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What's the Point - A Study of PPR (Points Per Reception) Scoring
Matt Ball
June 17, 2008
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Point-per-reception (PPR) leagues get mixed reviews from the masses.  Some people love it, some people hate it and there are of course those that are indifferent.  It is undeniable that PPR scoring is far from perfect and that it has some definite pros and cons.  Frankly, there are numerous reasons why fantasy football participants could find themselves in favor of PPR or opposed to it.  Strangely, many of the arguments made for each side, at least those that I have heard/read and given consideration to, have at least a small amount of merit to them.

Among the chief concerns of much of the PPR format’s opposition is that it inflates the values of players with specific skill sets, namely those with high reception totals.  Players that wrack up numerous receptions without necessarily posting huge or even significant yardage totals have the most to gain in this format.  Deep threat receivers with high yard per catch averages stand to lose significant value, as due grind-it-out RBs that catch few passes and QBs (since they typically catch no passes).  All of this begs the question, is PPR a fair scoring system?  This is a difficult, if not impossible question to answer, particularly when looking at its impact on individual players or even small pools of players that have a similar skill set (i.e. WRs that have an uncommonly high YPC average).

So instead of delving into the dicey business of determining the “fairness” of the impact of PPR on specific players, I thought it would be interesting, as well as telling, to examine how PPR affects the relative value of each of the positions compared to one another (QB, RB, WR and TE).  Which position gains the most in a PPR league and which loses the most?  And is the gain or loss significant?  Does the PPR format usher in improved balance in positional scoring?  Answering these sorts of questions will provide us a much better understanding about how PPR can impact a league.

There are probably 1,000 different ways one could analyze this situation and address the aforementioned questions, but here is the approach I decided to take:

- Using standard scoring at The Huddle (Non-PPR), I created my data sample consisting of the top-scoring 24 QBs, 48 RBs, 72 WRs and 24 TEs from 2007 (168 total players).  This is exactly double the amount of players at each position that are required to start in a basic 12-team head-to-head league (assuming starting requirements of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs and 1 TE per team). 

- After generating this list of 168 players, each of them was assigned a ranking based upon total points scored (#1 was the highest scorer and #168 was the lowest). 

- Next, each player's ranking was recalculated with a change in the scoring system to include one point awarded for each reception recorded. 

- Each player's ranking change from Non-PPR to PPR was then calculated. 

- For analysis purposes, players were then broken into tiers at their respective position.  Tier 1 consisted of the top quartile (25%) of scorers at the position within the data sample (using Non-PPR scoring).  These players can basically be considered studs.  Tier 2 would be the next 25% of players at each respective position and were great starters or borderline studs in 2007.  The third tier is made up of the next quartile of scorers and is primarily players that were marginal starters in a typical 12-team league.  The final group of 25% at each position consisted mostly of spot starters and fill-in type guys that only occasionally made it off of most benches. 

- For all four positions, their average net change in point ranking from Non PPR to PPR was calculated.  The same was done for each tier within every position.  This average net change in ranking serves as a quantifiable impact of PPR on each of the positions relative to one another, as well as each of the tiers.  If a given position's or tier's average net change in point ranking substantially increases (shown via positive figures), then we'll know that the shift to PPR was a favorable shift for this group.  Conversely, if a position or tier experiences a significant average net change in point ranking decrease (shown via negative figures), then we'll know that moving from Non-PPR to PPR was harmful to the group's relative value.

The results of this study are quite interesting and provide us a real look at how PPR can impact positional values in a basic head-to-head league.  Let’s take a look at the table below…

Average Net Point Ranking Change from Non-PPR to PPR
  Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4 Total
  Non PPR Avg Rank PPR Avg Rank Net Change Non PPR Avg Rank PPR Avg Rank Net Change Non PPR Avg Rank PPR Avg Rank Net Change Non PPR Avg Rank PPR Avg Rank Net Change Non PPR Avg Rank PPR Avg Rank Net Change
QB 4.0 8.2 -4.2 12.2 25.0 -12.8 26.8 53.2 -26.3 68.5 114.2 -45.7 27.9 50.1 -22.3
RB 24.2 30.8 -6.6 54.3 73.5 -19.2 82.7 96.4 -13.8 120.3 140.6 -20.3 70.4 85.3 -14.9
WR 38.3 23.9 14.4 83.8 65.4 18.3 116.7 101.1 15.6 148.7 140.4 8.3 96.9 82.7 14.2
TE 62.0 44.3 17.7 126.7 110.8 15.8 153.3 148.2 5.2 165.3 164.2 1.2 126.8 116.9 10.0

Positional Observations

The elite (Tier 1) QBs are not nearly as impacted as the later tiers at the position.  As would be expected, the deeper into the QB position you go, the more they are adversely impacted on the points ranking board by the implementation of PPR.

RBs lose some relative value in the PPR format.  The first tier at the position hold value the best in the switch from Non PPR to PPR.

Tier 2 and Tier 3 WRs fly up the rankings board in PPR leagues.  This position gained the most overall, which is very much intuitive.

The first two tiers of TEs also climb dramatically up the rankings board in PPR leagues.  Upward movement in later tiers at the position is far less significant.

General Observations

In the Non PPR scoring format, Tier 1 and Tier 2 RBs both rank better than Tier 1 and Tier 2 WRs, on average.  This completely changes in PPR and WRs in the first two tiers rank higher than their RB counterparts.  Overall, the average ranking for RBs and WRs tracks much more closely together in all tiers when PPR is used.

Tier 1 TEs are brought much more closely into line with other positions in PPR.  In Non PPR scoring, they were far inferior to the first tier of all other positions in this study.

Tier 4 QBs lose a huge amount of ground on the points ranking board when switching to PPR.  However, Tier 4 as whole becomes much more balanced from a positional standpoint when PPR is used.  The variation in PPR Avg Rank among the positions is much less than that of Non PPR Avg Rank in Tier 4.

Conclusion

While using the data set from only the 2007 season is not definitive in any manner, this study has used real seasonal data to exhibit a quantifiable difference on the value of the given positions in a Non-PPR vs. a PPR league.  There are definitely drawbacks to implementing the PPR format, but there is also the significant and quite likely trumping gain of increased balance among the value of the different positions.  This is not to say that PPR is superior necessarily, but this study helps make the case that PPR generally increases positional scoring balance; and most should readily accept that this is a positive thing for a league.

Here is the ultimate take away from this study -- Hopefully when you are deciding what type of league to join, or even create, you now have a better understanding about how the PPR scoring format could impact your league.  And further, if you are drafting in a PPR league and are relatively new to it, this study may provide you with an edge on draft day, assisting you in appropriately tweaking your player rankings or perhaps helping you devise an improved draft strategy to employ.

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