To PPR or not to PPR: Wide receiver edition

Saturday, Jul 15, 2023 at 2:26 pm ET

Points-per-reception leagues (PPR) have grown in popularity over the last decade, coming close to matching the number of standard scoring leagues.  Surveys have shown that players who consider themselves more “serious” see PPR as the better way to play, leaving standard to more novice players.

Arguments can be made over which style is better (I prefer standard; a player catching eight short passes shouldn't overshadow someone who catches four deep passes and racks up more yards), but some players must be viewed differently depending on which style your league uses.

I used the standard and PPR rankings on, along with the projected player stats for the 2023 season, to identify wide receivers who are ranked significantly higher or lower depending on the format and investigate where they should be valued.  Rankings and projections will change, especially when injuries start adding up in the preseason, but these are accurate as of 7/11/2023.

Top-40 Ranked Players

Top-40 receivers will be under consideration to start most weeks, so these players are ones to look at as players that will stay on your roster the whole season when healthy.

Keenan AllenKeenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers: Standard rank 23, PPR rank 16.  Projected: 88 catches-980 yards-6 touchdowns

Allen represents the old guard in the Chargers' receiving room, and he could be the steadying presence needed as Justin Herbert continues to grow.  Mike Williams, drafted seventh overall in 2017, has struggled to stay healthy, leaving Allen as the unquestioned top dog in past seasons.

He only played 10 games last season, but Allen topped these projected numbers every season from 2017 to 2021 while missing only three games (all in 2020 or 2021).  His target share should still be high, and analysts have pegged the Chargers for an uptick offensively with Kellen Moore joining the team as offensive coordinator from Dallas.

Age and the arrival of Quentin Johnston, drafted 21st overall in April, seem to be his biggest obstacles, but a recent track record of health and the probable growing pains for the rookie receiver point toward Allen staying productive, especially in a PPR format.  Targeting him a round or two earlier in PPR makes sense.

Christian WatsonChristian Watson, Green Bay Packers: Std 19, PPR 26.  Projected: 63-923-5

Watson saw eight targets twice last season, but he otherwise topped out at six (in five separate contests).  His PPR rank is lower than in standard scoring due to that fact and because a large portion of his scoring came when he was scoring touchdowns (all seven TDs came in a four-week span).

That being said, the coffers are pretty bare in Green Bay, and Watson showed tremendous talent at times last season.  His targets and catches are likely to jump, and he could dwarf those 63 projected catches by season's end.  Watson had 41 catches last season and didn't really get a chance to see a large share of snaps until Week 10.

Now the downside: with all due respect for Jordan Love, he's not Aaron Rodgers.  Even as Rodgers continues to age, his play last season was probably better than Love will be this season.  The trade-off of quarterback play to opportunity is a tough one to navigate, but I would bet on Watson making strides and being an impactful player.  Don't dock him too much in PPR formats.

Chris GodwinChris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Std 31, PPR 19.  Projected: 87-952-4

Godwin has a similar situation to Watson in that he is taking a noticeable step down in quarterback play, but Tampa Bay still has other playmakers around him, namely Mike Evans.  Godwin has been productive the last few years but now seems to be looking more at a negative trajectory rather than Watson's positive one.

On top of missing 11 games the last four years, Godwin watched Tom Brady walk out the door while Baker Mayfield walked in, joining Kyle Trask and his three career completions.  Brady's career 64.3% completion percentage isn't terribly higher than Mayfield's 61.4%, but Brady had a reputation for throwing the ball away when nothing was there rather than throwing off target.  Godwin will likely see a drop in on-target throws.

The ball still has to go to someone, and Godwin will surely get his share when he's healthy, but seeing his PPR value 12 spots higher than standard scoring stands out as something not likely to be true at the end of the season.

Michael PittmanMichael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts: Std 35, PPR 28.  Projected: 75-842-4

Pittman hasn't had great quarterback play over the last few years as Indianapolis has cycled through aging stopgaps, but he has still increased his receptions every year and had 99 last season.  While the arrow would seem to be pointing up, a change in the style of quarterback he will play with could be his downturn.

Anthony Richardson, drafted 4th overall this year, is heralded as one of the best athletes to come into the league, maybe ever.  He will surely make dynamic plays, but his consistency game to game and play to play will most likely waver, leading to frustrating games.  Pittman could see more big plays as a result of Richardson's scrambling and big arm, but catching 100 passes probably isn't in the cards.

PPR scoring pegged Pittman as a top-5 weekly receiver twice last season, but he was only in the top 20 three other weeks and never higher than 14th.  He will see targets, but expecting him to consistently contribute to winning week in and week out on your fantasy team will be tough, even in PPR formats.  Valuing him several rounds higher in PPR doesn't add up for me.

Diontae JohnsonDiontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Std 36, PPR 30.  Projected: 80-870-3

Johnson had a run of back luck last season, scoring no touchdowns on 86 receptions.  That hurt his overall production, but his catch total buoyed his scoring in several weeks.  Still, it was a disappointing season for those who drafted him.  With a year under his belt playing with second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, Johnson will look for better numbers across the board, but that might be more of an assumption than reality.

