Fantasy Football PPR Draft Strategy
While standard leagues remain the most popular fantasy format, every year more and more owners turn to PPR leagues to add a new twist to the season. These leagues add value to possession receivers and slot receivers while devaluing running backs who don’t contribute much on third down.
If you’re new to the PPR landscape, don’t worry. The game is still all about value; the parameters are just a little different. Good players remain good players, and most guys who don’t merit a roster spot in standard don’t receive a tremendous boost just because they get points for catching the ball.
Follow these 10 fantasy football tips to transition from a standard league to a PPR league, and you can remain the league-crushing force we all know you are.
1. Know Your Scoring
This goes for any league, but is especially true for PPR. The main thing you need to know is how many points players get for receptions. The two most popular formats give players either 0.5 points or 1 full point for a catch, but some others give just 0.25 points. Knowing your league’s rules tells you how much your strategy needs to adjust.
If Player A going in the 5th round projects for 6 catches for 60 yards per game, but Player B going in the 6th round projects for 3 catches for 60 yards per game, who do you want to take?
Depends on the scoring. In 1-point PPR leagues, Player A gets 12 points per game, and Player B gets 9. In 0.25-point PPR leagues, Player A gets 7.5 points per game, while Player B gets 6.75. The difference goes from a 25 percent dropoff to just a 10 percent dropoff. Review your scoring rules thoroughly so you know real value when you see it.
One of the benefits of being a Gridiron Experts member is using our custom ranking tool that takes our 2015 player projections and allows you to enter in your leagues scoring format to find the best valued studs in your league.
2. Know Your Roster Limits
One of the cardinal sins of fantasy is learning how scoring works but discounting roster construction. If you have to start 1 RB and 3 WRs, your draft should look dramatically different than the draft of someone who has to start 3 RBs and 2 WRs.
Think about the draft in terms of replacement value.
The difference between the top RB and the 13th RB in 1-point PPR last season was 172.3 points. Assuming you start only one RB in a 12-man league, you would lose out on 172.3 points by starting a replacement-level player instead of the top running back. However, think about that same league starting 3 WRs per team. You have to consider the difference between the top WR and the 37th WR to see your replacement-level value, which in 2014 was 205.6 points. Receivers increase in value in PPR, but you can still miss out on points if you don’t understand roster construction.
If you know your scoring and roster rules, you might be tempted to dramatically alter your rankings across the board. Don’t. You might hear terms like “PPR gold” thrown around about players who catch a lot of passes without making many big plays, but they’re almost always overvalued.
Kendall Wright is a popular example.
People who hear his name tend to assume he’s a hidden gem in PPR leagues, but when you look at the numbers, he’s still not a guy you want starting on your team. He actually performed better in standard leagues last season (WR37) than in PPR leagues (WR42). Either way, though, he wasn’t good enough to start in most leagues.
Study, Study, Study
You should do this regardless of your league format, but if you’re transitioning to PPR from standard, the best favor you can do for yourself is to read up. This article is a great starting point, but if you really want to do your due diligence to be prepared on draft day, you need to dive deeper. Check out rankings of players in PPR formats, and compare them to standard rankings. See who moves up and who moves down. Read PPR-specific analysis to gain an edge on your opponents.
Load Up on Wide Receivers
The whole idea of PPR leagues is to add value to pass-catchers, so chances are you won’t be playing in a league that starts 1 WR per team. Stock up on receivers in the early rounds if you can, because the waiver wire gets extremely scarce after the first few weeks.
Most teams carry at least 5-6 WRs, so if you fail to prepare, you’ll be looking at guys like Riley Cooper, Devin Hester, and Chris Hogan to lead your squad. Yikes.
Take a Tight End Earlier
Conventional wisdom says if you miss Rob Gronkowski, you should be one of the last people to take a TE. That’s partially true, but you can gain a slight advantage in PPR by stepping up to grab one a little earlier.
The struggle to find consistency at TE during the season can be maddening, but the general consensus is the middle-of-the-pack guys are mostly the same. In PPR, however, the gap between these middle guys widens. Eliminating the top and bottom 3 TEs in 12-team leagues last season, and considering just the guys who finished 4th-9th, we see that the gap between 4th and 9th rose from 26.6 points in standard (a 19.4 percent drop) to 57.3 points in PPR (25.9 percent). If you don’t get Gronk, it might be worth it to reach a little for Greg Olsen.
Of course, if you like to live dangerously and go for this season’s breakout tight end, you do have that option.
Be Cautious with Sleepers
When switching to a PPR format, some owners stop thinking about sleepers the right way. The thought process goes from, “This guy could be huge this year!” and turns into, “This nobody is primed to get more catches than people think!”
Like we discussed earlier, over-correcting on known players only hurts you. This applies to sleepers as well. A fourth-string established veteran probably isn’t going to break out this season, and a “dependable” sleeper has significantly less value than a boom-or-bust guy. Would you rather have a player you know will get 3-4 catches a game, or would you rather have a guy who might take over a starting role down the road but won’t see targets for a few games? The first guy will never be startable in anything but the deepest leagues; the second could actually be a steal.
Pay Attention to Coaches
For some reason, people like to think the players are the only ones responsible for their production. That’s hardly the case. Coaching changes can have major impacts on players’ roles, and it’s up to you to know what those roles will be.
Maybe your favorite running back is Matt Forte, and you want to know how new Bears coach John Fox uses his RBs. Maybe you like C.J. Anderson in Denver, but you don’t know how Gary Kubiak runs his offense. Because you can’t quantify a coach’s influence, many fantasy players ignore the guys on the sidelines. Don’t be like them. Do your research, because in fantasy, what you don’t know can hurt you.
Keep an Eye on Third Down
This has more to do with scouting the waiver wire than the draft, but you can learn some things from preseason games as well. Watch teams closely on third down, and notice which running back is on the field and whether he has success.
Does he pass block well when needed? Does he catch well? Is he getting first downs?
If he looks good on third downs, the coaches will notice, and usually reward him with increased playing time. Third down is often a passing down, and running backs on the field for third down have to be able to catch the ball. In PPR leagues, we like that. If a guy is out there on 3rd and 5, it means the coach trusts him to make a reception if needed. When you see a player who’s typically a bell cow start to get pulled on third down, take notice.
Be Ready for Anything
Above all, PPR drafts are still drafts, meaning you can’t go in to the war room with a rigid plan. Don’t commit to taking 2 WRs in the first two rounds, but don’t rule it out either. In early rounds of any draft, you want to get the best players available for the best value. What if you’re dead set on taking back-to-back receivers at the end of the first round, but LeVeon Bell drops to the second? You don’t succeed in the draft by making a plan; you succeed in the draft by accumulating enough knowledge to be flexible.
If you need a place to start, check out Gridiron Experts’ player forecasts, where you can stats and outlooks for tons of players to help you make the right choice for your league.
Remember, it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun – and nothing is more fun than winning.
Preston has lived all around Texas, and his loyalties always lie with his Texas Tech Red Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. He lives with his fiancée, Cheyenne. When he’s not busy winning fantasy football championships, he enjoys reading detective novels and taking naps.