How To Attack Large Leagues (PPR)
By Jeff Tefertiller
July 30th, 2010

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 for smaller or standard scoring leagues and try to adapt those to PPR and sixteen teams. An entirely different strategy is required 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. At the bottom of the article, we will look at three mock drafts utilizing different draft positions. 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 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 we must 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. Since the scoring utilizes PPR, the value favors quarterbacks highest. Elite running backs trump all wide receivers, but the pass catchers become more valuable during 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 have 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.

    Rk
    Pos
    PosRk
    Player
    Tm/Bye
    FPs
    VBD
    ADP
    Age
    Exp
    1
    RB
    1
    Chris Johnson
    Ten/9
    298
    220
    1.01
    25
    3
    2
    RB
    2
    Ray Rice
    Bal/8
    290
    211
    1.04
    23
    3
    3
    RB
    3
    Maurice Jones-Drew
    Jac/9
    289
    211
    1.03
    25
    5
    4
    RB
    4
    Adrian Peterson
    Min/4
    279
    200
    1.02
    25
    4
    5
    RB
    5
    Frank Gore
    SF/9
    250
    171
    1.05
    27
    6
    6
    RB
    6
    Steven Jackson
    StL/9
    249
    170
    1.09
    27
    7
    7
    WR
    1
    Andre Johnson
    Hou/7
    274
    141
    1.06
    29
    8
    8
    WR
    2
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Ari/6
    268
    135
    1.13
    27
    7
    9
    RB
    7
    Rashard Mendenhall
    Pit/5
    210
    131
    1.16
    23
    3
    10
    RB
    8
    Jamaal Charles
    KC/4
    209
    130
    2.12
    24
    3
    11
    RB
    9
    Knowshon Moreno
    Den/9
    208
    129
    2.09
    23
    2
    12
    RB
    10
    Pierre Thomas
    NO/10
    205
    126
    3.05
    26
    4
    13
    RB
    11
    Chris Wells
    Ari/6
    205
    126
    2.15
    22
    2
    14
    RB
    12
    DeAngelo Williams
    Car/6
    197
    119
    1.11
    27
    5
    15
    RB
    13
    Ryan Grant
    GB/10
    196
    118
    2.06
    28
    6
    16
    RB
    14
    Michael Turner
    Atl/8
    194
    116
    1.07
    28
    7
    17
    RB
    15
    Reggie Bush
    NO/10
    194
    115
    5.03
    25
    5
    18
    RB
    16
    Jahvid Best
    Det/7
    194
    115
    4.04
    21
    1
    19
    RB
    17
    Joseph Addai
    Ind/7
    193
    114
    3.07
    27
    5
    20
    WR
    3
    Randy Moss
    NE/5
    246
    113
    1.12
    33
    13
    21
    RB
    18
    Ryan Mathews
    SD/10
    191
    112
    2.07
    23
    1
    22
    RB
    19
    LeSean McCoy
    Phi/8
    189
    111
    3.02
    22
    2
    23
    RB
    20
    Felix Jones
    Dal/4
    187
    109
    3.14
    23
    3
    24
    WR
    4
    Roddy White
    Atl/8
    241
    108
    2.02
    29
    6
    25
    RB
    21
    Jonathan Stewart
    Car/6
    186
    108
    3.03
    23
    3
    26
    WR
    5
    Miles Austin
    Dal/4
    239
    106
    2.04
    26
    5
    27
    WR
    6
    Reggie Wayne
    Ind/7
    238
    104
    1.14
    32
    10
    28
    RB
    22
    Cedric Benson
    Cin/6
    183
    104
    2.11
    28
    6
    29
    RB
    23
    Shonn Greene
    NYJ/7
    173
    94
    2.03
    25
    2
    30
    RB
    24
    Ronnie Brown
    Mia/5
    172
    93
    4.01
    29
    6
    31
    WR
    7
    Greg Jennings
    GB/10
    223
    90
    2.14
    27
    5
    32
    RB
    25
    Darren Sproles
    SD/10
    167
    89
    7.06
    27
    6
    33
    WR
    8
    Marques Colston
    NO/10
    221
    88
    2.13
    27
    5
    34
    RB
    26
    C.J. Spiller
    Buf/6
    166
    88
    5.04
    23
    1
    35
    RB
    27
    Ricky Williams
    Mia/5
    164
    86
    5.02
    33
    12
    36
    WR
    9
    Brandon Marshall
    Mia/5
    218
    85
    2.05
    26
    5
    37
    RB
    28
    Fred Jackson
    Buf/6
    163
    85
    6.02
    29
    4
    38
    RB
    29
    Justin Forsett
    Sea/5
    163
    84
    5.05
    25
    3
    39
    WR
    10
    Calvin Johnson
    Det/7
    217
    84
    2.01
    25
    4
    40
    RB
    30
    Ahmad Bradshaw
    NYG/8
    161
    83
    6.03
    24
    4
    41
    WR
    11
    Chad Ochocinco
    Cin/6
    212
    79
    3.13
    32
    10
    42
    RB
    31
    Michael Bush
    Oak/10
    155
    77
    6.09
    26
    4
    43
    WR
    12
    DeSean Jackson
    Phi/8
    210
    77
    2.08
    24
    3
    44
    RB
    32
    Cadillac Williams
    TB/4
    155
    76
    5.14
    28
    6
    45
    WR
    13
    Steve Smith
    Car/6
    209
    76
    3.12
    25
    4
    46
    QB
    1
    Aaron Rodgers
    GB/10
    325
    76
    1.10
    27
    6
    47
    RB
    33
    Tim Hightower
    Ari/6
    154
    75
    7.15
    24
    3
    48
    WR
    14
    Sidney Rice
    Min/4
    208
    75
    3.04
    24
    4
    49
    RB
    34
    Brandon Jacobs
    NYG/8
    153
    74
    4.05
    28
    6
    50
    RB
    35
    Jerome Harrison
    Cle/8
    152
    74
    5.08
    27
    5
    51
    WR
    15
    Steve Smith
    NYG/8
    204
    71
    3.10
    31
    10
    52
    RB
    36
    Matt Forte
    Chi/8
    148
    69
    4.03
    25
    3
    53
    QB
    2
    Drew Brees
    NO/10
    317
    68
    1.08
    31
    10
    54
    WR
    16
    Hines Ward
    Pit/5
    201
    68
    4.14
    34
    13
    55
    RB
    37
    Chester Taylor
    Chi/8
    146
    67
    7.11
    31
    9
    56
    QB
    3
    Peyton Manning
    Ind/7
    313
    63
    1.15
    34
    13
    57
    QB
    4
    Tony Romo
    Dal/4
    310
    61
    2.16
    30
    7
    58
    RB
    38
    Clinton Portis
    Was/9
    137
    59
    6.07
    29
    9
    59
    WR
    17
    Hakeem Nicks
    NYG/8
    191
    58
    4.07
    22
    2
    60
    WR
    18
    Percy Harvin
    Min/4
    186
    53
    4.09
    22
    2

