- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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"There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference." - W. Clement Stone
On the surface, you wouldn't think that adding a single point to a player's score just for making a catch would change the game of fantasy football all that much, and yet when you make this seemingly insignificant alteration to your league's scoring system, suddenly up is down, left is right and whole new cheat sheets need to be created. That little difference can end up making quite a big difference indeed.
Let's take a look at the projected top 15 players for the 2013 season in a league that follows the basic rules for ESPN standard scoring: four points per TD pass, six points per TD run/catch, one point per 25 yards passing, one point per 10 yards rushing/receiving and minus-two points per turnover.
Notice something about the positional breakdown of this list? The only wide receiver in the mix is Calvin Johnson, who barely manages to sneak in under the cut, and there's not a tight end to be found on this list. In fact, we don't get to Jimmy Graham until we drop as low as a tie for 49th overall.
But everything changes when we add in that one little, seemingly innocent, yet maniacally nefarious extra point. Suddenly, all your old rankings go out the window, and you need to take a look at that PPR draft board with a brand new set of eyes. Let's go position by position and take a closer look at the impact of that one little point.
Except for the odd bit of sleight of hand by which a quarterback like Chad Henne has a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage only to have the ball settle back into his own hands and he takes off running, in general you'll find a goose egg in the receptions column for your QB slot each and every week. In that regard, there's absolutely no difference at all when it comes to ranking your quarterbacks in comparison to each other in a PPR league. But there is a huge difference in where quarterbacks now fall in relation to the other positions. Remember our projected top 15? Take a look at it now when we add in our one point per reception:
Suddenly, we've gone from 12 quarterbacks in the top 15 to only eight. In fact, switching to a PPR-scoring format drops the number of quarterbacks in the overall top 50 in scoring to 14, down from 24 in a more standard system. That's a big difference, and it also is the reason you can absolutely afford to wait quite a few rounds longer before drafting your No. 1 signal-caller.
When it comes to running backs, it's not hard to place the usual suspects at the top of your draft lists. Lead backs who are not expected to share the carries -- a dying breed to be sure -- will typically be expected to rush for more than 1,000 yards and approach double digits in touchdowns. Therefore, you should not be surprised by any of the names in the following list of running backs, ranked solely based on the ESPN preseason statistical projections.
However, not all of these backs are truly created equal. Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice might be separated by only a single point in this list, but if you add PPR into the mix, Rice's expected receiving output will leave "Beast Mode" in the dust. Backs with good hands -- like Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush and Shane Vereen -- should all see their value skyrocket in a PPR league based upon their expected role in their respective teams' aerial attack. At the same time, one-dimensional runners who see few, if any, targets on a regular basis -- like Michael Turner, Mark Ingram, Stevan Ridley and Cedric Benson -- all need to be lowered considerably in your draft-day rankings.
Even amongst the potential first-rounders, after the consensus top duo, the addition of the single point plays havoc with the preferred order of selection:
At the wideout position, you'd expect most of your stud receivers to get somewhere in the same neighborhood of catches. Where PPR makes the biggest difference is in inflating the value of the possession receivers like Wes Welker, who might not always be their quarterback's first choice when the team gets into red zone territory. Similarly, the "home run hitters" -- those receivers who might make a game-breaking catch for 50-plus yards at any given moment -- will see a huge hit in their ranking due to a much lower number of expected catches, as well as (generally speaking) a far greater yards per reception (YPR) figure.
The following charts show some of the biggest movers in each direction when the number of catches play a part in the tabulation of individual value. First, we have a lot of the deep threats who usually earn their points in bulk, and, therefore, suffer a bit in PPR leagues:
Next, let's take a look at the sure-handed receivers who (generally speaking) make their living running shorter routes, but in volume, and thusly see their stock rise when it's the number of catches that count:
Tight ends are a bit of a different breed. Either they're not part of the passing scheme at all -- where they are used as an "extra offensive lineman" leading to few receptions -- or they're an integral part of the passing game, working across the middle of the field to keep the chains moving. As a result, adding a point per catch has little effect to the overall tight end rankings. Your top six are still going to be Graham, a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Aaron Hernandez and Vernon Davis, with very little difference in the grand scheme of things when PPR comes into play.
However, where the PPR adjustment needs to be made for this position is how early you can expect to have to select these elite players in order to not miss out. The following breakdown shows the expected round-by-round breakdown you can expect in both ESPN standard and PPR leagues, based on our preseason projections. As you can see, you're not going to be able to wait on this position nearly as long in a PPR league as in a standard format, and, in fact, even more tight ends might start flying off the board earlier if owners get caught up in the "panic" of a positional run.
Ignore the difference that one little point makes at your own risk. On the surface, it might not seem like it has a huge effect, but it really does. Quarterbacks can be waited on a bit longer, while the standout tight ends need to be snatched up more quickly. A running back with hands of stone is not nearly as valuable as one who often gets the call out of the backfield, and those possession receivers who might not have as much flash as their speed-demon counterparts can make all the difference between a win and a loss. Change your draft lists accordingly, and don't be afraid to aim for the moon. After all, even if you miss, you still might hit a star.
Editor's Note: This column is an update of what has been published in previous years. Updates include statistical trends and relevant player information to better relate to the upcoming season.