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How To Attack Smaller PPR Leagues

Strategy on Attacking Your Smaller PPR League Draft

Small leagues are a lot of fun.  There is something about the eight or ten team leagues that make them enjoyable.  The size makes them much different than the standard twelve teamers.  So does scoring one point per reception (PPR).  As with any other unique league, 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 specially designed for the smaller leagues rewarding a point per reception 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? 

a.  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 each and every year. 

b.  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? 

c.  The running back position is one where the drop-off in expected production comes earlier in 2016 than in years gone by.  With the emphasis on receivers, how can I take advantage of this phenomena?

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

e.  Is there is a valid reason to take a kicker or team defense early? 

How do I best address these questions above?

a.  Since we need studs in order to gain advantages over the other teams in the league, how best do I go about drafting these players?  The top players at every position give their owners a huge edge each week.  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-five 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 giving you an extra two or three points per game each week. 

b. In smaller (eight or ten teams) leagues which start only one passer, there is no reason to address the position before the seventh round unless you get a stud at an outstanding value.  There will be great fantasy quarterbacks available later.  In smaller leagues, owners want to wait on the quarterback position (because there are so many good options) which makes the good passers drop further.  The results below bear out this very important point.  Cam Newton, the top-ranked passer, is only ranked 24th overall.  So, wait on selecting a quarterback and try to find studs at other positions.  Maybe the best strategy is to wait until at least eight quarterbacks are drafted before even looking at the position.  The depth at the quarterback position is enough that the risk-taking fantasy owners might be able to wait until other teams begin taking backups (which means ten or twelve passers are off the board), and then select two of Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or even Philip Rivers. In fact, we very much love the idea of pairing Brady with either Manning or Rivers to address the quarterback position.  The suspension is causing Brady to be drafted at a huge discount. 

c.  We will look a little later at how weighted the values are slanted toward the wide receivers (seven of the top ten player VBDs are wide receivers).  Even with this phenomena, after the top two receivers (Antonio Brown and Julio Jones) are off the board, we advise taking one of the top running backs because the scarcity at the position will soon catch up.  The difference between RB1 (David Johnson) and RB10 (Doug Martin) is roughly four points per game.  That is huge.  The expected fantasy production for all positions has definite tiers.  It is best to look for tier drop-offs as you evaluate players across positions. 

d.  Unless going after super stud (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, or Dez Bryant), 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.  The difference between WR6 (Jordy Nelson) and WR20 (Randall Cobb) is approximately two points per game. 

e.    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 just no quarterback and only one tight end (Rob Gronkowski) were valued in the first two rounds.  This may be a surprise to you, but the reason is that there are several good options at both positions.  Even in PPR scoring, more than half of the first two rounds (14 of first 20 picks) are wider receivers.  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 of top fifty players below that smaller leagues dictate a strong nucleus of running backs. 

