Fantasy Football 2013: Highlighting This Year's Top PPR Performers
When setting up a fantasy football league, there are a couple of formats to choose from. Standard fantasy leagues were the norm for a long time. These leagues rely mostly on points from touchdowns, the scoring system the majority of fantasy owners prefer.
In recent years, however, leagues that count points per reception (PPR) have become more and more popular.
For the most part, successful players will excel no matter the format. Adrian Peterson will be the first pick in most standard and PPR leagues just because he's that good.
But there are a few players who benefit more from having their receptions count. These are guys who may not score a lot of touchdowns, but their penchant for catching passes—and lots of them—makes up for it.
*Note: The players mentioned in this article aren't necessarily going to be the top scorers. These are guys who are going to finish higher in PPR leagues than they would in standard leagues.
Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
Darren Sproles is the definition of a PPR player. In standard leagues, he’s closer to a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but in PPR leagues, he shouldn’t fall out of Round 2.
In 2011, Sproles caught 86 passes and had a combined 1,313 rushing and receiving yards with Sean Payton as head coach. With Payton out last year, Sproles still found success through the air (75 receptions, 667 yards in 13 games), but his rushing numbers dropped drastically.
Now that Payton is back, Sproles should see a bump in production. The New Orleans Times-Picayune suggests that Sproles will be the main beneficiary of Payton’s return.
During the 2011 season, Sproles averaged five receptions and 82 yards a game, which made him a top-five back in PPR.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions
The Lions' acquisition of Reggie Bush was one of the biggest offseason signings of the year. Detroit wants a scatback and thought it had one in Jahvid Best (Best was released due to health concerns).
It’s been a while, but Bush has proved that he can be an effective receiver. During his first two years in the NFL, he averaged nearly six receptions a game. Now, he joins a pass-happy Lions offense that threw the ball 740 times a year ago with Matthew Stafford under center.
The pass attempts will likely drop, but the scheme will not change. We’ve already seen Bush active in the passing game during the preseason. In the second game against the Browns, he caught five passes for 44 yards on seven targets.
Bush could easily eclipse 75 receptions this year, and his role in the passing game could make him a borderline RB1 in PPR formats.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
The hiring of Marc Trestman in Chicago is good news for Matt Forte. Throughout Trestman’s career as an offensive coordinator, running backs have had some big receiving seasons:
In some instances, the numbers aren't that impressive, but the running back was always in the top three among team reception leaders. Since Forte is a back that has good hands, this pairing seems like a match made in PPR-fantasy heaven.
Forte is averaging over 1,000 rushing yards per season and now his role is going to be expanded in the passing game. Brandon Marshall will lead the team in receptions (barring injury), but don’t be surprised if Forte finishes second.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Last year, Jason Witten set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end when he caught 110 passes. It’s not often that you see a tight end have over 100 receptions in a season.
Even if Witten doesn’t have 100 receptions again, he’s still catching the ball in bunches. Over the last six seasons, he’s averaged 92 catches. He's one of the most talented tight ends in the league and, even though he's getting older, there's no sign of him slowing down.
He’ll have to compete with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin for targets, but that hasn’t prevented him from getting his hands on the ball in the past. Witten receives a slight bump in PPR leagues.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Wes Welker was the PPR kingpin during his time with the New England Patriots. Over the last six seasons, no one has caught more passes than Welker. Now that he’s moved on to another team, it’s Danny Amendola’s turn.
Amendola showed up on fantasy radars during the 2010 season when he caught 85 passes for the Rams. He didn’t put up big numbers, 689 yards and three touchdowns, but he was a good option in PPR leagues.
His last two seasons have been riddled with injuries (missed all but one game in 2011), but he’s still shown enough to prove he can take over Welker’s old role.
In the slot receiver’s second preseason game against Tampa Bay, Amendola caught six balls for 71 yards and a touchdown. Brady targeted him just like he did Welker, and the two already look like they have a lot of chemistry.
If Amendola can stay healthy in 2013, he should easily eclipse 100 receptions. He’ll also have his first 1,000-yard season of his career.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
Last year, Randall Cobb was a sleeper pick. We knew he had the talent, but he was in a crowded receiving corps and it wasn’t clear if he’d get an opportunity to showcase his talent.
Cobb led the NFL with 2,342 all-purpose yards last season and he’s not done. Cobb just turned 23 on Thursday and still has a lot of room to grow. With Greg Jennings out of the picture and Jordy Nelson struggling to stay healthy, he’ll be the main target in Green Bay and has a chance to do something that a Packer hasn’t done since 1995.
Catch 100 passes.
In 2012, Cobb led the team in targets (104) and receptions (80) despite not playing as much as some of his teammates. He’s on the verge of a breakout season.
Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Wes Welker was mentioned earlier because of his production in New England, and this season should be no different despite the change of scenery. The veteran receiver goes from one Hall of Fame quarterback to the next as he joins Peyton Manning in Denver.
Don’t expect Welker to have as many receptions as he did in New England, though. He’s in a crowded offense that features Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. But even with those two, Welker will see more than enough touches to be fantasy-relevant.
Welker has never been a big touchdown-producer. In his nine seasons, he’s never crossed the goal line more than nine times. That’s why his value in PPR is much higher than in standard leagues.
Manning has said that Welker will be running a lot of the same routes he ran in New England. This should bring a smile to fantasy owners' faces, and it means that we’ll see a lot of throws coming Welker's way in 2013.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
After a 2011 season that featured a quarterback carousel in Indy, Reggie Wayne was happy to finally have some security in the form of Andrew Luck. Luck leaned heavily on Wayne, targeting him 194 times, which was second in the NFL only to Calvin Johnson.
He turned those targets into a highly productive season with 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. Not only was Wayne prolific, but he was consistent. There were only three games in 2012 where he didn’t have five receptions and 50 yards.
Looking ahead to the 2013 regular season, there’s no reason to think that Wayne won’t be targeted frequently, even if he is turning 35 in November. He’s a safety net for Luck. With a subpar running game and a lack of viable receiving threats, Luck will throw often in Wayne’s direction.
Another 100-catch season for Wayne is not out of the question.