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2015 Fantasy Football: PPR vs. Standard Scoring Values (RB Edition)

Jun 30, 2015
Running backs like Travaris Cadet gain fantasy relevance thanks to the PPR format

Running backs like Travaris Cadet gain fantasy relevance thanks to the PPR format

Value in fantasy football is relative to what type of league you are in. Value, as it pertains to players and player selection during the draft or waiver period, depends on best available options, pick order and league scoring format. Some players are going to be studs regardless of format, but some might hold more significance depending on whether your league is a PPR league or a standard scoring league. Finding value in players in PPR leagues is no longer just about touchdowns and yards, but about who has the most opportunities to get targets and be more relevant in different ways. For receivers and tight ends in PPR formats, it adds value to the players who may be more active between the 20-yard lines before they make way for the big targets in the end zone.

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The PPR format adds value to the running backs who are considered change-of-pace or third-down backs and split time with the “bell cow” rushers who are not as prominent with catches out of the backfield. In deeper leagues, it makes more players fantasy relevant, which will in turn boost competition and add a new dynamic to the game.

Some detractors will see it as taking away value from top-tier players, touchdowns and yardage. On the surface they are right, but I am going to look at it positively and appreciate that the PPR scoring format gives fantasy relevance to the Travaris Cadets and Shane Vereens of the world and allows guys like Darren Sproles, Fred Jackson and Reggie Bush to still have late-round draft stock.

First, let’s take a look at running backs, the position group that benefits the most when switching to the PPR format. In 2014, 29 running backs qualified as top-30 scorers in both PPR and standard leagues. Only Isaiah Crowell (standard) and Darren Sproles (PPR) were featured on only one list. So while the list stayed the same for the most part in terms of who was on it, where they ranked did not.

Some players gained value in PPR while others lost it. For the sake of finding value and deep sleepers, we will not include top tier-backs as they have high values and rankings, regardless of format. We will also not be considering anyone who may be a part of a RBBC, as they are in that situation because of similar skill sets, regardless of their situation.

Below is a look at the top five RBs who changed in value the most from one format to the next in 2014.

Player PPR Rank PPR Points STD Rank STD Points Jump
 Shane Vereen RB20 166.8 RB27 113.8 +7
 Fred Jackson RB16 188.6 RB22 122.6 +6
 Darren Sproles RB25 145.6 RB31 105.6 +6
 Ahmad Bradshaw RB22 154.5 RB26 116.5 +4
 Branden Oliver RB26 145.3 RB29 109.3 +3

No surprises here as these five backs were considered backups to featured runners, but either injury, scheme or performance put more emphasis on these players in the passing game.

Below are the players who you should target if you are looking to add some RB depth in your PPR league.

Shane Vereen – New York Giants

The head of the class is Shane Vereen, who caught 11 passes in the Super Bowl. Vereen and his 52 receptions (fifth among all RBs) became a formidable RB2 with the addition of PPR, as he actually had more receiving yards than rushing yards (447 to 391) and more receiving touchdowns than rushing touchdowns (3 to 2). He will have even more opportunities to be a major player in the check down game now with the Giants. This will spread out the field more for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., which will lead to huge fantasy weeks for Giants players. This is just a small write-up on Vereen, but there will be more detail on him further down this list.

Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills

Ageless Fred Jackson shows up on this list, but he probably wouldn’t have if C.J. Spiller would have stayed healthy. Regardless, Jackson showed why he was still the man the Bills went to when the oft-injured, now departed Spiller wasn’t available. Jackson nearly cracks the top 15 running backs in the PPR format but was a pretty productive player either way, putting up the 22nd most fantasy points for running backs. He ranked third among running backs in receptions (66) and receiving yards (501) and had nearly a 50/50 split in yardage (525 rushing yards.) His role will probably change this year with age and the addition of LeSean McCoy, but I am pretty sure we all said that last year too. Draft him with caution, but it’s worth a stash in a deeper league if your bench is long enough.

Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles

Darren Sproles left the West Coast, as Philip Rivers’ top passing option out of the backfield in San Diego, for the South where he was Drew Brees’ gadget player in New Orleans. Now the 11th year player is catching passes and returning kicks for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. Sproles only caught 40 balls in 2014 behind LeSean McCoy, but will look to be a bigger part of the passing game this year with DeMarco Murray and his reported workload decrease. Sproles is also a weapon in the return game, with two punts returned for touchdowns in 2014. Sproles had more receiving yards than rushing yards (387 to 329), more targets (63) than carries (57), and along with his eight total touchdowns, only 22.5% of his fantasy points actually came from rushing yards. Sproles is still a low-end RB3/flex option in PPR leagues.

Look for these three players below to prosper in the PPR setting as returns from injury, new scenery or different offensive schemes will lead to big PPR seasons for them.

C.J. Spiller – New Orleans Saints

Spiller was injured most of 2014 and unproductive most of 2013. However, in his best two seasons as a pro, he amassed 53 and 56 targets for a combined 82 catches and 728 yards with four touchdowns in 2011 and 2012. Spiller is the prototypical gadget running back and will get a chance to showcase his skill set in the perfect system for what he can offer. Under Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense have always found a use for the receiving back since Payton’s arrival in 2006. First it was Reggie Bush. Then it was Darren Sproles. Most recently, it was Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet. No matter who was back there as the change-of-pace back, the system worked. In 2014, 153 targets went to running backs. When adding a dynamic player such as C.J. Spiller to compliment Mark Ingram, the offense will not skip a beat.

