- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports2 days ago
In a redraft, it’s clear that DeMarco Murray would be the number one pick. Heck, I might even draft him despite my hatred of drafting first-round running backs. The question is where the consensus No. 1 pick, LeSean McCoy, would go in a redraft right now. I get a lot trade questions. Kudos for even thinking about trading. One of my pet peeves with this column is that when I use the short-hand of “making a move” for Player X, people assume that I’m saying that guy is available on waivers. It’s like trading doesn’t even enter their minds. But the McCoy conundrum right now illustrates what I believe are two basic rules of trading. The first, and most important, is to never sell low. Some good players who I respect disagree with this and cut their losses, but over the long term I think this is a guaranteed losing strategy. Once you have committed to a player, say McCoy, being a bust, I think your best odds are to wait for a good week, even if only in the context of a bad season, and then have the discipline to still move him for greater return on investment. It may only be 80 cents on the dollar. But it’s not going to be a certain 50 cents. No one loves DeAndre Hopkins more than me but when I was asked on the radio Monday about trading McCoy for him, I had to say no. Do not accept the certain loss. Bet on McCoy ripping off a couple of big runs and then move him.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports6 days ago
Let’s start Splitsville with a more advanced look at wide receiver targets, looking at yards per target (efficiency) and, rather than the raw number of targets, the percentage of team targets that are allocated to the wideout. The magic numbers here are over 20 percent of team targets with a yards per target rate of 10-plus yards. We have six receivers in the NFL who currently meet these benchmarks: DeAndre Hopkins, who I talk about so often because he’s so good and so young, is the leader at 11.9 yards per target with 25 percent of his team’s target allotment (that’s going to increase, as will the Texans league-worst attempts total), Michael Floyd (11.5, 22%), Julio Jones (11.1, 29.7%), Brian Quick (10.7, 20.6%), Antonio Brown (10.6, 27.5%), Emmanuel Sanders (10.1, 28.7%). Hopkins has been the clear No. 2 receiver compared to Andre Johnson, but why? Johnson has a pathetic 7.1-yard average on his 27 targets (35.5% of the Texans’ total). Johnson may be done. Taller wide receivers tend not to age as well as the shorter guys, and believe that coming from me as I’m the captain of Team Tall WR. I said earlier this week to trade Sanders for Keenan Allen because, like Hopkins, Allen was just 21 last year but even more amazingly productive for such a young player. But there is no doubt that this is solid evidence for people who disagreed with that advice. I believe that Sanders' share of targets will decrease with the return of Wes Welker and given the clearly superior ability of Demaryius Thomas (no slight to Sanders as Thomas is as talented as any receiver). But the numbers say clearly that Sanders has earned his targets. There’s obviously an opportunity to grab Floyd now given the team is on a bye week and he hasn’t found the end zone. I’d move very aggressively on Floyd with Carson Palmer reportedly rounding quickly back into playing shape. Any receiver averaging less than 7.5 yards per target is not earning them. That list includes Andrew Hawkins (34.4% of targets with a 7.4 average), Pierre Garcon (26.4%, 7.1), Johnson, Brandin Cooks (20.5%, 7.0), Mike Wallace (25%, 6.8) and T.Y. Hilton (21.5%, 6.6). Reggie Wayne just barely survived the cut at 19.2%, 7.52. Yards per carry is a good stat but let’s look at total yards over average for running backs, irrespective of attempts. This is just assuming the league average gain on each attempt by each runner and then netting the difference over what they actually gained. We’ll call this yards over (or under) average. Le’Veon Bell is plus-94 yards on just 53 carries, stunning. Then it’s DeMarco Murray at plus-73, Justin Forsett 64, Lamar Miller 59, Chris Ivory 52, Ahmad Bradshaw 46, Mark Ingram 43, Bobby Rainey 43. The trailers are Donald Brown minus-86 yards, LeSean McCoy minus-75, Toby Gerhart minus-60, Joique Bell minus-47, Gio Bernard minus-44, Stevan Ridley minus-41, Montee Ball minus-39, Matt Forte minus-39, Eddie Lacy minus-37, Jonathan Stewart minus-33, Matt Asiata minus-31,
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports9 days ago
