- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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"Give me your arm as we cross the street
Call me at six on the dot
A line a day when you're far away
Little things mean a lot" - Kitty Kallen
On the surface, you wouldn't think that adding a single point to a player's score just for making a catch would change the game of fantasy football all that much, and yet ... when you make this seemingly insignificant alteration to your league's scoring system, suddenly up is down, left is right and a whole new cheat sheets need to be created. Yes, the old standard is as true today as it was in 1954: Little things mean a lot.
Let's take a look at the projected top 15 players for the 2011 season in a league that follows the basic rules for ESPN standard scoring: 4 points per TD pass, 6 points per TD run/catch, 1 point per 25 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, minus-2 points per turnover.
Notice something about the positional breakdown of this list? There's not a wide receiver or tight end to be found. In fact, Andre Johnson -- the projected top wide receiver -- ranks 25th on this list, and we don't get to Chargers tight end Antonio Gates until we drop as low as 55.
But everything changes when we add in that one little, seemingly innocent, yet maniacally nefarious extra point. Suddenly all your old rankings go out the window, and you need to take a look at that PPR draft board with a brand new set of eyes. Let's go position by position and take a closer look at the impact of that one little point.
Except for the odd bit of sleight of hand where a quarterback like the Jets' Mark Sanchez runs a post pattern while a "Wildcat" player like Brad Smith takes the snap from center, in general you'll find a goose egg in the receptions column for your QB slot each and every week. In that regard, there's absolutely no difference at all when it comes to ranking quarterbacks in comparison to each other in a PPR league. But there is a huge difference in where quarterbacks now fall in relation to the other positions. Remember our projected top 15? Take a look at it now when we add in our one point per reception:
Suddenly, we've gone from 11 quarterbacks in the top 15 to only five, with only one in the top 10. In fact, switching to a PPR-scoring format drops the number of quarterbacks in the overall top 50 in scoring to 13, down from 21 in a more standard system. That's a huge difference, and it also is the reason you can absolutely afford to wait quite a few rounds longer before drafting your No. 1 signal-caller.
When it comes to running backs, it's not hard to place the usual suspects at the top of your draft lists. Lead backs who are not expected to share the carries -- a dying breed to be sure -- will typically be expected to rush for more than 1,000 yards and approach double digits in touchdowns. Therefore, you should not be surprised by any of the names in the following list of running backs, ranked solely based on the ESPN preseason statistical projections.
However, not all of these backs are truly created equal. LeSean McCoy and Rashard Mendenhall may be separated by only a single rankings spot in the list above, but if you add PPR into the mix, Shady's expected receiving output will leave the Steelers' back in the dust. Backs with good hands -- like Jahvid Best, Peyton Hillis, Darren Sproles and rookie Jacquizz Rodgers of the Atlanta Falcons -- should all see their value skyrocket in a PPR league based upon their expected role in their respective teams' aerial attack. At the same time, one-dimensional runners who see few, if any, targets on a regular basis -- like Michael Turner, LeGarrette Blount, Thomas Jones, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jonathan Stewart -- all need to be lowered considerably in your draft-day rankings.
Even among the potential first-rounders, the addition of the single point plays havoc with the preferred order of selection:
At the wideout position, you'd expect most of your stud receivers to get somewhere in the same neighborhood of catches. Where PPR makes the biggest difference is in inflating the value of the possession receivers like Wes Welker, who may not always be their quarterback's first choice when it gets into red zone territory. Similarly, the "home run hitters" -- those receivers who may make a game-breaking catch for 50-plus yards at any given moment, and therefore have higher yards per reception (YPR) -- will see a huge hit in their ranking due to a much lower number of expected catches.
The following charts shows some of the biggest movers in each direction when the number of catches plays a part in the tabulation of individual value. First, we have the deep threats who usually earn their points in bulk, and therefore, suffer a bit in PPR leagues:
Next, let's take a look at the sure-handed receivers who make their living running shorter routes, but in volume, and thusly see their stock rise when it's the number of catches that count:
Tight ends are a bit of a different breed. Either they're not part of the passing scheme at all, where they are used as an "extra offensive lineman" leading to few receptions, or they're an integral part of the passing game, working across the middle of the field to keep the chains moving. As a result, adding a point per catch has little effect to the overall tight end rankings. Your top five are still going to be Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley, with very little difference in the grand scheme of things when PPR comes into play.
However, where the PPR adjustment needs to be made for this position is how early you can expect to have to select these elite players in order not to miss out. The following breakdown shows the expected round-by-round breakdown you can expect in both ESPN Standard and PPR leagues, based on our preseason projections.
Ignore the difference that one little point makes at your own risk. On the surface, it may not seem like it has a huge effect, but it really does. Quarterbacks can be waited on a bit longer, while the standout tight ends need to be snatched up more quickly. A running back with hands of stone is not nearly as valuable as one who often gets the call out of the backfield, and those possession receivers who may not have as much flash as their speed demon counterparts can make all the difference between a win and a loss. Change your draft lists accordingly, or you will indeed find out that now and forever, that's always and ever… little things mean a whole heck of a lot.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" will be released in August. You can e-mail him here.
Follow AJ Mass on Twitter: @AJMass
AJ Mass offers some helpful tips to consider for owners in leagues that award points for receptions.