Ten players you should make a priority in PPR fantasy drafts

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/sfo/" data-ylk="slk:San Francisco 49ers">San Francisco 49ers</a> receiver <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/8982/" data-ylk="slk:Pierre Garcon">Pierre Garcon</a> should bring plenty of fantasy value in PPR leagues after being reunited with Kyle Shanahan. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Francisco 49ers receiver Pierre Garcon should bring plenty of fantasy value in PPR leagues after being reunited with Kyle Shanahan. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

You know you love it – well not Andy Behrens. The guys scampering all over the field catching eight passes a game, and you sitting back and racking up the points for every ball they haul in. It’s what’s made point per reception (PPR) — and all of its spinoffs — such a popular scoring version.

You might look for a slot receiver who needs eight catches to reach 100 yards rather than a deep threat, who only needs two to reach that mark but that’s the only two he gets. You might look for a third-down back rather than a goal-line one. Whatever the strategy, it’s important to shuffle your draft board to account for scoring changes. Here’s a list of guys you should consider moving up at least a few spots if you’re playing PPR.

Wide Receivers

Pierre Garçon – San Francisco 49ers

The list of receivers in San Francisco isn’t exactly the most inspiring. It’s Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Jeremy Kerley at the top of the depth chart. There’s not a lot fantasy upside when it comes to the 49er roster in general. But you can absolutely find a diamond in the rough here with Garçon, who’s reuniting with his old OC, Kyle Shanahan. Garçon put up 113 catches for 1346 yards and five touchdowns under Shanahan in 2013. Now obviously we shouldn’t expect close to that in his new home and now at 31 years old. He’s one of the most consistent receivers in the league in terms of targets, and he hasn’t missed a game since 2012. In a PPR league, he’s deserving of a spot on your roster, and with an ADP of nearly 110, he will come cheap.

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Cole BeasleyDallas Cowboys

Beasley was one of the most reliable receivers in the league last year, reeling in 76 percent of his targets, third-best in the league among WRs who qualified. Beasley is a great slot guy: He’s outstanding after the catch and for fantasy purposes, his hog rate of 16.3 (10th-best in the league, per Player Profiler) stands out. The Cowboys, who called the fewest pass plays in the league last year, face a much more difficult schedule this year and will be without Ezekiel Elliott for their first six games. Both point to more pass plays in 2017, and, in turn, an uptick in production for Beasley. He’s currently the 49th wide receiver being drafted. That’s a steal for the production you will get in return.

Willie Snead – New Orleans Saints

In NFL history, only 10 players have had at least 200 targets for at least 140 receptions and 1,800 yards on at least 13 yards per reception in their first two seasons. You could probably guess most of those names easily — names like Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Then there are a few you’d hear and say to yourself “Oh, that makes sense” — names like Mike Evans, Marques Colston, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green. And then there’s Willie Snead. Playing in the pass-heavy New Orleans offense is obviously a huge fantasy benefit for any wide out. And Snead has taken advantage; with Brandin Cooks in New England, Snead should take even more advantage. You should, too, considering Snead is being drafted in the mid-80s despite being in line for his best season as a pro.

Kenny Britt – Cleveland Browns

Britt deserves some sort of award for managing a 1,000-yard, five-touchdown season for the absolutely awful Rams offense. In fact, it was his best year as a pro. After finishing 23rd in PPR points per game last year, he comes into this season the 41st-ranked wide receiver in the draft per our experts, though he’s not even being drafted in the top 50. Yes, going from Los Angeles to Cleveland isn’t exactly an upgrade, but Britt will be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, and given the fact that Terrelle Pryor saw 140 targets as just that last year, Britt should be in line for another very solid year at the least, and perhaps even a relatively consistent starter.

