As a member of the fantasy football community, I've found that it's a place full of camaraderie, respect, and the need for good old-fashioned competition between smart, devoted people.
Aside from the occasional Twitter battle regarding a certain player, the majority of our time is spent in heightened anticipation awaiting autumn Sundays.
But before we start a round of Kumbayah around the campfire, there's still one thing that divides our fake football brotherhood.
The search for the “right" scoring system.
Prior to last season, I played in “standard” scoring leagues almost exclusively. I suppose this was because I, like almost every other human being, am adverse to change. But when I considered what it really meant, it made sense to play fantasy football in a way that more closer resembles the way real football is being played.
This is where point-per-reception (PPR) scoring enters the picture.
If you’re someone who still plays in non-PPR leagues, that’s quite alright. Change is scary sometimes. Trust me, I know.
But if you have come over to the dark side, and have chosen to use PPR scoring for your leagues this coming season, I've compiled a list of five things to keep in mind as we move closer to draft time.
1. Target Pass-Catching Running Backs
While this is generally a fairly obvious statement, it becomes even more imperative in PPR leagues.
In your old standard league, the first round of your draft was probably flooded with running backs. In a race to secure rushing yards and touchdowns, it’s the logical thing to do. However, the first round in a PPR draft will feature a much more balanced mix of running backs, wide receivers, and even the occasional tight end.
Using numberFire’s FireFactor, a system for ranking players that combines both overall production and value above replacement, the importance of having running back with receiving skills becomes highlighted.
|Player||Non-PPR FireFactor Overall Rank||PPR FireFactor Overall Rank|
While both Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy are borderline RB1s regardless of format, the difference between being a top-six overall pick and falling to the top of the second round is a big deal.
Alfred Morris sees the biggest drop in ranking, falling over 20 spots when PPR scoring is applied. Frank Gore also falls from the 27th overall rankings to the 40th.
2. Don't Forget About Pierre Thomas
It appears the secret is getting out.
Pierre Thomas’s average draft position (ADP) in 12-team, PPR drafts has jumped nearly an entire round (6.02 to 5.03) over the last two months. And while normally this is a sign to avoid such a player, I think Thomas still provides value in the fifth round.
He led all NFL running backs last year with 77 receptions, and heads into 2014 with a great opportunity to repeat that production. The 143 targets that Lance Moore and Darren Sproles received last year now must go elsewhere, and it makes sense that Thomas could reach the 85-plus target range in 2014.
When you combine Thomas’s 91.67% catch rate last season with the trust his has earned from Drew Brees – a quarterback who loves to throw to his running backs – you have a clear recipe for success.
While the Saints will most likely split the rushing workload between multiple backs as they usually do, the boost Thomas gets in the passing game makes him a surefire RB3 in PPR leagues with upside for more.
3. Antonio Brown Is Elite
As someone who tends to favor big-bodied wide receivers, saying that a 5’10”, 180-pound receiver is “elite” seems a bit counter-intuitive.
And while it's been shown that big receivers are more likely to finish with better production, Antonio Brown is a proven exception.
Brown finished 2013 as the third-best receiver in PPR leagues, behind only Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon. He was also extremely consistent, averaging 19.3 fantasy points per game and at least five receptions in every single contest.
While the additions of Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant should increase depth for the Steelers at the position, Brown’s only real competition for target volume is an unproven, second-year pro Markus Wheaton.
Look for Brown to remain the focal point of an offense looking to run more no-huddle with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
4. Tight End Becomes More Streamable
Much like the quarterback position, many fantasy owners choose to wait until the later rounds to draft a tight end, and play the streaming game during the season. By utilizing the waiver wire and taking advantage of favorable matchups, owners can form a successful committee at the tight end position.
Looking at this year’s average draft position in combination with last season’s usable tight end weeks (top-12 finishes), you see how waiting on a tight end will not necessarily sink your fantasy squad.
|Player||Top-12 PPR Weeks||Current ADP|
|Martellus Bennett||6||TE13/11th Round|
|Charles Clay||7||TE15/12th Round|
|Delanie Walker||5||TE18/14th Round|
|Antonio Gates||8||TE17/13th Round|
Antonio Gates certainly declined late last season, and the possible emergence of Ladarius Green could be problematic. But as a 33-year-old last season, he was still a TE1 for half of the season. A similar quick start is certainly in the realm of possibility in 2014.
Martellus Bennett, Charles Clay, and Delanie Walker all represent possible TE1s at their current draft positions for owners who wish to forgo the tight end position early in their drafts.
5. Your Flex Spot Deserves a Wide Receiver
Taking a cue from NFL coaches, our fantasy squads should utilize more three-receiver sets in PPR formats. If your starting lineup includes a flex spot (RB/WR/TE), it should almost always be occupied by a wide receiver.
Over the course of last season, the WR36 (Jerricho Cotchery) outscored the RB36 (Stevan Ridley) by more than 38 PPR points.
This is why guys like Julian Edelman, Brian Hartline, and Kendall Wright are so valuable in PPR formats. Although they may not score many touchdowns, they do see a high target volume, which generally results in more catches, and thus, more fantasy points for you.
Below is a table for wide receivers similar to the tight end table above.
|Player||Top-24 PPR Weeks||Current ADP|
|Julian Edelman||9||WR24/5th Round|
|Kendall Wright||7||WR27/6th Round|
|Brian Hartline||3||WR59/13th Round|
While elite wide receivers can win you individual weeks by themselves, mid-round receivers who are target magnets can win you year-long fantasy titles.