by Will Overton
One of the most important things going into a draft is to know your league rules and be ready to draft accordingly. For the most part fantasy football is a pretty standard operation, but there are a few variables that can affect your draft day strategy and rankings when it comes to scoring. For instance in some leagues QBs get 4 points for a TD and in others they get 6. It doesn’t sound big, but it makes a difference.
Another thing you need to know when doing your draft prep is whether or not your league is a PPR league. PPR stands for point per reception and means for every catch one of your skill players makes you get a point (or a fraction of a point).
One point per catch doesn’t sound like something that would make a whole lot of difference, but it can alter the rankings a significant amount. One of the most famous examples of this is Wes Welker, who instantly becomes a top five and probably top three receiver in PPR leagues. He’s at least five or so spots better in PPR leagues and goes from third round pick to prospective first round one.
While Welker is the most obvious player to upgrade in PPR leagues there are plenty more, and I am going to hit on some of my favorite guys to upgrade in the rankings for PPR leagues. I’ll also hit on a couple guys I personally am downgrading in PPR leagues as well.
Guys to Upgrade in PPR Leagues
Eric Decker – Denver Broncos: There is a lot of hype surrounding Peyton Manning coming to Denver and what kind of impact it’s going to have on his receivers. Most of the buzz is about Demaryius Thomas, who does have enormous big play potential, but Eric Decker is my preference, especially in PPR leagues. Thomas is a playmaking specialist with a knack for getting big things done. Decker is the better pure receiver, and he’s the better route runner with better hands. Thomas may end up with more TDs and a better YPC average, but Decker should settle in as Manning’s go to guy and provide consistent week to week performances while racking up the receptions. In PPR leagues I think Decker is Top 20 and could close in on the Top 15.
Steve Johnson – Buffalo Bills: Consistency is a problem for Steve Johnson, but talent is not. Another problem last year was that his Quarterback played most of the second half of the season hurt, which didn’t do Johnson any favors. Still Johnson finished the season with the 8th most targets among WRs with 135 and he should get at least that many this year, if not more. The Bills don’t have many options other than Johnson. They are hoping that Donald Jones or David Nelson emerge as a number two option, but even if one of them does, Johnson is head and shoulders above them and Ryan Fitzpatrick knows it. Johnson turned those 135 targets into 76 catches and with a little more consistency there is no reason he can’t turn those targets into even more receptions this season. I’d go an extra round higher for Johnson in PPR leagues than standard ones.
Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin is a gamble no matter what kind of league you take him in because of his injury history, but if I am going to gamble on Harvin, it’s going to be in a PPR league where I could see him being a top ten receiver if he plays all 16 games. Harvin is seen as more of a big play type guy by some because of his smaller size and lightning fast speed, but in reality he is one of the best possession receivers in the game and could be the next Wes Welker only better because of his speed. Harvin caught 87 passes last season on 123 targets. This season, with Christian Ponder being another year experienced and Adrian Peterson having health concerns, the Vikings could end up passing more. With Harvin and Ponder already developing a connection, big things could be in store for Harvin. I’d be willing to take him in the third round of a PPR league and I’d consider him in the second in a deeper PPR league.
Danny Amendola – St. Louis Rams: There are a few guys who fit the same mold as Amendola, slot receiver types who load up on catches but struggle to find the end zone. Lance Moore is another name that comes to mind, but I think Amendola is helped even more by the PPR format because unlike Moore he doesn’t play in a high octane offense and there are even fewer TDs to go around. I’m high on Amendola’s teammate Brian Quick this season as the Rams best WR, but in PPR leagues I’ll take Amendola. He got hurt in week one last season and missed the rest of the season, but in 2010 Amendola was targeted by Sam Bradford 123 times and caught 85 balls. He might not be the biggest playmaker in the world, but he has excellent hands, runs excellent routes and he’s the one guy on the team with the connection already established with Bradford. Of all the guys I have listed Amendola gets the biggest rankings jump of everyone in PPR leagues.
Guys to Downgrade in PPR Leagues
Mike Wallace – Pittsburgh Steelers: I’m down on Mike Wallace right now as it is with the holdout, but in a PPR league he loses a few more spots in the rankings, probably one if not two rounds in draft spots. I love Wallace’s big play ability that led to his 16.6 YPC and 8 TDs last season, but he’s not a possession receiver and I think his 72 catches from last season will regress towards the 60 he had in 2010. One reason I think that is Antonio Brown, who ended up with 10 more targets than Wallace last season despite not starting right from the beginning of the season. In the season’s last ten games Brown caught 51 passes to Wallace’s 39. That’s not a significant difference, but it points towards Roethlisberger looking more towards Brown than Wallace as the season went on and if Big Ben spends all preseason working with Brown and not Wallace it could be even more obvious.
Mario Manningham – San Francisco 49ers: Manningham put himself on fantasy maps in 2010 with 9 TDs and 60 receptions, but he took a step back last season and now finds himself in a new home. In San Francisco Manningham will have a chance to play a bigger role while not having to compete with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for catches. The downside is that Manningham goes from a pass happy offense run by Eli Manning to a run first offense directed by Alex Smith. Manningham has proven to be a solid deep threat, but as far as possession receiver goes he’s probably going to be the third or fourth option on short yardage passing plays behind Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and possibly Randy Moss. And remember, there are only so many pass completions to go around in San Fran. Because of his big play ability and TD potential, Manningham is a nice late round pick in non-PPR leagues, but in PPR I’ll be avoiding him.
Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: