Fantasy Football Scoring: Standard vs. PPR

Over the course of our lifetime, we’ve been faced with difficult decisions: Coke vs Pepsi? McDonald vs Burger King? Mercedes vs BMW? And in the fantasy football world, the very first question you should ask when being offered a spot in a league is if the scoring is standard or point-per-reception (PPR).

The primary difference between the two is obvious: PPR gives you credit for receptions and standard scoring doesn’t.  Why should you care?  Scoring is scoring, right?

WRONG!

Scoring is the first thing you should check thoroughly when deciding on joining a league.  Some leagues give 4 points for a TD, while others give 6.  Some leagues give bonuses for certain statistical milestones, such as 5 points for a 100-yard rushing game.  All these scoring variables will help you sort your players accordingly when putting together your draft board.

When my fantasy career started back in 2001, building a team around a good RB was key to winning, and LaDainian Tomlinson was the man.  Whoever got him was practically guaranteed to make the playoffs and had a good shot at winning the championship.  Back then, when you got the 1st pick, there was no doubt who was going in that spot.

Tomlinson was the first major dual threat RB of the new millennium; he was Roger Craig and Marcus Allen 2.0.  Tomlinson was as close to automatic as you could get: over his 1st 9 seasons in San Diego, dude rushed for 12,490 yards and caught 539 balls for another 3955.  He AVERAGED 320 rushing attempts per season over that time, and averaged an additional 59 receptions.  Typically backs that get 300 carries for multiple seasons run a high risk of getting injured (see Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, etc). Tomlinson only missed 3 regular season games over that time.  The man was a machine!

Consider how the NFL has changed over that time. The I-formations and fullbacks have gone the way of the Sega Dreamcast and Microsoft Zune.  They’ve been replaced with spread offenses that run base packages with a 3rd WR and a TE, and the QB using run-pass options (RPOs).  In the early 2000s, offenses were giving their primary backs a lot of carries.  In 2001, 10 RBs had over 300 carries; those backs averaged about 47 receptions each.  In 2018, only Zeke Elliott got over 300 carries (304).  The RB with the 2nd most attempts was Saquon Barkley at 261.  Only 14 backs got over 200 carries last season and they averaged a little over 43 receptions each.  So RBs aren’t getting the same amount of volume as they once were.

We already knew this because we watch the game.  We’ve seen the rise of the running-back-by-committee.  The starting RB does the 1st couple downs, then he’s replaced by a pass-catching, typically faster, back.  It helps keep the RB healthy and that 3rd WR helps keeps defenses spread out.  So what does this have to do with standard vs PPR?

EVERYTHING!

Standard scoring doesn’t give you credit for those receptions, so you’re literally losing points by playing that format.  Zeke in standard scoring leagues averaged 16.9 points/game; in PPR, he was at 22.1.  Those 5+ missing points per game can cost you a shot at the playoffs, or a championship.

Take a look at the RBs that averaged double-digit fantasy points in 2018 in standard formats:

2018 Standard Scoring for RBs. Stats courtesy of FFToday.com

Now take a look at the number of double-digit RBs in PPR:

2018 PPR scoring for RBs. Stats courtesty of FFToday.com

29 RBs in standard vs 42 in PPR.  In a 10-team league, that’s an extra player sitting on the bench of every team.  It gives you more viable players when you’re drafting as well as on the waiver wire.

Some argue that PPR overvalues WRs.  I disagree. Teams are passing more than they once did, and they’re passing to their RBs, the WRs and the TEs.  There are going to be more players besides RBs consistently getting touches through the passing game, and PPR formats allow these players to be properly scored and valued.  Standard formats punish you unless your guy scores a TD; PPR gives you a chance to use volume to your advantage so you can field a winning team.

In PPR, you’re getting the full credit for all the results your player is getting on the field.  This gives you more options.  If you see the top RBs are going off the board in your draft, you can pivot to WR or TE depending on the situation, and still come back to the RB position later and get a decent player that can contribute.  Yes, certain high-volume WRs will be ranked higher than RBs in committees, but that’s a reflection of how the game has changed.    

Back in the day, when we got together to have our league draft, everyone had a fantasy football preview magazine.  The real hardcore player had a stack of them.  Now guys show up with laptops and custom rankings they paid for via fantasy subscription services.  We used to write our picks on a large piece of cardboard; we later upgraded to draft boards that had stickers with all the players on them.  Now, our commish buys custom draft software for his laptop, which he hooks up to his big-screen 4K TV.  When we make our picks, a theme song of our choice plays before we announce our pick.  When the commish enters it, it comes up on the screen, then goes back to the overall draft board, while a 1-minute timer starts so that the next person knows he’s on the clock.  Shit has changed, and it’s for the better.

Friends don’t let friends play standard formats.  If you’re in a standard scoring league, get with the commish and ask him to try PPR out.  If you’re the commish, you should’ve already made the switch!  But if you haven’t, bounce if off the rest of the league.  Your league should always have a meeting several weeks prior to the draft to discuss the rules and propose possible changes anyway.  Start with a half-point PPR and go from there.  Unless you like living in prehistoric times, you’ll love the improved scoring as well as the options to build a viable, competitive team.  That helps make the experience better for the entire league.