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How to Attack Your Smaller PPR Draft - Footballguys

Strategy on Attacking Your Smaller PPR League Draft

Small leagues are a lot of fun.  There is something about the size of 8- or 10-team leagues that make them enjoyable. Maybe, it is having a team full of very good players.  The size makes them much different than the standard 12-team leagues.  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 10-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 50 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 you need studs to gain advantages, how best do you 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 the top wideouts (Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins) have a similar value to a large tier of backs, and the next receivers are not far behind. 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. Seek out studs. A top kicker or defense might be a great pick earlier than you would think, especially if they give you an edge of a few points each week.

b. In smaller (8 or 10 teams) leagues which start only one passer, there is no reason to address the position before the eighth 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 a quarterback (because there are so many good options) which makes the good passers drop further. So, wait on a quarterback and try to find studs at other positions. It is best to wait until there are at least eight quarterbacks off the board before even looking at selecting a passer. You may even want to consider waiting until some teams start taking backups and take two of the tier with Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, and Philip Rivers.  In fact, if your league does not allow for deep rosters, taking one of these passers is a fine idea.  There will be options available on the waiver wire.  If you do have a large enough bench, selecting two of these passers is the preferred method.

c.  We will look a little later at how weighted the values are slanted toward the top running backs and the wide receivers gain ground in after three rounds.  The difference between RB1 (Todd Gurley) and RB10 (Saquon Barkley) is roughly six 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 a bona fide stud (e.g., Brown, Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr Jr, or A.J. Green), it is best to wait on the wide receiver position until 12 or 15 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 WR5 (Julio Jones) and WR20 (Amari Cooper) is roughly three points per game. 

e.    There are at least 10 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 10 are gone. The stud gives you an extra few points per game, so it is a viable strategy. Also, target kickers with the starting gig locked up, on high scoring offenses, and a late bye week. 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. If your leaguemates look to employ this same approach, too, be prepared to pick up defenses a week before needed, even if this strategy uses two roster spots at times. 

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 one tight ends and zero quarterbacks were valued in the first two rounds.  Further, the second tight end (Travis Kelce) is ranked 23rd overall.  This Kelce ranking may be a surprise to you, but this is because there are several good options.  Even in PPR scoring, only six players in the first two rounds are wide receivers.  The reason?  The VBD application understands that there are so few quality fantasy backs and prioritizes the position. 

Here are the league variables:

  •     10 teams
  •     16 roster spots
  •     PPR scoring

And here are the starting requirements:

  •     1 Quarterback
  •     2 Running Backs
  •     3 Wide Receivers
  •     1 Tight End
  •     1 Flex (RB, WR, or TE)
  •     1 Kicker
  •     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 50 players below that smaller leagues dictate a strong nucleus of running backs. 

Rank
Pos
PosRank
Player
Team
Points
VBD
1
RB
1
LAR/12
326.3
172
2
RB
2
LeVeon Bell
Pit/7
316.9
163
3
RB
3
David Johnson
Ari/9
308.8
155
4
RB
4
Ezekiel Elliott
Dal/8
298.4
145
5
RB
5
Alvin Kamara
NO/6
297.3
144
6
WR
1
Pit/7
291.6
113
7
RB
6
Melvin Gordon
LAC/8
256.0
102
8
WR
2
Hou/10
277.9
99
9
RB
7
Kareem Hunt
KC/12
243.1
89
10
RB
8
Leonard Fournette
Jac/9
237.8
84
11
RB
9
Dalvin Cook
Min/10
235.3
82
12
RB
10
NYG/9
231.2
77
13
RB
11
Christian McCaffrey
Car/4
221.4
68
14
WR
3
NYG/9
245.6
67
15
RB
12
Devonta Freeman
Atl/8
220.2
66
16
WR
4
Keenan Allen
LAC/8
241.6
63
17
RB
13
Jerick McKinnon
SF/11
216.0
62
18
WR
5
Atl/8
239.9
61
19
WR
6
Michael Thomas
NO/6
234.2
56
20
TE
1
Rob Gronkowski
NE/11
214.6
54
21
WR
7
Larry Fitzgerald
Ari/9
216.3
38
22
WR
8
Cin/9
215.8
37
23
TE
2
KC/12
197.9
37
24
WR
9
Davante Adams
GB/7
215.2
37
25
WR
10
Mike Evans
TB/5
215.1
37
26
WR
11
Adam Thielen
Min/10
213.4
35
27
QB
1
Aaron Rodgers
GB/7
329.5
34
28
RB
14
Jordan Howard
Chi/5
183.9
30
29
WR
12
T.Y. Hilton
Ind/9
207.7
29
30
WR
13
Doug Baldwin
Sea/7
206.9
28
31
RB
15
Joe Mixon
Cin/9
180.9
27
32
RB
16
Kenyan Drake
Mia/11
179.9
26
33
WR
14
Tyreek Hill
KC/12
203.6
25
34
QB
2
Deshaun Watson
Hou/10
319.6
25
35
QB
3
Tom Brady
NE/11
319.5
24
36
QB
4
Russell Wilson
Sea/7
317.4
22
37
RB
17
Lamar Miller
Hou/10
175.4
22
38
QB
5
Cam Newton
Car/4
316.3
21
39
RB
18
Alex Collins
Bal/10
173.6
20
40
WR
15
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Pit/7
196.8
18
41
WR
16
Demaryius Thomas
Den/10
196.7
18
42
RB
19
Derrick Henry
Ten/8
170.8
17
43
WR
17
Stefon Diggs
Min/10
195.2
17
44
TE
3
Zach Ertz
Phi/9
177.2
16
45
QB
6
Drew Brees
NO/6
309.5
14
46
WR
18
Brandin Cooks
LAR/12
191.0
13
47
WR
19
Golden Tate
Det/6
190.8
12
48
WR
20
Oak/7
189.7
11
49
WR
21
Alshon Jeffery
Phi/9
189.4
11
50
QB
7
Carson Wentz
Phi/9
304.9
10

