PPR Winners & Losers: Which Players are Helped and Hurt by PPR?
I don’t know about you, but the best sight at a fantasy draft party for me is seeing one of my league mates holding an old-fashioned fantasy football magazine or online cheat sheet that uses standard scoring even though we’re in a PPR league.
I feel like Matt Damon in Rounders in those situations, choosing a random poker table at an Atlantic City casino as I take my seat at a table full of people with no shot. It’s not quite cheating like Edward Norton’s character (appropriately named Worm), though, as you are by no means breaking any rules by using rankings compiled specifically for your league’s settings.
4for4 subscribers are all too hip to this. At the end of the fantasy season, many have heard in their head something like the sultry sounds of John Malkovich's character Teddy KGB, whispering “Pay that man his money”. Whether their fantasy title was celebrated by licking some Oreo cookies is a discussion for another day.
But 4for4 subscribers know they have at their disposal the most accurate PPR rankings in the industry over the past six years, coupled with customizable rankings to match all of their league’s scoring settings at the site’s Full Impact section.
They know that each year, there are players helped and hurt by points per reception leagues.
In this article, I’ll go over the players with the greatest discrepancies between their standard and PPR rankings (positive or negative).
The table below displays the players with the biggest swings from standard to PPR rankings, among flex-eligible players.
|Position||Player Name||4for4 PPR Position Rank||4for4 Standard Position Rank||PPR Rank vs. Standard Rank|
PPR Winners: Running Back
Devonta Freeman (RB8 PPR vs. RB14 Standard)
Freeman is a perfect example of a player that you need to adjust your rankings for in a PPR league. He was one of only three backs in the NFL to eclipse 70 receptions; his 73 ranked second among RBs in 2015. All those receptions made Freeman the PPR RB1 by a wide margin, as he finished more than 50 points ahead of Adrian Peterson. But in standard leagues, Freeman finished only 13 points ahead of Peterson.
Freeman was ultra consistent for PPR owners last season. If you remove the Week 11 game where he left in the first quarter with a concussion and the subsequent Week 12 game he missed after a brutal hit from Colts safety Clayton Geathers, Freeman posted 15 or more PPR points in a remarkable 12-of-14 games. Freeman’s 14 red zone targets were also tied for second among RBs.
So why is Freeman ranked as only the RB8 in 4for4’s PPR rankings? The return of a healthy Tevin Coleman is the short answer. “Oh yeah, definitely I think people underestimate it,” Coleman said about his 2016 role. “Free [received] most of the playing time last year because I was hurt. They don’t even know what’s coming. It will be me and Free out there killing it.”
As a result of getting banged up in Week 2 and effectively losing his job, Coleman, a rookie out of Indiana, only reached 10 or more touches three times in 2015: in Week 1, and in Weeks 11-12 when Freeman was injured. Coleman shouldn’t eat into Freeman’s receptions very much, however, as Coleman only had two receptions all year (including zero in the three games where he received a full workload).
Dion Lewis (RB15 PPR vs. RB21 Standard)
Lewis’s breakout season was cut in half when the elusive back missed the season’s final eight games after tearing his ACL. All reports out of New England indicate Lewis is recovering well, and if so, his 2015 pace should have fantasy owners licking their chops, especially in PPR leagues. Lewis’s numbers extrapolated over a 16-game season come out to 82 receptions, 1,421 total yards, and 9 touchdowns. Where would that have put Lewis among PPR RBs? Oh, just ahead of Adrian Peterson as the RB2. Eighty-two receptions also would have been the most among RBs.
Lewis might be ranked higher in 4for4’s draft rankings if not for three factors:
His extreme risk of injury
Possibly not having Tom Brady for four games
Ya know...Bill Belichick
The low injury grade for Lewis is warranted, as staying healthy was probably the biggest reason he wasn’t able to stick anywhere before a contract extension with New England in the middle of 2015. Entering his age-26 season, Lewis is already with his fourth team, with cups of coffee in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Indianapolis (for six days) before New England. The 2015 season was the second time in three years Lewis landed on Injured Reserve. Lewis currently has an ADP in the middle of the 5th round of 12-team leagues -- solid value if you can justify the injury risk, and a steal if he plays all 16 games.
