How To Attack Smaller PPR Leagues
By Jeff Tefertiller
August 22nd, 2012

There is something about the eight or ten team leagues that make them a lot of fun. The size makes them much different than the standard 12 teamers. Just like with the larger leagues, it is a losing proposition to use standard draft strategies. An entirely different strategy is required to make the most of the draft. This article will specifically look at ten team leagues using PPR scoring. We will examine strategies especially designed for the smaller leagues in order to best attack the draft and get the most from the roster. This will help you form a new strategy for your small-sized league.

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

  • Since there are no scarcity issues, everything is about the studs. The whole draft is focused on how to draft enough elite players to win. It is only through the studs that an owner can gain an edge over his leaguemates. The top two or three players at each position outscore the rest by tremendous amounts.

  • Knowing how to best attack the quarterback position is one of the biggest keys to small leagues? Is it necessary to select a passer early in the draft like in the bigger leagues?

  • The running back position is one where the drop-off in expected production comes earlier in 2012 than in years gone by. How can I take advantage of this phenomena?

  • With only fifty wide receivers rostered, on average, how do we gain an edge?

  • Is there is a valid reason to take a kicker or team defense early?
  • How do I best address these questions above?

  • Since we need studs in order to gain advantages, how best do I go about drafting these players? The top players at every position give their owners a huge edge. The best way to get these studs is to be proactive in your draft. When the value stagnates at one position, look for studs at another. In the table below, we can see how a top wideout has a similar value to a large group of backs. So, why not gain an edge at receiver and select a similar rusher next round? It pays to be proactive and look for talent plateaus and drop-offs. Look for studs. A top kicker or defense might be a great pick earlier than you would think, especially if they give you a two or three points per game edge each week.

  • In smaller (eight or ten teams) leagues which start only one passer, there is no reason to address the position before the fifth round unless you get a stud at an outstanding value. There will be great fantasy quarterbacks available. In smaller leagues, owners want to wait on quarterback (because there are so many good options) which makes the good passers drop further. So, wait on quarterback and try to find studs at other positions.

  • We will look a little later at how weighted the values are slanted toward the backs. The ball carriers have a huge VBD value edge even with PPR scoring - over the other positions so it is best to lock up as many top rushers as possible. The expected fantasy production for these players at the position has definite tiers. But, even the lesser fantasy starters are worth more than most all quarterbacks and every tight end.

  • Unless going after super stud (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Julio Jones), it is best to wait on the wide receiver position until ten or fifteen are off the board. There is very little difference in expected production so you might as well stock up on the position (running back) where you gain an advantage.