Let’s look closely at the non-quarterbacks who are the leading scorers thus far in 2014 (not including Monday night). In order (in the 0.75 PPR Yahoo! league I pulled): Julio Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Antonio Brown, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Maclin, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Gio Bernard, Julius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Rashad Jennings, Darren Sproles, Dez Bryant, Ahmad Bradshaw, Emmanuel Sanders, Julian Edelman, Steve Smith, Delanie Walker, Kelvin Benjamin. Just like they came off the board! Not. Who don’t we believe in on this list long term? Who are the sell highs? I would trade Sanders, Edelman or Smith in a heartbeat for Keenan Allen, who has had a bunch of bad matchups but who still is probably a great player. Allen last year was 21 years old putting up those kinds of numbers and only four guys in league history have had even 800-plus receiving yards at age 21. That’s a little bit of a cheat since underclassman could not enter the NFL for much of its history, but it still gives us a nice 20-year sample or so. Think of Keenan Allen as the Mike Trout of receivers, someone who was great at an age where we typically have to age-adjust stats upwards. I’d also target DeAndre Hopkins, one of those four 800-plus-yard wideouts at age 21. Hopkins is already the 11th wide out (excluding Monday) and he’ll finish in the top 12 for sure, health permitting. There’s no way he costs you that even today. Remember, Hopkins had a 50-yard, one-handed catch that had to be seen to be believed taken off the board due to an illegal formation. With that play, he’d be in the top six. Do NOT trade Julio Jones. I also completely believe in Jeremy Maclin in that offense with that quarterback. I loved Maclin early and then bought a little into the “Eagles will spread the ball around so much that all of their receivers are random” nonsense as the season approached. That was a mistake. Maclin is a stud as long as he can stay healthy, and injury risk at wide receiver is minimal. Montee Ball is not a good player. His upside was all environment based and the environment should still be great. But he’s giving the Broncos reasons now to explore a committee after their Week 4 bye. Their options appear limited however. Ronnie Hillman does not seem to be viewed as more than a change-of-pace back. C.J. Anderson is a hybrid fullback. That leaves rookie Juwan Thompson, fast for his size, impressive in the summer and one who projects as a three-down back. Also, legendary Cowboys scout Gil Brandt loves him. Keep an eye out for reports of him working with the first team during the bye and, if he does, grab him for free. Ball has been Jim Brown this year compared to Eddie Lacy. The only thing that saved me from Lacy was the zero RB strategy because otherwise I loved him. I’m getting questions about trading
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports13 days ago
Let’s start Splitsville this week with a look at the offenses that we want to stream defenses against — and those we don’t. But already I have to apologize for not backing this method even more emphatically. Last week, the numbers said the Chargers were a very bad matchup for the Seahawks defense and I noted San Diego on my “don’t play your defenses against these offenses” list. But not after saying that, of course, Seattle’s defense is an exception to this rule. But it turns out they weren’t. And even though we had a sample of only one week with the key stat we use to decide which offenses are most and least vulnerable to any fantasy defense (sack percentage allowed), San Diego’s offense was sixth-best in sack-rate allowed last year, too. So that Seattle exception I carved out proved to be predictably unwise. That’s the reason drafting a defense that you are forced to play every week is probably going to cost you points over the owner who merely streams them. And with every new week, these calls get easier to make. While Seattle owners also can deviate from their draft plan and pick up one of these free defenses, they are going to feel compelled to keep Seattle, which is very inefficient given short benches, injuries and, starting next week, byes. Unfortunately, our targeted defenses aren’t always available. But something passable usually can be found by just going as far up the list as necessary among the highest sack-percentage-allowed teams, preferably, but not necessarily, on the road. The defenses these teams are facing are the defenses you want. Why sack percentage? Only sacks are bettable events in games. Plus, quarterbacks are always the leading fumblers and sacks create interception environments, too. Why focus on the offenses that have allowed the most sacks and not the defenses that register them? Two reasons: offenses control outcomes more than defense generally (about 60/40) and those top sack defenses are so obvious that they are not freely available. Fading the offenses is at least as good, and way cheaper. You can find sack percentage every week here at Pro-Football-Reference. This week, working up from the bottom, we have the Jaguars (15.5%) at home vs. Colts, Rams (9.7%) at home vs. Cowboys, Cowboys (9.6%) at Rams, Vikings (9.0%) at Saints and Packers (8.5%) at Lions. Ranking the waiver-wire defenses to start this week I’d go: Saints, Colts, Cowboys, Lions. I’d avoid the Rams because the Cowboys could hang 30 on them pretty easily. So could the Packers to the Lions, which is why I’d try to avoid them, too. This is not perfect of course. Defensive scoring is largely influenced by random plays like special teams TDs that are completely independent of defense and also by the actual turnovers that sacks are only most likely to create, as well as what happens on turnover returns. So this is merely the best way to increase your point probability; it is no guarantee of
