With the recent vast upswing in fantasy football popularity has come a tremendous diversity in the way the game is played. There are draft leagues, keeper leagues, dynasty leagues, auction leagues, salary cap leagues and so on. Leagues differ in the number of teams, the starting requirements, and the scoring systems. In this article, I will take a look at one aspect of scoring: the implementation of a point for each reception and the effects it can have on your squad.
Switching your league from a standard scoring league to a PPR scoring league creates drastic differences in the manner in which one goes about building their team. Wide receivers instantly gain more value, and running backs who catch the ball out of the backfield (Ray Rice, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew) see their value skyrocket when compared to those RB’s who do not catch many balls (Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson). The value of quarterbacks, which was never great in fantasy football, diminishes even further in a PPR system. In fact, the top quarterbacks in a PPR draft often do not go until the end of round three.
This dynamic that a PPR scoring system creates (devaluing quarterbacks and increasing the value of top pass-catching backs even further) has led some to dismiss it entirely. They argue that no owner should be rewarded when Reggie Bush catches a pass for -5 yards.
While these are legitimate concerns, I argue that, if utilized correctly, a PPR scoring system creates fast-paced, high-scoring leagues where the value of each position, unlike in standard scoring leagues, is relatively even. The equalization of positional value makes drafts, waiver wire pick-ups, and even flex position plays more interesting.
So how can one create this sort of PPR league? Most important are the starting requirements. The decrease in quarterback value is the biggest drawback of nearly all PPR leagues, but this negative consequence can be alleviated by requiring either two starting quarterbacks, or inserting a flex position where a quarterback can be started. Thus, the dramatic increase in value that wide receivers and pass-catching running backs see is minimized by the suddenly sensational importance each owner must place on the quarterback position. In a league that requires two starting quarterbacks, 24 of the 32 quarterbacks starting in the NFL each week (and 24 of only 26 during some bye weeks) must be started in a 12-man league. The dramatic disparity between quarterback value in a 1-QB league and a 2-QB league is obvious here. Some may contend that a two-quarterback league places too much of an emphasis on QB’s, such that one’s draft may just be a mad scramble to fill the position. In this case, the best solution is to replace one starting quarterback spot with a flex spot where a quarterback can be started, but need not be.
Whether or not your choose to start two quarterbacks or a quarterback-at-flex option should be a determining factor in the amount of points you reward for passing touchdowns and yards. In two-QB leagues, scoring just three points for a passing TD and one point per 25 yards passing would be ideal, whereas rewarding 4 points per passing TD is more suitable for a league where you can start a quarterback at flex. Finally, if you do decide to start just one quarterback, I would advise giving 6 points per passing touchdown and 1 point per 20 yards passing to aid in salvaging some quarterback value.
Another hot issue surrounding the PPR debate is the extraordinary value of pass-catching RB’s. While PPR does tend to equalize the value of wide receivers and most running backs, the stud pass-catching running backs see their worth soar to new heights. Thus, point-per-reception scoring, whose original purpose was to limit the importance of top-flight players, has ironically created monster-backs whose value is seemingly entirely uninhibited. Imagine holding LaDainian Tomlinson a few years ago in a PPR league, for example.
Having such mega-scorers is a true concern for fantasy owners, as it places unnecessary importance on being near the top of the draft order. There are methods that can be employed, however, to restore the sanctity of draft positions. First, require just two starting running backs as compared to three starting receivers. Immediately, wide receivers’ worth becomes comparable to running backs. A second option, albeit a more controversial one, is to reward just .75 points per reception for running backs. This helps to limit the worth of some of the “cheap” receptions a running back may garner, such as on screens or check downs. Do not lower it too much, however, as many wide receivers also obtain these sort of less impressive receptions on smoke and bubble screens, for example, meaning the overall relational value is generally restored.
A final concern for PPR leagues is the diminished role of the tight end. Although in most PPR leagues tight ends do receive one point for each catch, they still generally haul in less receptions than wide receivers, and even some running backs, and thus are still losing ground in this manner. This problem, I believe, can be alleviated by rewarding 1.25 points per tight end reception. This increases their value, but does not alter it so much as to create a situation where tight ends are the crux of a fantasy team. Remember, our goal is to create a league that is as similar to the NFL as possible, and although tight ends are important, they are generally considered less crucial (particularly in the area of statistics) than the other skill positions.
It is always important to back up your words with numbers, and a test I have devised to determine the value of each position, regardless of scoring system, is to calculate the percentage of NFL starters at each position that your fantasy league mandates be started. In a two-quarterback league, for example, 75% of all NFL starters (24 of 32) must be played in a 12-man league.
Determining NFL starters nowadays can be tricky due to multiple personnel packages, but for the sake of argument, we will say each NFL team starts one quarterback, 1.75 running backs (the two backup ball carriers, for most teams, generally receive three-quarters the touches of the top RB, and thus are worth 3/4 the value), 2.5 wide receivers (teams differ greatly here, but on average, they use three-receiver sets roughly 50% of the time, and #4 wide receivers’ stats tend to be negligible), and 1.2 tight ends (slightly more than one due to the minority of teams which employ two legitimate pass-catching tight ends, such as the Saints). Thus, during each non-bye week, NFL teams start a combined 32 usable quarterbacks, 56 running backs, 80 wide receivers, and 38 tight ends.
The starting requirements and scoring system I propose for a PPR scoring league are listed below. Based on the aforementioned arguments and percentages, I believe these requirements create the most exciting, level playing field one could hope for in a fantasy league.
Passing: 1 pt per 25 yards, 4 pts per TD
Rushing: 1 pt per 10 yards, 6 pts per TD
Receiving: 1 pt per 10 yards, 6 pts per TD, 1 pt per WR reception, .75 per RB reception, 1.25 per TE reception
This system would create a total “starting value” of 1.5 QB’s, 2.3 RB’s, 3.8 WR’s, and 1.3 TE’s. In a 12-man league, this would equate to 18 total quarterbacks, 28 running backs, 46 wide receivers, and 20 tight ends. When comparing these figures with the NFL starting values listed above, we see that the fantasy league would start 18/32 QB’s (56%), 28/56 RB’s (50%), 46/80 WR’s (57.5%), and 16 of 38 TE’s (42%). These percentages are all relatively even. The abundance of pass-catching running backs makes up for the 7.5% less fantasy/NFL starting percentage as compared to WR’s, and the lower TE percentage is made up for by the fact that they receive a higher point total for each reception than the other positions.
Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to switch to a PPR scoring system is a more complicated issue than it may first appear. If you create a situation through your starting requirements and scoring system where positional value is equalized, however, a point-per-reception league can become the most exciting, NFL-comparable form of fantasy football today.