Here we are in the dreaded blank gameweek, where FPL Draft managers don’t get the luxury of a Free Hit chip like our FPL.com brethren. Don’t worry though, because I’ll give you some options to both fill in the gaps over the weekend as well as some players to hold onto for the remainder of the season. Remember, it’s unlikely that anyone with a serious chance at providing massive points this weekend will be available on the waiver wire, so don’t worry too much.
My picks from last week didn’t produce too many points other than Angus Gunn’s four saves for Southampton, but I did see some returns from a couple of recent picks. James Ward Prowse and Luka Milivojevic continued to star with a goal and three bonus points each, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored again and Diogo Jota recorded an assist and bonus point.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 31. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL)— I would love to include your thoughts here in this column next week and throughout the season. If you don’t want your name mentioned, just let me know; otherwise, I’ll be sure to give your Twitter handle a shout-out.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the good folks at Fantasy Premier League on a weekly basis. Our friends at FPL.com take the data from a thousand private leagues, all of which consist of eight teams, in order to minimize the impact of data from public leagues where autopick drafting is more prevalent.
Of course, it’s just a sample size, so it’s not hard and fast; but it should give us a good idea of the tendencies of FPL Draft leagues and managers. Remember, the waivers deadline is a full 24 hours before the first game of the week, and the lowest-placed team in your league gets the first pick.
One-week Pick (OWP) - When a regular is suspended for a match, ineligible to face his parent club as a loanee, or his fill-in looks to deputize for only a week while the regular nurses a minor injury, this is where to find some replacements. They should only be looked at when you really need help at a position that week alone, and not looked at as long term plays. Best for salary cap leagues with unlimited transactions, not so much for draft leagues.
Short-term Pick (STP) - When a regular faces a multi-game suspension, an injury layoff lasting 2-5 weeks, international commitment, etc., this is where you look for players that can offer more beyond one week but do have a limited shelf life in most cases. Worth using a waiver claim or spending a bit more of your free agent budget (FAAB) than the One Week Buys. Can be useful in salary-cap format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks.
Long-term Pick (LTP) - When a regular is either facing a month or more out or has lost his spot seemingly to someone better, these are the players that emerge as potential long-term investments and are therefore the most valuable of the group and worth paying up. Great for any format, but especially valuable in draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Artur Boruc (Bournemouth)
As I mentioned, we’re already pretty limited this week with the blank gameweek, but now we have to apply that to an already restricted category: goalkeepers. I recommended the ageless Artur Boruc a couple of weeks ago when he took back the starting job from Asmir Begovic in Gameweek 23, but I think the Polish international may be worth another look after Bournemouth recorded a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town this weekend, especially when looking at the club’s upcoming schedule.
The Cherries have one of the most favorable schedules in the league to end the season: Newcastle, Leicester City, Burnley, Brighton, Fulham, Southampton, Spurs, Crystal Palace. If you have a need at goalkeeper for the blank weekend, Boruc looks like your best widely available option for the future available in more than 70 percent of our latest sample of FPL Draft leagues—along with Tom Heaton and Sergio Rico, Boruc is one of the only keepers available in more than half of leagues to play this weekend.
DEF – Florian Lejeune (Newcastle)
My recent Newcastle defensive pick in Fabian Schär has been on fire of late, and would have been a great option for the blank gameweek, but he went and picked up his 10th yellow card of the season over the weekend in the pettiest of ways which means he’ll miss the next two games. But Florian Lejeune remains a solid option for those of you looking to fill in a fourth or fifth defensive spot for the weekend and is taken in only two percent of our sample of FPL Draft leagues.
Since returning from a long-term injury, Lejeune has played the full 90 minutes in each of the last nine games, reaffirming his importance in Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez’s three-man defensive scheme. And in case you want a defender for the long-term, the Magpies schedule is promising for the near future as well with Bournemouth, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Southampton and Brighton on deck. He may not have the flair that Schar possesses, but Lejeune will be a great filler at the very least.
MID – Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)
Since his arrival on loan from Monaco in the winter transfer window, Youri Tielemans has been someone who I’ve kept an eye on. The 21-year-old has not needed much time in getting used to the Premier League and has two assists and a goal in his last three matches for the Foxes. And the best part is that other fantasy managers have yet to catch on as Tielemans is only taken in 23 percent of FPL Draft leagues despite his goal and two bonus points over the weekend against Fulham.
I also like Leicester City’s schedule for the coming month, filled with a couple of clubs with dubious defensive records: Burnley, Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle and West Ham before a rough final three weeks to end the season (Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea). And now that the Belgian international has scored his first Premier League, here’s to hoping that new manager Brendan Rodgers can get the best out of this young talent in a more attacking setup.
FWD – Ayoze Pérez (Newcastle)
A couple of weeks ago, I highly recommended Newcastle forward Salomon Rondon as a premium bargain buy, and in the last eight games the Venezuelan has recorded three goals, three assists and seven points. Unfortunately, Rondon has seen his ownership in FPL Draft skyrocket to 78 percent. But if he’s not available you aren’t totally locked out of the Newcastle attack with Ayoze Pérez available in 40 percent of FPL Draft leagues, which will surely rise this week.
Perez played the hero over the weekend in a 3-2 comeback win over Everton by contributing to every Newcastle goal with two goals and an assist to go with his three bonus points. In those last eight matches, the Spaniard has recorded four goals and one assist, which doesn’t put him too far off Rondon’s point total in that time. So don’t’ be discouraged if you can’t get Rondon because Perez is a viable option, especially if you’re just looking for a weekend fill.