Fantasy Points Per Opportunity (PPO)

| July 9, 2013

Fantasy Points Per Opportunity, or PPO, is yet another product of our relentless quest to drill down deeper into the statistics that we mine at Pro Football Focus. PPO, which is only available with a PFF Fantasy Gold subscription, provides a more finely tuned point average that goes beyond fantasy production on a per-game, or even per-snap basis. It captures what a player does with the only thing that he can truly control – his opportunity.

PPO is calculated by taking a player’s total fantasy points scored, and dividing it by his carries plus his pass routes run.

Total Fantasy Points  /  (Carries + Pass Routes Run) = PPO

By opting to look past players’ raw snap totals, and instead use their actual carries and routes run as the denominator, we can tease out the instances in which fantasy points cannot be scored. It obviously would be unfair to judge a player harshly for failing to produce a desired result if he was not in a position to do so in the first place.

The primary game situations that it ignores, and which skew per-game and per-snap point averages, are blocking assignments. It is a major part of the game of football, but rarely do fantasy players participate in Point Per Block leagues – rendering it a useless task for our purposes.

The fact that rushing attempts figure prominently in the calculation of PPO would seem to indicate that it is chiefly a tool to evaluate ball carriers, yet it is useful when studying tight ends and wide receivers as well. All three skill positions are regularly assigned the role of blocker, to varying degrees, and it results in limited opportunities for fantasy point production.

It is important to keep in mind that using this metric to predict future fantasy success needs to be done in concert with an anticipated increase in a player’s opportunities. It says it right there in the name, so it should not be tough to remember.

Below are three examples, one at each position, of how using PPO can aid in anticipating fantasy production increases.

Lance Moore

Perpetually buried on the depth chart of the high-powered Saints, Moore has been remarkably consistent with his PPO numbers. The fantasy community’s reaction to him, however, has not. He is an excellent illustration of the utility of PPO both from year to year, and within each individual season. When he has seen an increase in opportunity, either through depth chart changes or injuries to other Saints, he has produced accordingly.

Season

PPO (Pass Routes)

Positional ADP

Fantasy WR rank

2008

.31  (503)

Undrafted

13th

2009

.30  (110)

31st WR

114th

2010

.29  (514)

53rd WR

26th

2011

.28  (336)

38th WR

32nd

2012

.29  (503)

43rd WR

20th

In 2012, he was already a starting wideout when third down back Darren Sproles was lost for several games. Moore, who averaged 8.96 points per game when Sproles was healthy, upped his per-game production to 10.83 while his teammate was on the shelf. Fantasy owners who anticipated the increase in Moore’s opportunity reaped the rewards of a player with a strong PPO taking advantage of a larger slice of his offense’s pie.

Willis McGahee

By the time McGahee joined the Denver Broncos in 2011 as a fading 30-year-old back, he had already worn out his welcome at the second stop of his career – which appeared to be on life support. Of course he finished the season with 1,250 all-purpose yards and a surprising 21st placing among fantasy running backs after winding up as the Week 2 starter due to an injury to Knowshon Moreno. He kept the job for 14 games.

2008

2009

2010

2011

0.43 (tie-11th)

0.87 (1st)

0.43 (13th)

0.40 (tie-20th)

If observers had kept an eye on his impressive PPO scores (above, with positional ranking), perhaps it would not have surprised many that he took advantage of this opportunity. One thing to note in McGahee’s case is that he has never been a prolific receiver, which serves to highlight PPO’s continued usefulness in evaluating rushers who do not derive a large portion of their value from the passing game.

Dennis Pitta

Pitta spent much of his rookie year blocking, only releasing into a pass pattern on 29 percent of his snaps, and was targeted on just five passes. However, in 2011 he began to show some promise as a pass catcher, finishing the season tied for 19th in PPO (0.23), ahead of fantasy mainstays Jason Witten and Owen Daniels. He ran pass routes on 53 percent of his snaps and set himself up to emerge on the fantasy scene in 2012.

Last year he finished tied for fourth in PPO (0.28) and ranked as the seventh-best fantasy point-scoring tight end. He only stayed in to block 38 percent of the time and is rightly considered a serious breakout candidate for the 2013 season. Considering that the departed Anquan Boldin’s 113 targets from 2012 must be replaced, and knowing what we know now about Pitta’s strong PPO score, it appears fantasy owners have their own opportunity ripe for the picking.

Conclusion

While no single metric can, by itself, provide analysts a glimpse into the future, some are far more suited to forecasting it than others. PPO is just that sort of statistic when it comes to fantasy football. Given a relatively accurate projection of an increase in opportunity, PPO allows for a reliable extrapolation that will hit its mark far more often than not.

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