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Splitsville: Dink-and-dunk in Dallas

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

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Tony Romo has taken the air out of the pigskin this season. (USAT)

Let’s continue to statistically break down football in the areas that are most fantasy relevant in the Splitsville column. But remember, every Sunday night, I tell you what I’ve seen beyond the numbers by watching all the games in my Scouting Notebook.

In actual Yahoo! fantasy scoring through three weeks, Colin Kaepernick is the 25th ranked QB. Tom Brady is 24th. Philip Rivers is fifth.

Stephen Hill is the 25th-highest-scoring WR, more than Torrey Smith, Vincent Jackson, James Jones, Marques Colston and Mike Wallace. And Hill has scored just five points less than Dez Bryant and 1.4 less than Larry Fitzgerald.

Brian Hartline is the 15th WR, assuming 0.75 PPR.

Bilal Powell is the 11th-ranked RB, with more points currently than Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and, course, Trent Richardson. We don’t even need to cheat by including some injured highly-drafted backs. Fred Jackson, a Scott Pianowski special, is 10th. Joique Bell is sixth but you knew that; I just don’t want to get the Bell brigade mad at me.

I yelled at everyone to draft Powell all August on Twitter (and to forget about Chris Ivory who, shocker, is again injured). Please believe the data now and treat him as a mid-range RB2. And you can’t write off any offense that puts up 500 yards in a week. This doesn’t mean the Jets offense is good, but it absolutely means it isn’t some joke. These surprises happen every year, which is why you should always fish for the key players in offenses most are fading.

Broncos TE Julius Thomas would rank in the top 20 among wide receivers.

Kansas City is easily the most productive defense and gets a Giants team this week that allowed six sacks in their first nine pass plays.

Cecil Shorts is the most targeted wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks is 61st.

Hill’s 12.9 yards per target leads the NFL (minimum 15 targets), according to Pro-Football Focus. The rest of the top 10 in this efficiency stat: DeSean Jackson, Nicks, Santonio Holmes, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown, Donnie Avery, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Washington and Julio Jones. Nicks’s targets were fine before last week, when he got either one or none depending on whether you include a pass thrown out of bounds.

We have nine tight ends this year who line up in the slot over 50 percent of snaps, not including times the tight end is split out far wide. These players in order of slot percentage: Dallas Clark, Brandon Myers, Tony Gonzalez, Charles Clay, Antonio Gates, Jordan Cameron, Kellen Winslow, Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook. Interestingly, there were more tight ends last year (13) with slot percentages over 50 percent. I’d make a move now on Cook, hoping he and the Rams can make the adjustments to get him the ball more consistently.

Peyton Manning has had a league-high 10.7 percent of his passes dropped. If you add them to his completions, his true accuracy rate is 84.3 percent. Of course, that would be highest ever recorded by ProFootballFocus and is 100 percent ridiculous.

Perhaps even more impressive is that, when under pressure, Philip Rivers has an accuracy rate of 85.7 percent (backing out one clear throw away and two drops).

Kaepernick has been pressured 38 times and has as many sacks (six) as completions. This is league worst and just sickening if you own him. I have no read on Kaepernick now and I was all in all summer and, of course, after Week 1. He’s been shockingly bad, including a home game against a Colts defense that was ineffective prior to Week 3.

According to ProFootballFocus, Peyton Manning has been pressured least (20.6%) and, among current starters, Michael Vick most (44.9%). Other extreme pressure QBs on the good side: Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Rivers, Smith and Romo (all under 30% pressured). On the bad side: Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning (all over 40% pressured).

Geno Smith leads the NFL with 10 recorded throwaways. Of course, some of his interceptions should have been thrown away, too. But this is a good sign.

Here are QBs with an average pass length (air yards from scrimmage) over 10 yards, in order (according to the NFL): Vick, Josh Freeman, Geno Smith, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Kaepernick, Eli Manning. But only two QBs have an average length of over nine yards on completions: Wilson and Smith.

Romo is 32nd in average air yards per attempt, very bad news for Dez Bryant backers like me. That’s between Alex Smith (33rd) and Sam Bradford. I hate guys like this and Romo has never been one of them. So I have no idea how to rank him but am inclined to drop him hard.

Wilson’s TD rate is sustainable given his sterling 9.1 yards per attempt (YPA). Matthew Stafford is over 8.0, too, (proving me wrong) and Eli Manning is 8.2. I’d buy Manning low right now in 14-team leagues. In two QB leagues (and even on bye weeks like this week), consider Geno Smith (solid 7.9 YPA), whose legs also give him a decent floor. We’ve covered the relationship between YPA and TD rate at length here.

Seattle is averaging 2.75 yards per rushing play on first down and 9.11 per passing play yet have a 56-35 run/pass split there. Of course, they’re 3-0 and unlikely to change.

If Rob Gronkowski comes back at 100 percent, maybe Brady’s 5.5 YPA is rendered less meaningful. But the safe play now is to trade Brady’s name value, assuming you can get close to August return. In leagues with no interception tax, I’d take Eli Manning over Brady right now (mostly because I am skeptical about Gronk). Andrew Luck’s YPA is 7.1, which bodes poorly for fantasy productivity (and reality productivity, too). But even worse than Luck are RGIII, Palmer, Romo, Newton, Schaub, Manuel, Smith, Bradford and Flacco (and Brady worse among them all). I’d throw Romo and Newton’s YPA to date in the shredder if it wasn’t for changes in offensive philosophy on their respective teams. Translation: I'm worried about them both.

Worst running backs in pass protection among the fantasy football relevant, according to ProFootballFocus (in order of awfulness): Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Daniel Thomas and Ray Rice. Sample sizes are pretty small though with one sack allowed just killing the rating. Who cares who the good guys are because it can really only hurt your playing time. Note Lamar Miller grades badly in this stat, too.

DeMarco Murray has forced (or maybe just benefited randomly from) a league-high 20 missed tackles. It’s probably a combination of both, though the offense always has more control over outcomes so I think this is a good stat. Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy have each forced (for lack of a better term) 18 missed tackles. Rashard Mendenhall has forced just two, but the lowest rate is Chris Johnson (four in 71 touches).

Johnson has only two catches? Why? Murray’s 16 catches are a shock and perhaps projectable given the new dink-and-dunk nature of the Cowboys’ passing attack.
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