Choosing a Format: PPR vs. Standard

When launching a start-up dynasty football league there are a multitude of various format options that will come into play, for the commissioner and team owners to decide upon. Such as, deciding whether it will consist of 1 or 2 QBs as starting options, a 2 or 3 wide receivers base, the number of flex spots, whether you will use 6 points or 4 points for passing touchdowns, keeping or discarding kickers and defenses… the list can go on and on. Most of these questions are resolved with a quick discussion among league members which will help to finalize the initial foundational structure.
However, one topic that always seems to split the league into two distinct factions is when deciding to play point-per-reception (PPR) or standard scoring. Here, we will take a concise look into some of the pros and cons of PPR scoring and possible alternatives, so when the time comes for one of your leagues to consider the making the switch to (or from) PPR scoring, you and your league mates can make a more educated, less emotional decision.
An Argument against PPR scoring
One of the best arguments against PPR scoring is by expanding on the basic understanding of football fundamentals, such as, the belief that 1 catch is not as valuable as 10 receiving yards. Now let’s break that theory down. If 10 yards typically equals 1 point and a player were to catch 10 balls for 1 yard each, that would garner him 11 fantasy points whereas, a player with a single 10-yard reception would only score 2 points. Most people would agree that a single 10-yard completion is more important. This is even more amplified if the league in question doesn’t use decimal scoring (where each yard is actually worth .1 points). In that scenario, a single 19-yard reception is still worth only 2 points (not 2.9).  PPR also fails to punish negative plays accordingly (unless you include that option in your scoring rules). A running back could catch 2 swing passes for -5 yards during a game and still score 1.5 points in PPR, while the same player in a standard scoring league would rightfully end up with -.5 points.
Another possible negative aspect of PPR leagues is that some people believe that it devalues the quarterback and running back positions. In real football, quarterbacks are the most important players on the field, and typically the year-end statistics reflect that in fantasy as well. That leaves running backs and wide receivers on a little more equal footing in terms of fantasy production. This season, in standard scoring leagues, the top 2 wide receivers were the Steelers’ Antonio Brown & the Falcons’ Julio Jones who scored 246 & 239 points respectively. At the same time the top scoring running backs were Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson who scored 243 & 230 points respectively, thus, making the top producers at the offensive skill positions fairly equal.
However, if we look at final numbers in PPR settings, Brown & Jones’ numbers jump up to 382 & 375, while Freeman & Peterson’s only creep up to 316 & 260. That disparity really widens the gap between the two positions. That gap became more extreme as you went through the top 10 players at each position. For instance, in standard scoring formats, the #10 ranked wide receiver was Eric Decker with 172 fantasy points, and the #10 running back was Danny Woodhead with 163 points, only a gap of 9 points. In contrast, in PPR formats, the 10th ranked wide receiver was Doug Baldwin, with 268 points and the 10th ranked running back was Mark Ingram, with 203 points, a gap of 65 points! This shows that PPR scoring puts a real premium on wide receivers and hurts running backs, especially if they are not passing catching backs.
Passing Catching Backs: The Danny Woodhead Argument
This season in PPR formats, San Diego running back Danny Woodhead was the 3rd highest scoring back in fantasy. Let that sink in. In no sort of football anywhere on earth; real or fantasy or whatever they call football in Europe, should Danny Woodhead be a high-end fantasy commodity. He did manage to finish as the 10th highest scoring running back in standard scoring, which would technically make him a RB1, which is also ridiculous, but top 3 is a special type of incomprehensible insanity. It’s hard to support any scoring system that would categorize Danny Woodhead as an elite, top tier player.
The final argument against PPR scoring is that, overall points aside, the rankings of the players in their respective positions remains essentially the same. Looking at the top 10 scoring running backs in both PPR and standard scoring, the lists share the same 9 people. At wide receiver, the two top 10 lists share 8 players, and if you expand it to top 11, they share 9 players. So what would be the point of moving your league towards PPR scoring when the players, more or less, finish the season ranked almost the same at their relative positions.
An Argument for PPR scoring
One of the strongest arguments for PPR scoring is that it levels the playing field across all positions. In standard scoring leagues, this past season, the top 17 scoring players in fantasy football were all quarterbacks and 20 of the top 25 players were also quarterbacks. Most industry experts preach a “wait on the quarterback” strategy at draft time, yet in standard leagues, quarterbacks end up being the most important piece of the team scoring-wise. Contrary to the earlier argument that PPR devalues running backs, it actually increases many of their values. Theo Riddick, for example, was the 38th ranked running back in standard leagues, but 18th in PPR leagues. Whereas, going back to quarterbacks, in a standard scoring league Ryan Tannehill was the 17th highest scoring player in fantasy, guess who 16th was? Antonio Brown. It’s hard to argue that that is makes sense. In a PPR format, Brown was 2nd overall, which is right about where he should have been given his production. It’s hard- scratch that- impossible for anyone to argue that Tannehill was a better, more valuable fantasy player than Antonio Brown, but in standard scoring settings, that was the case, according to the numbers.
