passes each week in the NFL. There should be more receivers scoring viable fantasy points than quarterbacks or running backs.

Some initial trends and observations from the graph above:

  • Players at the Tight End position have become more involved in the offense the last few years. Five of the last six years have seen at least one tight end in the Top 40 players overall. The 2009 season was the high water mark with three tight ends cracking the Top 50.
  • Quarterbacks still outproduce the other positions. With the NFL having 32 starting quarterbacks each week, plus the backups that see significant time due to performance or injury, the players in the 31-40 range will be the last we see the quarterback position dominate. Many years, 20 quarterbacks finish in the Top 50 players overall.
  • It is very surprising that only 11 fantasy wideouts finished in the Top 50 players overall during the 2008 season. This was followed up with a mere 13 in 2009. Even more interesting is the love the receiver position has received the past two years in PPR leagues with the disappointing receiver seasons. The number of receivers in the Top 50 has been on the decline the last couple of seasons after remaining fairly constant for years 2002-2005. The impact of receivers outside of the top few is minimal. Steve Smith (NYG) and DeSean Jackson were thought to have tremendous seasons in 2009. But, each finished with almost an identical points per game average as quarterback Kyle Orton. Smith and Jackson completed the season as WR8 and WR9 respectively while Orton was QB17.
  • 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 quarterbacks and the running backs lead the way with the wide receivers a distant third. The second article of this series concentrated on the players in the Top 10 overall players.

    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

    Moving from the Top 10 to the Top 30 still has the quarterbacks at the top with the rushers second and the receivers third. The third article focused on the players in the Top 30 overall.

    Rk 31-40
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    4
    3
    2
    4
    7
    2
    3
    5
    3.8
    16.8-16.1
    16.7-15.8
    16.8-16.4
    16.2-15.4
    16.9-16.3
    17.9-17.3
    17.1-16.3
    17.6-17.0
    RB
    3
    4
    5
    1
    1
    3
    4
    2
    2.9
    16.7-16.1
    16.8-15.8
    17.1-16.1
    16.0
    16.0
    17.8-17.1
    16.7-15.9
    16.8-16.6
    WR
    3
    2
    2
    5
    2
    3
    3
    3
    2.9
    16.9-16.5
    16.8-16.6
    16.7-16.6
    16.2-15.3
    16.9-16.3
    17.5-16.3
    16.3-15.8
    17.3-16.6
    TE
    0
    1
    1
    0
    0
    2
    0
    0
    0.5
    n/a
    16.4
    15.8
    n/a
    n/a
    17.0-16.9
    n/a
    n/a

    The players who finish in the 31-40 range overall is an interesting group. This will be the last time that the Quarterback position reigns as the top position. Plus, the wide receivers will pass the running backs and quarterbacks going forward. Last year saw improvement from both quarterback and wide receivers, at the expense of the running backs. This was a change from the year before. It was surprising that only eight pass receivers finished in the Top 40 players for the 2008 season, compared to fifteen running backs. This was the worst year for receivers out of the last eight. Yes, there are basic reasons why receivers should hold value over running backs for the long-term. The extended length of window for optimum fantasy production is the biggest reason. In addition, the risk for injury is less for wideouts than ball carriers. But, the lack of predictability for wideouts is a major concern. The number and consistency of top-producing wideouts makes relying heavily on the non-elite at the position a risky proposition. Few would have guessed that Antonio Bryant would be a Top 10 receiver in 2008 after being out of football in 2007. He and Eddie Royal finished ahead of pass catchers that were drafted very high like Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and Reggie Wayne. How many people had Miles Austin, Steve Smith (NYG), or DeSean Jackson pegged as Top 10 at the position? Other than the top players at the position, predictability is difficult. Beginning in the next tier of players, the receivers top the charts most seasons.

    Rk 41-50
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    2
    5
    3
    1
    3
    4
    3
    2
    2.9
    15.3-15.3
    15.6-15.0
    15.8-15.4
    15.2
    15.7-15.0
    16.1-16.0
    15.6-15.2
    16.2-16.1
    RB
    4
    2
    2
    4
    3
    2
    2
    2
    2.6
    15.8-15.4
    15.8-15.6
    15.7-15.4
    15.2-14.8
    15.6-14.6
    16.0-15.8
    15.7-15.3
    16.3-16.0
    WR
    2
    3
    4
    5
    4
    4
    5
    6
    4.1
    16.0-15.5
    15.8-15.5
    15.7-15.2
    15.2-14.8
    15.6-15.0
    15.9-15.7
    15.7-14.6
    16.5-15.8
    TE
    2
    0
    1
    0
    0
    0
    0
    0
    0.4
    15.8-15.2
    n/a
    15.4
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a

    In players 41-50, there is almost no difference in the scoring across positions and seasons. The emergence of the wide receiver position compared to the quarterbacks and running backs is a trend that will continue.

    Top 50
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    Avg
    QB
    22
    21
    17
    15
    21
    20
    18
    21
    19.4
    25.1-15.3
    23.5-15.0
    28.4-15.4
    23.0-15.2
    21.3-15.0
    27.0-16.0
    23.5-15.2
    25.9-16.1
    RB
    12
    17
    13
    16
    14
    13
    17
    15
    14.6
    24.9-15.4
    19.5-15.6
    24.8-15.4
    30.2-14.8
    23.7-14.6
    22.8-15.8
    27.9-15.3
    31.6-16.0
    WR
    13
    11
    18
    19
    14
    15
    15
    14
    14.9
    20.4-15.5
    22.1-15.5
    24.1-15.2
    19.0-14.8
    21.3-15.0
    20.7-15.7
    23.7-14.6
    23.9-15.8
    TE
    3
    1
    2
    0
    1
    2
    0
    0
    1.1
    17.0-15.2
    16.4
    15.8-15.4
    n/a
    17.3
    17.0-16.9
    n/a
    n/a

    The Top 50 still has good players. All of the players outside of the quarterback position are very good starters on all fantasy teams each week for each of the eight seasons. The points per game average differences from the top and bottom of a ten-player tier has shrunk to almost nothing over the last 20 players. This is a trend that will continue into the next article (the Top 100 players overall). But, it further points out how much of an advantage the elite players offer over players in the Top 50 as stated above in the Aaron Rodgers/Peyton Manning/David Garrard illustration above. The tremendous season by Chris Johnson skewed the running back numbers for last season. In 2008, the difference in points per game between RB1 (Brian Westbrook) and RB17 was the smallest margin for the position during the eight years. This is even with 17 backs finishing in the Top 50. Going forward, there seems to be a major void after the top few backs.

    The next and final article in the series will address the Top 100 players overall. In the Top 100, we will look at optimal roster distribution, the flex position(s), how best to fill out the bottom of the roster, and overall trends.

    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.