Michael Salfino

  • Splitsville: Gray's big day

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    Let’s see if a model will help us forecast the likelihood of Jonas Gray being a flash in the pan versus a star. I’ve set the single-game thresholds at 175 yards rushing and three rushing TDs. Of course, Gray had 199 and four last week. That gives us 18 names since 2000: Shawn Alexander, Mike Anderson, Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, Arian Foster, Eddie George, Gray, Jerome Harrison, Larry Johnson, Julius Jones, Jamal Lewis, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Adrian Peterson (three times), Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor (twice), LaDainian Tomlinson (four times). So how many of the 18 were flashes in the pan? I’ll give you Anderson, Harrison, Jones, Martin (I know it’s early but I’m calling it). The other guys were/are good. So that’s four pan flashes of 18 or a 22% chance that Gray is the stiff most thought he was. In other words, odds are about 3.5-to-1 in favor of Gray being some degree of good (which would make him a top projected back for the remainder of the season). We could say it’s less because Gray is playing for a coach that changes his game plan dramatically from game to game (though many coaches do this to some degree or have game flow do it for them) or, conversely, we can say this ...

  • Scouting Notebook: Anderson takes charge in Broncos backfield

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    To paraphrase Tolstoy (though this is way better than anything he ever wrote), all NFL weeks are crazy but Week 11 was crazy in its own way. If you would have asked me 20 questions about the week, I would have gotten 18 or maybe 19 wrong. But the one I got right arguably made up for all the misses because it was Jonas Gray and the Patriots desire to pound the snot out of the Colts with the run. Yes, I meekly said “at least 80 yards and a touchdown” for Gray on Twitter @michaelsalfino. And, yeah, the writing was on the wall if you make any note of the postseason games after our fantasy years are over. The Patriots did exactly the same thing to the Colts last year. So clearly they were going to at least try it. So I played Gray in all my leagues on Sunday, though to be fair I don’t really care much about running backs so his downside was pretty meaningless. Ranking Gray going forward is tough. I’ll say top 12, which is a very low bar this season. Alfred Morris is the 12th running back in half-point PPR (a great name for a baby, expecting fathers) in our Stopa 10K league (a terrible name for a baby). Morris doesn’t really catch either. And he barely gets touchdowns because the...

  • Splitsville: Strong to the finish

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    We’re entering the homestretch in fantasy football now and setting our rosters with the playoffs in mind. Many of us are trading depth that the passing bye weeks have mostly made obsolete and, of course, our desired targets are the players who’ve had the greatest impact thus far in 2014. Unfortunately, the season that’s before us is unlikely to bear much resemblance to the one in the rear-view mirror. Old stars will fade. New ones will be born. To help quantify this, I looked at the players who had the most impact the first 10 weeks of 2013, according to Pro-Football-Reference’s default fantasy football scoring, to see how they fared the rest of the season. And I also charted the top 20 fantasy scoring non-QBs the final seven weeks of 2013 to see if they were top-scoring non-QBs in weeks 1-through-10, too. (I wanted to eliminate the QBs completely because I don’t really care much at all about them but I get that’s a minority opinion.) I debated whether to lop off the non-week for us, Week 17. But I left it in because it counts all the same for the players and we do include it in the season scoring totals. First, let’s see how the top 40 last year, including QBs, fared in Weeks 11-17. Where I say N/A, that means they didn’t chart those final six weeks.

