Point Per Reception (PPR) - Intro
Posted 7/5 by Jeff Tefertiller, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
Each year, leagues with standard scoring 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 that 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. The scoring in PPR leagues awards points as follows:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 four of the past five seasons, at least five passers finished in the Top 10 overall scorers, which should come as a surprise to many. The quarterbacks do well even with getting only four points per passing touchdown. Also, through the last seven years, there is an average of nineteen quarterbacks in the Top 50 overall. There is a catch though. When you look deeper, the top few QBs outscore the rest by a good margin on a per game basis. The best passer each year averages almost 25 points per game (and sometimes much more) while QB20 averages around 15 points per game. The difference is 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 tradeoff 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 owner that drafted an elite passer in the first two rounds, with the 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 around this time at the running back and receiver positions 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 low on a per game basis so it does not pay to spend the higher pick on the position. Many times, there are ample backups on the waiver wire during the season. Three of the Top 12 quarterbacks in 2008 on a points per game basis were not drafted in the majority of leagues (Matt Cassel, Tyler Thigpen, and Shaun Hill).
The running back position benefits quite a bit from PPR scoring. There are several backs that 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 half are backs. But the number of rushers in the Top 10 has declined each of the last three seasons. 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 is due to injuries backs mired in committees. Of the Top 30 players, the the average number of runners drops down to one-third. When looking at the Top 50 overall players, only fifteen are running backs The points per game averages will bear out how the elite backs give their owners a big edge. The RB1 each year can average between 23 and 25 points per game. The difference between RB5 and RB20 is pretty small compared to other positions. 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 over other options at the position, 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 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 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 10 at the position in a given year seems as difficult as predicting the weather. Last year, 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. Injuries to quarterbacks affect the pass catchers which adds another level of risk to the equation. Take Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chad Johnson for example. All three brought high expectations into the 2008 season, but disappointed due to injuries at the quarterback position. Many times, the unpredictability of these wide receivers makes waiting on the position a smart move. Also, it is a wise decision to fill the bench with receivers. A wide receiver can produce points off the bench much easier than a running 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.
Few tight ends are affected by PPR scoring. But, it does not stop them being drafted high in PPR leagues. Over the last five years, only four and a half tight ends finish in the Top 100 players overall. Think about that for a second. Many more than four tight ends are drafted each year in the first eight rounds. Even in a good year for tight ends like 2006, where there were six in Top 100, the difference between the TE1 and TE6 was only two points per game. The Gates owner did not gain much advantage for drafting him early. The one player that should be considered at the position for 2009 is Tony Gonzalez. He has been the best PPR tight end the last few years and benefits from playing in a pass-heavy offense with only one good wide receiver. The only concern is how the Falcons will use their new tight end. Outside of Gonzalez, fantasy owners would be wise to wait and take TE4-TE6 off the board.
Many leagues that have PPR scoring also offer a flex position. The flex starter has a great influence on roster management. When looking for bench depth, and a spot starter for bye weeks or injury, wide receiver 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 RBs on the 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.