Danny Woodhead (RB16 PPR vs. RB24 Standard)
Woodhead has been a PPR maven. Dare I say he’s the new Darren Sproles, i.e., the RB that drops in PPR drafts annually, only to be scooped up late by a savvy owner and return massive value. Woodhead finished as the RB3 in PPR last season amidst a bust of a rookie year for Melvin Gordon, and was one of only three running backs to receive 90 or more targets in 2015. Woodhead’s 72 receptions ranked third among RBs, and his 18 red zone targets and 6 red zone touchdown receptions led all RBs.
However, no QB dropped back to pass more last year than Philip Rivers (710). Is that repeatable? I would say some regression in volume should be expected; Rivers’s 661 pass attempts in 2015 were 91 more than he had in 2014 and 117 more than he had in 2013. No NFL team wants to be as unbalanced on offense as the Chargers were last year.
Either way, Woodhead should still be viewed as a clear top-20 RB in PPR leagues in 2016. With an ADP in the 7th round of 12-team leagues, he’s going as many as four rounds later than other RBs ranked behind him in 4for4’s PPR rankings.
Duke Johnson (RB22 PPR vs. RB31 Standard)
Combine Johnson’s 2015 numbers with the addition of Hue Jackson as Browns head coach, and the second-year back out of Miami is an interesting value. He is currently being drafted near the 7/8th-round turn in 12-team leagues, but his 61 receptions ranked third in the NFL in 2015. Jackson oversaw a top-10 PPR season from Giovani Bernard last year, and it should come as no surprise that 4for4’s projection for Johnson in 2016 is very similar to Bernard’s numbers with Jackson over the past two seasons:
- Giovani Bernard 2014-2015 average: 207 touches (46 receptions), 1,116 yards, 4.5 touchdowns
- Duke Johnson 2016 4for4 projection; 207 touches (53 receptions), 1,096 yards, 3.7 touchdowns
As long as you don’t mind a very unusual Week 13 bye for the Browns, Johnson is a good value.
Theo Riddick (RB31 PPR vs. RB40 Standard)
The Lions have 150 of Calvin Johnson’s targets to replace in 2016, and you can bet some of those will go to Riddick, who led all RBs with 80 receptions in 2015. Riddick is also second to only to Matt Forte with 114 receptions among backs over the past two seasons. All the more intriguing: Riddick’s 14 red zone targets were also tied for second among RBs. Considering his 14th-round ADP in 12-team leagues, Riddick makes for a good sleeper and may end up being an absolute steal.
PPR Winners: Wide Receiver
Julian Edelman (WR16 PPR vs. WR23 Standard)
Tom Brady may get suspended for four games, but the bigger concern with Edelman is his health. Edelman was on pace for a 108-1230-12 season before missing the final seven games, a stat line which would have been good enough to finish as a top-5 WR in PPR. Edelman’s injuries are piling up: he also missed seven games in 2012 and the final two games in 2014. That’s three of the past four years in which Edelman has not been available to fantasy owners during the all-important fantasy playoffs.
If you can stomach Edelman’s injury risk, consider nabbing him over Amari Cooper and maybe even Sammy Watkins (who also has health questions), both of whom are currently being drafted ahead of Edelman, who is going near the end of the 3rd round in 12-team leagues. When healthy, Edelman is a PPR stud. When healthy.
Golden Tate (WR17 PPR vs. WR24 Standard)
Did I mention Calvin Johnson’s 150 targets are gone (as well as his 20 red zone targets)? Considering Tate already had 90 receptions last year, it’s pretty easy to see him joining the triple-digit catch club. However, despite all those receptions, Tate only managed to finish as the WR24 in PPR.
It was really an odd year for Tate. His 9.03 yards per catch were the fewest by a receiver with 90 or more receptions in NFL history. (The next closest was Troy Brown’s 9.18 yards per reception in 2002 on 97 receptions.) Over the past ten seasons, Tate was one of only four WRs to average less than 10 yards per reception while catching 90 or more passes, with the others being Edelman (2014), Eddie Royal ('08), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh ('08).
Tate’s 9.03 yards per catch was also well below his 13.4-yard average in his first season with the Lions in 2014. What seems to be an outlier of efficiency for Tate is a big reason why 4for4 projects him inside the top-20 PPR WRs but still gives him a conservative 10 yards per catch on his 101 projected receptions. The Lions added Marvin Jones from the Bengals, but Tate is likely to be the top option in the Lions passing game.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR26 PPR vs. WR35 Standard)
A PPR favorite of Paulsen’s in 2015, the future Hall of Famer is projected to have solid flex appeal in PPR leagues this season. The debate around fantasy football is which Cardinals WR to draft first: Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, or John Brown?
