Reconsidering PPR as a Fantasy Football League Commissioner

Reconsidering PPR as a Fantasy Football League Commissioner

By Mel Blount (Guest Contributor), last update Jul 24, 2012

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Mark "Mel" Blount is author of The Art of Being Commish: Deep Thoughts on Managing a Fantasy Football League.

Follow Mel Blount on Twitter: @MarkMelBlount.

If you are a league commissioner, then you were likely the original architect of your league’s scoring rules. In most cases, you are also the conduit for making changes to those same rules. Some commissioners subject their leagues to a regular review of their scoring designs, while others prefer maintaining status quo, but routine re-evaluations can have a revitalizing impact on your league’s gaming enjoyment. It also can have the effect of aligning with evolutions in the NFL itself. Quite often those particular transformations have major impacts on fantasy football outcomes. Undoubtedly you’ve heard countless times to ‘alter your player strategies based on individual league scoring rules’, but how often have you taken the time to alter those scoring rules to reflect your league’s sentiments about its relationship to NFL outcomes?

In this article I’ll address a single facet of scoring rule design which is arguably the most controversial among them. Points Per Reception has certainly been subject to NFL statistical variations based on modern transformation to the real game. Should it be a component of your own league’s scoring model?

It’s both unrealistic and unfair for anyone to argue that the use of PPR is altogether right or wrong for all leagues. On the contrary, arguments about PPR use should instead be focused on whether or not it’s right for your individual league, and that decision should break one way or the other depending upon which of the pro and con arguments are embraced by you and your league members. What is central to this discussion is whether or not you’ve actually given this issue any meaningful consideration, and how recently you’ve evaluated PPR effects since the NFL has became increasingly more fond of the passing game.

Before covering the various points of view related to PPR, consider the state of actual PPR use across the fantasy football-playing nation. It’s probably fair to say that PPR use is in the slight majority, at least among avid players. According to the helpful staff at, around 55% of all leagues using their services opted to use some variation of PPR in 2011. High stakes leagues also favor PPR use, as evidenced by scoring rules in place at the Fantasy Football Players Championship and the National Fantasy Football Championship. My own research into open Yahoo leagues, however, shows some favoritism for non-PPR (approximately 60% of the 200+ leagues I sampled). Since Yahoo has a reputation for being more recreational, however, the applicability to a diehard 4for4 subscriber is probably less relevant.

This preference for PPR among ardent fantasy football players is best explained by the expected result. PPR advocates most often want to introduce more balance among the offensive position players. They also generally prefer that there is a greater mix of position types being chosen in early rounds of the draft. When PPR first gained popularity it certainly worked as intended to break up the monopoly on early draft rounds long held by running backs. In the modern day, PPR prevents quarterbacks from dominating the early rounds in much the same way. At least that’s the conventional wisdom – but the evidence is debatable, as we’ll see later. First, however, let’s contemplate the various criticisms routinely leveled by the “PPR haters”.

Consider the ‘positive contribution’ argument against PPR which raises the following question: If a receiver makes a catch at the line of scrimmage for no gain how can you possibly be awarding fantasy points for a statistic which does not positively contribute to the offensive goal of advancing the ball and/or scoring points? Try and think of another fantasy-point scoring category which has such an impact. Even a one-yard rushing gain is at least a step in the right direction, whereas a reception for no gain also has the negative repercussion of a loss of down. (Note: Hence the popularity within some leagues of awarding points per first down receptions only. Unfortunately, not all league management websites have such an option).

Next, consider the argument against PPR based on its relationship to other scoring rules. What other on-field actions result in the award of a single fantasy point? It is very difficult to make a claim that a catch for no gain is the equivalent of a 10-yard rush, a 25-yard pass, or even a PAT.

Finally, we come to the ‘reality’ argument against PPR. We worship quarterbacks like no other position on the field. They get most of the glory, are the premier subject of interviews and feature articles, and generate more replica jersey sales than any other position by far. Not surprisingly, they dominate fantasy-point production if all else is equal. What is so wrong leaving this relationship intact, particularly when it reflects real-world sentiments? Why can’t we just establish commensurate values and draft/trade/play accordingly?

If your answer to the last question is merely “Because it’s just not fair!”, then perhaps you also don’t like the fact that Bill Gates makes so much money, and maybe you’re even an advocate of making sure every player in little Jonny’s soccer league gets a trophy. There is, however, a much more effective argument for PPR beyond merely trying to establish more relative balance just for the sake of establishing balance.