The Steelers added veteran Allen Robinson in a trade from the Rams, and he will factor into the passing game when healthy.  Robinson has also missed 12 games the past two seasons and will turn 30 before the season starts.  I'm looking out more for second-year receiver George Pickens, who was seen as a first-round talent in the 2022 Draft before falling to the second round to Pittsburgh (partly due to injuries) and showed flashes of brilliance last year.

Pickens won't take up the target share Johnson does, but his presence will take away shots at the end zone.  Things may open up underneath for Johnson if Pickens does shine, but the combination of his ascent and Pickett continuing to learn gives me pause.  A small bump in PPR does make sense given the dynamic of the offense, but I'm not looking to Johnson to be a solid contributor every week.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills: Std 38, PPR 43. Projected: 47-768-7

The only player in this group ranked lower in PPR than standard scoring, Davis sees a good portion of his value projected from his touchdown total rather than volume catches. Davis has been used mostly on deep routes, which would seem to work well with Josh Allen's strong arm, but that causes his catch total (and thus, PPR points) to suffer.

Long touchdowns matter, and a week can be won or lost because of a big performance, but expecting consistency out of Davis is tough. Last season, he maxed out at six receptions and only topped 90 yards twice (including a three catch, 171-yard, two touchdown game in Week 5 against Pittsburgh). Davis can go off, but his value takes a noticeable hit in PPR formats.

Quicker Hits

These players still see a rise or fall in ranking between the two formats, but their impact won't be felt as heavily week to week.

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens: Std 47, PPR 52.Projected: 50-729-4

D.J. Chark, Carolina Panthers: Std 54, PPR 59.Projected: 46-689-4

Bateman led a barren Ravens' depth chart last season and scored a touchdown in each of the first two weeks before struggling and suffering an injury in Week 8, missing the rest of the season.This year he's back but must compete with free agent signing Odell Beckham and rookie Zay Flowers for targets.His lower ranking in PPR makes sense, and he is a receiver I would avoid until the later rounds.

Chark joins a Carolina team lacking receiving talent, but he is another deep threat who catches less passes and will be relying on a rookie quarterback.His biggest games will make you happy you played him, but consistency won't be there, and Chark will probably struggle to make a difference on your fantasy team week to week.

Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals: Std 52, PPR 47.Projected: 68-693-3

Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers: Std 60, PPR 54.Projected: 56-633-5

Moore sits near the top of the Cardinals' depth chart with Marquise Brown, but the rest of the position is bare after the team cut DeAndre Hopkins.Moore has operated out of the slot and on the edge, and he will have a chance to rack up targets after seeing double-digit passes thrown his way three times last season in only seven full games.Questions about Kyler Murray's health limit Moore's upside, but he is worth the higher look in PPR leagues.

Thielen is another new receiver in Carolina and currently sits at the top of their depth chart.Growing pains for rookie quarterback Bryce Young are to be expected, but he is going to have to throw the ball to someone, and Thielen has been a reliable target in his career.He also played every game last season for the first time since 2018, so injuries are a concern.Still, he is worth a look later in the draft with a definite bump in PPR leagues.

Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions: Std 55, PPR 61.Projected: 41-592-4

I wanted to mention Williams because he missed essentially his entire rookie season recovering from a major knee injury and is suspended for the first six games of 2023.Don't give up on him, though, as he was seen as a can't-miss talent, leading to the Lions trading up for him in the 2022 Draft knowing he was going to redshirt.He will have to fight with Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs for targets when he returns, but Williams is the real deal.Don't be afraid to scoop him up later in the draft, especially in PPR formats where he currently falls outside the top 60.

Deep Cuts

Here are three more players of note with differences in value late in fantasy drafts:

Wan'Dale Robinson, New York Giants: Std 74, PPR 68.Projected: 41-463-2

I was initially bullish on Robinson as a late-round flyer given the Giants don't have any clear top options at receiver, but his recovery from a major knee injury and an influx of similar players at the position might make his path to relevance tough.He did have a nine-catch, 100-yard performance in Week 11 last year (his final game), but there are better options to chase late, even in PPR where he has a little more value.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City Chiefs: Std 68, PPR 77.Projected: 40-657-4

Valdes-Scantling will always be boom or bust, and he topped out at six catches last year while only hitting 90 yards twice and scoring only two touchdowns.Still, he is listed at the top of the depth chart for the best quarterback in football, and someone has to catch passes in Kansas City other than Travis Kelce.PPR leagues will see Valdes-Scantling rightfully ranked lower, but he is worth a late-round pick (especially in standard leagues) to see if he can make a connection with Patrick Mahomes with plenty of opportunities to go around.

Robert Woods, Houston Texans: Std 80, PPR 73.Projected: 53-549-3

Woods dealt with injuries two years ago and ineffectiveness last season in Tennessee, but he had three straight seasons before that with the Rams in which he caught over 85 passes and had at least 900 yards (with two over 1,000 yards).He is by far the eldest statesman in the Houston receiving room, and, if healthy, he could carve out a role as a safe option for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.Don't spend an early or mid-round pick on him, but Woods is worth looking at late in your fantasy draft as a player with upside, especially in PPR formats.

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