Rated PPR: Fantasy Football Strategy

by Tim Heaney on September 1, 2011 @ 11:30:25 PDT


Statistics | Strategy

You've read the numerical breakdown of point-per-reception trends, positional rankings and backfield messes in the first act, right? Now, how do you apply them?

So, what did we learn from Part I?

  • Among the elite options, wide receivers have displayed more consistency than running backs over the last two seasons.
  • Various stalled passing games from 2010 are in line to rebound in 2011 and restore their top wideouts' fantasy potency.
  • Though most NFL teams are boasting running back committees, the perceived value drop of this position creates a better middle-rounds group of sleepers and profit opportunities, especially those who can snare passes, than the midrange wide receivers.

Theory, meet practice.

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Mike Wallace
Not an ideal PPR WR1

In leagues that don't reward receptions, it's more vital to take a big-play wideout. Calvin Johnson will be drafted highly in every format; we're talking about the guys like D-Jax, V-Jax and Wallace who aren't ideal No. 1s in PPR that can do more with their plays. Touchdowns, highlight-reel stuff - those are your targets for your standard combinational arrangements.

In this case, like greed, receptions, for lack of a better word, are good.

The lockout factor

First, that powerful pachyderm in the room. Eleven teams will have a shorter camp window to install some form of a new offense:

New OC Notes
Rob Chudzinski Will balance out old run-first attack, including more TE
Jay Gruden West Coast O; plenty of dump-offs, short throws
Pat Shurmur See CIN; Colt McCoy, passing game should continue growth
Mike McCoy Some 2010 traits, but more running w/ John Fox at HC
Bill Muir Todd Haley's show, but Charlie Weis hard to replace
Brian Daboll Not exciting but should boost creativity w/ MIA weapons
Bill Musgrave Textbook pro set, quasi-WCO setup not very explosive
Al Saunders Recently, more ground success than air
Darrell Bevell Familiar MIN faces, emphasis on run
Josh McDaniels Highly advanced and adaptive aerial prowess
Chris Palmer Typically conservative, Matt Hasselbeck limits upside

The Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams have either a rookie or a second-year quarterback studying a new playbook. Given the abbreviated preseason prep, many receiving options in these Erratic 11 will encounter issues out of the gate.

Another noteworthy draft tiebreaker between players of interest: favoring veteran members of established offenses over those with some facet that is in flux or a work-in-progress.

PPR bumps

Even with the potential lagging due to less camp, think about the season-long impact first. These commodities deserve better draft attention in reception-rewarding formats.

Slot wideouts

Others to watch: Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers), Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati Bengals), Steve Breaston (Kansas City Chiefs), Earl Bennett (Chicago Bears), Eddie Royal (Broncos), Jordan Norwood (Cleveland Browns)

Jahvid Best- and Joseph Addai-type dump-off accumulators, flex and depth

Others to watch: Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead (New England Patriots), Justin Forsett and Leon Washington (Seattle Seahawks), Jacquizz Rodgers (Atlanta Falcons), Mike Goodson (Carolina Panthers), Lonyae Miller (Dallas Cowboys)

Tight ends with clingy (or potentially clingy) QBs

Mendenhall-Turner corollary

Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin
Boldin among PPR risers

You'll justifiably buy into Adrian Peterson with a top-four pick barring outlandishly different scoring rules. Rashard Mendenhall and Michael Turner, while having similar profiles, might fall in PPRs because of their utter lack of catches. Their workloads, though in danger of diminishing because of expected passing increases for each of their clubs, are each enough to buy as a No. 1.

In their cases, along with those of Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells, Marshawn Lynch and other reception-unfriendly backs later on, you'll need to make up for receptions in just about every other skills position pick to keep pace in these games.

Hot reads

Anquan Boldin is chiefly a possession wideout, but the Baltimore Ravens didn't use him fully in that role in his first season, instead trying to send him deep more often than they should have. Q will remain the top focus of opposing defenses. However, new arrival Lee Evans complements Boldin's natural style, and the latter can easily jump back up to 80 receptions. This makes him an ideal WR2 value pick.

Reggie Bush appears to be the main backfield man as rookie Daniel Thomas becomes accustomed to the Miami Dolphins' backfield. In taking his talents to South Beach, Bush keeps his value as a No. 3 PPR target - Miami will use him in creative ways to open up the passing game.

The Cincinnati Bengals want to throw to their running backs more often. Cedric Benson ... catching passes? In this new West Coast offense with rookie Andy Dalton running the show, there will probably be more check-downs across the board. Maybe CB hauls in 30 passes this season. This slight potential boost still doesn't make him more than a No. 3 RB in these formats - especially since he doesn't fit the system that well - but it adds some potential spice to his three yards and a cloud of dust, at least. (This also counts Bernard Scott as a deep sleeper if Cincy commits to giving him more reps.)

Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) acquires Josh McDaniels' offense, a highly potent and creative aerial attack that includes bunches, trips and other three- and four-wide permutations. It might become a guessing game, but this WR crop is a good spot to find PPR filler during the season.

Fantasy football outlook

Reaching for a deep threat like Wallace or D-Jax in a PPR league is unwise. You should instead side with a more consistent weekly option as your No. 1.

Expect wideouts to start falling in the second half of the first round of PPRs, with most of the elite wide receivers being gone by around the third or fourth round. After that, you enter murkier waters.

But taking a wide receiver with the first two picks of serpentine drafts in any format still holds more risk than acquiring a stud at running back and wideout, or taking two running backs if you have a short turn between Rounds 2 and 3. If you select a wideout with each of your first two picks, you'll set yourself up to rely on part-time carriers, in turn losing out on backfield utilizations.


That being said, the lot of No. 2 and No. 3 running backs presents more opportunities for profit. Speculating on running backs performing above their draft value has proven easier than doing the same for wideouts, but you'll need to acquire mid-level carriers more quickly than wideouts; the running backs run out quicker at that point in snake drafts. You can thank the rise of the committee and the ever-growing doubt of running back reliability for pushing non-elites into a large tier that many will pick from after wideouts and top-shelf tight ends are off the board.

Rookie running backs also generally sport better speculation than rookie wideouts; though the difference is decreasing, the transition into NFL utility for the latter usually takes longer. Such a point is extra vital in this lockout-shortened preseason.


Quarterbacks and tight ends possess deep classes. It remains a better bet to lock up elite, proven options at running back and wideout, both in PPR and standard scoring setups, in the first four or five rounds, and then to address those other two positions later. When deciding between a back and a wideout, assess the remaining scarcity of the position. Gauge a player's value differential between PPR and non-PPR before considering a middle-round reach.

Always put last season's results in context. A new offense, a fortunate touchdown total and many other anomalies could shift the wideout landscape.

Unfortunately, your picking position chiefly determines your strategy in snake drafts. In PPR auctions, receptions still come at a premium, but you can at least find an easier time adapting your strategy on the fly with fewer restrictions.

Beware: Many people might play a similar strategy in waiting on their No. 3/flex back or wideout. Always be ready to adapt to draft flow. If wideouts are falling, secure running back talent first, and vice versa.


Finally, no PPR draft prep is complete without bookmarking KFFL's resources:

Facebook Twitter Google +


Statistics | Strategy

About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

Don't miss these great reports....

What do you think? Sound off!

Recent KFFL releases