- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports15 hrs ago
Let’s start this week’s Splitsville by looking at the historically great rookie receiver class of '14. Last week, according to the NFL, nine rookies had at least 75 receiving yards, the most in a single week in NFL history. The list includes everyone on the list below except Odell Beckham (bye), Jordan Matthews, Allen Hurns, Jarvis Landry and TE Jace Amaro.
Amaro was put in there by the database and not by me, but let’s leave him in because I think this pace is more of a floor in the second half. Bryant is so clearly the leader because he’s only played two games and we pro-rate for 16. That’s not fair, I know, relative to some receiver like Donte Moncrief who was merely active other games while receiving negligible snap counts. I would rank them Benjamin, Watkins, Moncrief, Bryant, Beckham, Brown, Cooks, Matthews and Evans the rest of the way. But this is a nice group to choose from. Whoever is cheapest is probably the best play and my guess is that’s Brown.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports3 days ago
An expert, I’ve long said, is someone who’s made every mistake that can be made in a narrow field. So I’m a fantasy football expert for sure. When I talk now about what went right with some calls, it’s not to pat myself on the back or knock people who went the other way. It’s to focus on the thought process that went into these calls, a process that was shaped by prior mistakes. So we start in New England with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports7 days ago
In Splitsville this week, we’re going to break down the defenses to help us determine which of our offensive players to start. There are seven weeks in the books and we have enough of a sample now to bet on these statistics in making roster decisions. Offenses generally control outcomes. One game never means anything by itself but, just for illustration purposes,, consider the Cowboys vs. Seahawks where the strength of the Seattle defense didn’t matter, even in the running game, because the Dallas offense dictated that day. So do not go overboard with this information and bench a No. 1 receiver with a bad matchup in favor of a borderline starter with a great one. This guidance is for breaking ties between similarly tiered players.Sun, Nov 21:25 PM PSTOakland at SeattlePreview Game
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports10 days ago
Let’s start the Scouting Notebook this week with a look at DeMarco Murray’s start and the idea that he’s a sell high. Murray is on pace for over 400 carries and over 2,000 yards and that’s begging for regression, we know. However, he’s in a very unusual situation compared to the other 2,000-yard runners (and remember, these seasons did happen and paces were sustained despite regression odds). Unlike all these other backs, Murray isn’t even the most feared weapon on his team. He’s the slow death guy. The quick death player who has to be accounted for first and schemed for on every play is Dez Bryant. So no one is going to load up their defenses to stop Murray short of Dallas being in a kill-the-clock situation. But Murray is as skilled as the greatest backs ever and like so many of them can beat you in a multitude of ways, meaning chunk plays, home runs and grinding runs. He’s also blessed with the best offensive line in football. So he’s as good a candidate as there ever was to remain the most valuable player in our game in the back half of an epic start. My zeroRB strategy was focused on the risk of running back injury and if you told me you could get Demaryius Thomas for Murray, I may do that but this is literally a fantasy trade. What would the point be for either team? You could get two top players for Murray but I make it a standard practice to avoid trading the best player in fantasy football where waiver wire replacement tends to be pretty high. This can be a viable “shake it up” strategy but the Murray teams are mostly rocking 2014 and shouldn’t be thinking depth while they ride the stars (star?) and scrubs gravy train. Someone pitched Dez and Gio Bernard for Murray. I’d respectfully decline. Their argument was worrying about injury related to the 400-carry pace. There is no evidence that additional carries create an additional injury risk. In other words, increasing a back’s carries 50 percent increases his injury risk 50 percent NOT more than 50 percent. One of the best football analytics people out there, Brian Burke, explicitly said the same thing to me on Twitter (@michaelsalfino) last week. So trading out of Murray for this reason is pointless because any back you get to replace him, irrespective of his year-to-date carries, has the same injury risk on each of his carries going forward as Murray does. Disagree in the comments if you wish and I will respond in Splitsville on Thursday. There is a risk of declining performance due to fatigue with Murray but, as I noted, he has a much easier set up than every other 2,000-yard back with not just Bryant but one of the most efficient quarterbacks in history, too. And, as the Chiefs did with Jamaal Charles last year, the Cowboys could dial back the volume at any time and get a
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