If the natural order of things is left intact (i.e. non-PPR) then the fantasy point-scoring dominance of quarterbacks in particular creates a much more significant problem – the greater magnitude of devastation wrought by a major injury. And although injuries are and always will be a major facet of playing fantasy football, some quarterback injuries are more ruinous than others. Think Tom Brady circa 2008 in the first week of the season. How much disruption did that injury cause to fantasy leagues nationwide when owners who had invested big auction money or a 1st round pick on Brady “mailed it in” for the rest of the season?

That particular rationale for establishing balance is compelling, but it may be that PPR is no longer functioning as designed thanks to growth in the passing game. In 2011, NFL teams passed for nearly 10000 more total yards than 2006. Furthermore, there were almost 1000 more total completed receptions league wide. The total number of receptions and passing yards has increased in the NFL each of the last four years. So, what is the effect on fantasy football of these increases in the passing game? It’s actually difficult to draw definitive conclusions since QBs, WRs, RBs and TEs all benefit to some extent, and more importantly because individual leagues have so many different scoring designs, but you can measure this fairly easily for your own league by carefully assessing the historical year-end statistics. It may even be that your league administration website will allow you to evaluate the affects of changing your scoring rules on previous year’s results (, for example, has just such a feature). In fact, I discovered in my own league that if we had used PPR in 2011 it would have resulted in a different outcome in a close playoff game from week 15 and ultimately produced a different league champion. That fact doesn’t necessarily make a case one way or the other for PPR usage, but it is an effective visual aid for any league to use in assessing the need or lack of need for PPR based on how on-field performance is valued by league members.

In addition to looking backward, another excellent way to assess impacts of PPR-use is to look ahead. forecasts include a PPR and non-PPR version. Have you ever compared the two of them side-by-side to see which one more closely reflects your own personal values, or to see if PPR-scoring really is achieving its balancing goals?

Consider 4for4’s Custom Top 200 Most Valuable Players application. It offers a standard (non-PPR) and PPR option. Using a typical lineup mix for a 12-team league, here’s the result I got when I ran the program:



Running Backs

Wide Receivers


Tight Ends

Std Top 25





PPR Top 25





Std Top 50





PPR Top 50






Do you see how PPR promotes balance? Well, neither do I. In fact, if anything the non-PPR results are arguably slightly more diverse, but this may be yet another piece of evidence that PPR is no longer necessary as a balancing tool. Or perhaps it is merely an indication that running backs shouldn’t be awarded PPR in your scoring rules. What does the mix look like when you run the program with your own league’s lineup and scoring designs?

A final pro-PPR argument to consider is tangential but effective – receivers make major contributions to QB stat and fantasy point totals because of what they do after they catch the ball. Why not throw receivers a fantasy-scoring bone (PPR) to level the playing field for this reason alone? This is a sound idea, but wouldn’t it be that much more effective if this contribution could be scored more directly? Perhaps someday it will be, but in the present day, Yards After Catch (YAC) is a rather elusive statistic. Although YAC is captured by the Elias Sports Bureau, it is only made available on a somewhat sporadic basis.

Consider what YAC could do for fantasy football by looking at the following 2011 statistics:


Receiver Name

Total Receptions

Yards After Catch

Calvin Johnson



Victor Cruz



Jordy Nelson



Rob Gronkowski




Based on 0.1 fantasy points per yard after catch these totals wouldn’t quite mirror the fantasy points gained per reception but they are clearly in the ballpark and more importantly YAC isn’t subject to many of the criticisms leveled by the anti-PPR crowd. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Consider the impact to Drew Brees’ record-setting 5476 passing yards in 2011. Colston, Graham and Sproles contributed 1424 yards after the catch to Brees’ totals. Perhaps someday in the future fantasy football commissioners could even select to subtract those numbers from a QB’s fantasy point passing totals.

Why wait until the future? Because YAC isn’t offered as a fantasy point scoring option, as Elias doesn’t presently calculate per-game totals much less provide a live scoring number. Once upon a time, however, decimal scoring was a far-fetched concept in fantasy football as well. If there is enough demand, Elias and the league management websites will respond. We just have to start asking for it.

In the interim, I’ve hopefully given you enough material and resource ideas to reconsider whether or not PPR use is right for you and your league. It may turn out that you will merely reaffirm your current settings. Especially at this time of year, it is often easy to get so caught up in player evaluations that we overlook how we’re playing the game and miss out on opportunities to make changes for the sake of enjoying the game even more.


Editor's Note: If you liked what you read here, check out Mel's book, The Art of Being Commish: Deep Thoughts on Managing a Fantasy Football League. We liked it and so will you.

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