Travaris Cadet – New England Patriots

Cadet was one of those options for Drew Brees in 2014, and now he will be catching balls from Tom Brady. Not a bad trade off. Replacing Shane Vereen, who departed for the Giants, Cadet could barely be called a running back since 38 of his 48 touches were receptions. Cadet took over midseason for the injured Pierre Thomas, quickly becoming a favorite target for Brees and the Saints. Now in New England he will be competing for a chance to replace Shane Vereen’s 77 targets, 52 catches and three touchdowns. His PPR value will come from his pass catching abilities, as LeGarrette Blount will be the top back for the Patriots. Vereen only amassed 96 carries in 16 games. The Patriots utilize the running back in the passing game nearly as much as anyone else and Vereen was the fourthmost targeted back. Cadet should step into that role without any issues. But this is a Bill Belichick backfield.

Danny Woodhead – San Diego Chargers

What about Branden Oliver? He finished with one of the top five biggest jumps in value! Well, Oliver took advantage of a great situation in San Diego last season with injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Woodhead in 2013 caught 76 balls (86 targets) and hauled in six touchdowns for the Chargers. In 2012, he caught 40 (55 targets) for New England (see how everything wraps together?). Injuries limited him to three games and five catches in 2014 but he is back to full strength after his leg injury and will be a complimentary back to rookie Melvin Gordon in San Diego. In 2012 and 2013, 59% of Woodhead’s yards came in the air. Brady trusted Woodhead as his safety valve, and so does Philip Rivers. It could be a big year for Woodhead if he is utilized the same way he had been before his injury.

Reggie Bush – San Francisco 49ers/Roy Helu Jr. – Oakland Raiders

Both players are on the radar here as well, but age and usage will be a problem for these two backs.  Bush was a RB50 in standard leagues, and jumped to RB42 in PPR, but he has had trouble staying healthy.  The 49ers also have not utilized the running back out of the backfield as much as one would think (only 35 targets to Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore in 2014) so this may not be the best setting for Bush who is trying to stay relevant in his 10th NFL season. Helu, Jr. was the pass-catching option out of the backfield for the Redskins behind Alfred Morris and made a +7 jump (RB31 in PPR, RB38 in standard formats). But again, usage and scheme may be an issue for him as he goes to Oakland where he will be behind Latavius Murray and splitting time with Trent Richardson. Both of them can be sneaky picks and will pay off if they stay healthy and are used properly.

If Ahmad Bradshaw and Pierre Thomas find jobs in 2015, they will also be worthy of a spot on your roster in your PPR league.

BONUS: Players who LOSE value

Below is the list of seven players in the top 30 who lose more than one spot in the rankings from PPR to standard formats. These are the running backs in the top 30 who did not do much in the passing game to be considered PPR-must haves. They are not by any means must-sit players, but they do not bring as much to the table in a multidimensional aspect. These are the “old school” bell cow type of running backs who get most of their points from rushing yards and touchdowns. They are much more valuable in standard leagues as they are the ones who are going to get points the “traditional” way, rather than making big plays through the air.

Player PPR Rank PPR Pts STD Rank STD Pts Change % of points from REC
 Andre Williams RB27 145.0 RB21 127.0 -6 0.124
 Isaiah Crowell RB34 122.4 RB28 113.4 -6 0.074
 Steven Jackson RB28 141.5 RB23 121.5 -5 0.141
 Tre Mason RB30 135.3 RB25 119.3 -5 0.118
 Alfred Morris RB18 187.9 RB13 170.9 -5 0.090
 Chris Ivory RB23 152.3 RB19 134.3 -4 0.118
 Frank Gore RB21 158.7 RB17 147.7 -4 0.069

A few notes regarding decreased value players:

  • Amazing that only six percent of Frank Gore’s points came from receptions since he’s a player who was in the backfield the majority of the time. But he only had 19 targets with 255 carries, (13/1 ratio) compared to Carlos Hyde’s 16 targets and 83 carries (5/1 ratio).
  • Alfred Morris continues to be the most frustrating lead back in the NFL, playing all 16 games in all three of his NFL seasons but only amassing 37 catches and 310 yards with zero touchdowns through the air. He either cannot catch, or it is just not in the cards for him. Between losing receptions to the departed Roy Helu Jr. over the last three years (80 catches) or losing goal line touchdown opportunities to fullback Darrel Young (six!), Morris does not register well on my draft sheets.
  • Only nine catches for Isaiah Crowell drops him out of the top 30 in standard, and he may not even get a chance to redeem himself this season if rookie Duke Johnson takes over lead back duties. The Browns’ backfield, much like anything else Browns related, is in flux.
  • The most surprising player on this list to me is Tre Mason, who seems like he should be a gadget player or at least a dual threat out of the backfield given his speed and skill set. We may never know as Mason will be sharing backfield duties with rookie Todd Gurley.

Stay tuned for the next article on PPR value where we explore receivers and tight ends.

Michael Vincent is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MVtweetshere.

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