Friday, August 28, 2009
"PPR" format shakes up Mock 3.0
By Jim McCormick
Special to ESPN.com
Gone are the days of simply signing up for standard leagues and drafting imaginary collections of uniquely large men.
Whether it's creative scoring settings or the inclusion of individual defenders, fantasy football league owners are looking for new ways to play the game each season. As the hobby (obsession?) of fantasy football grows, seemingly exponentially with each passing NFL campaign, specialization increases as well, and the most popular of these branches is the PPR format.
Which raises the question: What's the impact of a PPR setting on the ADP of an RB in a 12-teamer?
Now that's some fantasy lingo there. And while I hope that no one truly speaks this way, it is a valid question when converted into layman's terms. For those not hip to fantasy-ese, to the lexicon of this awesomely nerdy hobby, let me explain.
PPR stands for "point-per-reception," a pretty self-explanatory modifier to a fantasy league. The most relevant question when playing in a PPR format is what influence it has on the production and value of the players.
Obviously, high-reception players see a marked jump in PPR leagues. Conversely, those who aren't cogs in their passing games see their value deflate. In convoluted SAT question form, we'd say: Wes Welker is to Eddie Royal as Michael Turner is to Ryan Grant. Translation: Welker and Royal are PPR mavens as players whose value dramatically increases thanks to their penchant for reeling in passes. Turner and Grant, which sounds more like a canine detective duo, are two players who see the bulk of their fantasy value tied to rushing yards and touchdowns.
Growing demand for this league setup compelled the fantasy staff to satiate the consumer with both a PPR and a 12-team mock draft wrapped in one. The 12-team aspect (versus our standard 10-team setup) shows you 32 more draft selections in our 16-round draft and should reveal some nice late-round sleepers. Even if you don't play in a PPR league, or have already drafted, there's value in seeing how a unique scoring system augments value. That, and it's always fun to dissect people's decisions.
Editor's Note: Mock 4.0, scheduled for the week of Aug. 31, will be a 12-team league with standard scoring and positions.
Me: Having played in an enduring PPR league, I've always crafted separate rankings for standard and reception leagues. Clearly this is a shared approach, as this first round bears little resemblance to the last two mock drafts we've done. As far as ideal draft positions, early and late draft selections are coveted, with few exceptions. As in, few managers salivate over a mid-round spot. I'm not sold that draft position in general is a considerable corollary to a team's potential, so netting the "dreaded" 6th spot wasn't a concern. With Adrian Peterson going first, followed by a string of elite receiving backs, I was dancing my cursor over Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson. I went with the stud receiver and his 100-plus-catch pedigree, but I think Shawn Cwalinski landed great value with Slaton with the 12th pick.
Them: Peterson would be very hard to pass up in a standard league from the top spot, but the lure of Maurice Jones-Drew or Matt Forte and their sticky hands are more pronounced in this format. The storyline in this round quickly becomes obvious: High-reception backs such as Steven Jackson and Tomlinson find their way into the top 5, while Michael Turner, the third player selected in our last mock, waits considerably longer for a fantasy home. More relevant is the fact that the four purported "elite" wideouts are gone by pick 11.
Chatter: Not everyone slides their value chart significantly going in, as Dave Hunter believes "too many people overlook really good running backs in PPR [leagues]." Thus, he didn't waste any time in selecting Peterson first overall. Ravitz admitted he was "torn between MJD and LT at No. 2," while Daube, an unabashed Tomlinson loyalist, rhetorically asked, "Did anyone think I wouldn't take LT?" Daube went on to say that he would have gone with a receiver had Ravitz went with his guy. Becquey was "going to take DeAngelo, but Calvin was the last of the top receivers."
Me: I was hoping Brian Westbrook would fall to me, as he's a transcendent PPR performer, but fellow Philly fan Karabell got to him sooner. The fact that he was cleared to play in the third preseason game is encouraging, although he retains his well-earned risk/reward tag. I knew that I'd net one of Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White once Karabell picked, and I liked White the most of this group. While trying to avoid being an overeager "company man," I do have to say I agree with the Talented Mr. Roto that White should lead the league in receiving yards.
Them: Four more top receivers go off the board, but I'm surprised that the format didn't sway value as much in this round, with several selections mirroring our last mock (which didn't account for receptions). Diver should see a lot of touchdowns out of Turner and Jacobs, but with the glaring lack of receptions between them, Diver could be lean in the weeks when those two don't cross the goal line. Regardless of format, Mass is declaring his affection for Ronnie Brown, who has never topped 39 receptions and has an Average Draft Position (ADP) of around 30.
Chatter: Becquey gets DeAngelo and his stud receiver, so he has to be happy. He also went on to describe, seemingly unprovoked, his love for the day's "gumbo, with Andouille sausage. One of my top-five selections at the [ESPN] caf." He went on to explain the Acadian roots of gumbo. Diver confessed moments after his pick that "Jacobs has hands of stone."
