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Fantasy Football 101: PPR Special Report

The Special Report week is upon us, and it is also the last week of Fantasy Football 101. If you've hung in there through all the articles so far, you should have a good feel for what Fantasy Football is, how it works, and what some of your choices are with two exceptions: Points Per Reception leagues and Individual Defensive Player leagues. This week, we will hit on these two unique hybrids of Fantasy Football, and then start writing our way through the back burner. Follow me to find out why receptions matter, and what the catch is.

The first question I get from those not into PPR is almost always this: Why are receivers special? Seriously. We don't give points per rush to running backs, or points per completion to quarterbacks.To answer that, you have to look at the first 2 decades of fantasy football scoring and see how dominant Running Backs are, how consistent QBs often are, and how volatile Receivers are.

Fantasy Football players wanted more balance for the Wide Receiver position. Some owners were tired of how volatile the scoring of receivers could be and how few receivers there were who put up enough points to be worth starting. In bigger leagues (12+ teams) that frustration often culminated in multiple players scoring 2 or less points for you at random points in the season...Even if they are top 10 at their positions. To fix that, we have a couple of options.

Rosters: It is recommended, but not required, that you add a 3rd receiver to a standard layout if you are doing PPR, giving you a line up of: QB, RB, RB, Flex, WR, WR, WR, TE, D/ST, K. If you skip the extra receiver, its no big deal, but then the flex almost always becomes a 3rd receiver position anyway because of increased receiver value. It also makes receivers more of a draft priority, because of the needed depth.

Scoring System: PPR is typically done 1 of two ways: 1 point per reception, or 0.5 points per receptions. in previous articles we discussed some leagues not liking decimal scoring, but we had some comments about how 1 PPR is "too much". Everyone has different preferences. I find 0.5 can add positional balance but keep individual player value nearly identical, whereas a full PPR can dramatically shift the best players at the RB and WR position, and to a lesser extent TEs. Consider 0.5 PPR a nice wading into the pool system, and 1.0 to be the full dive. Both are fun.

Running Backs: This position group feels the PPR as much as the receiver position does. Take someone that is already undervalued in Fantasy, like our own Matt Forte, and give him those reception points to go with his nice yardage totals, and he is a top 10-12 RB. He may not get the yards Mendenhall gets, but he gets the catches Mendenhall doesn't. For example:

2010 Rashard Mendenhall stats: 1273 rushing yards, 13 TDs, 23 receptions, 167 yards, 0 TD, 2 fumbles lost.

2010 Matt Forte stats: 1069 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 50 receptions, 547 yards, 3 TD, 2 fumbles lost.

In standard scoring, Mendenhall gets 127 pts. for yards, 78 pts. for TDs, 16 pts. for receiving yards, -4 for fumbles (217 pts for 2010). Forte would have 210 pts. under the same system.

Add in 1 point per reception, and they switch. Mendenhall is a 240 point player and  Forte is suddenly a 261 point player. Matt has had 50+ receptions in each of his 3 seasons in Chicago. I for one bet he goes for 4.

The big carry over here is that when you have two guys who score about the same (Forte, Mendenhall) over a season, you can start using how often they are targeted in the passing game to differentiate the two in your drafting strategies. It also gives 3rd down backs increased value and makes running backs in pass-happy offenses more reliable than typically seen. Guys like LeSean McCoy (79 catches), Ray Rice (63 catches) and the already explosive Arian Foster (66 catches) sky rocket, while guys like Mendenhall (23 catches), Benson (28 catches) and Michael Turner (12 catches) might take a step back in your eyes. Back ups can gain value like Darren Sproles (59 catches).

Last word: Remember, PPR changes value, but don't let it change your mind too much - Mendenhall & Turner were still top 10 rushers and their rushing production, especially TDs, off-set the lack of receptions. You may get good value from a guy that gets overlooked because he DOESN'T catch passes come draft time, so watch low reception, high rushing yard players in case they drop in the draft.

Wide Receivers: Usually you have some guys who have 70-80 catches, 1000+ yards, and a number of TDs who dominate in PPR and in standard scoring, and then a few mediocre guys in standard scoring who excel in PPR because they catch 100+ passes. Well, in 2010, the only 100+ catch receivers were Roddy White (115 for 1389 yards and 10 TDs) and Reggie Wayne (111 for 1355 and 6 TDs), both of whom were darn good in standard scoring as well. Still, there were some sleepers made better because of their reception totals.

Wes Welker: Welker had over 100 catches a season for the last 3 years (2007-2009) going into 2010. He fell short in 2010, hitting 86, but that was still good for 7th most catches in the league. To show you the change, his 126 standard scoring points for 2010 jump to 212 in PPR. Welker finished 2007-2009 in the top 15 in receiver scoring for PPR, and was right there again in 2010.

Danny Amendola: Who? 85 catch Danny brought in a sad 84 points in standard scoring leagues this year...But if you give him credit for his 9th most receptions, and he is a 171 point receiver.

While it elevates reliable targets like Amendola and Welker, it also can serve to penalize big play receivers, and you have to keep that in mind. When someone goes up in rank, it means someone else goes down. Guys like our own Johnny Knox (51 catches, 175 pts) drop when PPR comes into play, dropping toAmendola's level. Ask DeSean Jackson (47 catches, 188 points) about PPR and you might get glared at, especially if you mention that Davon Bess (79 catches, 191 points) had a better year.

Tight Ends: This is the position that makes catches least impacted by PPR in my humble opinion. Standard rankings already tend to sort this group out pretty well, and you don't have as much diversity with tight ends as you do with receivers. Tights ends are broken up as "blockers" and "receivers" not as "slot receivers" and "big play receivers" in most cases. With that in mind, it does usually bring a few guys up enough to bolster position wide stock and reduce the gap between guys like Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates and the rest of the pack.

Closing thought: If you have some specific PPR questions, requests for future articles, or requests for information to be seen in Fridays IDP Special, let me know here.

Fantasy Football 101 Articles to come: IDP Special Report

Other things on the back burner: Pre-Draft Fantasy Watch, A Year in Review: 2010 (5 part series), Post-Draft Fantasy Update, Fantasy Football Team Reports (8 part series, by division)

Fantasy Football 101: Introduction

Fantasy Football 101: What's in a league?

Fantasy Football 101: Scoring Systems

Fantasy Football 101: Breaking Down Rosters

Fantasy Football 101: Types of Drafts

Fantasy Football 101: Expectations and Providers