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How to Attack Your Large-League PPR Draft

Strategy on Attacking Your Large PPR League Draft

Large leagues are a lot of fun. The addition of PPR (Point Per Reception) scoring adds a different dimension to standard 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 specially 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. They are scarce.  Plus, there are some lesser ball carriers who catch enough passes to be viable starters, 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 is an increased number of wideouts now in play for the early rounds. The large league means that we must have a plan in order to get the most value out of the running backs and wide receivers.

Anyone who 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 mean 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 mean 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-team leagues. 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 wide receiver and running back positions. So, selecting a quarterback at the 1/2 turn helps get a stud at the position in larger leagues. 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 QB10 (or worse) at the end of the third round. There is a huge difference in the predictability of future production as well as the level of certainty of the situation in the elite passer. There are many more viable fantasy wideouts than rushers after the first twenty 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 unless Antonio Brown is available at a discount. Then you move to look for value at both positions for many rounds with only a quarterback mixed in, as the value dictates. Unless you take Rob Gronkowski 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 earlier than normal 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 balanced the running backs and wide receivers 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 Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the Top 50 picks.  And, even they are not valued highly by the VBD.  But, your leaguemates will take quarterbacks early and often.  You will have two choices: take one early, too, or get stuck with the likes of Alex Smith as your starter at the position.  The running backs and wide receivers are split fairly evenly during the first few rounds, including each having exactly half of the top 16 players (representing the first 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.

Below is a table with the Top 160 players from the Footballguys projections. Notice how the VBD drops way off after Le'Veon Bell (RB2), then slowly declines 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. 

