How To Attack Larger Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
August 16th, 2012

Large leagues are a lot of fun. The addition of PPR scoring adds another dimension to sixteen team leagues. They are much different than the standard scoring, twelve team leagues. It is a losing proposition to use draft strategies intended for smaller or standard scoring leagues and try to adapt those to PPR and sixteen teams. An entirely different strategy is required in order to make the most of the draft. This article will look at sixteen team leagues using PPR scoring. PPR scoring rewards a point per reception for all positions. We will examine strategies especially designed for the larger PPR leagues in order to best attack the draft and get the most from the roster. These will help you form a new strategy for your larger league.

Down to basics, what are the differences I should know about the large PPR leagues?

  • In general, the larger the leagues, the more positional scarcity comes into play, especially at the quarterback position. In twelve team leagues, there might be twelve starting quarterbacks you would want as your starter. But, when the number of teams goes to sixteen, there will be a few fantasy squads with poor quarterback play. This is not as true with the running back position in PPR when compared to non-PPR scoring. PPR leagues still reward quarterback and running back play, but there are subtle differences. First, the elite backs with strong receiving skills are gold in PPR leagues. Plus, there are some lesser ball carriers who catch enough passes to be viable, increasing the number of players in the position pool. The value at the wide receiver position gains value on the running backs earlier in the draft when compared to non-PPR leagues. There are many more wideouts now in play for the early rounds. The large number of teams in the league means that we must have a plan in order to get the most value out of the running backs and wide receivers.

  • Anyone that has been caught in a position run in a standard twelve team league knows how hopeless and frustrating it can be feeling there is nothing you can do to help your situation as you see player after player selected. These runs affect every position in the larger PPR leagues. The extra teams means the runs can be longer and those left out are in even worse shape than in the smaller leagues. The talent plateaus at certain points in the draft means a drop-off is coming if you do not take a player in the run.

  • Since most larger leagues have fewer roster spots per team, each one is important. Knowing how to strike the best balance is the key. This involves the tight end, kicker, and team defense positions as well as depth at running back and wide receiver.
  • Knowing when to take a kicker or team defense is a bigger issue in the larger leagues. So few strong options exist, but must we use an early pick to get the kicker and team defense we want?
  • How do I best address these issues above?

  • Due to fewer desirable alternatives at the quarterback position, expect to select your starter earlier than in 12-teamers. While it seems unfathomable to most fantasy owners, it might be best to draft a starting quarterback in the first two rounds, especially if you are picking at the end of the first round. There are a couple of reasons for this strategy. In all league sizes, if you are drafting at the end of round one, you need to have positions of strength in order to make up the sizable deficit at the running back position. So, selecting a quarterback at the 1/2 turn helps get a stud at the position. The other aspect to consider is how many at the position could be gone before your third round pick. You could take QB3 in the early part of the second round or the QB8 (or worse) at the end of the third round. There is a huge difference in the predictability of future production as well as the certainty of the situation in the elite passer. Elite running backs trump all wide receivers, but the pass catchers become more valuable starting in the third round. There are many more viable fantasy wideouts than rushers after the first forty or fifty picks. In large leagues that start two running backs, three wide receivers, and a flex, both positions are important for different reasons. Getting an anchor fantasy RB1 is the first course of action. Then the you move to look for value at both positions for many rounds with only a quarterback mixed in. Tight ends can offer value, but they usually become a value play in the sixth round or later.

  • Positional runs are a tough pill to swallow. You need to plan ahead and be proactive. Stay ahead of the runs by picking your core positions early. This means, as stated above, selecting starters at quarterback and your first running back early with the thought that there are plenty of choices available later at wide receiver in PPR leagues. As you move to the middle rounds of your draft, start keeping tabs on the tight end position. Make a list of players you will be fine with as fantasy starters at the position and be proactive as your list gets smaller and smaller. For rounds four through eight, you will find great options at wide receiver and tight end, so plan ahead and wait to see where the value lies.

