Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an experts league draft over at Play Togga.
This league is filled with respected representatives from Rotowire, Razzball, ESPN, and other noted fantasy and/or football sites and I had a blast as always. Last season, like Tottenham, I was in the title race until the last few weeks but could never quite catch up to the inevitable winner. That is two years in a row now that I have come in second place and last night was the first step towards what will hopefully be my first league title!
This will serve as a platform for me rambling about my team, the thought process behind each selection, and who I left on the board. If you want a more comprehensive review of the draft be sure to check out Rob Langevin’s review over at Razzball.
This fantasy draft was done in ‘snake format’ which means teams draft in numerical order (1-12) then reverse the following round (12-1). This meant I, with the second overall draft pick, would have twenty-two spots in between my picks one direction and just two spots the other direction. Despite having a very high pick, getting a bookend pick is always tough as you have basically two choices at every pick: take a player that has fallen through the ranks or reach for a player you like that you think will not be there twenty-two picks later.
Anyway, with those somewhat vague explanations out of the way let us take a look at how I did.
Drafted: Mesut Ozil, Midfielder, Arsenal
Ozil was the best player in draft formats last season and it wasn’t particularly close. His 19 assists and 146 chances created were not only the best in the Premier League but were at least 18% better than anyone else. We know his role in this attack, there’s little to no chance of rotation, and he is the lynchpin in their attack with only two other players in the league touching the ball more.
Considered: Aguero, De Bruyne, Payet
Aguero was tempting as I knew I would have to wait a long time before I’d get to pick again, but he does have injury problems and is less stellar in a format with comprehensive stats like dispossessions in which Aguero led the league (the bad way).
De Bruyne was phenomenal last season but the additions of Nolito and Sane could limit available minutes on the wings and David Silva is still at the club potentially blocking minutes up the middle. The talent is undeniable, but Ozil was the safe and likely better call.
Payet has Europa League football to worry about which means he will likely be subjected to more rotation than last season. With no new striker brought into the club, unless you count Ayew, which I don’t, West Ham could fall a little flat this season.
Drafted: Willian, Midfielder, Chelsea
I fell victim to past success a bit with this pick as Willian was a big gamble of mine last season that definitely paid off. The same question is being asked about him again this season in regards to minutes but, like last year, I’m willing to gamble on the Brazilian. The fact he takes set pieces and takes them well is an added bonus.
Considered: Barkley, Tadic, Giroud
After a hot start Barkley limped down the stretch with just 2 goals and 1 assist in 2016. The biggest concern for me is how often he’s uninvolved in play for Everton. Consider this: Gerard Deulofeu had the same amount of assists (9) in half the minutes played!
In hindsight I may end up regretting leaving Tadic on the board. He sneakily ended up 3rd in assists behind just Ozil and Eriksen last season. With manager Ronald Koeman gone he shouldn’t have to deal with random drops anymore and Mane’s departure should see Tadic have even more command of Southampton’s attack.
Kane, Vardy, Sanchez, Aguero, Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Deeney, and Martial were all taken in between my first and second pick. This meant Giroud was the next forward on my board and the drop-off after him was significant. However, I really didn’t want to start with 2 Arsenal players in my first 3 picks and figured the Arsenal fan, who was drafting after me, would save me from doing so.
Drafted: Olivier Giroud, Forward, Arsenal
I forgot that Arsenal fans A) don’t actually like Giroud and/or B) assume they will actually sign a striker. When I passed on Giroud with my 23rd pick I decided I would take him if he fell to me, and then he did.
Considered: Sturridge, Arnautovic
After I punted on forward in the second round I knew I had to grab someone for my front line. I was not prepared to waste my 3rd round pick on a player, in Sturridge, that has played more than 11 games just once in his career.
Arnautovic is listed as a forward in this format and he did have a terrific 2015/16 I just think Arsenal will score more goals than Stoke.
Drafted: Odion Ighalo, Forward, Watford
Honestly I got caught in a run on forwards and should have measured my surroundings a bit better. Costa and Musa were taken right in front of me and I was worried I’d miss out on the entire next tier in between my picks. Ighalo is obviously very involved in the Watford attack but I’m not sure how he will cope with yet another managerial change.
