Fantasy Football's PPR Stars

SI.com/4for4 Football Staff

Most fantasy leagues use some sort of PPR scoring, be it a full point or half-point for every reception. The rise of PPR has changed the game, making players who would be no more than depth options in standard leagues into regular starters. We consider six such players in this group profile, taking a look at players who have significantly more value in PPR leagues than they do in standard formats.

James White, RB, Patriots

What do Mike Davis, Alfred Blue and Jamaal Williams have in common? They all ran for more yards last year than White. In fact, 47 players eclipsed White’s 425 rushing yards in 2018. Yet, only 14 players caught more passes. Not running backs—players. White caught 87 balls on 123 targets and finished the season with a combined 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was a career year for White, but receptions aren’t new to the veteran entering his sixth year. He’s averaged 83.8 targets over the past four years and is a dynamic option for Tom Brady in the passing game. White won’t wow fantasy owners with rushing production, and Sony Michel is likely to be the main cog in the run game, but he’ll continue to be used on check-downs, leak-outs and wheel routes that lead to big points in PPR formats. Owners drafting him in standard leagues will be disappointed when his touchdown production inevitably slides a little—he’d never scored more than six in a season before last year—but in PPR leagues, he’s a legitimate RB2 based on his role in New England’s passing game. It’s possible a healthy Rex Burkhead eats into his target share, but he’s missed 14 games over the past two years, and Brady trusts White. Only Julian Edelman averaged more targets per game for the Patriots last season. — Brandon Niles

Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears

The playmaking Cohen only gets change-of-pace work in the run game, but he’s been electrifying as a receiving option out of the backfield for the Bears. He caught 53 balls as a rookie and followed that up last year with 71 receptions on 91 targets. Now entering his second season in Matt Nagy’s and Mark Helfrich’s offense, Cohen should continue to develop as a multi-purpose weapon for an emerging Chicago offense. The Bears use Cohen all over the field, including in the slot, lined up out wide and in the backfield. His elusiveness and agility allow him to make big plays once he has the ball in his hands—he ranked 13th in the league last year in yards after the catch—and his powerful legs and low center of gravity help him hold up against large defenders.

The arrival of rookie David Montgomery in the third round of the draft makes it unlikely Cohen will improve on the 99 carries he got in the run game last season, but he should still be heavily active in the passing game. The Bears are improving with the development of Mitch Trubisky and an emphasis on quick-strike attacks at all levels of the defense. Given his skill set, Cohen should shine in this scheme. He’s a potential monster in PPR leagues, but could be a bit of a letdown in standard formats. Cohen had 1,169 combined yards from scrimmage last season and eight touchdowns, but without points for his 71 receptions, he’ll be hard-pressed to put up big enough numbers to be a solid RB2. — BN

Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders

All Richard did on a bad Oakland team last season was catch 68 of 81 targets for 607 yards, while adding 259 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He ranked seventh among backs in receptions and targets, and sixth in yards. Yes, the Raiders took Josh Jacobs with the 24th overall pick in this year’s draft, but Richard has never been the primary ball-carrier in Oakland, so a new back expected to lead the team in carries doesn’t change his reality much, if at all. He could lose some target share with Antonio Brown on the roster, but his value in leagues that give any points for receptions is still obvious. What’s more, Richard may have had all those catches and receiving yards last year, but he didn’t score any touchdowns through the air. That’s a fluke that cannot possibly be repeated if his target share is anywhere near where it was last season. — Michael Beller

Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts

Hines was a hidden gem for the Colts as a rookie last year, totaling 85 carries for 314 yards, 63 receptions on 81 targets for 425 yards, and four touchdowns. He scored 0.87 points per touch in half-PPR leagues. For sake of comparison, Ezekiel Elliott, the fifth-ranked back in half-PPR formats last year, scored 0.77 points per touch. This is not to suggest that Hines can be a top-five back. If he had the 381 touches Elliott did last year, he’d almost certainly have been exposed as a purely complementary player. What it does illustrate, though, is how effective Hines is in his role. That role may be even more important in the Colts’ offense this year, and thus lucrative in fantasy leagues.

With all due respect to Marlon Mack—and he was, without question, a major part of the Colts’ resurgence last year—Andrew Luck is the engine of the offense. Mack brings nothing to the table as a receiver, whereas Hines ranked eighth among backs in receptions and tied for seventh in targets. Among running backs who are pass-catching specialists, only Cohen and Richard, two of our other PPR studs, had more receptions, and just Cohen had more targets. As the Colts lean even more into their passing game this season, Hines could push up toward 100 targets. Consider, too, that he played a total of 44% of the Colts’ snaps, and was on the field more than half the time in just four games. That snap rate could easily increase this year. Even if that doesn’t happen and he runs back a target share identical to last year’s, he turned that volume into RB33 numbers in half-PPR leagues. If his role does increase, he could be looking at regular flex usage in all formats, especially half and full PPR leagues. — MB

Golden Tate, WR, Giants

The Giants’ offense doesn’t inspire much fantasy confidence, thanks largely to the quarterback situation. Whether it’s Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, or a combination of the two, it will be advisable to fade any pass-catcher in the offense at cost in standard leagues. However, PPR scoring can boost value in even the worst situations. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are the high-value assets, but Golden Tate can become a value pick in 2019.

Tate is one of the league’s premier slot receivers, with his rate of routes run out of the slot the last two years at 78.5% and 86.4%, and an average depth of target of 6.3 yards. Manning is much more effective on short and intermediate routes in his graying years, and even if Daniel Jones is pushed into a starting role, Tate’s role within the offense won’t be significantly impacted. Since 2016, rookie quarterbacks have had lower deep-ball passing rates compared to their veteran peers. Baker Mayfield (2018, fourth) and DeShone Kizer (2017, sixth) were the only rookie quarterbacks inside the Top 10 for deep passing their rookie year. That tendency matches Jones’ style coming out of college (6.8 adjusted YPA at Duke) and speaks to how the Giants offense will likely operate in 2019. PPR is the only format where Tate’s situation, talent and range of outcomes makes his cost palatable. He’s averaged 8.3 points per game over his career in standard scoring, but 14 points per game in PPR leagues. That 5.7-point differential is a large enough margin that can swing weekly victories. — Chris Allen

Trey Quinn, WR, Redskins

Small sample sizes can skew our perception of a player, but it’s hard to find a narrative where Quinn doesn’t man the slot for Washington in 2019. He only had 10 total targets in 2018, but all 10 of those targets came from the slot. In addition, Washington addressed their receiver corps with Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon in the draft, both of whom will play on the outside. The only holdover of note is Josh Doctson, who also plays outside the numbers.

Jamison Crowder is in New York with the Jets. That’s 41 vacated slot targets. Maurice Harris is now with Patriots. Add 29 more vacated slot targets to the pie. Michael Floyd had 16. That’s 86 high-percentage targets up for grabs and a second-year player fully capable of grabbing the majority of them in 2019. Quinn’s expected role in the slot is what boosts his value in PPR leagues. Furthermore, no team is as unsettled in hits pass-catching corps as is Washington. Jordan Reed is the only player guaranteed to get a meaningful target share, but he’s also one of the most injury-prone players in the league. There’s plenty of opportunity for someone to step up and grab the No. 1 receiver tag, and Quinn is one of the few players likely to have a defined role. That will help him across the board from a fantasy perspective, but especially in PPR leagues where his ownership of the slot caters to the reception bonus. — CA

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

What to Read Next