  • Roster management is very important in the larger leagues, especially those rewarding points for receptions. Knowing how to best manage your depth roster spots is difficult. The first thing to do is to see what your league rewards compared to the strengths (and weaknesses) of your starting lineup. In the PPR leagues, your reserves should include plenty of running backs and wide receivers. It might be best to stash an upside back or handcuff of a starter. Also, since the wide receiver position has plenty of good options, it is best to roster as many pass catchers as possible. Several emerge each season to be strong fantasy starters. Many times, it is best to select only one kicker and one team defense in order to free as many bench roster spots as possible for running backs and wide receivers. Make sure to draft kickers and team defenses with late byes. By midseason, there will be plenty of options available on the waiver wire. The key is finding starters at those positions with a late bye. At the tight end position, there are differing opinions as to the need for rostering a backup. If you have a stud at the position, meaning you have one of the better starters in expected production, then it is best not to roster a backup. Save the bench spot for another position. You invested a quality pick at the position. There is no need to use two roster spots, too. But, it is best to have a quality reserve tight end if you do not have a top tight end. That is one position where players emerge and disappoint every year.

  • It might be best to address the kicker and team defense positions a little earlier in larger leagues than in twelve team leagues. Each year, there are multiple factors which minimize the number of desirable options at each position. Just think how few kickers and team defenses have late bye weeks (as discussed above), good strength of schedule for matchup purposes since we are only carrying one at each position, and kicking jobs settled that make your short list for both positions. The list is not large.
  • Below is a table with the Top 50 players from the Footballguys projections. Notice how the VBD drops way off after the first few running backs compared to the other positions. This is very similar to the non-PPR scoring. The point is very important since it illustrates how valuable those top ball carriers are when compared to the lesser options at the position, in both PPR and non-PPR scoring.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player 
    Team
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    1
    RB
    1
    Arian Foster
    Hou/8
    319.0
    220
    1.01
    2
    RB
    2
    Ray Rice
    Bal/8
    311.3
    212
    1.02
    3
    RB
    3
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/7
    273.8
    175
    1.04
    4
    WR
    1
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/5
    295.0
    164
    1.05
    5
    RB
    4
    Matt Forte
    Chi/6
    245.5
    146
    1.11
    6
    RB
    5
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/11
    238.7
    139
    1.06
    7
    RB
    6
    Darren McFadden
    Oak/5
    237.6
    138
    1.09
    8
    RB
    7
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/7
    224.6
    125
    2.03
    9
    RB
    8
    Steven Jackson
    StL/9
    221.7
    122
    2.08
    10
    WR
    2
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/10
    252.5
    121
    1.12
    11
    RB
    9
    Trent Richardson
    Cle/10
    218.8
    120
    1.14
    12
    RB
    10
    DeMarco Murray
    Dal/5
    218.2
    119
    1.15
    13
    WR
    3
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/8
    248.4
    117
    2.04
    14
    WR
    4
    Julio Jones
    Atl/7
    247.0
    116
    2.13
    15
    RB
    11
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/11
    213.6
    114
    3.02
    16
    RB
    12
    Darren Sproles
    NO/6
    213.2
    114
    3.04
    17
    RB
    13
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/6
    211.3
    112
    1.08
    18
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/10
    379.6
    110
    1.03
    19
    WR
    5
    Roddy White
    Atl/7
    239.9
    109
    2.09
    20
    RB
    14
    Doug Martin
    TB/5
    204.4
    105
    3.11
    21
    RB
    15
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/8
    203.9
    105
    2.15
    22
    WR
    6
    Brandon Marshall
    Chi/6
    235.6
    104
    2.16
    23
    WR
    7
    A.J. Green
    Cin/8
    234.8
    103
    2.12
    24
    RB
    16
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/7
    201.9
    103
    2.07
    25
    RB
    17
    Reggie Bush
    Mia/7
    198.9
    100
    4.03
    26
    WR
    8
    Percy Harvin
    Min/11
    228.5
    97
    3.14
    27
    WR
    9
    Victor Cruz
    NYG/11
    224.6
    93
    2.14
    28
    RB
    18
    Marshawn Lynch
    Sea/11
    189.5
    90
    2.11
    29
    WR
    10
    Steve Smith
    Car/6
    221.0
    90
    3.09
    30
    WR
    11
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/11
    220.9
    90
    3.01
    31
    QB
    2
    Drew Brees
    NO/6
    357.7
    88
    1.10
    32
    TE
    1
    Jimmy Graham
    NO/6
    251.2
    88
    1.13
    33
    WR
    12
    Dez Bryant
    Dal/5
    218.5
    87
    3.10
    34
    WR
    13
    Demaryius Thomas
    Den/7
    215.6
    84
    3.15
    35
    QB
    3
    Tom Brady
    NE/9
    353.3
    84
    1.07
    36
    WR
    14
    Steve Johnson
    Buf/8
    215.3
    84
    4.14
    37
    WR
    15
    Greg Jennings
    GB/10
    212.5
    81
    2.06
    38
    WR
    16
    Marques Colston
    NO/6
    211.4
    80
    3.12
    39
    WR
    17
    Brandon Lloyd
    NE/9
    210.9
    80
    4.10
    40
    RB
    19
    Frank Gore
    SF/9
    177.6
    78
    3.06
    41
    WR
    18
    Jordy Nelson
    GB/10
    209.8
    78
    3.05
    42
    WR
    19
    Vincent Jackson
    TB/5
    209.2
    78
    4.06
    43
    WR
    20
    Wes Welker
    NE/9
    209.2
    78
    2.10
    44
    WR
    21
    Miles Austin
    Dal/5
    207.7
    76
    3.13
    45
    WR
    22
    Antonio Brown
    Pit/4
    207.2
    76
    5.03
    46
    RB
    20
    Donald Brown
    Ind/4
    173.1
    74
    6.05
    47
    TE
    2
    Rob Gronkowski
    NE/9
    236.8
    73
    1.16
    48
    RB
    21
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/11
    172.3
    73
    2.05
    49
    WR
    23
    Mike Wallace
    Pit/4
    204.3
    73
    3.08
    50
    WR
    24
    Jeremy Maclin
    Phi/7
    203.7
    72
    4.04