A more simplistic approach is that more of anything good is better, so more points in fantasy football, the better. At the end of the day, yes, a win is a win, but most players would rather be involved in, and win, a 113 – 143pt matchup than a 42 – 72pt contest. Of course, the win is all that matters, but would you rather get 29 points from a 10-catch, 130-yard, 1 touchdown performance from your first round wide receiver selection, or with the same stat-line have to settle for 19 points? A huge, match-up winning game is much more likely in PPR than in standard scoring. You’re not spending early draft picks on elite wide receivers for ho-hum performances week-in-and-week-out. Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins are all capable of easily throwing up a massive 30+ point game in PPR leagues, and that’s the type of performance that you expect to get out of your early picks.
Nevertheless, standard scoring is called standard for just that reason: it is the norm in the industry. Not being different just to be different, but PPR leagues undoubtedly add a whole new wrinkle to your league and gives you many more options off of your bench and via waiver wire. Many people who have never played in a PPR league think it’s like playing an entirely different game, but it isn’t. You’ll know going into your draft and will be able to prepare accordingly. It’s not as if your league will finish their draft and the following day the commissioner informs everyone “hey, surprise, I just switched the scoring to PPR”.
Transitioning and preparing for a PPR league is easier than ever. Every single print draft guide, every on-line draft ranking system, every expert with personal rankings has both a standard and a PPR version of their draft rankings. You would literally only have to click an extra link or turn one more page to get all of the info you might need. It may only take someone a maximum of an extra 20 minutes of research to even see the slight difference in player rankings. Some players are helped while others are hurt by the move to or from PPR scoring, and you can easily adjust your ranking accordingly. For instance, players like Matt Forte & Charles Sims get bumped up in PPR, while guys like Jeremy Hill and LeGarrette Blount get shifted down a bit. This isn’t rocket science, if you watch football, you know who the receiving threats at running back are and who aren’t.
Another argument against utilizing the PPR scoring format can also be twisted into an argument for PPR. It’s that final rankings are more or less the same, so why not make the move to PPR? Antonio Brown was ranked #1 in both settings, Hopkins was 6th in standard and 4th in PPR, Larry Fitzgerald was #11 in standard and #7 in PPR and AJ Green was 8th in both formats. We’re not reinventing the wheel here good players are good players, regardless of the scoring system you use. By comparison, at running back, Matt Forte was 9th in standard and 7th in PPR, Charles Sims was 22nd & 17th, while Jeremy hill was 14th in standard scoring and slid down to 20th in PPR.
Ultimately, most players aren’t moving into entirely different tiers with the scoring change. Typically, a top-10 player is a top-10 player, while a 40-50 range player will remain a 40-50 range player, but getting all the extra points you can on a weekly basis will help you during your weekly matchups and could make all the difference in trying to secure a fantasy playoff berth.
Alternatives and Options
In some fantasy leagues, the “to PPR or not to PPR” question drags on for a long time, while never seeming to end. Although less popular, there are .25-ppr and .75-PPR leagues out there too. In fact, you can devise your scoring system to pretty much anything you want. Hosting sites, such as, MyFantasyLeague.com, have a litany of scoring formats to manually choose from. Many times, a happy medium and middle ground leagues settle on is half-point-PPR. It’s a non-invasive way for anti-PPR people to get their feet wet into the scoring format and it’s better than nothing for full-point-PPR proponents. It’s literally splitting the difference in the scoring and many people play in this scoring format. However, in my opinion, the quarter and three-quarter scoring seems a bit unnecessary; if you’re going to those extremes just go full monte and either get rid of it altogether or adopt a full point PPR format.
Another interesting idea that has been gaining traction, in recent years, is awarding points for 1st downs, point per 1st down, or PP1D. A first down is arguably one of, if not the single most important play in football. Thus, rewarding players for that in the fantasy realm is certainly something that more people should start to recognize in the fantasy community (at least that’s my position). A 10-reception game gets you 10 points, but how meaningful are those catches? A player who records 8 first downs in a game is doing much more to help his team win, in reality and that should be reflected in fantasy as well with 8 bonus points. In comparison, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown both had 136 receptions, but looking at first downs, Jones had 93 and Brown had 84, and at running back Adrian Peterson had 71 first downs while Devonta Freeman had 88. If we were to put those numbers into a final season ranking, it makes a lot of sense compared to simply PPR rankings, especially when compared to minimalistic approach towards standard scoring. In a league rewarding 1 point-per-1st down, the top 6 players would have been Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Antonio Brown, and those rankings look just about perfect, opposed to the all QB top 5, in standard scoring and the Newton, Brown, Jones, Brady, Brandon Marshall top 5 in PPR formats.
Resolving the Issue
When discussing changes to an existing league’s scoring or initial scoring set-up, few topics will get everyone as worked up as PPR or standard scoring. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the pros and cons of each system and maybe a little insight into other available options. No one system is the right or wrong system, but depending on your league and level of competitiveness, one of these systems is the best fit for you and your league. Different systems put different premiums on different players and knowing those differences going into next season should assist you when targeting players in your drafts.
Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @dibari22.

jdibari

Chicagoan living in Las Vegas. Fantasy Football writer & Director of In-Season Analysis for Dynasty Football Factory, blogger for USFantasy and contributor to TheFakeHockey. Member FSWA.

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