Me: With two top receivers in tow, I was looking for a versatile tailback but would have likely gone with Welker had he slipped. In Weeks 10-16 last season, Pierre Thomas averaged nearly 3.5 receptions and 34 receiving yards per game, which in this format would essentially be adding the equivalent of a touchdown per game. Stats are fun when you manipulate them to support your reasoning.
Them: Seven receivers are selected in this round, meaning 16 of the top 36 picks overall are wideouts. Welker is the definitive PPR inflation, as his lack of consistent touchdowns are more than made up for with his volume of catches. Similarly, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Tony Gonzalez go markedly higher. Drew Brees slides from 19th overall in our last mock to 34th, a sign that many players moved ahead of him on account of the format.
Chatter: When asked what going to three receivers does to draft value, a number of staffers weighed in. Chris Harris, the noted fantasy expert and not the punishing safety for the Panthers, responded, "It makes you want stud wideouts." Brendan Roberts agreed: "because it deepens the overall wide receiver pool."
Me: Whether because of draft positioning or deliberate intention, Cwalinski and I seemed to have inverse draft strategies. He netted two top backs to start and went with two wideouts to round out his top 4. With White and Johnson, I felt somewhat freed of the PPR pressure and went with Ryan Grant, a player I felt was somewhat a victim of the scoring system. A return to the 30 receptions he posted in 2007 would be a boon, but I figured getting a feature back at 43 was reasonable. It looks like going WR-WR in a deep PPR can work without entirely crippling your running game.
Them: Keeping with the Cwalinski theme, his picks of Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall are classic risk/reward investments. Eddie Royal and Derrick Ward are the benefactors of lots of targets in their respective passing games, given that they don't have the traditional touchdown potential you'd like this high in a draft. Ray Rice makes for an interesting selection going 66th in standard leagues and 62nd in our last mock. Harris had to have liked Rice's steady involvement in the short-passing game last season and his reportedly impressive preseason as Baltimore's top back.
Chatter: "I don't like Derrick Ward as much as I did earlier this week. The Tampa offense is fantasy kryptonite," Becquey noted. Roberts expressed buyer's remorse -- "I now regret not taking Gates with my pick, honestly" -- while Mass explained his Eddie Royal selection: "I wanted Grant, then 85 [Ochocinco]
settled for Royal." Not a ringing endorsement, per se, but Royal's consistent receptions affords his owners rare stability from a mid-round receiver.
Me: I was looking to fill out my third receiver spot or even look at tight end, but the remaining wideouts failed to inspire, and the tight end position seems too deep at this point in the draft. Willie Parker is a tough read this season given his inconstant scoring and durability concerns, but with his role in such a trusted running game I thought him worthy of the risk.
Them: Diver waits on his receivers, which could be to his peril given the scoring system. Hunter seems to have gotten good value with Aaron Rodgers, as I think he's one of the surest signal-callers in fantasy. Reggie Bush makes an early appearance, as you would expect, thanks to his continued impersonation of a running back who's really a receiver. Anthony Gonzalez in the 5th again speaks to the rising stock of reception-heavy talents in this format.
Chatter: Harris noted that it was definitely the format that influenced the Bush selection and he believes that "they'll continue to use him the same way they always have, the guy caught 88 and 73 passes in 2006 and 2007." Ravitz declared that this was "probably the first and only time I've ever taken and/or will take Lynch in any draft, real or mock."
Me: I took Olsen a good two rounds or so higher than I've been seeing him go in standard drafts, but I figured a second-tier run was about to start (Olsen, Owen Daniels, Cooley), and I wanted to be in on it.
Them: A semi-run on quarterbacks here, with Rivers, Warner and Romo getting rostered. It seems Diver's pressing need for receivers has him potentially reaching on Santana Moss, but his hopes lie in the heavy-touchdown talents he's already banked. Two rookie tailbacks go back-to-back to start the round. While neither is the clear go-to guy in his respective backfield going in, they both bear significant upside, with McCoy already establishing himself as a Westbrook clone out of the backfield.
Chatter: Several references to Cutler as a "starmaker" (new compound word we're pushing) were bandied about, some seemingly serious and others dripping in sarcasm. I'm hoping this is true in regard to Olsen.
Me: Hometown allegiances aside, I went with Donovan McNabb because I thought it was an ideal spot to land him. The presence of Michael Vick does little to sway what I think will be quality numbers from McNabb. However, if you're in a league that rewards awkward press conferences, then McNabb merits a significant boost in your rankings.