    When we look at the VBD (Value Based Drafting) application, we quickly realize how valued the running backs are when compared to the other positions, even in PPR leagues. Yes, above, we advised taking a quarterback early due to scarcity reasons and, no, the VBD application has only three in the Top 50 picks. But, your leaguemates will take quarterbacks early and often. You will have two choices: take one, too, or get stuck with the likes of Sam Bradford as your starter at the position. Many people would think the receivers would carry more value but they do not. Fourteen out of the first twenty players are ball carriers. The wide receivers catch up in a hurry toward the end of the second round. The VBD accounts for positional scarcity and available options at other positions using the Footballguys.com projections. The league variables used were sixteen teams, sixteen roster spots, scoring giving one point per reception, and starting requirements of 1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 3 Wide Receivers, 1 Tight End, 1 Flex, 1 Kicker, and 1 Team Defense. Even with awarding a point per reception, the running backs are worth much more than the wide receivers. A fantasy team with two Top 16 running backs has a huge advantage over the competition.

    With so many wideouts becoming valuable earlier, the quarterbacks are pushed down the pile. The good news is that in your draft, you will be able to accumulate value by stockpiling receivers in the middle rounds.

    If anyone wants to doubt the impact of a stud running back, check out the drop off in VBD after Arian Foster and Ray Rice. Now, let's look at the next 50 players to see what trends may arise.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player 
    Team
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    51
    WR
    25
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/7
    202.8
    71
    4.16
    52
    WR
    26
    Torrey Smith
    Bal/8
    198.9
    68
    5.10
    53
    RB
    22
    Michael Turner
    Atl/7
    166.2
    67
    3.03
    54
    WR
    27
    Eric Decker
    Den/7
    196.7
    65
    5.08
    55
    QB
    4
    Cam Newton
    Car/6
    334.5
    65
    2.02
    56
    RB
    23
    Isaac Redman
    Pit/4
    164.4
    65
    5.01
    57
    WR
    28
    Denarius Moore
    Oak/5
    193.4
    62
    6.10
    58
    WR
    29
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/7
    193.2
    62
    4.07
    59
    WR
    30
    Darrius Heyward-Bey
    Oak/5
    192.6
    61
    7.10
    60
    RB
    24
    C.J. Spiller
    Buf/8
    160.1
    61
    5.12
    61
    WR
    31
    Pierre Garcon
    Was/10
    191.0
    60
    6.03
    62
    RB
    25
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/9
    158.4
    59
    4.09
    63
    RB
    26
    Willis McGahee
    Den/7
    158.2
    59
    5.04
    64
    QB
    5
    Matthew Stafford
    Det/5
    328.2
    59
    2.01
    65
    RB
    27
    Jonathan Stewart
    Car/6
    155.6
    56
    5.09
    66
    RB
    28
    BenJarvus Green-Ellis
    Cin/8
    150.6
    51
    4.12
    67
    RB
    29
    Mark Ingram
    NO/6
    148.0
    49
    6.09
    68
    WR
    32
    Santonio Holmes
    NYJ/9
    178.1
