Michael Salfino

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Michael Salfino provides quantitative player and team analysis for the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo! Sports.

  • Week 6 Fantasy Football Power Rankings: Tom Brady ready for Colts

    Let’s put a fantasy spin on this week’s action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance using the over/under totals from Las Vegas, specifically as reflected on Wednesday at VegasInsider.com.

    Note: Dollar values in parentheses denote a player's current week price in the Yahoo Daily Fantasy game. It is displayed for point of reference.

    [Enter Yahoo's 50/50 Contest for an even bigger shot at winning! Top half wins cash]

    The Big Three

    Patriots at Colts, Sunday, 8:30, O/U 55: Vegas seems confident that Andrew Luck ($39) will play. How he will play is another matter. Last week, Donte Moncrief ($21) owners were really hurt by the Colts devising an Andre Johnson-revenge game script. But will Indy see this as a validation and now look to give Johnson ($14), who is in full decline, starter snaps at Moncrief’s expense? The Patriots have preferred to run the ball down Indy’s throat in the past but you have to think that Tom Brady ($46) is going to want revenge given

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  • Week 5 Fantasy Football Power Rankings: Brees should continue momentum

    Let’s put a fantasy spin on the Week 5 action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance (a Fantasy Power Rankings if you will) using the over/under totals from Las Vegas, specifically as reflected on Wednesday at VegasInsider.com.

    Note: Dollar values in parentheses denote a player's current week price in the Yahoo Daily Fantasy game. It is displayed for point of reference.

    Fab Four

    1. Patriots at Cowboys, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, O/U 49.5: Will the Cowboys use Christine Michael ($10) finally? I’m sick of holding him but you really must. RB allocation will be the big question for the Patriots, too, though I firmly believe that Dion Lewis ($25) is the guy to own here even in half-point PPR. You don’t want to pay for garbage time stats because it’s much harder to play in these situations and the backups could come in early. So fade the Cowboys in this game, all of them.

    [Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football: Enter our $750K Week 5 contest]

    2. Saints at Eagles, Sunday,

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  • Week 4 Fantasy Power Rankings: Aaron Rodgers has another great matchup

    Let’s put a fantasy spin on the Week 4 action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance using the over/under totals from Las Vegas, specifically as reflected on Wednesday at VegasInsider.com.

    Note: Dollar values in parentheses denote a player's current week price in the Yahoo Daily Fantasy game. It is displayed for point of reference.

    The Fab Four

    1. Jaguars at Colts, Sunday, 1 p.m. (all times EST), O/U 48: Andrew Luck, battling a tender throwing shoulder is reportedly out, which is rough considering  the Jaguars gave up over 50 points to the Patriots last week. They were demolished by the air and ground in that game, so maybe Frank Gore ($22) can provide that high-end RB2 value is owners expected. Donte Moncrief ($25), America’s newest impact WR, will try to score a TD in his fourth-straight game with Matt Hasselbeck now under center. Allen Robinson ($26) needs to show some week-in and week-out consistency, but that’s almost impossible with a poor QB

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  • Week 3 Fantasy Power Rankings: Steelers, Rams in spotlight with anticipated debuts

    Let’s put a fantasy spin on the Week 3 action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance using the over/under totals from Las Vegas, specifically as reflected on Thursday at VegasInsider.com.

    Note: Dollar values in parentheses denote a player's current week price in the Yahoo Daily Fantasy game. It is displayed only for the sake of reference.

    The Fab Four
     1. Steelers at Rams, 1:00 (all times EST), O/U 48: The return of LeVeon Bell ($35 in Yahoo DFS this week) and likely debut of Todd Gurley ($25) are the stories here. Neither is an ideal play in their first action of the season. The Rams run defense sure seems overrated off getting blasted by the Redskins last week. It’s hard to get a feel for the Rams passing game and how targets are distributed, but Nick Foles is a sneaky good play against a porous Pittsburgh secondary. Ben Roethlisberger ($43): No. 1 fantasy QB? All he ever needed was volume, which he’s getting courtesy of his lousy defense that will
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  • Week 2 Fantasy Viewer's Guide: Eagles and Cowboys have questions to answer

    We're back looking at Week 2 action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance using the over/under totals reflected on our odds page (skipping the Thursday game).

    [Yahoo Daily Fantasy Football: Enter our $1 Million Week 2 contest]

    The Top Five

     1. Cowboys at Eagles, Sunday, 4:25 (all times ET), O/U 55:

    How will the Cowboys play it with Dez Bryant out? I expect Cole Beasley ($16 in Yahoo DFS this week) to turn into a Julian Edelman PPR machine and for the Cowboys to employ a lot of two-TE looks with Gavin Escobar’s size and athleticism now badly needed, especially in the red zone. Joseph Randle ($23) seemed like a backup with the Cowboys averaging just 3.5 per carry. The only back on the roster who seems cut to be a bell cow is Christine Michael, but he will probably be inactive again.

