Neal Thurman

FPL Draft

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FPL Draft Strategy Tips

Friday, July 6, 2018


The Premier League's fantasy draft game has launched for a second season and that means kicking off the fantasy season with a reminder on draft strategy.  There are no hard and fast rules about how to draft a winning team but the following discussion of scarcity by position will help fantasy managers better understand the difference between the Salary Cap game (where all players are available to all managers) and the Draft game where a player can only be owned by a single manager.  In other words, in this format scarcity matters!

 

Positional Scarcity

The concept of positional scarcity is driven by the rules that this game format imposes on managers.  By requiring managers to own 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 3 forwards, the game forces us to make the most of those spots in our squad.  While there are plentiful (45) defenders who will score between 90 and 120 points over the course of a season, there are barely any (15) who fit the same category at forward.  As a result, landing your forwards before all the decent ones are gone is critical, you can always find a competent defender later in the draft. 


Scarcity by Position

Forwards - An 8-team league means that 24 forwards will be drafted.   The results for the 24th most prolific forward from last season, Steve Mounie at 92 points, aren't good.  Locking in one, or preferably two, premium forwards with your first two picks should be the goal. If you have the number one overall pick then, sure, you're going with Salah and figuring out your forwards later.  Otherwise, the prudent move is to get your forwards earlier.  The difference you get between your forward slot and that of your opponent each week will be a significant advantage.  The reclassification of Marko Arnautovic and Wilfried Zaha as forwards will help reduce the imbalance of available talent somewhat.


Midfielders – Mo Salah was an outlier and there's no reasno to think he won't be again this season.  Beyond Salah, midfielders are more plentiful than forwards and fairly tightly grouped.  You definitely want to do your best to pick up one of the "sure things" along the lines of Christen Eriksen, Kevin De Bruyne, or Eden Hazard along with your heavy hitting forward(s).  After that, though, there are a lot of question and lottery tickets to be purchased.  There are a number of extremely talented players at big clubs like Sterling, Sane, Willian, Mkhitaryan, etc who are very productive but not necessarily reliable when it comes to mintues played and/or injuries.  There are also a bunch of fixtures at mid-tier clubs who will certainly produce above average numbers and be very reliable week-to-week.  Finally, there will be the big swings on new arrivals.  Will Ryan Sessegnon bring his Championship production with him to the Premier League or will he disappoint like Anthony Knockaert or Tom Ince did last season? 

 

Defenders – As you move back in the formation, scarcity becomes less and less of an issue in this format.  This has become even more true as Spurs have divided minutes up between their outside backs (thereby reducing their value) and Chelsea fell back from their blistering Clean Sheet pace from Antonio Conte's first season.  With uncertainty at outside back at Manchester United (Dalot vs Valencia vs Young vs new arrival), Arsenal (Lichsteiner vs Bellerin and Kolasinac vs Monreal), and Liverpool (Alexander-Arnold vs Clyne) there just aren't many sure star defenders for the upcoming season.  I might jump on Azpilicueta or Alonso or Walker in the 6th or 7th round but unless I see an opening to get someone who is pretty close to a sure thing, I'm probably waiting until I have all of my forwards and midfielders before I start in on my defense. 

 

Goalkeepers – Taking the lack of scarcity and urgency to draft to the extreme, you have goalkeepers. The difference between the best goalkeeper and the 8th best (presumably the worst projected starter in an 8-team league) is less than one point per match over the course of a 38 match season.  Would I rather have David De Gea than the 8th best goalkeeper? Sure.  Am I willing to invest one of my first 10 picks to do so? I am not.  There are always Nick Popes or Lucasz Fabianskis who emerge during a season and make such an investment look foolish.  

 

Ways Around Scarcity

There are two strategies that can help you look past positional scarcity when you are looking to draft a team - Handcuffing and Streaming.


Handcuffing

The straight-forward way to look at the available talent is to rank the players at a given position and try to take those players most likely to produce the highest point totals over the course of a season.  For instance, if you're looking at forwards you are probably looking at one "top tier" forward, we'll say Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for this example, one second tier forward, we'll say Chris Wood, and then a third tier forward of the Callum Wilson variety. 

When you look at that trio, a couple of things stick out.  First, you likely will be getting a good proportion of Arsenal's goals UNLESS Aubameyang gets injured for a significant period of time.  Second, you're probably not going to play Callum Wilson too often UNLESS Aubameyang (and a bunch of your midfielders) are unavailable. 

Rather than spending that third forward spot on a starter who isn't likely to feature much in your starting line-up, why not buy Alexandre Lacazette as insurance against an Aubameyang injury?  That way you are fairly certain that you will get the lion's share of Arsenal goals from forwards even if Aubameyang does get injjured or rotated and while you probably still hope your third forward doesn't come into play, if he does you have a better chance of getting production from that spot.  

This concept is called handcuffing in fantasy and it can help turn players who aren't, on their own merits, worthy of a roster spot, into worthwhile players for the manager that owns the other half of the handcuff.  Alvaro Morata (or whomever Chelsea replaces him with) and Olivier Giroud fit this bill.  Spurs' outside back pairings likewise lend themselves to handcuffing. Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford aren't quite as good a fit but probably work as well.  The only big conundrum that managers have when it comes to handcuffing is how to treat the potential overload of Manchester City attacking midfielders who may well rotate in a lot of ways leaving a manager with the potential of having two City midfielders that sit in a given week.  

 

Streaming

Another way around the notion of picking a mediocre player in the later rounds is the concept of streaming.  If he played all of his matches at home against newly promoted Cardiff City (who weren't particularly prolific in front of goal in the Championship last sesason), Ben Mee would be a high value draft pick.  Playing on the road against Manchester City, not so much.  "Streaming" is the notion of considering one or more of your second goalkeeper, fifth defender, fifth midfielder, and third forward as temporary residents on your squad who fluctuate from week-to-week based on match-ups.  In 8-team leagues there are almost always a few worthy players at each position available on waivers. Not getting too attached to your fringe players and actively managing your roster can see those fringe spots contribute a great deal more than the season-long totals of the players you might be able to draft in the 13th, 14th, and 15th rounds of your draft. 

 

Hopefully, the above will help you start to put together a strategy for your draft.  Good luck and hit us up on Twitter @Rotoworld_PL if you have any questions. 



Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
Email :Neal Thurman



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