    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. Many would think the receivers would carry more value but they do not. The VBD accounts for positional scarcity and available options at other positions using the Footballguys.com projections. The number of running backs in the Top 50 goes from 39 in non-PPR to 35 in PPR scoring, but it is still a huge number. Seven wide receivers are valued to be drafted in the first two rounds. 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. Aaron Rodgers is the only one at the position in the entire Top 50. Reading the chart above, notice the drop in VBD (adjusted value across positions) as we move down the list.

    Chris Johnson and the three other elite PPR running backs give their teams an immense advantage. It is very interesting that each of the four is expected to score about the same as the RB31 and RB32 combined in total points. But, the VBD value shows an even larger disparity. This is because an owner starting Chris Johnson has an extra starting spot to accrue fantasy points compared to the example above of Michael Bush and Cadillac Williams (RB31 and RB32). Studs win championships no matter the size of the league or the scoring.

    Below are three mock drafts run on the Draft Dominator using three different draft positions; the 1.03, 1.08, 1.14 slots, respectively. These mock drafts are run against the average ADP (Average Draft Position) just to normalize the results. We will only mock the choices for the first six rounds for each draft slot.

    Drafting Early In Round 1

    The 1.03 draft position means getting one of the elite running backs to anchor the position.

    1.03 - What a decision. Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice? Coming off of his big breakout 2009 season, Ray Rice is an attractive choice here, but we will go with Jones-Drew because he gets the touchdowns. Either way, it is a nice way to begin the draft.

    2.14 - Since this is a PPR draft, we have a difficult decision with the pick. Greg Jennings and Chad Ochocinco are the top wideouts available while Tony Romo is the highest ranked passer. At the running back position, Beanie Wells, Pierre Thomas and Joseph Addai are the best options. We will go with Romo since the quarterback talent drop-off is coming quickly. There will be quality alternatives at the other two positions after the turn.

    3.03 - Wells and Jennings were taken at the turn, leaving us to decide between Thomas, Addai, and Ochocinco. Joseph Addai's strong 2009 season, and multiple Top 10 finishes are reason enough to go with the Indianapolis ball carrier.

    4.14 - This is an interesting pick. Little is left at the running back position (Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Ricky Williams. It is nice to already have a strong quarterback and two good running backs. The Spiller fans should be happy with him after turning the corner. But, the wide receiver position is our need. Hines Ward, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Santana Moss are the top choices. Ward is a solid starting pass catcher for this pick.

