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How to Attack Your Large PPR Draft

Using VBD to determine how to attack your large PPR league

Large leagues are a lot of fun. The addition of PPR scoring adds another dimension to sixteen team leagues. These leagues are much different than the standard scoring, twelve team ones. 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. The 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 twelve 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. Unless you take Jimmy Graham early, 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 another roster spot, 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.

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, the VBD application has only four 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 for all positions, and utilizing 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.

Below is a table with the Top 100 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.  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.  To illustrate this point, 25 of the top 40 players are running backs, but only 15 of the final 60 players are ball carriers.  Further, the wide receiver position actually passes the backs right at the 100-player mark.

Rank Pos PosRank Player Points VBD ADP Age
1 RB 1 Adrian Peterson 279.6 193 1.01 28
2 RB 2 Jamaal Charles 279.5 193 1.04 27
3 RB 3 Arian Foster 263 176 1.02 27
4 RB 4 Doug Martin 262.7 176 1.03 24
5 WR 1 Calvin Johnson 311.5 170 1.05 28
6 RB 5 C.J. Spiller 256.5 170 1.08 26
7 RB 6 Ray Rice 254.1 167 1.07 26
8 RB 7 Trent Richardson 250.9 164 1.09 23
9 RB 8 LeSean McCoy 249.4 163 1.1 25
10 RB 9 Matt Forte 225.1 138 1.14 28
11 WR 2 A.J. Green 278.8 137 1.12 25
12 RB 10 Marshawn Lynch 221.5 135 1.06 27
13 RB 11 Chris Johnson 221.1 134 2.05 28
14 RB 12 Reggie Bush 217.8 131 2.16 28
15 RB 13 Alfred Morris 217.5 131 1.11 25
16 WR 3 Brandon Marshall 270.2 129 2.01 29
17 WR 4 Dez Bryant 266.3 125 1.13 25
18 RB 14 Steven Jackson 210 123 1.16 30
19 WR 5 Julio Jones 264.7 123 2.03 24
20 WR 6 Demaryius Thomas 262.7 121 2.06 26
21 RB 15 DeMarco Murray 203.8 117 2.13 25
22 RB 16 Darren McFadden 201.1 114 3.01 26
23 RB 17 Lamar Miller 194.2 107 3.07 22
24 WR 7 Larry Fitzgerald 248.8 107 2.1 30
25 WR 8 Roddy White 247.5 106 2.11 32
26 RB 18 Darren Sproles 192.5 106 3.08 30
27 TE 1 Jimmy Graham 248.3 103 2.04 27
28 WR 9 Andre Johnson 241.2 100 2.12 32
29 RB 19 Maurice Jones-Drew 182.6 96 2.08 28
30 WR 10 Vincent Jackson 233.2 92 3.04 30
31 WR 11 Victor Cruz 233.1 92 3.02 27
32 QB 1 Aaron Rodgers 357.2 88 1.15 30
33 WR 12 Randall Cobb 229.4 88 2.15 23
34 RB 20 Frank Gore 172.4 86 2.14 30
35 RB 21 David Wilson 171.7 85 3.03 22
36 RB 22 LeVeon Bell 171.6 85 3.14 21
37 RB 23 Shane Vereen 171.4 85 5.11 24
38 WR 13 Dwayne Bowe 223.6 82 3.15 29
39 RB 24 Ryan Mathews 165.9 79 4.07 26
40 RB 25 Stevan Ridley 162.5 76 2.07 24
41 WR 14 Antonio Brown 216.7 75 5.01 25
42 RB 26 Montee Ball 160.4 74 4.01 23
43 QB 2 Cam Newton 341 72 3.05 24
44 WR 15 Danny Amendola 212.9 71 4.02 28
45 TE 2 Rob Gronkowski 214.8 69 3.06 24
46 WR 16 Marques Colston 209.2 68 3.13 30
47 QB 3 Drew Brees 335.3 66 2.02 34
48 WR 17 Wes Welker 205.5 64 3.1 32
49 RB 27 DeAngelo Williams 150.6 64 6.14 30
50 QB 4 Peyton Manning 332.6 63 2.09 37
51 WR 18 Torrey Smith 202.5 61 4.14 24
52 WR 19 Jordy Nelson 202 60 3.11 28
53 WR 20 Steve Smith 201.7 60 5.03 34
54 RB 28 Rashard Mendenhall 146 59 5.04 26
55 RB 29 Daryl Richardson 145.2 58 6.16 23
56 WR 21 Eric Decker 198.3 57 4.12 26
57 WR 22 Reggie Wayne 197.4 56 3.16 35
58 QB 5 Colin Kaepernick 323.6 54 4.11 26
59 RB 30 Chris Ivory 139.9 53 4.06 25
60 QB 6 Matthew Stafford 322 53 4.08 25
61 QB 7 Matt Ryan 320.2 51 3.12 28
62 WR 23 Tavon Austin 192.4 51 5.1 22
63 WR 24 DeSean Jackson 192.2 51 5.12 27
64 RB 31 Ahmad Bradshaw 137.1 50 5.05 27
65 TE 3 Jason Witten 195.6 50 4.03 31
66 WR 25 Greg Jennings 191.4 50 5.13 30
67 RB 32 Eddie Lacy 135.7 49 4.15 22
68 WR 26 James Jones 189.7 48 5.08 29
69 WR 27 Pierre Garcon 189.7 48 4.16 28
70 WR 28 Cecil Shorts 189.2 48 5.15 26
71 WR 29 Mike Wallace 189.2 48 4.13 27
72 WR 30 Miles Austin 188.3 47 6.04 29
73 WR 31 Mike Williams 188.1 47 6.05 26
74 WR 32 Vincent Brown 186.4 45 9.14 24
75 QB 8 Andrew Luck 313.1 44 5.02 24
76 RB 33 Giovani Bernard 128.5 42 5.09 22
77 QB 9 Tony Romo 311 42 5.06 33
78 WR 33 Hakeem Nicks 181.2 40 4.04 25
79 WR 34 Steve Johnson 181.1 40 5.14 27
80 RB 34 Andre Brown 125.9 39 6.02 27
81 QB 10 Robert Griffin III 307.3 38 4.1 23
82 RB 35 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 123.9 37 5.16 28
83 RB 36 Jacquizz Rodgers 121.9 35 9.13 23
84 QB 11 Russell Wilson 304 35 5.07 25
85 RB 37 Ben Tate 121.2 34 7.1 25
86 RB 38 Mark Ingram 120.8 34 6.11 24
87 WR 35 T.Y. Hilton 175.5 34 6.03 24
88 RB 39 Danny Woodhead 120.5 34 9.01 28
89 QB 12 Tom Brady 302.9 34 3.09 36
90 WR 36 Kenny Britt 174.8 33 6.08 25
91 WR 37 Michael Floyd 173.7 32 8.09 24
92 RB 40 Vick Ballard 115 28 7.06 23
93 WR 38 Brian Hartline 168.2 27 10.04 27
94 TE 4 Tony Gonzalez 171 26 4.05 37
95 WR 39 Anquan Boldin 166.8 25 6.06 33
96 RB 41 Fred Jackson 111.9 25 7.16 32
97 WR 40 Golden Tate 165.6 24 8.16 25
98 TE 5 Vernon Davis 168.5 23 4.09 29
99 WR 41 Denarius Moore 162.5 21 8.05 25
100 WR 42 Emmanuel Sanders 159.5 18 8.04 26

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. 

Please feel free to email me (Tefertiller@Footballguys.com) with any questions or comments.  Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller) so feel free to ask me questions there.


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