When considering joining a new fantasy football league, the first thing I ask about is the scoring settings. When I ask about the settings, one of the first things conveyed is whether the league is some version of PPR. For those new to the game, you may not know what this term means. So, what does PPR stand for, and how does it impact your fantasy football team?
What Is PPR in Fantasy Football?
PPR stands for “point per reception.” It means exactly what it says. PPR dictates how much a reception is worth in fantasy football.
For old people like me, PPR wasn’t really a thing when I started playing fantasy football. In fact, you may have heard the term “standard” when referencing a specific scoring system.
It’s ironic because if you look up the term “standard” in the dictionary, you will see that it is defined as “used or accepted as normal or average.” When I started playing fantasy football, the “standard” scoring system was non-PPR, meaning no points were awarded for receptions. Hence, the term “standard” became synonymous with “non-PPR.”
If you join a fantasy league right now and make no changes to league settings, you are getting that fantasy platform’s “standard” settings. I can assure you those settings are no longer non-PPR, particularly if you are playing on one of the three main platforms, Yahoo, ESPN, or Sleeper.
Given how “standard” some version of PPR has become, it is essential to understand the term. ESPN and Sleeper use full PPR, which awards a full point per reception. Yahoo uses half-PPR, which awards 0.5 points per reception.
These changes are all relatively recent (within the past five years or so), as fantasy platforms need to adapt to the modern NFL which is very pass-happy and quarterback-friendly.
Difference Between PPR and Non-PPR Scoring in Fantasy Football
The differences between PPR and half-PPR are often overstated. According to a study done by JJ Zachariason of lateround.com, the difference in annual finish in fantasy points per game in PPR scoring vs. half-PPR scoring is not very significant. Only in extreme cases should player values be adjusted meaningfully to account for the difference.
However, there is a very stark contrast between PPR scoring and non-PPR scoring. In non-PPR, receptions don’t matter … at all. The only relevance receptions have is how they relate to the yards a player attains on those receptions.
One of the primary criticisms of PPR scoring is it rewards unproductive plays. If a running back carries the ball 15 times for 90 yards, that’s a really efficient performance. Yet, a wide receiver racking up an inefficient seven catches for 40 yards is going to outscore that running back by 2.0 PPR fantasy points.
The primary criticism of non-PPR scoring is that it weighs touchdowns too heavily … and touchdowns are largely random. If that same running back who carried the ball 15 times for 90 yards doesn’t score, he’s only giving you 9.0 fantasy points. Meanwhile, another running back can carry the ball five times for 20 yards and a touchdown and score 8.0 fantasy points.
To best illustrate the difference, let’s look at a wide receiver from last season who relied heavily on receptions. The players most impacted are those who have high target shares but a low average depth of target.
Last season, Indianapolis Colts WR Michael Pittman Jr. caught 109 passes for 1,152 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 15.6 PPR points per game and finished as the overall WR14. That’s an extremely valuable fantasy asset who almost finished as a WR1.
Now, if you take away his receptions, you get his non-PPR average. In non-PPR, Pittman averaged a paltry 8.8 points per game, a difference of 6.8. He finished as the overall WR27. That is a massive shift in value. Pittman was one of the most valuable later-round picks in PPR and half-PPR leagues but didn’t even move the needle in non-PPR.
On the other hand, players that rely more on efficiency don’t take as big of a hit. Take Minnesota Vikings WR Jordan Addison. In 2023, he caught 70 passes for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns. In PPR, he averaged 13.0 points per game, whereas, in non-PPR, he averaged 8.9 points per game. That’s a difference of just 4.1 points per game.
Because Addison relied more on yardage and touchdowns, he finished five spots higher in non-PPR (the WR26) than in PPR (the WR31).
What Is the Point of Varying Scoring Systems?
For most fantasy leagues, the purpose of different scoring systems is to promote fairness. There will always be some leagues that do unique things just to be different. That’s perfectly fine. This game is supposed to be fun. I would never discourage anyone from doing what they find fun. But for most leagues, the goal is to make a game predicated heavily on randomness and variance as fair as possible.
For all intents and purposes, non-PPR scoring has gone the way of the VCR. As to which format should be the “default” between half-PPR and full-PPR, that is up for debate.
Some commissioners and managers feel PPR scoring system leagues over-incentivize receptions and unjustly reward unproductive plays (like a reception for no gain), causing a further gap between the top and mid-tier players.
This is most noticeable at running back, where passing-game utilization is the key to fantasy success. On average, a target in a PPR-scoring format is worth nearly three times more than a carry. If you want upside on your roster — especially in a PPR fantasy league — find running backs who are productive in the receiving game.
The negative side of this is it lends itself to satellite backs who catch three to four passes a game being more valuable than some of the best runners who aren’t used as receivers.
Two newer scoring systems are gaining a bit of steam, designed to combat this. First is the tiered PPR system. In this system, the value of a reception is tied to the length of that reception or the position of the player.
The position-based PPR might work like this: Running backs receive 0.25 points for receptions, wide receivers earn 0.5 points, and tight ends receive a full point.
The reception length-based system might work like this: A 0-4 yard reception awards no points, a 5-9 yard reception awards 0.25 points, a 10-14 yard reception awards 0.5 points, a 15-19 yard awards 0.75 points, and a 20+ yard reception awards 1.0 points. You can tweak it however you want, but you get the idea.
The second is PPFD — or point per first down. Rather than reward players for merely catching a pass, we reward them for obtaining a first down. Of course, there are also fairness issues with this, as a one-yard carry on 3rd-and-1 would be worth 1.1 points, while an 11-yard reception on 3rd-and-12 would also be worth 1.1 points.
However, the overall goal is to reward players for plays that actually help their NFL teams, as well as help equalize the value between rushing and receiving that has tipped more heavily on the receiving side of things in recent years.
As with all scoring format changes, PPR or otherwise, the primary goal is to create a balanced fantasy league where one position is not vastly overvalued compared to another. That way, fantasy managers can prioritize different things and build their teams in different ways to compete.
With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.