Considered: Benteke, Batshuayi, Koscielny
Benteke could do phenomenally well if he found his way to a smaller club, especially if he wound up at Palace who cross the ball better than most in the Premier League, but relying on a transfer was too big a gamble for me in the 4th round.
Batshuayi comes with similar playing time flags. Diego Costa is still at the club and, even if he wasn’t, I think Batshuayi will have a tougher time adjusting to the league than many assume.
In regards to Koscielny, tell me if you’ve heard this before… I really didn’t want to start off with 3 Arsenal players in my first 4 picks and figured the Arsenal fan, who was drafting after me, would save me from doing so.
Drafted: Laurent Koscielny, Defender, Arsenal
“Why is everyone making me take Arsenal players?!” I yelled at everyone else in the draft. Yes Arsenal are running short on healthy bodies at the back but the addition of Xhaka will help the defence from facing nearly as many threats this season. I have no doubt they’ll finish top 5 in clean sheets again.
Considered: Moreno, Alderweireld
I am slightly biased against Moreno because it frustrates me that he’s actually a very bad defender. What he does do is constantly bomb forward and whip in crosses, create chances, and get a fair few assists to show for it (4).
If this were the official game Alderweireld would be miles ahead of Koscielny. Interceptions was really the deciding factor for me as Koscielny had double the interceptions and, at a point a piece, that really adds up.
Drafted: Chris Smalling, Defender, Manchester United
Smalling had a terrific fantasy season last time out finishing second in both clean sheets and aerial duels. Now he has the defensive-minded Jose Mourinho at the helm, Luke Shaw back from injury, and David de Gea still in net. Smalling is easily a top 5 defender for me and was the 11th defender taken.
Considered: van Aanholt, Blind
Patrick van Aanholt had a whopping 6 goals last season and I’m really liking Sunderland heading into the new season. David Moyes should keep this defense headed in the right direction and the impending return of Yann M’Vila will help protect the back line and should see their clean sheet numbers increase.
Blind is a very intriguing option as he’s now listed as a defender, but his upside is limited as he’ll either actually play in the back line so there’s no extra value or he’ll be a part of a busy midfield and likely lose significant minutes. As I so often do, I took the safe pick with Smalling.
Drafted: Cheikhou Kouyate, Midfielder, West Ham
Kouyate was one of the guys I was targeting heading into the draft. While he’s not really phenomenal in any one category he does contribute in all of them and, as such, is very matchup proof. He has looked very good in the pre-season and should get 3,000+ minutes again this season.
Considered: Francis, Albrighton
Anyone who listens to the FPL Round Table will know I’m very high on Simon Francis this year. Unfortunately, I had just taken Koscielny and Smalling and knew there were many discount defenders I wanted to snag later on.
Albrighton was tempting but, unfortunately for him, I think the presence of Musa will see manager Claudio Ranieri switch to a 4-3-3 that would see Albrighton relegated to super-sub duty.
Drafted: Juan Cuadrado, Midfielder, Chelsea
This was a very tough pick to make and caused an immediate reaction from the other draftees, many of whom questioned if the Colombian would even stay at Chelsea. There was a run on midfielders right before me and while I do rate Cuadrado, even I can’t deny it was risky. The upside is that he is one of about five players at Chelsea who actually fit Conte’s system and, speaking of Conte, rumour has it that one of the reasons he walked out on Juventus was that they failed to sign Cuadrado.
Considered: Shaqiri, Elmohamady, Sane, Noble
All four of them went in the five picks before me which was obviously very, very frustrating.
Drafted: Max Gradel, Forward, Bournemouth
I’ll be honest, I really thought he’d be listed as a midfielder (a repeating issue as you’ll see throughout this article). That having been said, Gradel was terrific when fit last season. In fact, if you scale his production up from 10 matches played to 38 he would have finished with 10 goals and 18 assists. While I’m not expecting that much from him I do think he has a terrific season ahead of him.
Considered: Hernandez, Defoe, Rose, Dembele
I’ve loved Abel Hernandez ever since his Palermo days in Serie B. The problem is that Hull seem to be in an ever deepening downward spiral that has included loads of injuries and the last minute departure of manager Steve Bruce. Also, at the time of the draft there were rumours floating around that Hernandez could be lured back to Italy.
