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Roto Arcade

On point: Amendola, Bernard lead PPR charge

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade

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Amendola is about to do his best Wes Welker impersonation (USAT)

Fanatics are a stubborn species by nature. These are people who refuse to negotiate pizza toppings, veto every proposed rule change, never alter team names and imbibe the same beer brand draft-after-draft. Almost ritualistic in their superstitions, they rarely waver. Mules and Tom Coughlin offer more flexibility.

However, these bullheads of the virtual gridiron are slowly beginning to shed their close-minded ways, dabbling in scoring systems that enhance their overall fantasy football experience. IDP leagues have gradually gained traction over the past few years, but they pale in comparison to the acceptance of PPR formats.

Some traditionalists, like Roto Arcade’s own Andy Behrens, vehemently oppose scoring for receptions. They contend it’s not a reflection of reality, a skewed inclusion that artificially inflates sure-handed running backs and wide receivers. After all, Chris Johnson could catch five passes for -5 yards, which in most PPR settings would garner a positive return.

To a certain degree, they have a point, but tracking receptions creates position-wide balance, adding value to wide receivers and tight ends while rewarding RB versatility. In this air-it-out age, it’s only appropriate to award points for one of the most fundamental parts of the game. Just because Darren Sproles doesn’t pound the pigskin often doesn’t mean he’s less valuable to the Saints than pile-pusher Stevan Ridley is to the Patriots. PPR creates equality.

The PPR revolution is well underway. Conventional yards and TD-only formats are quickly going the way of Member’s Only jackets, A.C. Slater rayon dress-shirts and Antonio Gates’ playing career. Demand for the format has steadily grown. Nearly 40-percent of leagues in the Yahoo! universe scored for receptions last year. And that number is increasing. Gamers who continue to cling to outdated scoring methods are completing passes to Carl Pickens on a 16-bit screen. If you haven't already, you're long overdue to catch on …

To understand how certain player valuations differ between standard and PPR leagues, check out the following chart. The results were pulled from a pair of recent Rotoworld/Yahoo! 12-team drafts, one standard, the other PPR. The top-10 players with the largest pick differential are sorted from top-to-bottom and listed below.

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ADDITIONAL PPR SLEEPERS (ADP 60-PLUS)

Giovani Bernard, Cin, RB (ADP: 61.8, RB31) – Mr. Everything at North Carolina, the rookie is the antithesis of Galapagos tortoise BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's highly explosive around the edge, extremely dangerous in space and ultra-shifty. Bengals running backs coach, Hue Jackson, can't stop gushing about him, hinting to Bengals.com earlier this month the youngster could be utilized in a Sproles-like manner. Keep in mind in two years with the Tar Heels he racked 92 receptions. Mee-WOW.

Fearless Forecast (16 games): 123 attempts, 553 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 359 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns

Cecil Shorts, Jax, WR (87.8, WR33) – The criminally underrated Shorts will soon be peppered with targets. Yes, Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are the fantasy equivalent of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, but with Justin Blackmon suspended for the first four games, the Mount Union product will shoulder a hefty workload. Recall in five of his last eight games, with Blackmon on the field, he reeled in at least six catches. If Gabbert can prove semi-competent, it's fathomable Shorts flirts with 80 receptions. Salute him.

Fearless Forecast: 78 receptions, 1,248 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns

Tavon Austin, StL, WR (71.6, WR26) – The West Virginia product must be Percy Harvin's long lost brother. He's a compact, sticky-fingered wideout equipped with fantastic speed, enhanced versatility and supreme elusiveness, a textbook 'matchup nightmare.' The human juke button's Austintaneous ability to shift direction and accelerate will prove lethal at the next level. With Danny Amendola now the center Tom Brady's universe, the youngster should fill the slot void brilliantly, attracting plenty of looks. Recall Sam Bradford targeted Amendola 9.1 times per game last year. Chip in a few rushing yards, and the rookie should deliver top-flight WR3 numbers no matter the format.

Fearless Forecast: 71 receptions, 928 receiving yards, 145 rushing yards, 7 total touchdowns

Ryan Broyles, Det, WR (150.9, WR53) – In his first year, Broyles showed flashes of brilliance. Operating out of the slot 64.2-percent of the time, he gained Matthew Stafford's trust as the season wore on (e.g. 6-126-0 effort vs. HOU). Unfortunately, a catastrophic knee injury versus Indy Week 13 abruptly ended his upward climb. But drawing rave reviews in minicamp and on-track to play Week 1, the slot machine could score owners triple cherries. With Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettigrew keeping defenders occupied, Broyles could flourish against single coverage. In an offense that threw a record 727 times in 2012, there's plenty of love to go round.