In a standard league, Fitzgerald may be third on that list (as 4for4 standard rankings show). In PPR leagues, however, Fitzgerald moves to the top of that list. Fitzgerald’s 109 receptions in 2015 marked the eighth time he’s posted an 80-plus reception campaign, and he was one of only 13 receivers with 20 or more red zone targets. Meanwhile, Brown and Floyd have never caught more than 65 balls in a season. Just pray Carson Palmer doesn’t get hurt. We all remember what happened to Larry Fitzgerald with backup QBs in 2014. It wasn’t pretty.
PPR Losers: Running Back
Jonathan Stewart (RB29 PPR vs. RB18 Standard)
What a difference scoring settings made for J-Stew in 2015. Despite missing three games at the end of the year, Stewart finished as the RB16 in standard leagues, but only the RB24 in PPR leagues. When you only catch 16 passes, that’s bound to happen. Those 16 receptions came on a team that was without their best WR (Kelvin Benjamin) for the entire season, by the way. It’s hard to imagine Stewart eclipsing a RB24 finish in PPR leagues this season, even if he manages to stay healthy for 16 games.
Jeremy Hill (RB28 PPR vs. RB19 Standard)
Hill followed up 27 receptions his rookie year in with only 15 in last year’s sophomore campaign. A lack of receptions are not an issue in standard leagues when you average 10.5 touchdowns per year in your first two years as a pro, but it’s going to knock you down a peg or two in PPR leagues. While they trail Hill in our standard rankings, Giovani Bernard, Dion Lewis, and Duke Johnson, among others, are all ahead of Hill in our PPR rankings.
Hill’s rushing efficiency is a concern, as Giovani Bernard was much better than Hill on the ground in 2015 despite playing behind the same offensive line. Hill averaged only 3.6 yards per carry last year, compared to 4.7 for Bernard (although it should be noted Bernard ran against more soft defensive fronts than Hill). Bernard also matched or out-touched Hill in seven games last year, showing that Marvin Lewis is not married to Hill if he is inefficient or fumbles (ask Bengals fans about that fumble in the postseason against the Steelers that kept their winless streak in the playoffs alive). Of course, things could change with Ken Zampese replacing Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator.
Lacking in receptions and subject to volatile week-to-week usage, Hill is probably somebody to pass on in PPR leagues at his current ADP. Bernard is going two rounds later, and so is Danny Woodhead.
LeGarrette Blount (RB39 PPR vs. RB30 Standard)
Simply put, Blount is not the pass catching back in Bill Belichick’s offense. That job now belongs to Dion Lewis when healthy, and still somebody other than Blount when Lewis isn’t healthy. In 33 career games with the Patriots, Blount has caught only 12 passes. He’s on the flex radar in standard leagues for his touchdown potential, but in PPR leagues, it’s hard to get excited about Blount if Lewis comes back healthy from his torn ACL, and Lewis has looked promising in offseason workouts.
PPR Losers: Wide Receiver
DeSean Jackson (WR43 PPR vs. WR34 Standard)
The first receiver you think of when you hear the phrase “deep threat” is Jackson. Jackson will rack up yardage and post a lofty yards per reception figure, but has averaged only 55 receptions per season in his eight-year career, with a high of 82 catches in Philadelphia in 2013 (probably thanks to Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense).
Jackson only played 10 games last year, but his 16-game pace still would have only resulted in a 48-845-6.4 stat line. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust option. What’s more, the rise of Jordan Reed could cut into Jackson’s targets. Jackson’s ADP is in the 7th round, but we have other WRs with similar ADPs ranked significant;y higher, such as Donte Moncrief, Michael Crabtree, and Marvin Jones.
Allen Hurns (WR31 PPR vs. WR25 Standard)
Hurns’s breakout season in 2015 was better in standard leagues than in PPR leagues. The second-year deep threat had only 64 receptions, but piled up 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. That put him among the top 15 WRs in standard leagues, but he fell outside the top 15 in PPR.
Of the three main statistics for a fantasy receiver, touchdowns are the toughest to repeat. We’re projecting roughly a two-touchdown drop-off for Hurns in 2016, although we foresee his receptions and yards being similar though to his 2015 totals, as he has established himself as the clear second option in the Jaguars passing game behind Allen Robinson. A contract extension this offseason further cemented Hurns’s role, but like Jackson, Hurns may be somewhat overvalued at his current ADP (6th round in 12-team leagues).