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports16 days ago
Investors talk about buying during panic. You’re supposed to buy when there is blood in the streets. In fantasy football this year, there is blood on the field and the panic is being felt by multiple owners in every league across the country. Injuries wreaked havoc with the top of the draft board especially, and predictably at the running back position. Jamaal Charles is dealing with an ankle sprain. Eddie Lacy suffered his second concussion in his young career and is a much bigger risk now for the remainder of the season than when he was drafted. Doug Martin is hurt and probably out of a job due to Bobby Rainey’s continued excellence. A.J. Green is expected to miss at least a couple weeks with a foot injury. We’ve been run through the paces with Andre Ellington, who at least appears healthy. And Ryan Mathews looks like he is going to be out for a long while with a sprained MCL. That gets us through about four rounds. Were not even done with Week 2.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports20 days ago
Let’s start our first Splitsville with the wide receivers and targets after Week 1. Rather than target total, let’s view No. 1 receivers as over 26% of their team's passes, No. 2 as over 20% and No. 3 as over 15%. Those are levels that are supported with career rates of active leaders; only two receivers entered 2014 with a target rate of over 30% — Brandon Marshall (31.9%) and Andre Johnson (30.1%). Note: 11 entered the season over 26%. Obviously this is a small sample size and should be heavily discounted but it does mean something and is as bettable as anything in the early going. Using Yahoo stats, the 12 receivers over 26% are (in order of highest target share): Jordy Nelson, Johnson, Anquan Boldin (last year second most targeted WR in percentage at 31.4%), Donnie Avery, Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, Andrew Hawkins, Demaryius Thomas, Greg Jennings, Robert Woods and Randall Cobb. The available guys deserve to be picked up immediately. Hawkins is tricky with Josh Gordon’s return looming, according to multiple reports. I regret not being higher on Boldin this summer. Avery has the return of Dwayne Bowe this week, cutting into his share. Yeah, Woods is fine even though the GM reportedly likes him a lot more than the coaches. Some other notables: Brian Quick 25%, DeAndre Hopkins 22.7%, Marqise Lee 23.3%, Allen Hurns 20.9%, Cordarrelle Patterson 20%, Justin Hunter 24.2%, Brandin Cooks 19%, Golden Tate 18.8%, Eric Decker 17.2%. I really like Hopkins because only three 21-year-old wideouts ever had more receiving yards than his total last year. We never talk about age in football, only in baseball (that's stupid). Kenny Stills, available for free right now, is another guy who was way up there at age 21 (2013 for him). Note that Decker has one other target for sure because Vick missed him in the end zone. That’s the issue with target stats: They have an element of subjectivity. I liked Rueben Randle and many loved Victor Cruz but they were 9.1% and 18.2%. Randle is droppable, as much as I hate dumping him so quickly. But benches are short. Here's the entire target list. Oh, Steve Smith was 24.2% with his 15 targets, behind Quick who is way cheaper, taller and faster. But maybe the Ravens incredible passing volume is projectable. This neatly brings us to run/pass splits, which need to be eyeballed for gameflow/situation, especially with a week of data. Only eight teams ran the ball over 50% of plays. The Bills 59%, Texans 59%, Seahawks 56%, 49ers 56%, Vikings 54%, Dolphins 54%, Jets 52% and Titans 51%. And 11 teams threw 60% or more: Colts 76%, Ravens 73%, Bears 71%, Patriots 70%, Raiders 65%, Buccaneers 64%, Chiefs 63%, Falcons 62%, Jaguars 61%, Saints 60% and Chargers 60%. Eight QBs had a yards per pass attempt average over 8.0, which for a full season is elite (highest is first): Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Colin Kaepernick, Austin
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports23 days ago
Tony Romo must have watched Tin Cup on Saturday night. The way he kept throwing the ball up for grabs was horrible and fearless and thus oddly compelling in a cringe-inducing way. He did finally hit one, too. DeMarco Murray was great but it was like the Cowboys didn’t realize they could use him inside the 10. Seems like they could have added a couple more TDs that way instead of Romo picks. Kelvin Benjamin is going to be the big add this week. But we’re going to have to hit the reset button with Cam Newton next week. Does Cam make that TD throw (from Derek Anderson), or even attempt it?