Rank

Pos

Player

Team

Pts

ADP

VBD

1

WR1

Antonio Brown

PIT/8

361

1

181

2

WR2

Julio Jones

ATL/11

345

3

165

3

WR3

Odell Beckham Jr

NYG/8

328

2

148

4

WR4

DeAndre Hopkins

HOU/9

301

5

121

5

WR5

A.J. Green

CIN/9

294

7

114

6

RB1

David Johnson

ARI/9

282

6

100

7

TE1

Rob Gronkowski

NE/9

261

9

98

8

WR6

Jordy Nelson

GB/4

272

15

92

9

WR7

Dez Bryant

DAL/7

270

10

90

10

RB2

Todd Gurley

LA/8

277

4

94

11

WR8

Brandon Marshall

NYJ/11

268

19

88

12

WR9

Alshon Jeffery

CHI/9

262

18

82

13

WR10

Allen Robinson

JAX/5

261

12

81

14

WR11

Keenan Allen

SD/11

259

20

79

15

RB3

Devonta Freeman

ATL/11

263

16

81

16

RB4

Ezekiel Elliott

DAL/7

262

11

79

17

WR12

T.Y. Hilton

IND/10

254

25

74

18

WR13

Demaryius Thomas

DEN/11

253

29

73

19

WR14

Mike Evans

TB/6

248

22

67

20

RB5

Lamar Miller

HOU/9

254

14

71

21

RB6

Jamaal Charles

KC/5

254

17

71

22

WR15

Amari Cooper

OAK/10

246

21

66

23

WR16

Brandin Cooks

NO/5

243

23

62

24

WR17

Jarvis Landry

MIA/8

242

35

62

25

RB7

LeVeon Bell

PIT/8

249

13

66

26

RB8

Mark Ingram

NO/5

246

24

64

27

WR18

Jeremy Maclin

KC/5

239

43

59

28

WR19

Sammy Watkins

BUF/10

238

27

58

29

RB9

Adrian Peterson

MIN/6

245

8

62

30

WR20

Randall Cobb

GB/4

233

33

53

31

QB1

Cam Newton

CAR/7

389

30

60

32

WR21

Larry Fitzgerald

ARI/9

228

50

48

33

TE2

Jordan Reed

WAS/9

212

37

49

34

WR22

Golden Tate

DET/10

223

44

43

35

WR23

Eric Decker

NYJ/11

221

53

40

36

TE3

Greg Olsen

CAR/7

206

49

43

37

QB2

Aaron Rodgers

GB/4

375

34

46

38

WR24

Doug Baldwin

SEA/5

218

47

38

39

WR25

Julian Edelman

NE/9

217

39

37

40

RB10

Doug Martin

TB/6

222

26

39

41

RB11

LeSean McCoy

BUF/10

221

31

38

42

RB12

Matt Forte

NYJ/11

220

36

37

43

WR26

Donte Moncrief

IND/10

212

59

32

44

RB13

Dion Lewis

NE/9

218

45

36

45

QB3

Russell Wilson

SEA/5

366

48

37

46

TE4

Travis Kelce

KC/5

197

64

34

47

WR27

Jordan Matthews

PHI/4

210

55

30

48

WR28

Kelvin Benjamin

CAR/7

207

32

27

49

RB14

C.J. Anderson

DEN/11

214

38

31

50

QB4

Andrew Luck

IND/10

361

46

31

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 receiver position - is immense.  Notice the VBD values for the three top players overall in comparison to the rest of the players, even very good players.  Also, as we progress to the 50th overall player, the receivers account for more than half of the table.

Rank

Pos

Player

Team

Pts

ADP

VBD

51

WR29

Michael Crabtree

OAK/10

204

82

24

52

RB15

Duke Johnson

CLE/13

210

51

27

53

TE5

Coby Fleener

NO/5

188

69

26

54

WR30

Michael Floyd

ARI/9

201

54

21

55

RB16

Eddie Lacy

GB/4

206

28

24

56

QB5

Drew Brees

NO/5

355

58

25

57

RB17

Latavius Murray

OAK/10

204

42

22

58

WR31

DeVante Parker

MIA/8

197

66

17

59

WR32

Emmanuel Sanders

DEN/11

197

60

17

60

RB18

Thomas Rawls

SEA/5

201

40

19

61

WR33

Allen Hurns

JAX/5

194

67

14

62

QB6

Ben Roethlisberger

PIT/8

351

68

21

63

TE6

Zach Ertz

PHI/4

181

95

18

64

TE7

Delanie Walker

TEN/13

180

71

18

65

RB19

Carlos Hyde

SF/8

200

41

17

66

RB20

Giovani Bernard

CIN/9

200

61

17

67

WR34

DeSean Jackson

WAS/9

191

84

11

68

WR35

Tyler Lockett

SEA/5

191

79

10

69

WR36

John Brown

ARI/9

188

70

8

70

RB21

Danny Woodhead

SD/11

195

57

12

71

TE8

Tyler Eifert

CIN/9

174

72

11

72

RB22

Ryan Mathews

PHI/4

190

63

7

73

WR37

Josh Gordon

CLE/13

183

98

3

74

QB7

Tom Brady

NE/9

337

81

8

75

TE9

Gary Barnidge

CLE/13

168

93

5

76

WR38

Kevin White

CHI/9

181

76

0

77

QB8

Carson Palmer

ARI/9

337

80

7

78

WR39

Tavon Austin

LA/8

177

113

-3

79

QB9

Blake Bortles

JAX/5

336

78

6

80

QB10

Eli Manning

NYG/8

334

92

4

81

TE10

Julius Thomas

JAX/5

164

96

1

82

TE11

Antonio Gates

SD/11

163

117

0

83

RB23

Matt Jones

WAS/9

183

56

0

84

RB24

Frank Gore

IND/10

183

75

0

85

RB25

DeMarco Murray

TEN/13

182

52

0

86

WR40

Marvin Jones

DET/10

175

86

-5

87

QB11

Jameis Winston

TB/6

329

108

0

88

TE12

Jason Witten

DAL/7

162

148

-1

89

WR41

Willie Snead

NO/5

173

107

-7

90

WR42

Sterling Shepard

NYG/8

173

91

-7

91

WR43

Torrey Smith

SF/8

172

112

-8

92

WR44

Stefon Diggs

MIN/6

172

106

-9

93

RB26

Jeremy Langford

CHI/9

179

62

-4

94

TE13

Dwayne Allen

IND/10

160

133

-3

95

WR45

Corey Coleman

CLE/13

168

88

-12

96

WR46

Laquon Treadwell

MIN/6

166

101

-14

97

RB27

Arian Foster

MIA/8

175

90

-8

98

WR47

Travis Benjamin

SD/11

162

105

-18

99

QB12

Philip Rivers

SD/11

325

100

-4

100

WR48

Vincent Jackson

TB/6

160

128

-20

When looking at the VBD spots from player 51 through 100, the wide receivers still have a huge advantage over running backs, and the value at quarterback and tight end is still lagging.  This is why it is acceptable to wait on the wide receiver position for filling out your fantasy bench.  There are plenty of great options after round five in a fantasy draft.  As discussed above, having studs is the only way to gain an advantage.  For this reason, an owner who loads up on wide receivers and running backs early on can still get studs at the other positions through the first ten rounds.  The chart illustrates 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. 

Please feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIN, and Google+ so feel free to connect where most convenient.