    5.03 - There is strong value available at both running back and wide receiver. Reggie Bush is very attractive in a PPR league as a RB3 starting in the flex. The wideouts available are Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Santana Moss. We will go with Bush with the hope there are receiver options in the late sixth round.

    6.14 - We need a wide receiver with this pick. Our choices are Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Devin Hester, and Malcom Floyd (with the Vincent Jackson situation). Owens is the choice after signing in Cincinnati. He is a worthy risk here.

    Overall, this is a very good team. We like this team a lot, especially getting the two wide receivers so late. This team would be difficult to beat with a good rest of the draft.

    Drafting In the Middle Of Round 1

    So, how would we attack the 1.08 draft spot?

    1.08 - The decision is a tough one. Stud wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald or running back Steven Jackson? The quarterback situation in Arizona is concerning so we will go with the ball carrier.

    2.09 - There has been quite the wide receiver run since out last pick. The best ones left are Greg Jennings, Marques Colston, Chad Ochocinco, and Steve Smith (CAR). The best rushers are Jamaal Charles and Knowshon Moreno. Jennings versus the running backs is a difficult quandary. Since there are solid wideouts expected to be available in the third round, we will go with a running back. The two young backs are close and make for a tough choice. We will go with the upside of Charles over the safe, solid Moreno.

    3.08 - Once again, we are deciding between ball carriers and pass catchers. This time, it is Reggie Bush, Jahvid Best, or Felix Jones versus Chad Ochocinco and the two Steve Smiths. We will go with the upside of Bush and hope his knees hold up. So far, we have three strong starters at running back.

    4.09 - The talent at the wide receiver position is about drop off a cliff. Hines Ward and Percy Harvin are the two best left. Since this is for our WR1 position, we will go with the safer Ward.

    5.08 - We have waited a long time on the quarterback position and only Kevin Kolb and Eli Manning remain as players we like, but both should be viable QB1 producers. We could also use a wide receiver and have good options (Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Santana Moss) available. None of these five players are expected to make it back to us so we will go with the quarterback we like best. While Kolb has tremendous upside potential, Manning has a pair of good young receiver and could have another strong campaign. Manning is the choice because he is safer and more of a known commodity.

    6.09 - A second wide receiver is a must at this pick. The choices are plenty, but the decision is one which be decided by personal preference. Lee Evans, Terrell Owens, Devin Hester, Malcom Floyd (with the Vincent Jackson situation), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are the best available. Owens makes a strong pick this late after signing with the Bengals.

    Once again, we are happy with this team. While the quarterback position is not as strong as we might like, getting three very strong running PPR backs should offset any deficiency.

    Drafting At the End Of Round 1

    So, how does a late draft position change things?

    1.14 - The first pick offers a difficult choice. Running backs Ryan Grant and Rashard Mendenhall, receivers Miles Austin, Reggie Wayne, and Roddy White, or Peyton Manning at quarterback. With such quality options at running back and wide receiver, we will go with Manning here to give us a very solid fantasy passer. As stated above, we need to make up for the lack of an elite running back.

    2.03 - White and Mendenhall were two of the notables taken at the turn. Grant is a tough call here with such good receivers on the board. Going with Ryan Grant with the hope that a couple of receivers make it back to the late third round pick next up.

    3.14 - While Reggie Bush and Jahvid Best are tempting, there is quality talent at receiver. Hines Ward, Michael Crabtree, Hakeem Nicks, and Percy Harvin highlight the options. We will take a younger receiver here and hope Ward makes it around the corner. We really like the look of all three youngsters as rookies last year, but will take a shot on Crabtree. Of the group, he is the sole WR1 option on his team and should have a great rapport with quarterback Alex Smith going into year two.

    4.03 - Reggie Bush versus Hines Ward is a tough call in PPR leagues. Yes, we wanted Ward, but Bush might be too good to pass up. Our VBD results say we should select Bush without a doubt, but it is close. Bush it is ... by a nose.

    5.14 - We are left with Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Santana Moss as options at receiver. All three are quality alternatives with this pick. We will go with Moss and hope one of the other two falls to us in the early sixth round.

    6.03 - Tim Hightower and Ahmad Bradshaw are great PPR threats. Neither Maclin nor Wallace made it past the corner, the value of the two backs is great. Hightower was a Top 20 PPR ball carrier in 2009 and could repeat the feat.

    While this third team is not as sexy as the two above, it has a good shot with some high-upside performers. As with all other leagues, the value drops off considerably after the first 35 or 40 players. This leaves better options to the teams with the higher picks. Sixteen team PPR leagues are a lot of fun with all of the subtle differences.

    Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.

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