Them: Leon Washington and Derrick Mason are this round's PPR specials. Kind of like a PBR special but with a better aftertaste. Another short run on quarterback here, with the Matts and McNabb going. The most interesting selection is Josh Morgan, a guy with little in the way of a fantasy résumé but with a potentially bountiful role in the San Francisco passing game.
Me: With LenDale White no longer dipping his fries in agave juice, I was compelled to invest at what I felt was a discounted price. Sure, he'll provide me with little to no help in regard to receiving production, but as a fourth back with such profound touchdown potential I felt at ease with the pick. And is it me, or does White seem like exactly the kind of Derrick Coleman-esque dude that will put up a monster year on account of his impending free agency?
Them: This is the commemorative "upside and backup running back round." Four receivers are taken with the rest being backs, and of the wideouts Devin Hester seems to have the most upside of the bunch. While Donald Brown, Felix Jones and a mysteriously gimpy Jonathan Stewart seem to be of similar value in standard formats, catch-happy backs Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower and Fred Jackson seem to get a boost from the settings.
Me: At least I can name my team "Ginn and Juice" now. That, and I seemed to have waited too long on my third receiver. My two early elites saw me build the rest of my roster, and I may have been overconfident. Guys like Hixon and Bennett were on my queue but I can live with Ted Ginn's upside.
Them: Roberts takes the first defense with Pittsburgh, arguably hurting his position player depth, but he'll never have to toggle his defense outside of the bye week. Kellen Winslow and Zach Miller make for ideal PPR tight ends, and both seem to be the most reliable targets in their respective passing games. When Hester went off the board last round, several chimed in to say that they thought Earl Bennett was the Bears receiver to target. Harris' selection of Chris "Beanie" Wells sparked a contentious debate over his potential, with Ravitz swearing his blue Michigan blood bore no role in his take.
Me: I swear "Hard Knocks" didn't persuade me on this one. Not at all. The slow motion one-handed super catches that Chris Henry has been regularly making didn't even factor in. Not even a little.
Them: The signing of Edgerrin James may have pushed Julius Jones back a little bit since he went 20 picks earlier in our most recent mock. I think he's a nice value this late, as there's no reason to assume James cuts into his touches dramatically. Mass may believe differently, as James could very well be the goal line back in Seattle. This round saw even more receivers go well ahead of their current ADP as Justin Gage and Patrick Crayton appear more attractive with the added reception points.
Me: With an eye on filling out my backfield depth, I felt Rashard Mendenhall was an appropriate selection. You would assume that with both Parker and Mendenhall you have a good grip on the Steelers' running game, but watch Mewelde Moore spoil my intentions just out of spite.
Them: Defenses expectedly start to fly, and Daube makes a shrewd pickup, with Carson Palmer going quite late considering his upside. Same goes for Cwalinski's netting Roethlisberger, who seems to be past the worst with his Achilles injury. Ravitz politely quipped, "Excuse me while I vomit in my mouth for taking Chris Chambers." Excused.
Me: I'm happy getting the Jets in drafts this year; they seem to be available after the top 8 or so defenses have come off the board, and they have quite a fantasy-friendly front seven, with lots of potential for sacks and fumbles. Not sold on my Maroney pick, but of all the names on the board I figured he had the most upside as Belichick's surprise player this season.
Them: Karabell took a flier on Michael Crabtree who might have late-season impact if he ever does sign a pact with the 49ers. The "other" Steve Smith has some legit value in a PPR league, as does Jabar Gaffney, while Glenn Coffee is just a sweet name to roster in addition to backing up a fragile feature back. Visanthe Shiancoe going this late is further evidence that you can wait quite a while for a passable tight end option.
Me: Ah, the last roll rounds. Not the last dinner roll, although that is its own little bit of drama, but the last roll you take when you're either up or down at the tables. Savvy selections in these twilight rounds can be huge to your success. Troy Williamson is for now "that guy," that guy who got traded for Randy Moss some years back. He's done little to define himself otherwise but seems to have found a nice change of scenery in Jacksonville. And if he continues to be merely "that guy," I can move on without regret. I really like Shaun Hill as a backup fantasy quarterback. Not sure I can support that with too much reason and research. Oh yeah, and I took a kicker. I always wait for a final-round kicker, but at least he's on a high-octane offense.
Them: Besides lots of kickers, there were some really interesting sleepers in the mix. As I said earlier, this 12-team mock has us taking 32 more players, so we have a number of new names from previous mocks. James Davis and Shonn Greene are two enticing tailbacks, with Davis already possibly challenging incumbent Jamal Lewis for touches. Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss add to the already lengthy list of examples of late-round tight end talent.
The influence of the PPR setting and the increased wide receiver slots were measurable, with a number of players going well ahead or well below their "standard" market price. Discuss and dissect away -- it's the best way to glean some information for your real drafts.
Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the editor and publisher of BLITZ Magazine, a print and online publication covering football from prep to pro.