Last week in the always lively comment section of Splitsville, I quarreled with the concept of Value-based drafting and promised more details this week. Though draft season is long gone, we still value players and continuously assess our rosters in ways that generally reflect our draft philosophy. So let’s look at the best VBD players thus far this year and make the case as to why this valuation philosophy is misguided. VBD assesses player value only relative to the baseline player, i.e., the 12th quarterback, 12th tight end, 24th running back and, for some reason, the 30th wide receiver (why not the 36th, but, whatever, since it’s stupid anyway), according to Pro-Football-Reference. Here are the current leaders: DeMarco Murray (plus-73 points), Andrew Luck (plus-59)…. Okay, stop right there. Here’s the big problem with VBD. Andrew Luck is not the second most valuable player in fantasy football. VBD puts too much emphasis on the quarterback position without factoring the replacement cost. So you Luck owners are up 59 points on the 12th quarterback. But the team with the 12th quarterback doesn’t play one quarterback, they stream them if they have half a brain. Plus, all these quarterbacks are free, meaning they’re available on waivers. And even if you’re playing in a dumb league where everyone rosters two quarterbacks even though they play only one, thus limiting via their stupidity your ability to be smart in streaming quarterbacks, the cost of the 12th quarterback is so much less than the cost of, say, the 12th running back on which Murray’s startling VBD number is based. The 12th running back costs a second round pick. The 12th quarterback, if he’s not free right now on waivers, costs at most (and this is being crazy) a 10th round pick (probably much later). So even if you knew Luck would be a plus-59 VBD player through six weeks, taking him with the second pick would have been idiotic because of how far it sets you back at the other positions and the incredibly low cost some owner is going to have to pay for that 12th quarterback (who is a myth because that owner will stream and thus cut into your Luck advantage). And the idea that you can reasonably project how many points above baseline a player is going to be is the height of arrogance. We’re not that precise. Players have too wide a range of possible outcomes. And with VBD you are not only projecting the player in question but the field. Here’s the Late Round Quarterback, JJ Zachariason: “VBD is flawed for three reasons. First, it assumes your projections are correct (there’s no variance built in so if I’m wrong on who I project to be a first-rounder, and I don’t weigh in the potential risk, I’m screwed). Second, it deals with season-long numbers (doesn't tell you how the player accumulated numbers). And finally, it typically doesn't factor in market value (doesn't tell you when you should draft a particular
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports17 days ago
LeSean McCoy finally paid some dividends for owners on Sunday night (149 yards rushing) but it was still not the performance envisioned when they made him the No. 1 fantasy pick. McCoy again didn’t find the end zone and has just one score on the year. And he has just 74 receiving yards all year and 10 total receiving yards since September 15. That is not a misprint. Here’s your sell McCoy window if you decided this isn’t going to work out but did not want to dump him. That’s your call. I wouldn’t have even drafted him, remember. I was taking Demaryius Thomas at the top of drafts where the the running backs went. But this is clearly your best chance if you now regret the pick. Heck, trade him for Calvin Johnson (the Eagles are off next week anyway). There clearly is no stopping the best running back in football, DeMarco Murray, on pace for…. Heck, let’s just forget this on-pace nonsense. Murray is a common denominator on many winning teams. His health going forward is a big question mark, as it is for every other back. Worrying about Murray’s workload is foolish for the Cowboys. This looks like it’s his year and you have to ride him. Moderating carries make sense only if you think fatigue leads to injuries. But how you randomly end up in a pile leads to injuries. With Murray’s carries add probability for something bad to happen, there’s no magic number to be avoided or feared if you are a Dallas fan or Murray owner. He could break on his next carry either way. You can’t hermetically seal him or keep him in is original packaging. These are the risks inherent at he position. Oh, and that Dallas offensive line kicked the crap out of Seattle, which is used to dominating with just seven-men fronts. Carson Palmer is in that murky tier at the bottom of mixed leagues, in that 10-to-15 range. But he makes his receivers and especially Michael Floyd much more valuable. Kirk Cousins doesn’t win because he is so careless with the football (eight picks in his four starts). But the entire team is a mess. Alfred Morris can’t get going in the running game. Nothing is really working except DeSean Jackson. Pierre Garcon is so fringy now, borderline droppable (try to trade him though). There are bigger and faster models available on waivers in your league, I’m certain. Andre Holmes tops that list. He has 20 targets the past two games and has turned them into about 200 yards and three scores. Hopefully, you grabbed him already out of the big and fast box. Every week, you should see the receivers with the highest snap counts who are available on your waiver wire and pick the tallest and fastest ones (NFL combine times are easy to research). Get ahead of the curve with guys like Holmes. Kenny Britt is a guy like that now. Brandon LaFell works off the waiver
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports21 days ago
We thought the injuries, suspension and a lack of production among top 15 running backs was enough to justify the zero running back strategy where you just sit the position out the first four or five rounds of your draft. But it turns out that NFL coaches are also pointing us away from running backs by giving them a lower touchdown share than ever. According to Pro-Football-Reference’s player database that I mined and double-checked because the results were so stunning, running backs through Week 5 have scored 74 touchdowns, tight ends 72 and wide receivers 149. Add up the touchdowns scored by the skill players and you get 295 so far this year with an allocation of 25% to running backs, 24.4% to tight ends and 50.5% to wide receivers. That’s a dramatic change from just last year. In 2013, we had 444 touchdowns for running backs, 250 for tight ends and 529 for wide receivers. That’s 1,223 total touchdowns and a market share of 36% for running backs, 20.4% for tight ends and 43% for wide receivers. Yes, I counted rushing and receiving touchdowns for running backs in both samples. In