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports28 days ago
With drafts now mostly in the books, here’s my take on the late-breaking camp news that has some owners worried and others lurking for opportunity. We start with the best non-QB offensive player in reality and, when healthy, fantasy in Rob Gronkowski, who says it’s all systems go for Week 1 off last winter’s ACL surgery. Of course, the Grim Reaper, Bill Belichick, quickly killed all that good buzz by saying that nothing is certain. But Gronk let the cat out of the bag. Even if he’s on the field for 10-20 plays, he’s a top five TE because those plays will be ones that matter (red zone). And I expect an actual play count about double that. Even at a second-round price that few actually had to pay, Gronkowski adds win probability for fantasy owners unlike any other similarly-valued asset. So far at least, the people who bet on Gronk are looking pretty smart. I’m reluctant to say anything about Josh Gordon because that could change in one moment if he and his lawyers do file an injunction. That’s what lawyers I talked to last month expected and that’s how I reported and was willing to bet in the middle-late rounds. But they all expected one to be filed by now. As of Wednesday morning, nothing. But also no comment at all from his lawyers and continued reporting that a decision is “imminent,” whatever that means. At this point, I’d hold him pending more definitive news. If he doesn’t file or loses the request for an injunction, the cost of say a seventh to 10th round pick is pretty ho-hum because, though we’re loathe to admit it, the expected value above replacement (waiver wire) for those picks is very minimal. So the chance of Gordon beating the suspension (and then clearly being a difference maker) was always at least equal to the value of those picks and probably still is. Think this way and you’ll win. Sticking in Cleveland, Terrance West is looking like one of those busts in rounds seven to 10 already. Ben Tate is cemented as the Browns’ three-down back. West is just another handcuff, most of which are available each week on the waiver wire. Maybe I’m being stubborn, but I am still on Bishop Sankey, who admittedly has not played up to his measurables in the small sample of summer carries. Even if Sankey was a modest prospect when it comes to combine attributes, like say Devonta Freeman, his environment is ripe because starter Shonn Greene is a sub-mediocrity with zero chance of being a part of the next good Titans team, if there ever is one. I would not even waste a roster spot on Greene right now but that’s me. Sankey I would still happily draft in the sixth round. Wes Welker has not had a good couple of weeks. First a concussion put the start of his season in doubt and then a PED suspension ended it until Week 6 (the Broncos
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports1 mth ago
As we close up shop on Pitching by the Numbers for 2014, moving our undivided attention post-Labor Day to fantasy football, let’s audit our spring-training and early season advice to see which ideas/approaches worked and which didn’t. I’m not going to give myself blame or credit for a pitcher getting hurt. No one can be expected to forecast injury. I’m grading based on how pitchers performed when active, as long as the sample size was reasonable. The Good (preseason) “My major quarrel (with Tanaka projections) is mainly with the strikeouts (per nine innings). I think they’ll be considerably higher (than in Japan because Japanese hitters are harder to strike out).” “(Verlander’s) lost some velocity and is getting right at the age (31) where most of the big-time power pitchers have to start transitioning a little into being more finesse-y. That walk total may be the first sign of the transition. He also had an injury-plagued offseason. I want to rank Verlander just low enough not to get him.” “Tyson Ross didn’t qualify because of the percentage of games needed as a starter. He pitched much better as a starter though, especially when it comes to K/9. Let’s put him in this Tier 3, though I’m very tempted to put him in Tier 2. You have my permission to reach for Ross.” “So, Kluber, Kazmir, Lynn, Corbin, Ryu and Cashner are the gets here. Look at their ADPs. Try to get them a round earlier just to be safe.” “Cain? The