The start of the Premier League season will soon be upon us. The opening of the Premier League’s fantasy games will be upon us even sooner than that. I’m well aware that your attention is probably firmly rooted in the wonderful World Cup unfolding in Russia but as you watch, we will start feeding you some research so you are prepared for your Premier League fantasy draft when the time comes.
Frankly, the best place to start is with the performances we saw last season. Now, you don’t want to assume that things will stay the same and that’s the premise of this column. We’ll start with the players who would have been draft-worthy in an 8-team PL.com draft league and discuss what has changed that might change your thinking coming into the 2018-19 season.
First, a note about position. A productive forward is the rarest thing in the Fantasy Premier League world. While the salary cap version of the game offers an abundance of options for all managers, single ownership means that there are 24 roster spots for forwards in an 8-team league but not nearly that many useful options. The gap between Harry Kane and his 217 points last season and the 24th ranked forward from last term (Steve Mounier who scored a mere 92 points over 1849 minutes) is massive. Picking a forward with your first draft choice is almost an imperative (unless you pick Salah at number one overall) and hitting on a second who could get you triple digit points over the season is just as important. You can always go with a one forward alignment but if you’re pinning your hopes there and your one forward gets hurt you’re looking at a big gap in your line-up.
Our analysis starts with a look at the top 50 scoring midfielders from last season and how, if at all, their situations have changed.
- Harry Kane, TOT (217 points) – The most consistent option available at forward and the presumptive number two overall pick in your draft behind Mohamed Salah.
- Jamie Vardy, LEI (183 points) – Hard to argue with the production but if Riyad Mahrez is leaving then I’m not confident that Vardy can maintain his exceptional production. Still a top five or six forward but no higher than that.
- Roberto Firmino, LIV (181 points) – Given some of the uncertainty around some of the other top options, Firmino is the second most attractive option among forwards for me. His point total isn’t likely to go up that much higher but there isn’t much risk associated with it either.
- Sergio Aguero, MCI (169 points) – We’ll never know how Pep would have handed out minutes between Aguero and Gabriel Jesus if both had been healthy all season. Aguero produced like a top five forward and first round pick but there is risk of a reduced role. At the very least, there is risk that he’ll not feature 10 to 15 times which is a lot to make up for in a draft league.
- Romelu Lukaku, MUN (162 points) – Under a different manager, Lukaku would be a threat for the top forward spot. Under Mourinho, it is easy to worry that he sees his opportunity diminished. He should still be one of the first four forwards drafted but I’d not be as enthusiastic about getting him with my first round pick as I was in multiple leagues last season.
- Alexandre Lacazette, ARS (138 points) – What will become of Lacazette after the arrival of a rival for playing time (Aubameyang) and a new manager (Emery)? It is hard to see a situation where Emery plays two forwards regularly enough to justify drafting Lacazette as a starting forward. My approach would be to either let someone else draft him based on last season’s totals or let him fall to the late rounds and pick him up as a handcuff for Aubameyang if he slips fall enough to make that a good use of resources.
- Gabriel Jesus, MCI (126 points) – The anxiety that I get from the notion of facing a choice between the certainty of Jamie Vardy starting (but maybe dropping off due to age/team regression) vs picking between Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus Is real. If one of the City forwards emerges as a regular starter then he’s the clear choice and probably on par with Harry Kane as the first overall forward selected. As part of a potential rotation, both are tantalizing and efficient but worry me as sources of regular zeroes and ones for my team. I wish I could see inside Pep’s head and give you a better answer than what I have.
- Ayoze Perez, NEW (124 points) – If I had told you at the start of last season that Ayoze Perez would out-point Alvaro Morata, you’d have laughed me off of the Internet. Well, it happened. With all but one of his goals coming after 2017 turned to 2018, the trajectory heading into the upcoming season is certainly exciting. Can Perez join Jamie Vardy as top tier forwards outside the top six? I suspect that your fellow managers will devalue the Spaniard and allow you a clear path to figuring out if this was real or the second coming of Joshua King’s 2016-17 second half of the season.
- Alvaro Morata, CHE (122 points) – It certainly looks like Morata will be either transferred out or de-emphasized at Chelsea if a buyer can’t be found. Whomever takes the lead forward role at Chelsea should be considered a top tier forward but my suspicion is that it won’t be Morata.
- Wayne Rooney, EVE (113 points) – Wayne officially joined me in the DC metropolitan area as of July 1 so any fantasy commentary will have to take place on an MLS fantasy forum rather than here. If you’re interested, I’m bullish on him for MLS fantasy purposes and excited to see what happens as he tries to run around in 90+ degree heat plus high humidity.
- Glenn Murray, BHA (111 points) – Can he do it again? And by “it” I mean be a solid second forward despite looking more like he should be doing your taxes?
- Joshua King, BOU (110 points) – We know the potential is there from the second half of the season two seasons ago. We also know he can be pedestrian. There is certainly upside if he can push his 26 starts to 34 or so.
