2014 PPR Preview
The point-per-reception (PPR) scoring system is as popular as ever and for good reason. Higher scoring means more ways for your fantasy players to contribute to your success. Although some may argue that the format provides too many points for arbitrary on-the-field contributions (shoutout to Yahoo's Andy Behrens), the added points dramatically increase the fantasy value of WRs and TEs (while simultaneously reducing the value of QBs and all touchdowns.) In addition, running backs who can contribute on all three downs are given a significant bump due to their role as receivers out of the backfield. Some league commissioners opt for a half-point per reception which maintains the premium provided to touchdowns in standard scoring leagues. Rather than settle for the volatility of touchdown scoring, receptions are a bit more easy to predict from season to season.
A return from injury, improved QB play or a move up the depth chart are just a few reasons to predict added PPR success to these playmakers.
Like most fantasy owners, we're finding it hard to not like what Ellington brings to the table. He has speed, big-play ability, an improved offensive line and a clear path to playing time and touches. At left tackle, Arizona added LT Jared Veldheer and LG Jonathan Cooper is finally healthy. These two guys dramatically improve this unit and Ellington is the first to benefit from it. Backup RB Stepfan Taylor is the early favorite to assume the backfield when Ellington needs to catch a breather. Taylor, a second-year back from Stanford, carried the ball only 36 times in his 16 games.
In our stat projections, we're calling on the former Clemson back to accumulate 57 catches as a low-end RB1. The Cards are bound to get another back involved to help keep Ellington fresh; however, they don't have an obvious choice to replace him on passing downs. With defenses overextended trying to cover the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Ellington should have free reign underneath and on short routes. A strong preseason would only elevate his stock even higher, so draft or trade for him as soon as possible.
In only eight games, Vereen was responsible for 47 receptions last season. Along with his pass-catching responsibilities, the former Cal back is also expected to carry a bigger workload as a runner. Vereen's injury-riddled three seasons make him very risky and fantasy owners who are still drafting him as a strong RB2 (48.05 ADP) aren't batting an eye at the negative consequences.
The Patriots, to their credit, pieced together a formidable offense a year ago thanks to Tom Brady maximizing the talents of anyone that was healthy in a given week. If there are any games played without Rob Gronkowski, Vereen can be the best offensive weapon on the team. With New England finally ready to give Vereen his shot, there is RB1 potential here. Unfortunately, you'll just have to endure the possibility of more injuries since Vereen has missed 22 games in his three-year career, while Darren McFadden has missed 29 games in six years.
The loss of Jermichael Finley is going to really open up screens and short routes for Cobb. The fourth-year receiver sported one of the premier catch rates in his most complete season (2012) by catching 80 of his 104 targets (76.9-percent). The former Kentucky receiver should be a popular check-down for Aaron Rodgers when pressure comes. Cobb's injuries prevented him from enjoying a full 2013 (which would have included an expanded role with Greg Jennings gone to the Vikings). Paired with Rodgers' tremendous in-stride accuracy on short passes, Cobb is already a WR1 candidate even in standard leagues. Those 80 receptions in 2012 (a career-high) will be surpassed with ease as long as injuries don't befall Cobb or Rodgers.
Quick-hitting play-action plays to Cobb will be lucrative point-scoring opportunities for fantasy owners. There is no way defenses can ignore the power rushing of Eddie Lacy; if the linebackers cheat in to hit the run, Cobb will have daylight at the second level where he can put his agility and explosion on full display.
Although the Seahawks want to run it down their opponents' throats, there are simply too many fantasy owners sleeping on the skill-set of Harvin in this offense. Blessed with electric speed, change of direction, agility and acceleration, once the ball is in Harvin's hands then magic can happen. There's no denying that Russell Wilson will spread it around; however, the Seahawks have lacked a pass-catcher of Harvin's quality for years. There a couple downsides to owning Harvin. First, the injury concerns (which only became a big concern over the last two seasons). Next is the aforementioned offensive scheme, which doesn't quite mesh with the former Florida Gator. That said, Harvin previously played in Minnesota with Christian Ponder under center. If he can post big stats with Ponder, he can do it with just about anybody.
In 2012, Harvin was on his way to 151 targets before injury struck. Even if that's obviously at the upper limit of his potential targets total, Harvin's specialty (screens and short routes) guarantees a certain baseline of success in PPR formats. His big-play talent and incomparable quickness set up Harvin for a rebound season with huge stats.
In eight games, Reed collected 59 targets, 45 receptions for 499 yards and three scores. This equals about 7.4 targets per game and over the course of a full season, that would have totaled about 118 targets. For some context: Tony Gonzalez finished second among TEs with 119 targets last year. If Reed had maintained that same catch rate (45 catches on 59 targets) over 118 targets, he would have collected 90 receptions. (45 / 59 = 0.7627 * 118 targets = 90 ). That's four more receptions than Jimmy Graham; once a tight end is comparable to Graham in any way, it is time to take a step back and get serious. Seriously.
Reed does have injury concerns after sustaining multiple concussions in recent years, dating back to his days at Florida (this definitely puts a damper on the situation). While all players have a significant injury risk, Reed has to be a special case because of his tremendous ceiling when compared to these other TE options. Adding to the hype, Washington's offense will be a more pass-happy variant because of new head coach Jay Gruden. The presence of DeSean Jackson could draw safeties away from Reed over the top as they have to focus on the deep pass to DJax. Robert Griffin is supposed to be 100-percent finally after all the drama with his knee last year. So with all the positive news surrounding him and helping his case for a big 2014 season, Reed isn't being drafted anywhere near his potential value (TE6, 75.15 ADP, Round 7). Most fantasy owners are content to draft their starting RBs and WRs and take Reed if he's still there. He is an excellent value at this range, considering what he might become if everything works out. That's why Reed is a great candidate for PPR formats.