  • There are at least ten good kickers and team defenses so every team can have a good option. You should employ one of two strategies for the kicker position. Either take a stud earlier than you would think, or wait until ten are gone. The stud gives you an extra few points a game so it is a viable strategy. For the team defense position, it is best to play matchups with a smaller league. There will be plenty of good options available on the waiver wire each week from which to choose. Many times, it is better to have a mediocre defense with a great matchup than a good defense with a mediocre matchup.
  • 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. The VBD accounts for positional scarcity and available options at other positions using the Footballguys.com projections. It is amazing that only one quarterback and zero wide receivers were valued in the first rounds. If we look at just the first two rounds of a ten-team draft (in terms of VBD), just one quarterback and one tight end are worth a pick. This may be a surprise to you, but the reason is that there are several good options at both positions. Roughly two-thirds of the first two rounds (20 picks) are ball carriers, even in PPR scoring. The reason? There are so few quality fantasy backs. The league variables used were ten teams, sixteen roster spots, PPR scoring, and starting requirements of 1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 3 Wide Receivers, 1 Tight End, 1 Flex, 1 Kicker, and 1 Team Defense. The depth at the quarterback and wide receiver positions means that a fantasy owner can afford to wait on those positions while stocking up on rushers. It is obvious looking at the table below that smaller leagues dictate a strong nucleus of running backs.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team/Bye
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    1
    RB
    1
    Arian Foster
    Hou/8
    319.0
    174
    1.01
    2
    RB
    2
    Ray Rice
    Bal/8
    311.3
    166
    1.02
    3
    RB
    3
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/7
    273.8
    128
    1.04
    4
    WR
    1
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/5
    295.0
    117
    1.05
    5
    RB
    4
    Matt Forte
    Chi/6
    245.5
    100
    2.01
    6
    RB
    5
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/11
    238.7
    93
    1.07
    7
    RB
    6
    Darren McFadden
    Oak/5
    237.6
    92
    1.10
    8
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/10
    379.6
    81
    1.03
    9
    RB
    7
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/7
    224.6
    79
    2.10
    10
    RB
    8
    Steven Jackson
    StL/9
    221.7
    76
    3.04
    11
    WR
    2
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/10
    252.5
    74
    2.02
    12
    RB
    9
    Trent Richardson
    Cle/10
    218.8
    73
    3.03
    13
    RB
    10
    DeMarco Murray
    Dal/5
    218.2
    73
    2.03
    14
    TE
    1
    Jimmy Graham
    NO/6
    251.2
    71
    2.04
    15
    WR
    3
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/8
    248.4
    70
    2.08
    16
    WR
    4
    Julio Jones
    Atl/7
    247.0
    69
    3.06
    17
    RB
    11
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/11
    213.6
    68
    4.05
    18
    RB
    12
    Darren Sproles
    NO/6
    213.2
    68
    4.07
    19
    RB
    13
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/6
    211.3
    66
    1.09
    20
    WR
    5
    Roddy White
    Atl/7
    239.9
    62
    3.09
    21
    WR
    6
    A.J. Green
    Cin/8
    239.5
    61
    3.08
    22
    RB
    14
    Doug Martin
    TB/5
    204.4
    59
    5.07
    23
    QB
    2
    Drew Brees
    NO/6
    357.7
    59
    1.08
    24
    RB
    15
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/8
    203.9
    59
    4.02
    25
    WR
    7
    Brandon Marshall
    Chi/6
    235.6
    57
    4.01
    26
    RB
    16
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/7
    201.9
    56
    3.01
    27
    TE
    2
    Rob Gronkowski
    NE/9
    236.8
    56
    2.05
    28
    QB
    3
    Tom Brady
    NE/9
    353.3
    55
    1.06
    29
    RB
    17
    Reggie Bush
    Mia/7
    198.7
    53
    5.10
    30
    WR
    8
    Percy Harvin
    Min/11
    228.5
    50
    5.04
    31
    WR
    9
    Victor Cruz
    NYG/11
    224.6
    46
    3.10
    32
    RB
    18
    Marshawn Lynch
    Sea/11
    189.5
    44
    3.02
    33
    WR
    10
    Steve Smith
    Car/6
    221.0
    43
    5.01
    34
    WR
    11
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/11
    220.9
    43
    4.04
    35
    WR
    12
    Dez Bryant
    Dal/5
    218.5
    40
    5.02
    36
    WR
    13
    Demaryius Thomas
    Den/7
    215.6
    37
    5.06
    37
    WR
    14
    Steve Johnson
    Buf/8
    215.3
    37
    7.03
    38
    QB
    4
    Cam Newton
    Car/6
    334.5
    36
    2.07
    39
    WR
    15
    Greg Jennings
    GB/10
    212.5
    34
    3.05
    40
    WR
    16
    Marques Colston
    NO/6
    211.4
    33
    5.03
    41
    WR
    17
    Brandon Lloyd
    NE/9
    210.9
    33
    6.06
    42
    RB
    19
    Frank Gore
    SF/9
    177.6
    32
    4.09
    43
    WR
    18
    Jordy Nelson
    GB/10
    209.8
    31
    4.06
    44
    WR
    19
    Vincent Jackson
    TB/5
    209.2
    31
    6.04
    45
    WR
    20
    Wes Welker
    NE/9
    209.2
    31
    3.07
    46
    QB
    5
    Matthew Stafford
    Det/5
    328.2
    29
    2.06
    47
    WR
    21
    Miles Austin
    Dal/5
    207.7
    29
    5.09
    48
    WR
    22
    Antonio Brown
    Pit/4
    207.2
    29
    7.08
    49
    RB
    20
    Donald Brown
    Ind/4
    173.1
    28
    9.01
    50
    RB
    21
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/11
    172.3
    27
    2.09

    The table above represents the Top 50 players in terms of VBD. There are a few things that jump out. As we discussed, the value of studs especially at the running back position - is immense. Notice the VBD values for the three top players at the position in comparison to the rest of the players, even very good players. Who would have thought that these players would hold values equaling two others, who are still worth first round picks? Also, as we progress to the 50th overall player, the wide receivers are have passed the running backs, and we will see this trend continue. This is why it is best to draft running backs early and often, even in PPR leagues.