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 and receiver positions - is immense.  Notice the VBD values for the three top players overall (all running backs) in comparison to the rest of the players, even very good players.  Also, as we progress to the 50thoverall player, the receivers account for almost than half of the table.

Rank
Pos
PosRank
Player
Team
Points
VBD
51
PK
1
Stephen Gostkowski
NE/11
156.8
8
52
RB
20
Jay Ajayi
Phi/9
160.0
6
53
DEF
1
Jacksonville
Jac/9
157.5
6
54
RB
21
Derrius Guice
Was/4
159.5
6
55
WR
22
Allen Robinson
Chi/5
183.6
5
56
WR
23
Michael Crabtree
Bal/10
183.3
5
57
WR
24
Josh Gordon
Cle/11
183.0
5
58
TE
4
Greg Olsen
Car/4
164.1
3
59
QB
8
Alex Smith
Was/4
296.7
2
60
RB
22
Rashaad Penny
Sea/7
154.8
1
61
RB
23
Tevin Coleman
Atl/8
154.7
1
62
WR
25
Marvin Jones
Det/6
178.5
0
63
TE
5
Jimmy Graham
GB/7
160.8
0
64
DEF
2
Minnesota
Min/10
149.9
0
65
RB
24
Dion Lewis
Ten/8
153.7
0
66
QB
9
Jimmy Garoppolo
SF/11
294.9
0
67
RB
25
Jamaal Williams
GB/7
153.5
0
68
PK
2
Justin Tucker
Bal/10
146.6
-1
69
QB
10
Kirk Cousins
Min/10
294.2
-1
70
RB
26
Chris Thompson
Was/4
152.7
-1
71
RB
27
Royce Freeman
Den/10
152.0
-2
72
QB
11
Matthew Stafford
Det/6
293.0
-2
73
RB
28
Ronald Jones II
TB/5
151.7
-2
74
RB
29
Carlos Hyde
Cle/11
151.6
-2
75
PK
3
Greg Zuerlein
LAR/12
144.5
-2
76
PK
4
Wil Lutz
NO/6
144.0
-3
77
TE
6
Evan Engram
NYG/9
157.9
-3
78
RB
30
Chris Ivory
Buf/11
150.8
-3
79
PK
5
Matt Bryant
Atl/8
142.9
-4
80
RB
31
Tarik Cohen
Chi/5
150.1
-4
81
RB
32
Isaiah Crowell
NYJ/11
149.3
-5
82
DEF
3
Philadelphia
Phi/9
143.2
-5
83
WR
26
Devin Funchess
Car/4
172.5
-6
84
RB
33
Rex Burkhead
NE/11
147.3
-7
85
PK
6
Chris Boswell
Pit/7
138.0
-7
86
QB
12
Pit/7
287.4
-8
87
PK
7
Mason Crosby
GB/7
137.8
-8
88
PK
8
Harrison Butker
KC/12
137.2
-8
89
WR
27
Emmanuel Sanders
Den/10
170.0
-8
90
QB
13
LAR/12
285.9
-9
91
PK
9
Graham Gano
Car/4
135.4
-10
92
PK
10
Matt Prater
Det/6
134.6
-10
93
PK
11
Jake Elliott
Phi/9
134.6
-10
94
WR
28
Marquise Goodwin
SF/11
168.0
-10
95
QB
14
Matt Ryan
Atl/8
284.4
-11
96
RB
34
Marlon Mack
Ind/9
142.7
-11
97
QB
15
LAC/8
283.2
-12
98
DEF
4
Baltimore
Bal/10
134.8
-12
99
QB
16
Patrick Mahomes II
KC/12
282.6
-12
100
PK
12
Dustin Hopkins
Was/4
131.5
-13

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 the fifth round 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 10 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. 

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.