Defoe is much worse in this format than the official game as literally all he does is score goals. Considering the versatility of the forwards I already had I didn’t see much point in bringing the Sunderland man on board.
I desperately wanted to take a Spurs player here, but Rose will likely be part of the rotation with Davies that killed their fantasy potential last season and Dembele will miss the first month of the season via suspension and I figured he’d still be available at my next pick
Drafted: Aaron Cresswell, Defender, West Ham
He had been sitting at the top of the queue for so long that I just couldn’t resist anymore. I already had two top five defenders and I trust that I will be able to keep my head above water in the table until he returns. Worst case, he’s trade bait.
If Bojan had been listed as a midfielder, like he is in the official game, I would have drafted him here. I searched his name, saw he was a forward, and picked Cresswell straight away.
Drafted: Divock Origi, Forward, Liverpool
I am honestly not sure why my whole “anti-forward” sentiment faded away on this pick, but it did. Origi looks like he’ll be in line to get the start up front for Liverpool the first couple of matches with Sturridge sidelined by an injury. I’m more than willing to bet Sturridge plays less than 20 matches this season and Origi will be a decent to good play every time he’s called upon.
Drafted: Jonny Evans, Defender, West Brom
This was my worst pick in the draft. I was frantically searching for midfielders that I wanted and slowly realised that three midfielders on my board were all listed as forwards, a position that I had just filled with Origi. With about ten seconds left on the clock I figured Evans will either get plenty of clean sheets for West Brom or Arsenal if those rumours prove true. There are many defenders who I liked more who were still available much later in the draft.
Considered: Fischer, Lens, Rodriguez
I like all of them, all of them were available, all are listed as forwards which kills their value.
Drafted: Andrew Robertson, Defender, Hull
I love Robertson’s upside but hate the situation at Hull right now. His upside is worth a 12th round pick for me especially as he’ll have loads of opportunities for clearances and tackles as the midfield will likely offer little resistance to opposing teams. He has the attacking potential to make a solid enough impact to offset the few clean sheets they’ll manage this season.
Drafted: Danny Simpson, Defender, Leicester
There was a run of players I wanted heading into this pick so I basically punted with Simpson. Some think he could lose his spot in the Leicester defence but if not he’s certainly worth a 13th rounder and he’d be my 5th defender at this point anyway. Classic low-risk, high-reward.
Considered: Vertonghen, Janssen, Fischer
The Tottenham boys were gone by the time my pick came around and Fischer, who I’d finally decided was worth it despite being listed as a forward, was taken with the pick right before mine.
Drafted: Joe Hart, Goalkeeper, Manchester City
I usually don’t take keepers before the last round, but seeing as I’d be waiting 20+ picks I figured I may as well pull the trigger on the last tier 1 keeper in my rankings.
Considered: Whoever was the highest goalkeeper in my rankings.
Drafted: Leroy Fer, Midfielder, Swansea
This pick made me face the uncomfortable truth that I’d forgotten to draft enough midfielders. I passively knew that I’d been looking for a midfielder for a few rounds but failed to notice that the last midfielder I had drafted was in round 8. The fact that Ozil is already ruled out for match week 1 meant I needed someone who would start and the most attractive of the remaining options was Fer.
There were plenty of players I considered with my last pick but, seeing how plenty of them are still on waivers, I’m not at liberty to discuss them at this time.
My team composition ended up pretty far off course compared to my usual strategy. I typically want my midfield to be the strongest part of my team but left this draft with it being my weakest. Fortunately, in this format you are able to make trades so I will hopefully be able to shift one or two defenders in order to improve my midfield.
I took very few risks and instead opted for more reliable options than some of the other entrants. That having been said, my team lacks the upside of others and all in all I think I only had the 6th or 7th best team exiting the draft. Also, something that didn’t occur to me pick-by-pick was just how problematic MW1 will be for me. In my very first matchup of the season I’ll be without my Arsenal trio (who I didn’t really want anyway) as they’ve had extended rest after the Euros, Chris Smalling whose suspension was weirdly not cleared by sitting out of the Community Shield, and Aaron Cresswell who will be out until November. It is very difficult to win or lose a league on draft night, but I definitely have an uphill battle ahead of me this year.
PREDICTED FINISH: Fourth.