- Jay Rodriguez, WBA (109 points) – Currently still in the West Brom squad bound for a season in the Championship but if he comes back up with a club like Southampton (who need a forward in the worst way) then he could have upside after another year between him and his injury has passed.
- Jordan Ayew, SWA (108 points) – Not much hope of a return to the Premier League based on the rumors I’ve read.
- Chris Wood, BUR (104 points) -104 points in 18 starts is a solid return. If he can double his starts he will be an excellent option even at 2/3rds of the points/match. I’d consider him a very solid bet as your second forward.
- Marcus Rashford, MUN (104 points) – We know the potential is there but will the opportunity be there to improve on the 18 starts of last season? With Alexis having arrived at mid-season it seems like there will be less opportunity rather than more which could see Rashford’s value hold steady or even decline slightly.
- Salomon Rondon, WBA (103 points) – Rumors of a move to Newcastle could see Rondon’s value as a third forward return with him to the Premier League after being relegated with West Brom. Hard to see a ton of upside though going from one goal shy side to another.
- Callum Wilson, BOU (102 points) – Will he ever be healthy enough for us to find out if he can fulfill the potential he had when the Cherries were promoted? He managed 23 starts and a pedestrian 102 points last season. If he can pull it all together and be a regular starter then he could be great draft value. I wouldn’t bet anything more than a late round pick on that though.
- Mame Biram Diouf, STK (99 points) – Relegated with Stoke City and there haven’t been many rumblings about a return thus far this summer.
- Laurent Depoitre, HUD (94 points) – As so many on this list are, Depoitre is a part-time starter who just wasn’t good enough to merit a full-time role for the Terriers. They will surely look for alternatives in the transfer market that could push him down the pecking order.
- Dwight Gayle, NEW (94 points) – Apparently when you’re fighting for goals you just keep rotating forwards until something clicks. Ayoze Perez clicked for the Magpies over the second half of last season leaving Gayle as second choice at best for Rafa Benetiz heading into the upcoming campaign.
- Chicharito, WHU (93 points) – Hard to know what will become of Chicharito under a new manager. Arnautovic will certainly be playing regularly so we’ll have to see if Chicharito joins him in the attack. As with so many forward options, the big gap is playing time and if Chicharito gets a real shot at starting then he’s probably a 2nd forward. If not, he’s no better than a streaming option.
- Ashley Barnes, BUR (92 points) – Speaking of streaming options, Ashley Barnes is exactly that with little hope of nailing down a regular job based on what we’ve seen so far.
- Steve Mounie, HUD (92 points) – A season that started out with a brace played out to be far less exciting than that for Mounie and those who picked him up after his Week 1 outburst. Hard to see him doing much better this coming term.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin, EVE (88 points) – With Theo Walcott arriving in January and Yannick Bolasie also around it is hard to see where DCL is going to get the minutes to improve on a promising first season as a semi-regular part of the Toffees’ first team.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, ARS (87 points) – With a full season of starting and a different managerial approach, it is hard to see Aubameyang as anything other than a top four choice at forward. For me, it would be Kane, Firmino, Aubameyang, and Lukaku before trying to figure out how to value Vardy, Aguero, and Jesus.
- Tammy Abraham, SWA (86 points) – Probably not going to be on a first team Premier League roster for the upcoming season after a disappointing loan spell at Swansea.
- Christian Benteke, CRY (84 points) – The big Belgian fell out of favor at Crystal Palace and has never really looked right since his Achilles injury. A transfer seems like a solid possibility as does a reserve role at Crystal Palace if he can’t be sold. If he stays it wouldn’t be the worst idea to pick him up with a (very) late round pick just in case he returns to form.
- Oumar Niasse, EVE (83 points) – He only started 8 matches so the point total is impressive, but it seems unlikely he is going to start more this coming season.
- Andre Gray, WAT (79 points) – He should be playing in the Championship.
New Arrivals and Other Notables
While the big wait on the forward front surrounds who will start for Chelsea there are some interesting options on their way in to the league, Bobby Reid who arrives at newly promoted Cardiff City off of an extremely productive season at fellow Championship-dwellers Bristol City will probably be off the radar of most managers and could see his 16 goal, 8 assist season in the second tier translate to solid numbers in the Premier League.
Marko Arnautovic, listed as a midfielder last season, has been reclassified to being a forward this season which could make for a very productive way to fill out your second forward slot.
Similar to Marko Arnautovic, the reclassification of Wilfried Zaha to forward from midfielder makes a huge difference in his overall value. At midfielder he is just one of many who could produce in the 150-180 range if things break right. As a forward, he is one of very few in that category. I'm not sure I'm ready for Zaha as my top forward but he would be an excellent second forward.
Diogo Jota of Wolves is the type of wide forward whose stats tend to degrade moving from the Championship to the Premier League but given his age and pedigree, we can’t consider him a typical Championship player. All rising players represent a risk of not making the leap but Jota should have a strong supporting cast to help him make the leap successfully. A solid bet to be a productive 2nd forward.