Rank

Pos

PosRank

Player

Team

Points

VBD

1

RB

1

David Johnson

Ari/8

356.4

250

2

RB

2

Le'Veon Bell

Pit/9

303.1

197

3

WR

1

Antonio Brown

Pit/9

315.2

173

4

RB

3

Ezekiel Elliott

Dal/6

269.5

163

5

WR

2

Odell Beckham Jr

NYG/8

296.2

154

6

WR

3

Julio Jones

Atl/5

289.2

147

7

RB

4

Devonta Freeman

Atl/5

253.3

147

8

WR

4

Mike Evans

TB/11

280.3

138

9

RB

5

Melvin Gordon III

LAC/9

243.5

137

10

RB

6

LeSean McCoy

Buf/6

242.7

136

11

WR

5

Jordy Nelson

GB/8

266.9

125

12

RB

7

Jay Ajayi

Mia/11

225

119

13

WR

6

A.J. Green

Cin/6

259.3

117

14

RB

8

Jordan Howard

Chi/9

219.3

113

15

WR

7

Michael Thomas

NO/5

254.6

112

16

WR

8

T.Y. Hilton

Ind/11

250.9

109

17

RB

9

DeMarco Murray

Ten/8

211.4

105

18

WR

9

Amari Cooper

Oak/10

241.9

100

19

WR

10

Doug Baldwin

Sea/6

237.4

95

20

WR

11

Demaryius Thomas

Den/5

236.4

94

21

RB

10

Isaiah Crowell

Cle/9

199

93

22

RB

11

Leonard Fournette

Jac/8

198.6

92

23

RB

12

Lamar Miller

Hou/7

197.8

91

24

RB

13

Todd Gurley

LAR/8

194.8

88

25

WR

12

Dez Bryant

Dal/6

228.5

86

26

WR

13

Allen Robinson

Jac/8

221.9

80

27

WR

14

DeAndre Hopkins

Hou/7

221.7

79

28

RB

14

Ty Montgomery

GB/8

184.6

78

29

RB

15

Mark Ingram II

NO/5

181.6

75

30

RB

16

Bilal Powell

NYJ/11

180.4

74

31

RB

17

Marshawn Lynch

Oak/10

179.4

73

32

WR

15

Brandin Cooks

NE/9

215.3

73

33

QB

1

Aaron Rodgers

GB/8

369.6

71

34

WR

16

Larry Fitzgerald

Ari/8

213.1

71

35

WR

17

Jarvis Landry

Mia/11

211.2

69

36

WR

18

Michael Crabtree

Oak/10

210.1

68

37

WR

19

Tyreek Hill

KC/10

209.9

68

38

WR

20

Alshon Jeffery

Phi/10

209

67

39

RB

18

Joe Mixon

Cin/6

169.5

63

40

RB

19

Carlos Hyde

SF/11

167.1

61

41

RB

20

Dalvin Cook

Min/9

166.5

60

42

QB

2

Tom Brady

NE/9

357.4

59

43

RB

21

Christian McCaffrey

Car/11

164.3

58

44

WR

21

Golden Tate

Det/7

200.2

58

45

TE

1

Rob Gronkowski

NE/9

218

58

46

RB

22

Spencer Ware

KC/10

163.9

58

47

RB

23

Tevin Coleman

Atl/5

161

55

48

WR

22

Stefon Diggs

Min/9

196.4

54

49

WR

23

Keenan Allen

LAC/9

196.2

54

50

RB

24

Eddie Lacy

Sea/6

159.6

53

51

WR

24

Emmanuel Sanders

Den/5

195.5

53

52

WR

25

Sammy Watkins

Buf/6

195.4

53

53

TE

2

Travis Kelce

KC/10

210.9

51

54

RB

25

Frank Gore

Ind/11

156.6

50

55

WR

26

Willie Snead IV

NO/5

190.1

48

56

RB

26

Theo Riddick

Det/7

153

47

57

QB

3

Drew Brees

NO/5

343.5

45

58

RB

27

Duke Johnson Jr

Cle/9

149.3

43

59

WR

27

Kelvin Benjamin

Car/11

185.1

43

60

RB

28

Ameer Abdullah

Det/7

148.7

42

61

QB

4

Andrew Luck

Ind/11

340.2

42

62

WR

28

Jamison Crowder

Was/5

183.1

41

63

WR

29

DeVante Parker

Mia/11

181.9

40

64

RB

29

Matt Forte

NYJ/11

145.3

39

65

RB

30

C.J. Anderson

Den/5

144.8

39

66

RB

31

Terrance West

Bal/10

143.7

37

67

QB

5

Matt Ryan

Atl/5

335.8

37

68

WR

30

Quincy Enunwa

NYJ/11

179.2

37

69

WR

31

Davante Adams

GB/8

178.6

36

70

WR

32

Adam Thielen

Min/9

177.7

35

71

TE

3

Greg Olsen

Car/11

195.2

35

72

WR

33

Julian Edelman

NE/9

177.2

35

73

QB

6

Jameis Winston

TB/11

331.9

33

74

WR

34

Pierre Garcon

SF/11

175.7

33

75

WR

35

DeSean Jackson

TB/11

174

32

76

QB

7

Russell Wilson

Sea/6

329.9

31

77

RB

32

Paul Perkins

NYG/8

135.5

29

78

WR

36

Jordan Matthews

Phi/10

170.8

28

79

WR

37

Terrelle Pryor

Was/5

169.8

28

80

WR

38

Randall Cobb

GB/8

169.3

27

81

RB

33

Darren Sproles

Phi/10

131.7

25

82

TE

4

Jordan Reed

Was/5

184.3

24

83

WR