  • Scouting Notebook: Forecasting limitations

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    When you have the hottest quarterback ever (Ben Roethlisberger) facing the all-time worst pass defense (NY Jets) and the result is nothing close to a fantasy football points explosion, you have to stand back and assess our forecasting limitations. Players are volatile. Even the quarterback, who is able to express his skills more completely than other players, can be overwhelmed by his environment. Roethlisberger had no time to throw and was hit on most plays, sometimes even after the whistle. All the momentum that had been in his favor the prior two weeks went against him. And this was at the hands of the team setting new records for inept play versus opposing quarterbacks, having yielded 24 touchdown passes with only one pick. There’s nothing bankable about Roethlisberger or any player. What was and remains bettable about him, though, is that he’s a great player. But understand this has little currency if his teammates let him down. Look what happened to Tom Brady earlier this year. And there’s also a range of probabilities in his performance, too. We can only expect a player’s average day but we may get him at his best or at his worst, i.e., the 90th percentile day or the 10th percentile one. So, know what you can know and what you can’t. Roethlisberger is a great player with good receivers on a team with a bad defense. Those are three big plusses. The minuses are that the team is not really committed to having a wide-open passing offense and that the offensive line can be overpowered. This all adds up to Roethlisberger being a top 12 QB every week, one clearly worth betting on. But he’s going to be volatile and dependent on game flow, like 90 percent of players. On a similar note, I really try hard to not be reactionary with slumping players who have demonstrated elite talent and who should be in the prime of their career. But there’s no reason to start Michael Floyd right now. What’s frustrating to me, as someone who was so wrong about Floyd, is that I’d love to take some lesson out of this. Make it a teachable moment. But I can’t find one. This isn’t Corderrelle Patterson, who was mostly projection and playing in a new offense with a new quarterback. That’s lesson learned. Floyd seemed to have arrived last year in this offense with this quarterback (who is now out for the season). The Dallas Cowboys can’t generate enough volume to feed a high-flying running back, stud wide receiver and two more players. So Terrance Wiliams or Jason Witten alternate as the third option. While I’d still bet on Williams as a No. 3 receiver in standard scoring, the floor is too low in PPR, with 27 catches through 10 games. The 49ers and Jim Harbaugh don’t want to deploy Colin Kaepernick as a runner and he’s clearly not a volume passer. Kaepernick has 200 less rushing yards than Russell Wilson and zero rushing TDs to four for Wilson. There’s no reason why Kaepernick can’t run at least as well as Wilson and be an even bigger threat on the goal-line due to his superior size. On the positive side, Wilson’s running is bettable though it makes him highly volatile, too. He really needs explosive days with 70-plus yards. He is averaging almost 60 but there are already three 100-plus yard days mixed in there.

  • Splitsville: Passing up, QB down

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    Three items on the menu in Splitsville this week: the passing explosion, quarterback scoring and the rumored demise of the big wide receiver theory. The passing game in the NFL this year is like Coors Field with hitting. The numbers are crazy inflated. Passing accounts for 68.7% of total yardage this year, up from 64.4% in 2005 and 60.6% in 1980. And don’t think running backs are getting the rest as rushing yards by quarterbacks has increased to 11.7% of the total rushing yardage, up from 8% in 2005 and 7.5% in 1980. So it’s an explosion in passing yards and rushing yards by quarterbacks. And they’re siphoning off 11.1% of all rushing attempts now vs. 9.4% and 7.2% in 2005 and 1980, respectively. Man, it must suck to be a running back these days. So quarterback scoring is through the roof. But I believe that devalues the entire position. Andrew Luck has 25.6 fantasy points per game, according to Pro-Football-Reference. That’s an incredible-sounding total, but it’s less than two points better than Peyton Manning and about five points per game better than Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, who weren’t even drafted in most leagues. You can stream waiver-wire quarterbacks like Eli...

  • Scouting Notebook: Pocket presence

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 20 days ago

    So much for running quarterbacks being the kings of fantasy football at the position. We seek these running bonuses, but in Week 9, we paid the price in volatility as Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson ranked 17th, 18th and 21st in QB scoring. Meanwhile, six of the top seven were passers that hardly move outside the pocket in Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Carson Palmer. Ryan Tannehill is the new hybrid flavor of the month, averaging 22.1 points per week the past four, which is sixth best and slightly better than Drew Brees. The running quarterbacks are explosive, for sure, but so up and down. When the run is taken away by opposing defenses, schematically, they don’t have much to fall back on because they play on low-volume passing teams that lack the talent and chemistry needed to succeed in a more structured offense within the pocket. So if you don’t need the QB position to win, and you really should not, it’s generally the best practice to pick a pocket QB who will give you the floor you need to claim more wins through more consistent scoring. [ Related: Top fantasy pickups for Week 10 ] Many people went off of Brady and Manning...

  • Splitsville: Remarkable rookie receivers

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 24 days 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.

  • Scouting Notebook: Brady still elite

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 27 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.

  • Splitsville: Dealing with defenses

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 1 mth 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.

    To summarize vs. run, the friendliest defense/best matchups are, in order, the Falcons, Browns, Packers, Bengals, Panthers and Raiders. Those are the teams you are happiest to play your backs against. The toughest run defenses in the fantasy game to date, meaning stingiest in allowing fantasy rushing points, are (toughest first) Bills, Lions, Jets, Cardinals, Ravens and Seahawks.

  • Scouting Notebook: Move Murray?

    Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports 1 mth 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, ...