Fearless Forecast: 61 receptions, 866 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns

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Point blank, Pierre is worth every penny in PPR (USAT)

Pierre Thomas, NO, RB (117.7, RB50) – Poetic odes about the PT Bruiser have been written in the space over the years. Arguably the most underused RB in the game, the ex-Illini has performed well in spurts over the past three seasons, particularly for PPR. During that stretch he's averaged a robust 3.3 receptions per game. Still a punishing, nose-to-the-grind back – 61.3 percent of his yards gained last year came after contact – he should again churn out meaningful numbers on a 9-11 touch per game load. And that's a conservative estimate. If Sproles or Mark Ingram are sidelined, his inner RB2 beast will unlock.

Fearless Forecast: 114 attempts, 546 rushing yards, 49 receptions, 390 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns

Danny Woodhead, SD, RB (106.7, RB46) – When Ryan Mathews is swallowed whole by a sinkhole come mid-September, Woodhead will be plucked off waivers en masse. However, in PPR leagues, even shallow ones, he shouldn't be available. An integral part of New England's passing game last year, he caught at least four receptions in a game six times, crossing the chalk in three games. In San Diego, he could prove even more productive. If the Chargers O-line, one of the league's worst last year, doesn't improve, Woodhead will be a vital safety valve for Philip Rivers. Regardless, he's expected to carve out a substantial role, likely supplanting petrified wood Ronnie Brown and Mathews on all third downs. If the cards fall right, 50-plus catches are very possible.

Fearless Forecast: 133 attempts, 555 rushing yards, 41 receptions, 332 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns

Shane Vereen, NE, RB (73.8, RB34) – Suspicions regarding Rob Gronkowski's recovery from back surgery and Aaron Hernandez's likely incarceration casts an unexpected spotlight on Vereen. Slotted into Danny Woodhead's vacated spot, his role, and subsequent targets in the pass game, could grow substantially. Woodhead, the 15th-most targeted RB in 2012, grabbed 40 passes for 446 yards a season ago. If Gronk lands on the PUP list and Hernandez hits the clink, Vereen is sure to earn an uptick in targets, especially given New England's unknowns outside Amendola. It would be no shock if he finished well-inside the position's top-10 in receptions.

Fearless Forecast: 111 attempts, 496 rushing yards, 46 receptions, 374 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns

Rob Housler, Ari, TE (163.7, TE27) – Last year in Oakland, Brandon Myers and Carson Palmer were attached at the hip, connecting 79 times for 806 yards and four scores. Housler, an athletic, tacky-handed target who's sharpened his routes, could become the QB's next bosom buddy. New head honcho Bruce Arians recently described the 25-year-old as a "wide receiver playing tight end" noting "the sky is the limit as far as where he can go talent-wise." Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener totaled 134 targets in Arians' offense last season in Indy. If Housler amasses a similar workload, he'll be an oasis in the desert.

Fearless Forecast: 61 receptions, 696 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns

Marcel Reece, Oak, RB (130.4, RB53) – Inevitably, one of Darren McFadden's legs will get mangled in a vicious pterodactyl attack, paving the way once again for Reece to slide into the starting gig. The main man in three games last year, the former college wide receiver performed respectably tallying 15 receptions while averaging 133.3 total yards per game. Overall, Reece's 73 targets ranked behind only Sproles and Ray Rice among running backs. Despite changes at offensive coordinator and quarterback, his contributions won't sag. Undeniably, he's one of the finest pass-catching backs in the game today. Count on Reece to again offer flexy sexy production in roughly 3-5 starts.

Fearless Forecast: 45 attempts, 202 rushing yards, 42 receptions, 411 receiving yards, 3 total touchdowns

Dexter McCluster, KC, WR (151.0, WR54) – Under the fractured leadership of Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel, the tweener was a man without a defined position. Deployed at running back, in the slot and out wide, he never established himself under previous regimes. Enter Andy Reid. The new boss expressed his admiration for McCluster back in April praising his lion heart, quickness and versatility. Last year, the Swiss Army Knife lined up in the slot 86-percent of the time. If he can plant firm roots there again, the mighty mite could flirt with 70-plus catches in Reid's pass-first, pass-often system. Believe it or not, Alex Smith is a major upgrade over the buffoons he caught balls from in the past.

Fearless Forecast: 60 receptions, 623 receiving yards, 46 rushing yards, 4 total touchdowns

Also Pimpin' in PPR-Land: Justin Blackmon, Jax, WR, Emmanuel Sanders, Pit, WR, LaMichael James, SF, RB, Jonathan Franklin, GB, RB, Jordan Cameron, Cle, TE

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