If you score more points than your opponent, you win. That’s how fantasy football works.1 The simplicity of that binary outcome hasn’t exactly made assembling your fantasy team a simple process – for the love of God, look at all these draft strategy guides – but it has obscured what you’re really trying to do when you build your team. Yes, you want to score a lot of points but not all points are created equally. Because of positional roster restrictions,2 it doesn’t make sense to draft the top point producer available with each of your picks. If you did, you’d end up with a roster filled with 12 quarterbacks and therein lies the problem. Points matter, obviously, but where they come from matters almost as much. The truth about fantasy football is that you’re looking not just for points, but the points that offer the greatest value.
Most draft strategies try to address this complication by creating rules about when to draft which position – someone somewhere is pounding their table and screaming “Two running backs with your first two picks!” right this very moment – but those solutions are imprecise at best and, at worst, broad to the point of being counterproductive. What would actually be helpful is a way to compare the point production of players across various positions on an apples to apples basis. “But there is no such method,” you say. “The positions were separated at the Beginning and never shall they meet!” First off, calm down. And secondly, The Read Option is here to help: introducing PPGAR,3 your new favorite fantasy stat.
PPGAR weighs a player’s production against a that of an average, replacement-level player at their position.4 By looking at how well a player performs not in a vacuum but relative to their peers, we’re able to compare players across positions to see who’s provided the most value relative to their competition.5
As you can see, PPGAR puts fantasy performance into perspective. Sure you can look at those numbers and see how dominant Le’Veon Bell was on a per game basis last year – 37% better than the already amazing numbers put up by Ezekiel Elliott6 – but by comparing him to another running back you’re not getting the full benefit of what this new stat can tell you; PPGAR really shines when you compare players across positions. If we look at that dominant season from Bell again and this time compare it to the strong seasons of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and other top WRs we see that Bell was more valuable than any WR last year by a considerable margin. Bell’s PPGAR of 16.9 just about doubles Brown’s 8.5 and is two and a half times greater than Jones’ 6.6 figure. What that tells us is that Brown was a lot better than the average WR last year – 8.5 points per game better, to be exact – and yet Bell was so good that the distance between him and the average RB was twice as large as the gap between Brown and an average WR. Numbers like that tell us that, even as top running backs are becoming less important in actual NFL games, their fantasy numbers remain hard to replace.
PPGAR also helps to identify undervalued and/or overvalued fantasy assets. It’s interesting to see that in each year there are roughly three to five QBs who offer the same value as a top 10 WR or RB with all other QBs providing no more value than (roughly) the 30th best RB or WR. If you’re going to invest any significant draft assets in a QB, you’d better get one of those top guys, eh? PPGAR also gives us some interesting perspective on TEs, as the top five TEs pretty consistently offer value on par with a RB or WR in the five to 15 range, yet – with one or two exceptions – several of those top TEs are usually available later or cheaper in drafts than the RBs and WRs who offer comparable value. That’s useful team building knowledge.
It’s worth hitting the pause button and noting that PPGAR isn’t a perfect stat. Since it’s based on historical data, it’s an imperfect predictor of future individual performance. But it can give us a lot of useful information about historical trends and allows us to easily compare player value across positions, something that has long been one of fantasy football’s greatest challenges. As we build our teams – and with draft season coming up – that ability to compare players from different positions using a single statistic may be the difference between going home happy after your draft and desperately wishing for a do-over that’ll never come.
- Unless you play in some bizarro-world league, I guess.
- In a standard league you can only play one QB, two RBs, etc.
- Points per game above replacement.
- Which is to say somebody hanging out on your bench.
- The data underlying PPGAR assumes a twelve team PPR league that starts one QB, two RBs, two WRs and one TE.
- Again: on a per game basis.