Zay Jones/Anquan Boldin – Buffalo Bills

Want a deep, deep PPR sleeper? A guy to take that many others might not even have on their draft board? Zay Jones is your man. He’s 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds — almost the exact same measurements as recently traded Sammy Watkins — and the all-time FBS receptions leader. With Watkins gone and Jordan Matthews injured, Jones is the de-facto top guy in Buffalo for now. That is, unless the ageless Anquan Boldin fills that role, which he very well could do. Last year, Boldin registered 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. He was 36. Only Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Tony Gonzalez have done that. He finished tied for second in the entire NFL with 14 red zone receptions. Both Jones and Boldin are going late in drafts — they have very similar ADP (both in 120s) — and either (or both) could provide value. If you’re looking high floor, go with the uber-consistent Boldin. If you’re looking high ceiling, go with the talented youngster Jones.

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Running backs

Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions

In standard scoring, Riddick finished 20th in points per game last year among running backs. That’s a solid number — and it would make him a spot starter — but it’s nothing to write home about. In PPR scoring, he finished eighth. He was better than Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley and Lamar Miller, all of whom are ranked inside the top 25 of our draft rankings. Riddick isn’t even ranked in the top 100 of those same rankings, and his average draft position (ADP) is 125th.

Of course, there’s reason to doubt Riddick, who isn’t even the starter on his own team in real life. That title belongs to Ameer Abdullah. But Riddick has been in the top 10 in running back targets each of the last two seasons, per Player Profiler, and he scored double-digit points eight of his 10 games last year. If Abdullah can’t stay healthy — and he’s yet to prove he can — there’s a very good chance Riddick gives you top half of the draft value in the 11th or 12th round. That’s absolutely worth a pick in this format.

Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns

On a Browns team bereft of playmakers and with uncertainty at quarterback, Johnson looks to be one of the more versatile and reliable players. Cleveland.com went as far as to name him the “leading candidate” to be the team’s slot receiver. Johnson has been a top-six back in terms of both receptions and receiving yards in both of his years in the league, and given his expected increased role, he should be even better in year three. He finished 23rd in total points last year among running backs in PPR despite playing less than half of the team’s offensive snaps. Johnson was also consistent, scoring at least 5.5 points in all but two games. With an expanded role, Johnson’s touches will go way up, which is a good thing for a player whose 6.9 yards per touch ranked third among RBs, per Player Profiler.

Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles

Looking for a deep PPR producer? Sproles could be just that, especially after the Eagles released Ryan Mathews. Philly’s depth chart features only LeGarrette Blount ahead of Sproles, and Blount is best suited for short-yardage situations, and even if he dominates touches in early-down situations, Sproles will be used heavily in passing downs. Last year, the Eagles gave him one of the biggest workloads of his career, and even at 33, he held up remarkably well. Sproles, who finished seventh among running backs in reception yards and ninth in catches last year, could very well be a nice pick in the back end of drafts.

Get ready for your Fantasy Football draft.
Get ready for your Fantasy Football draft.
Tight ends

Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings

In two of the last three years Sam Bradford has played, a tight end has been his most-targeted receiver, per Football Reference. And the one year it wasn’t a tight end was 2015, when a tight end was second (Zach Ertz in Philadelphia). Rudolph emerged as Bradford’s favorite target last year, but more importantly for fantasy purposes, he was also targeted on one-third of the team’s red-zone passes, third-best among tight ends. He also finished third among tight ends in receptions and touchdowns. With Bradford set to be the man behind center again in 2017, Rudolph is a worthy investment with an ADP of 80.

Zach Ertz -Philadelphia Eagles

Three tight ends have had 100 targets and 70 catches both of the last two seasons: Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski are pretty easy answers. The third? It’s Ertz, who has been second on the Eagles in targets both seasons. The man in front of him both seasons, Jordan Matthews, is on the Bills now. So what’s holding Ertz back from being a top-tier TE? Well, the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith might explain it, but so too might the fact that he’s never scored more than four touchdowns in a season. Still, it’s hard to find a player with this type of PPR consistency at this point in the draft. Though he’s highly volatile week-in and week-out, the targets are always there. In his second year sharing the field with Carson Wentz, Ertz is a solid PPR pick going at an ADP of 91.

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