    The Eagles running game is a central concern for those invested in DeMarco Murray ($33) as the abandonment of the zone-read action in an effort to protect Sam Bradford ($42)

    Read More »from Week 2 Fantasy Viewer's Guide: Eagles and Cowboys have questions to answer
  • Week 1 Fantasy Viewer's Guide: A bountiful battle of the birds

    Let’s put a fantasy spin on the Week 1 action by ranking the games in expected order of point-producing relevance using the over/under totals from Las Vegas, specifically as reflected on Thursday at VegasInsider.com.

     We’ll ignore the Thursday game, which should produce many points this week. But at least it’s not the No. 1 game on the board. You have to go to Atlanta if you are searching for the point motherlode. Unfortunately, you have to wait until Monday night

    The Top Five

     1. Eagles at Falcons, Monday, 7:10 pm (all times EST), O/U 55.5: The Eagles play faster than everyone which means you get more plays out of whoever they face that week, too. So expect Philly game’s to dominate this weekly ranking. Is Sam Bradford the quarterback Chip Kelly has been searching for? I expect him to finish inside the top 10 this year and especially this week. Yes, Bradford’s knees are made of fine porcelain. However, he now gets an ace offensive line. Hopefully, though, not too many read options

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  • By the Numbers: Morris hurt by Washington turning to Cousins at QB

    Cousins/Morris not a match made in heaven. (Getty)Cousins/Morris not a match made in heaven. (Getty)Let’s look at some late value movers as we race to the finish in fantasy draft season.

    Of course we have to start with Tom Brady now that his suspension has been overturned by the courts. I think this hurts people who were speculating on Jonas Gray for Week 1 (when LeGarrette Blount is suspended). I’d expect the Patriots to lean more to the passing game but you never really know. And that’s the problem with paying for Brady as your fantasy QB: the Patriots gameplan-variable offense. Last year, they had three games of 50-plus passing attempts and three of 37 or more rushing attempts and game flow was not a big factor in these games; it was design.

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    Kirk Cousins gets the Redskins QB drop now going forward and this is likely going to hurt Alfred Morris very badly. Last year, according to Rotoviz, Morris averaged 4.4 yards per carry with Robert Griffin III as the QB and 3.5 without him. Career it’s 4.7 with RGII and 3.7

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  • By the Numbers: What to do when you can't get Gronk

    If you miss on your top TE targets, get Walker. (Getty)If you miss on your top TE targets, get Walker. (Getty)Let’s look at market share with the tight end crop as we look beyond last year’s raw stats to attempt to determine what is more predictive than descriptive.

     The idea here is to see the percentage of targets, yards and touchdowns each tight end was allocated last year. We adjust for games played, so consider these numbers to be on a per-game basis. I think touchdowns are least predictive and targets most predictive but yards are very important too, especially relative to targets. So the players who gained a higher percentage of their team passing yards than the passing target share they were allocated are reasonably in line for more targets this year, assuming their teams are aware of this efficiency.

     Since we’re mostly playing in 12-team, one-tight end leagues, I’ve determined the top 12 ranges and averages in each of these categories last year.

     As a share of targets (again this is all top-12 only), the range was 16.1% to 22.9% in the top 12 and average target share was 19.2%. 

    [

    Read More »from By the Numbers: What to do when you can't get Gronk
  • By the Numbers: It's time for more Miller in Miami

     Let’s continue our By the Numbers overview of the fantasy football landscape by focusing on the ground with the running back position. 

    Miller, a down/distance stalwart.  (Getty)Miller, a down/distance stalwart. (Getty)I decided against a zeroRB redux this year. The approach worked out well for many of you last year but that doesn’t mean it will work again. I’m still a big proponent of it, for the same reason we went over last August.  And just like last year, in this column, we’ll review our favorite RB selections in each of the zero RB rounds, let’s call it rounds 6 through 14.

    But the stat I’m highlighting this year and one that I really wish was publicly available in place of yards per rush, often a terrible benchmark, is the rate at which a backs runs are successful as it relates to down and distance. But how do we do this? Through my work with Massey-Peabody Analytics, I’ve settled on first-down success being defined as gaining 40% of yards needed to convert a first down or touchdown, second-down success is getting at least 50% of the remaining yards and

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  • If you're going to draft a QB early, go Aaron Rodgers over Andrew Luck

    If you feel the need to draft a QB early, Aaron Rodgers may be the most prudent choice.   (Getty)If you feel the need to draft a QB early, Aaron Rodgers may be the most prudent choice. (Getty)

    Let’s provide some contrarian analytics for projecting the quarterback position by looking at how each has actually performed the past three years per 525 pass attempts. 

    This really shakes up the draft board and is admittedly just Step 1 in a two-step process. After we get a firm handle on the efficiency with which each passer is likely to produce, we have to then take into account how much over or under those 525 pass attempts each passer is likely to be. But I would bet efficiency heavier than volume (again never discounting volume completely) because team circumstances and game flow can have a big impact on volume — and are very hard to project.

    [Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today!]

    But first, where should we draft our quarterbacks? Ideally, as late as possible. You can easily thrive with the 10-through-15 quarterbacks off the board. I like to double up on a couple passers in leagues that are one quarterback, but where the common practice is to drain

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