39

Martavis Bryant

Pit/9

166

24

84

WR

40

Tyrell Williams

LAC/9

165.8

23

85

WR

41

Donte Moncrief

Ind/11

164.6

22

86

WR

42

Brandon Marshall

NYG/8

164.3

22

87

RB

34

Doug Martin

TB/11

127.4

21

88

RB

35

Danny Woodhead

Bal/10

127.1

21

89

WR

43

Corey Coleman

Cle/9

163

21

90

WR

44

Mike Wallace

Bal/10

161.4

19

91

WR

45

Eric Decker

Ten/8

160.4

18

92

WR

46

John Brown

Ari/8

160.2

18

93

TE

5

Kyle Rudolph

Min/9

177.7

18

94

WR

47

Cameron Meredith

Chi/9

158.5

16

95

RB

36

Mike Gillislee

NE/9

121.1

15

96

RB

37

Samaje Perine

Was/5

120.4

14

97

TE

6

Jimmy Graham

Sea/6

174

14

98

QB

8

Marcus Mariota

Ten/8

311.7

13

99

WR

48

Kenny Britt

Cle/9

155.3

13

100

RB

38

Derrick Henry

Ten/8

118.8

12

101

QB

9

Kirk Cousins

Was/5

310.6

12

102

QB

10

Ben Roethlisberger

Pit/9

309.1

11

103

RB

39

Chris Thompson

Was/5

115.7

9

104

RB

40

Adrian Peterson

NO/5

115.6

9

105

QB

11

Philip Rivers

LAC/9

307.6

9

106

PK

1

Stephen Gostkowski

NE/9

151.7

8

107

DEF

1

Denver

Den/5

142.1

7

108

WR

49

Jeremy Maclin

Bal/10

149.4

7

109

QB

12

Dak Prescott

Dal/6

305.4

7

110

RB

41

Latavius Murray

Min/9

113.3

7

111

QB

13

Cam Newton

Car/11

304.7

6

112

RB

42

Shane Vereen

NYG/8

112.5

6

113

RB

43

Jamaal Charles

Den/5

112

6

114

DEF

2

Seattle

Sea/6

139.8

5

115

TE

7

Zach Ertz

Phi/10

165.2

5

116

RB

44

James White

NE/9

111.3

5

117

WR

50

Rishard Matthews

Ten/8

146.7

4

118

PK

2

Matt Bryant

Atl/5

146.8

4

119

RB

45

Jonathan Stewart

Car/11

109.4

3

120

WR

51

Cole Beasley

Dal/6

145.2

3

121

DEF

3

Arizona

Ari/8

136.8

3

122

PK

3

Justin Tucker

Bal/10

142.9

1

123

DEF

4

Houston

Hou/7

133.3

0

124

PK

4

Mason Crosby

GB/8

141.4

0

125

RB

46

C.J. Prosise

Sea/6

106.3

0

126

WR

52

Breshad Perriman

Bal/10

142.2

0

127

QB

14

Eli Manning

NYG/8

298.2

0

128

TE

8

Tyler Eifert

Cin/6

159.8

0

129

WR

53

Robby Anderson

NYJ/11

140.6

-2

130

PK

5

Dan Bailey

Dal/6

139.1

-2

131

TE

9

Delanie Walker

Ten/8

158.3

-2

132

PK

6

Wil Lutz

NO/5

138.8

-2

133

RB

47

Kareem Hunt

KC/10

103.4

-3

134

WR

54

Marvin Jones Jr

Det/7

139.3

-3

135

PK

7

Graham Gano

Car/11

137.3

-3

136

RB

48

Kenneth Dixon

Bal/10

102.8

-4

137

QB

15

Derek Carr

Oak/10

294.6

-4

138

PK

8

Cairo Santos

KC/10

136

-4

139

DEF

5

Minnesota

Min/9

127.7

-4

140

PK

9

Caleb Sturgis

Phi/10

135

-5

141

PK

10

Dustin Hopkins

Was/5

134.3

-6

142

PK

11

Adam Vinatieri

Ind/11

134.2

-6

143

PK

12

Josh Lambo

LAC/9

134.1

-6

144

WR

55

Robert Woods

LAR/8

136.4

-6

145

PK

13

Phil Dawson

Ari/8

134

-6

146

QB

16

Andy Dalton

Cin/6

292.4

-6

147

RB

49

Rob Kelley

Was/5

99.8

-6

148

TE

10

Jack Doyle

Ind/11

153.3

-7

149

PK

14

Matt Prater

Det/7

132.5

-7

150

DEF

6

Baltimore

Bal/10

124.1

-7

151

PK

15

Chris Boswell

Pit/9

132.1

-7

152

PK

16

Sebastian Janikowski

Oak/10

131.9

-8

153

RB

50

Jalen Richard

Oak/10

98.5

-8

154

DEF

7

Kansas City

KC/10

123.2

-8

155

PK

17

Brandon McManus

Den/5

131.1

-8

156

PK

18

Blair Walsh

Sea/6

131.1

-8

157

WR

56

Marqise Lee

Jac/8

133.9

-8

158

RB

51

Giovani Bernard

Cin/6

97.8

-9

159

DEF

8

New England

NE/9

121.6

-9

160

DEF

9

Carolina

Car/11

121.3

-10

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

Feel free to (email me) with feedback.  Also, I am on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller), LinkedIn, and Google+, so you can ask me questions on one of these as well.