no prior season has the touchdown share for running backs approached anything as low as 25%. Clearly teams are emphasizing other weapons in the red zone and on the goal line. If running backs can’t be more productive touchdown makers than tight ends, that’s just another reasons to avoid investing heavily in them on draft day or during the season. And this is an important point. The theory does not change now that the season is underway. I get many questions via twitter (@michaelsalfino) from teams loaded at wide receiver who now want to trade for running backs. And they typically have a bevy of playable but not spectacular backs. Why would you want to alter your winning model? If you preferred the impact wide outs then, you should still prefer them now. Even backs who have made it through like DeMarco Murray have a much higher risk factor going forward than wide receivers. I know some of you are thinking that this strategy, that I advocated and that Shawn Siegele of Rotoviz conceived, isn’t working because of guys like Calvin Johnson and other top receivers who have disappointed. No one claimed the bust rate for wide outs was zero, though. It’s just that it’s about half the bust rate of top running backs. This strategy is about increasing win probability. Whether you actually win comes down to some random factors, like the specific wide receivers and backs you chose. For simplicity’s sake, conceive of it this way: zero running back about doubles your playoff chances generally. It guarantees nothing. But would you want to double your playoff chances strategically even before actually picking players or play it conventionally and have the same chances you’ve always had and everyone else has, where you’re completely dependent on picking the right players with all the randomness that entails? Zero running
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports24 days ago
The big question in fantasy football this week is who the new No. 1 running back will be in Denver with Montee Ball expected to miss at least a month with a groin injury. Ronnie Hillman will be pricey. But legendary former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt (@gil_brandt) who only invented the combine and said, “Hey my research says this dash should be 40 yards,” is a big Juwan Thompson booster. So that’s how I’d go. Plus Thompson, who is the only possible three-down and goal-line back now, is probably cheaper. I guess we can all stop blowing taps on Tom Brady’s career after he rolled up over 500 yards on the NFL’s top defense (just 292 with two TDs via the air). Brady is in that periphery of top 12 fantasy QBs, but there are bigger lessons here, I believe. Baseball is a much easier game for fantasy players because patience is rewarded. Guys tend to find their levels if you wait. Football isn’t like this, we know. But we still can’t overreact to everything that happens with established players. There is a sweet spot in here somewhere. Try to find it.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports28 days ago
Let’s focus this week on a close examination of the area of the field where our fantasy football bread is buttered — the red zone. A quarter of the season in the book for most teams is enough of a sample to draw reasonably firm conclusions on play-calling tendencies in this most important area of the field. Our preference, of course, depends on our portfolios. We want the teams our receivers are on to pass in the red zone, especially if we drafted properly and have ideal red zone targets who are big and tall. But if we are lucky enough to have the increasingly rare running back who carries on early downs and in short yardage, we of course want our teams to be run dominant in the red zone. Thanks to the great Pro-Football-Reference for the data. Currently we have eight teams who have been pass dominant inside the opponent’s 20, meaning they throw the ball over 60% of red zone snaps. They are in order: Chicago 74%, Green Bay 70%, Denver 68%, Oakland 65%, Dallas 63%, Pittsburgh 63%, Indianapolis 61%, Arizona 61%. Here are the run dominant teams, meaning they run over 60% of red zone snaps. These are the most friendly scoring environments for backs once the team gets in the red zone. More on those rates later. Run-oriented red zone offenses are Cincinnati 67%, Seattle 65%, Carolina 63%, San Francisco 62.5%, Minnesota 62%, Washington 61%. I’m going to let you connect the dots yourself with relevant players who are most impacted by these red-zone play-calling splits. How about simply getting into the red zone, the number of possessions per game being the most important stat? That’s the bigger worry aside from play-calling. For example, who cares about the Raiders preferences in the red zone if they are rarely there? I ignore red zone efficiency because it’s random. Note, however, that teams that run the best in the red zone tend to be be more efficient there. But that’s probably the hardest thing for an offense to do. Most red zone possessions per game: Giants 5, Indianapolis 5, Miami 4.5, Cleveland 4.3, Baltimore 4.2, New Orleans 4.0. The teams with the fewest red zone possessions per game are Jacksonville 1.2, Oakland 1.5, Atlanta 2.2, Detroit 2.5, Tennessee 2.5, Houston 2.5, Carolina 2.5, St. Louis 2.7, New England 2.8, Minnesota 2.8. I wouldn’t worry about this with the Falcons, who have had long scoring plays that obviously take away possessions that could end in the red zone while still producing touchdowns. We need to always apply common sense to the data. Ditto Detroit. Looking further, the Giants have run the ball 11 times inside the opponents’ three-yard line and have just four TDs, which is terrible. Expect more Andre Williams on the goal line. Other noteworthy trivia near the goal line is that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each have one running play inside the three, a fact further limiting the struggling LeSean McCoy’s value and preventing Le’Veon Bell from
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports1 mth 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.