isolated slugging was terrible last year and below average in 2012, too. Yeah I can be really wrong about him and his ERA can go back down into the low 3.00s but he’s not likely to be much better than average in K/9. And I can’t stand Cain’s 28.6% slider rate last year (13 points over his career rate), especially at age 29 with all those innings/miles. I’ll pass on him without concern.” The Good (regular season) “I’d be more worried about a guy like (Mike) Minor, who may be above average in limiting damage on fly balls almost entirely due to random factors/luck.” “Let’s recalculate (Homer) Bailey, who has the worst HR/9 in baseball. His career HR/9 is 1.1. He should have allowed three homers by now given the career rates. Let’s call it four, meaning we subtract 4.7 runs that we’ll round to five. That would make his ERA now 4.50, which still doesn’t make any sense. The .400-plus BABIP explains the rest. Yeah, buy Bailey, even 80 cents on the preseason dollar will end up returning a tidy profit.” “I hate that Sonny Gray is so low. He was much higher last year. He’s still holding up with that A’s magic. I’d love to just tout my Gray preseason ranking, which was higher than almost anyone (everyone?), but he’s been lucky and should be traded – not because he’s worthless or worse than any pitcher above him here but simply because his ERA is likely to be much
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports1 mth ago
The secret to winning your point-per-reception fantasy football league is not drafting any running backs with premium draft picks. Some of the sharpest minds in the game have concluded that running backs are too risky due to factors like injury and usage with teams employing so many committees. Rotoviz writer and National Fantasy Football Championship winner Shawn Siegele coined his “Zero Running Back Strategy” in 2013 to claim first and second place and prize money in excess of $200,000. Instead, he loaded up on premium wide receivers, who it turns out are far less risky and easier to project. While most 12-team fantasy football leagues will draft about 15 running backs in the first and second rounds, only about eight each year reach the modest thresholds of at least 1,400 rushing plus receiving yards and eight touchdowns. See this Wall Street Journal article on the strategy for details by year. Even worse, since 2010, less than three on average repeat the feat the following season. So this year, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray are drafted like sure things but odds are most of them will disappoint and prove to be bad investments. I understand your skepticism. The golden rule in fantasy football, regardless of scoring format, has been to chase running backs. And some people use this increased bust rate to justify spending more premium picks on running backs as some sort of demented insurance plan. That’s not insurance at all but rather throwing good money after bad. Am I saying to draft a wide receiver with the first pick in a PPR format instead of a stud running back? You bet I am. And the reason is simple: the wide receiver gets more projected points when you adjust projections for risk. The top running backs have about twice the risk as the top wide receivers. Last year, five of the eight top scorers from 2012 were either disappointments (Alfred Morris) or busts (Doug Martin, Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice). But wide receivers are a different story altogether. So while some running back will beat the top receiver you draft with this hypothetical top overall pick, identifying him is tricky. And when you make a reasonable adjustment for the universal much greater running back risk, the top back on your board ends up with less expected points than the top wide receiver. So in PPR let’s say that Demaryius Thomas has the top projection with about 300 points and at running back the top guy is LeSean McCoy with 330 points. But McCoy has about a 50% chance of scoring 50% of his fantasy points while Thomas has about a 25% chance of scoring 50% of his fantasy points. So now we have to subtract about 82.5 points from McCoy’s total for his risk but only 37.5 for Thomas’s risk. That makes their bettable projection McCoy 247.5 points and Thomas 262.5. Additionally, according to Rotoviz, since 2011, if you