Commissioner Guide: PPR Leagues Should Require Three Starting WRs (Fantasy Football)

The off-season is both a time to reflect on the previous season and prepare for the upcoming season. Every year, most of the millions of fantasy owners go into a mini fantasy hibernation, but for the seasoned fantasy commissioner, the off-season is the time to reflect on what worked in previous seasons and begin to formulate plans for ways to enhance future seasons.

One of the things that I do in the off-season is to pull down each of the weekly fantasy scores for the key fantasy positions to analyze the performances. The key thing I look at is weekly scoring trends across the positions. A common season recap analysis trend in the fantasy industry is to discuss the number times a player finished in the top 12, 24, etc. at their position. I believe there is a flaw in this type of evaluation, looking strictly at the ranking instead of the points scored. Depending on the week, the same score could result in a performance that falls on either side of that 12th ranked threshold. If a WR scored the same points two weeks in a row, one could be inside the top 12 and the other might be outside the top 12. In that instance, do those performances justify a different evaluation of a WR1 and WR2 week? Further, if both of them were above the season average for the 12th ranked WR, should that player really be “dinged” for a WR2 performance, when in any other week it would have been a WR1 performance?

Shortly after each season concludes, the Fantasy Footballers will produce shows focused around the weekly performances of the various positions, and my fellow writers have done a great job recapping those shows in the “Truth” series which are broken down in the Truth Series articles. Unlike many other fantasy analysts who use the above-mentioned ranking criteria, Andy, Mike, and Jason will break down the players’ weekly performances into just three categories: Great, Good, and Bust, based on their weekly points scored versus the position average, not their weekly ranking.

My variation on this evaluation is the breakdown of the performances based on the season average points scored at the threshold of the required fantasy positions; 12QBs, 24RBs, 36WRs, 12TEs. I sort each week by the points scored and look at the average points scored of each ranking at those key thresholds. I do separate them into RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, and WR3 tiers, however, those tiers are based on exceeding the average score for the lowest average ranking of the tier. When viewed this way, you will see that the points scored at those thresholds vary significantly from week to week.

Here’s a great example from 2019: Week 12, RB9 scored 16.6 PPR points. The very next week, RB19 scored 16.7 PPR points. If that happened to be the same RB, some season recaps would credit him with an RB1 week and an RB2 week. While there is a 10-rank variance, it was only .1 point difference. This result is not simply due to teams on a bye in Week 12 either, as the RB10 in Week 2 scored 16.8 PPR points. Do you agree that the ranking should dictate the performance, or should the points scored be the deciding factor of the performance? For me, when evaluating my team and players, it’s not about where players rank, but how many points they scored for the team.

2020 RB SCORING

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2020 WR SCORING

TE SCORING

Determining the Flex Position

The traditional thresholds are obvious; the number of required starters multiplied by the number of teams. But, how do we identify and evaluate the flex position?

In a 12 team league format requiring 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE and a Flex, you need to account for 12 starters from outside the top 24 RBs, 36 WRs, and 12 TEs. When using the previously mentioned roster construction, the point threshold for a Flex starter was just under 10 PPR points. Breaking down the points by starting position requirements, the macro results are five RBs, six WRs, and two TEs. (But that is 13 players! – yes, there are often ties in points scored, so you have to account for both positions if there was a tie).

The Micro weekly flex breakdown of the positions vary from zero additional RBs (Week 7) started all the way up to 11 flex positions being RB (Week 5). In fact, there was a three week run in Weeks 4-6, where an average of 9RBs were flex starters. The WRs then obviously have similar, inverse results, with zero WRs (Week 4) and 11 flex positions (Week 1). We all recognize that it is very rare that owners will start a second TE in the flex. In six of the weeks, no TEs qualified as a flex starter. Only one week, Week 10, exceeded three TEs, with a surprising six TEs being flex-worthy.

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In the ever-running debate about which position, RB or WR, is more important for fantasy teams, it’s interesting to note that the RB12 only outscored the WR12 one time in 2019, in Week 4. Even then, it was only by half a point. The weekly average WR12 performance was 3.1 PPR points higher than the RB12. The results are very similar for the RB24 and WR24, where the RB24 outscored the WR24 just once, Week 9’s 1.3 PPR points.  The weekly WR24 average a similar 3 PPR point advantage over the RB24. On a weekly performance level, the average RB24 performance is most comparable to the average WR36, where the point differential is just .61 PPR points in favor of the WRs. Even then, the RB24 outscored the WR36 in less than 50% of games (7/17).

What impact does the scoring threshold have on the flex position in a league that requires just 2 WRs? As noted above, the WR25+ consistently outscores the RB25+ by a wide margin. When adjusting down to just 24RBs and 24WRs required, the flex position becomes dominated by the WRs. In this format, the average dramatically shifts from that 5RB/6WR/2TE result in a 3WR league to an astounding 2RB/10WR split. In eight of the weeks, WRs 25-36 all outscored the RB25. In five additional weeks, three or fewer RBs qualified. Throughout the season, the highest number of RBs qualifying for the flex position in a given week would be just five RBs (Weeks 5, 6, 11). Additionally, only three weeks (4, 7, 10) did a TE qualify for flex, and only once was it two TEs (Week 4).  For the fantasy owner, the odds heavily favor starting a WR in the flex position. For fantasy commissioners, this means requiring fewer WRs is also reducing the necessity to draft RBs that perform in that 25-36 area, as they are no longer flex worthy and drafting WRs is far more beneficial to your team’s performance in the flex position.

Conclusion – You Should Require Three WRs in Full PPR Leagues

If you have an existing league or are creating a new full PPR league, you need to consider increasing your WR requirement to three. By increasing the required number of WRs to three, you will place additional pressure on your owners to actively draft RBs capable of performing in the flex position, not just WRs.

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