    Rank
    Pos
    PosRank
    Player
    Team/Bye
    Points
    VBD
    ADP
    51
    WR
    23
    Mike Wallace
    Pit/4
    204.3
    26
    4.10
    52
    WR
    24
    Jeremy Maclin
    Phi/7
    203.7
    25
    6.05
    53
    WR
    25
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/7
    202.8
    24
    7.04
    54
    RB
    22
    Michael Turner
    Atl/7
    166.2
    21
    4.03
    55
    WR
    26
    Torrey Smith
    Bal/8
    198.9
    21
    8.04
    56
    WR
    27
    Eric Decker
    Den/7
    196.7
    18
    7.10
    57
    TE
    3
    Aaron Hernandez
    NE/9
    197.6
    17
    6.02
    58
    WR
    28
    Denarius Moore
    Oak/5
    193.4
    15
    9.10
    59
    WR
    29
    Dwayne Bowe
    KC/7
    193.2
    15
    6.10
    60
    RB
    23
    C.J. Spiller
    Buf/8
    160.1
    15
    8.09
    61
    WR
    30
    Darrius Heyward-Bey
    Oak/5
    192.6
    14
    11.06
    62
    RB
    24
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/9
    158.4
    13
    6.09
    63
    RB
    25
    Willis McGahee
    Den/7
    158.2
    13
    7.02
    64
    QB
    6
    Michael Vick
    Phi/7
    311.5
    13
    4.08
    65
    WR
    31
    Pierre Garcon
    Was/10
    191.0
    13
    8.06
    66
    TE
    4
    Antonio Gates
    SD/7
    192.2
    11
    5.05
    67
    RB
    26
    Jonathan Stewart
    Car/6
    155.6
    10
    8.03
    68
    QB
    7
    Robert Griffin III
    Was/10
    307.6
    9
    8.08
    69
    RB
    27
    BenJarvus Green-Ellis
    Cin/8
    150.6
    5
    7.01
    70
    PK
    1
    Stephen Gostkowski
    NE/9
    136.4
    5
    14.01
    71
    RB
    28
    Mark Ingram
    NO/6
    148.0
    3
    9.04
    72
    QB
    8
    Eli Manning
    NYG/11
    301.4
    3
    5.08
    73
    DEF
    1
    San Francisco
    SF/9
    149.4
    2
    9.05
    74
    RB
    29
    Peyton Hillis
    KC/7
    145.4
    0
    8.07
    75
    QB
    9
    Matt Ryan
    Atl/7
    298.8
    0
    7.09
    76
    DEF
    2
    Philadelphia Eagles
    Phi/7
    146.7
    0
    11.10
    77
    TE
    5
    Vernon Davis
    SF/9
    180.4
    0
    6.08
    78
    PK
    2
    Mason Crosby
    GB/10
    129.9
    0
    15.01
    79
    WR
    32
    Reggie Wayne
    Ind/4
    177.4
    -1
    8.10
    80
    DEF
    3
    Baltimore Ravens
    Bal/8
    145.1
    -1
    12.04
    81
    PK
    3
    David Akers
    SF/9
    128.0
    -2
    13.05
    82
    PK
    4
    Randy Bullock
    Hou/8
    125.2
    -4
    24.02
    83
    PK
    5
    Garrett Hartley
    NO/6
    125.2
    -4
    18.10
    84
    PK
    6
    Nate Kaeding
    SD/7
    124.7
    -5
    21.04
    85
    WR
    33
    Kenny Britt
    Ten/11
    173.7
    -5
    9.08
    86
    RB
    30
    Isaac Redman
    Pit/4
    140.6
    -5
    7.06
    87
    DEF
    4
    New York Jets
    NYJ/9
    140.8
    -5
    15.08
    88
    WR
    34
    Santonio Holmes
    NYJ/9
    173.5
    -5
    10.08
    89
    PK
    7
    Jason Hanson
    Det/5
    124.1
    -5
    20.04
    90
    QB
    10
    Tony Romo
    Dal/5
    293.7
    -5
    6.01
    91
    DEF
    5
    New England
    NE/9
    140.2
    -5
    18.01
    92
    PK
    8
    Dan Bailey
    Dal/5
    122.2
    -7
    18.03
    93
    QB
    11
    Philip Rivers
    SD/7
    292.1
    -7
    6.07
    94
    PK
    9
    Matt Bryant
    Atl/7
    121.5
    -7
    21.10
    95
    PK
    10
    Alex Henery
    Phi/7
    120.8
    -8
    20.01
    96
    PK
    11
    Billy Cundiff
    Bal/8
    120.4
    -8
    25.03
    97
    DEF
    6
    Green Bay
    GB/10
    136.8
    -8
    13.04
    98
    RB
    31
    Kevin Smith
    Det/5
    137.2
    -8
    10.10
    99
    TE
    6
    Brandon Pettigrew
    Det/5
    171.4
    -9
    9.09
    100
    PK
    12
    Sebastian Janikowski
    Oak/5
    118.1
    -10
    15.03

    When looking at the VBD spots from player 51 through 100, the wide receivers are dominant, the value at quarterback and tight end is still apparent. This is why it is ok to wait on the wide receiver position. As discussed above, having studs is the only way to gain an advantage. For this reason, an owner who loads up on running backs early on can still get studs at the other positions through the first ten rounds. This is why the kickers are actually a decent play when the value running back and wideout plateaus.

    Every league is different but this article should help you form a winning strategy in smaller PPR leagues.

    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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