Friday, July 29, 2016

Point Per Reception (PPR) vs Standard Scoring for College Fantasy Football Wide Receivers

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Assessing Value to Position for Your 2016 Fantasy College Football Draft

Not long ago, I did some research to point out value trends for each position relative to one another against the top 100 scorers in each position. You can read that post by clicking the link below.

One of the more interesting aspects of the college fantasy game versus that of the NFL is the disparity between QBs and RBs and then RBs vs WRs for a standard scoring league not using Point Per Reception (PPR). While there are some elite WRs in college, the college game has so much more focus on dual threat quarterbacks and huge numbers put up by running backs. The scoring reflects that. 

In most leagues, a player must start two WRs and one flex. In a PPR fantasy game, that flex position truly is wide open because of PPR. A running back, WR, or even tight end can provide serious points whereas in the standard, most teams might have one elite WR but certainly not a third worth starting over a mediocre running back. Most lineups will feature 3 RBs and 2 WRs with the TE being an afterthought whereas a PPR league can feature any combination of those. 

In fact, numbers show that only about 5 WRs are actually worth drafting in a standard league because of the lack of value versus other positions as well as the almost non-existent slope from recievers outside the top ten to the 100th. 

Drastic things happen, however, when a league uses PPR scoring. We will be referencing two graphs. The first will show all the positions where the top 100  (except PPR WR) players per position are graphed against points scored in 2015. The second will show the difference in scoring between PPR and Non-PPR (standard) WRs. 

The first thing that should be noticed is the point differential between standard  scoring RB and WR. For the first 50 players in their positions, there exists a nearly 50 point difference. In terms of the first 10 of each, there exists a 100 point differential. In other words, the 25th best RB scored more than 50 points more than the 25th best WR. At no point is the WR position equal  or greater in value than the RB. 

However, if the PPR system is used, things are drastically different. Suddenly the two positions are almost equal in value outside of the top five or so players per position. In fact, the slopes between the 10th to the 40th position are almost equal before the WR position becomes ultimately more valuable. In other words, it is better to have a mediocre WR than a mediocre RB, though an argument can be made the RB touches are ultimately more consistent. 

The decreased slope of the PPR WR scoring system also tells us that there is less of a performance drop off from one to the next. Yet, while the point production is steady from one to the next, there is less opportunity to exploit a matchup between you and an opponet with a similar set of players. Conversely, looking at the differential from the top ten to the next ten, there is substantial opportunity to gain point differential. What's that mean for a draft? Outside of getting those top ten, there is no value in the rest from one to the next. In comparison, there is such a steep slope for quarterbacks that one cannot afford to wait on a quality player because the next one behind him is substantially (8%) worse. 

*A note on PPR for RBs, as there were only 3 on the top 150 recievers (of any kind), The top receiving RB Taquan Mizzell had 75 catches, which would have elevated him several spots. Additionally, Christian McCaffrey, the number two receiving back, would have edged out Leonard Fournette for the top RB spot. However, outside of these players, it would have virtually no impact on the college fantasy results

Now, let's take a look at the rankings based upon Standard (Non-PPR) and PPR WRs by themselves. 

This graph is re-ranking the players from standard to PPR. Jumps on the orange trendline show us players who would fair better in the rankings in a PPR league. ECU's Isiah Jones would jump from 23rd in a standard to 10th overall. That represents two, perhaps three rounds worth of elevation. He isn't even the biggest mover.  Nevada's Jerico Richardson would move from 57th to 33rd. That's not a draftable position, but it is a jump making him worth owning, especially in deeper leagues. 

Conversely, this ranking shows us players who are touchdown dependant. While leagues are won with touchdowns, getting to the playoffs isn't. Getting to the playoffs has less to do with TDs and more to do with volume.  Predicting WR TDs is virtually impossible. Arkansas' Drew Morgan was ranked as the 19th best WR in standard leagues last year despite having 63 catches for only 840 yards. Why? He had 10 TD catches. He would rank 33rd in a PPR league because of  his 63 catches, a number that isn't really that impressive. In fact, his volume is more indicative of a player in the low 50s or high 40s.

You don't want to go into a divisional matchup or even a playoff relying on these guys to reel in a TD. There are a lot of guys who were held out of the endzone but had terrific years. Take Penn States Chris Godwin, for example. He ranked 24th in the WR position in standard leagues despite having over 1,100 yards on 70 receptions. His five TDs kept him low on the boards. Going to PPR elevates him to a top ten WR. 

In a standard league, there is less than 1% difference on average between consecutive players. The max difference came between players one and two, which was 14% before dropping to less than 1%. Conversely, the average difference between PPR players was 1.5% with a maximum of less than 8% between two players. In other words, having that blend of TD and volume makes taking one of these guys, if you can get them, extremely critical. According to my rankings, there are only three such players. There is significant scatter between scoring in the 15th to 35th pick. This means that the change from PPR and standard or vice-versa matters the most to these guys in terms of scoring differential. These are the guys that you have to pay close attention to when drafting WR. After 35th, there is no relative change. A PPR vs Standard draft now makes these such players third or fourth round picks instead of seventh or later. That's a huge deal. 

In conclusion, PPR leagues raise the value dramatically for the WR position to equal footing with the RB position. It allows a player to make up for missing out on elite talent at the QB and RB positions by picking up one or two of these elite WRs. In comparison, in a standard league, one would be hard pressed to make these differences up, no matter what, much less with devalued WRs.

It further separates the true elite from a field of around 10 to 3. The midrange is where the main difference between PPR and standard scoring really takes affect because of the players with TD dependency. It is these players that you should concentrate on. TDs can be easily cut down due to defensive focus whereas catch and yardage volume are nearly impossible to stop. Know what scoring system you will use and know how to exploit it to your advantage.