Fantasy Football 2014: Under-the-Radar PPR Gems Poised for Big Season
Fantasy football isn’t all about the touchdowns.
Sure, end-zone trips account for a large chunk of fantasy points. That’s why Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was such a hit among fantasy owners last year: He scored 12 touchdowns in his breakout season.
It stands to reason that otherwise productive players get a little overlooked when they don’t make reservations for six as often as their peers. In the points-per-reception (PPR) format, however, they can actually be more consistent than their counterparts.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Andre Ellington has already gotten his fair share of hype this offseason. With four career touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) to his credit, he could be a real problem as a PPR fantasy running back.
Ellington has 118 career carries under his belt. Meanwhile, he has been targeted nearly half of that amount, with 57 passes floating in his direction. He caught 39 of them. By comparison, Washington running back Alfred Morris has amassed 611 career rushing attempts while seeing just 28 targets.
That’s less than five percent of his rushing attempts.
Ellington’s only career game to date without multiple receptions was his rookie-season debut against the St. Louis Rams. He’s going to see the ball in a variety of ways.
2014 Season Projections: 200 rushes, 980 yards, 6 TD; 66 catches, 617 yards, TD; two lost fumbles
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
Darren Sproles is gone, and as much as rookie wideout Brandin Cooks has impressed in training camp, the New Orleans Saints won’t be feeding him 100 receptions as a rookie. Nor is Cooks a running back like Sproles.
Sproles saw 6.9 targets per regular-season game in his Saints career. Pierre Thomas is behind Drew Brees now. He has been all along, but he’s also shown that he’s more than capable as a pass-catcher.
Last season, Thomas attracted 84 targets from No. 9, and caught 77 of them. That success rate is high enough to get you an “A” on your grade-school spelling test: 91.7 percent.
Thomas will see the field more with Sproles in Philadelphia, racking up fantasy points in the process with his hands.
2014 Season Projections: 96 rushes, 374 yards, 2 TD; 87 catches, 649 yards, 3 TD
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
The PPR format may give wide receivers an advantage over running backs—receiving is a part of their title, after all—but it also forces a re-evaluation among players at the position.
Many of the elites who haul in a considerable number of touchdowns also see a ton of receptions. No one seems to mind the ones who don’t (think high yards-per-catch guys like Vincent Jackson) in standard leagues.
The inverse is where you find value in PPR leagues. A guy can average double-digit fantasy points per game without even reaching 1,000 yards if he pulls in five passes a game. Touchdowns, then, are a welcome bonus.
Kendall Wright topped 1,000 yards in his second season. He won’t be drafted too high because he’s totaled six scores in 31 games, but he saw 9.5 targets per appearance over the second half of 2013.
2014 Season Projections: 96 catches, 1,051 yards, 3 TD
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
With the mass exodus of wideouts from the Carolina Panthers locker room, Cam Newton will be looking for a familiar face to chuck targets at downfield. Greg Olsen, who has been there as long as Newton has, fits the bill.
Olsen’s target count has increased every year since joining the Panthers. He’s scored at least five TDs every year since 2008. And Carolina’s No. 1 wideout is a rookie.
Olsen may see increased defensive attention with Steve Smith out of the picture, but the 29-year-old should still enjoy a career season.
2014 Season Projections: 82 catches, 964 yards, 5 TD
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington
DeSean Jackson is the Washington receiver who has commanded the most attention this offseason. He’s going to be a deep threat in the nation’s capital, allowing last season’s league leader in receptions to fly a bit under the radar.
He caught 113 passes and scored five TDs. Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans is a much bigger name, but he also scored five times, while catching 109 balls.
Garcon compiled just 61 fewer yards than Johnson. While he will have to share some targets with Jackson, new wideout Andre Roberts and emerging tight end Jordan Reed, Garcon still has top-20 PPR potential.
He's not going to be ignored.
2014 Season Projections: 90 catches, 1,089 yards, 4 TD
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