    47
    7.03
    69
    RB
    30
    Peyton Hillis
    KC/7
    145.4
    46
    5.14
    70
    WR
    33
    Reggie Wayne
    Ind/4
    177.4
    46
    5.15
    71
    WR
    34
    Kenny Britt
    Ten/11
    173.7
    42
    5.16
    72
    QB
    6
    Michael Vick
    Phi/7
    311.5
    42
    3.07
    73
    QB
    7
    Robert Griffin III
    Was/10
    307.6
    38
    5.13
    74
    WR
    35
    Titus Young
    Det/5
    167.8
    36
    7.08
    75
    TE
    3
    Aaron Hernandez
    NE/9
    197.6
    34
    4.05
    76
    RB
    31
    DeAngelo Williams
    Car/6
    132.5
    33
    6.08
    77
    WR
    36
    Austin Collie
    Ind/4
    164.5
    33
    11.10
    78
    RB
    32
    Stevan Ridley
    NE/9
    131.5
    32
    5.11
    79
    QB
    8
    Eli Manning
    NYG/11
    301.4
    32
    4.01
    80
    WR
    37
    Nate Washington
    Ten/11
    161.7
    30
    8.12
    81
    QB
    9
    Matt Ryan
    Atl/7
    298.8
    29
    5.06
    82
    RB
    33
    Ryan Williams
    Ari/10
    128.6
    29
    7.15
    83
    WR
    38
    Malcom Floyd
    SD/7
    160.5
    29
    7.01
    84
    TE
    4
    Antonio Gates
    SD/7
    192.2
    29
    4.02
    85
    RB
    34
    Michael Bush
    Chi/6
    125.3
    26
    7.02
    86
    WR
    39
    Michael Crabtree
    SF/9
    157.5
    26
    7.14
    87
    QB
    10
    Tony Romo
    Dal/5
    294.9
    26
    3.16
    88
    RB
    35
    Evan Royster
    Was/10
    124.4
    25
    12.13
    89
    WR
    40
    Greg Little
    Cle/10
    156.5
    25
    8.06
    90
    RB
    36
    Kevin Smith
    Det/5
    124.2
    25
    8.03
    91
    TE
    5
    Jason Witten
    Dal/5
    188.3
    25
    4.15
    92
    RB
    37
    Felix Jones
    Dal/5
    122.1
    23
    9.02
    93
    QB
    11
    Philip Rivers
    SD/7
    292.1
    23
    4.08
    94
    WR
    41
    Mike Williams
    TB/5
    151.9
    21
    8.13
    95
    TE
    6
    Vernon Davis
    SF/9
    180.4
    17
    4.13
    96
    RB
    38
    Toby Gerhart
    Min/11
    114.8
    16
    7.07
    97
    WR
    42
    Anquan Boldin
    Bal/8
    146.5
    15
    7.04
    98
    WR
    43
    Lance Moore
    NO/6
    146.4
    15
    7.16
    99
    RB
    39
    Pierre Thomas
    NO/6
    113.7
    15
    9.04
    100
    WR
    44
    Robert Meachem
    SD/7
    145.9
    14
    6.02

    The quarterbacks and pass-catching tight ends start to catch up in a hurry ... as they should. The VBD values are dropping quickly so these middle rounds are where the best drafters dominate. The difference between Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford is larger than the difference than between Julio Jones (whom Footballguys loves) and Torrey Smith. This is the reason stud quarterbacks give a huge advantage in large leagues.

    To summarize the above, take running backs early and often, mixing in a quarterback early, then pound the receiver position in the middle rounds while waiting on a tight end. This strategy offers the best chances for success.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com. Also, I am on Twitter so feel free to ask me questions there.

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