I’m trying something new this season. Rather than starting from scratch with rankings, I’m going to start with each player’s performance last season and analyze what may change that could move the player’s performance up or down. Clearly, injury is always a potential but unless a player has a history of chronic injuries (see Wilshere, Jack or Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex), I’m not going to mention that here as it is similar for all. Ultimately, this is about ability increasing or decreasing with age and the opportunity for more or fewer minutes compared to last season.
So far, I’ve covered goalkeepers, defenders, and midfielders and I’ll finish it off here with the forwards. And what a mess the forward position is with only a few weeks remaining before the start of the Premier League season. With significant players – Aubameyang, Rashford, and Greenwood – reclassified to midfield on the back of others being similarly moved last season (e.g., Zaha), there just aren’t that many options. With the PL.com game dictating squad construction at 3 forwards, it will mean that managers will struggle to fill all three spots with credible options. The midfielders will score more points but quality there will be more plentiful so smart managers will focus on locking in their forwards early.
As stated, the PL.com game requires everyone to have three forwards in their squad so here are my thoughts of the top 24 forwards based on scoring from last season plus some notes on others who could jump into the mix this season.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City (2019-2020 Fantasy Point Total = 210; 2019-2020 Minutes Total = 3032) – The big question here is just how much longer a player dependent on speed can keep it going at a high level. Vardy hasn’t slowed down yet but it feels like when the fall comes it will be a big one due to either frequent injury or losing the yard of pace that makes him so dangerous. I’d have him as a low-end first round pick or high-end second rounder despite his excellent track record to account for the risk that this is the year it all goes bad. Ultimately, I’ll be hoping I’m not in a position to have to make a decision on him.
Anthony Martial, Manchester United (200; 2625) – Martial has two things going against him. His scoring is likely to regress after being reclassified as a forward (one fewer points awarded per goal and no clean sheet points) and there’s a risk that he’ll be the victim of losing minutes to any big-name attacker the Red Devils bring in. Martial will be over-drafted because he plays for Manchester United and his total from last season looks good. I’d have him as a 3rd round pick despite the lack of quality forwards but I’m sure he’ll go in the first or second.
Danny Ings, Southampton (198; 2800) – It’s nice to have an option who has little to know competition. Ings’ injury history is further behind him as well which should give managers investing a high round pick in him more comfort. I wouldn’t object to picking Ings at the end of the first round but would prefer him as a second or third rounder as your fellow managers flock to the big name midfielders from the bigger teams early.
Raúl Jiménez, Wolves (194; 3241) – Similar write-up to Ings with the caveat that Jimenez has a non-zero chance of being transferred outside of the Premier League with Juventus sniffing around. I don’t think it will happen but you have to at least acknowledge the risk.
Richarlison, Everton (165; 3070) – Ideally, Richarlison would be a nice 2nd forward given that his production is probably about what it’s going to be. Hard not to see him as someone’s first forward in the second round though. Given the state of the forward position, it’s hard to argue.
Harry Kane, Spurs (158; 2588) – If you knew he was going to be healthy for 32+ matches, it would be pretty easy to cast Kane as the top overall pick given his potential and the weakness of the position. Even with the growing injury concerns, it’s hard to see him sliding farther than 4th or 5th overall in 8-team drafts.
Roberto Firmino, Liverpool (155; 2985) – Like Richarlison, you’re much happier with him as your second forward than as your first. His talent is undisputed but he just isn’t as prolific as the wide attackers he supports so ably. Throw in not getting as many points for goals/clean sheets and he’s just not quite a premium forward. That said, it’s hard to find 8 forwards who might push him down the list so consider him a 2nd rounder who is likely to be someone’s top forward.
Tammy Abraham, Chelsea (153; 2206) – With the arrival of Timo Werner you have to expect that Abraham will see his minutes cut dramatically unless he’s sold or lent out. Olivier Giroud will be back as well and was playing ahead of Abraham at the end of the season so even an injury to Werner doesn’t necessarily make Abraham anything other than imperfect insurance against a Werner injury and/or rotation.
Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City (146; 2018) – One of the hardest players to value in fantasy. As Aguero insurance, he’s invaluable. Unfortunately, his raw totals and “what if this is the year” potential inevitably mean he’s drafted way higher than an insurance policy should be. I just tend to stay away. Aguero was close to a return for the CL loss to Lyon so you have to assume the Argentine will be ready to go for the start of the season in mid-September.
Chris Wood, Burnley (136; 2436) – Given the production rate over the past three seasons, this feels like Wood’s floor. Very nice 2nd forward with the potential to be a credible (and reliable) first forward if he plays about 400 more minutes this coming season. Given the questions about guys like Vardy, Martial, and Kane there is some value in knowing you’ve got a steady, if unspectacular, starter.
Jordan Ayew, Crystal Palace (132; 3148) – If Palace end up playing Jordan Ayew over 3000 minutes again next season then they’re in my list of teams to be relegated. They just have to bring in a better forward option and push Ayew down to being a credible substitute/reserve. Draft Ayew accordingly (he’s a 3rd forward for me).
Sergio Agüero, Manchester City (132; 1449) – This is going to be an agonizing pick for someone in your league to make. He has the potential to revert to being the top scoring forward in the game. He’s also getting older and could see his minutes continue to decline as minor injuries chip away at his availability. There’s also the chance that City bite the bullet and buy a replacement like Martinez from Inter. He’ll go toward the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round in your draft.
Neal Maupay, Brighton (131; 2763) – Maupay would be a solid 3rd forward if it were a sure thing that he’d go over 2700 minutes again. The problem is that Brighton have been linked with upgrades at the forward spot which could submarine Maupay’s value. Just keep watching the transfer wires and adjust his value accordingly.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton (126; 2621) – He looked like a world-beater as the season ground to a halt with 13 goals. Unfortunately, he was a complete dud after the restart as he failed to add to his total in 718 minutes of playing time. The hope is the slump pushes him down draft boards and creates a potential value buy as a 3rd forward.
Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal (118; 1867) – His points/minute fantasy production is better than Firmino’s but Lacazette seems unlikely to see an increase in minutes if he’s at the Emirates at all when the season kicks off. I might take a flier on him as a third forward if I go midfield-heavy early in the draft an miss out on the top forwards but otherwise, I’ll probably stay away.
Mikail Antonio, West Ham (111; 1767) – The anti-Calvert-Lewin, Antonio hadn’t done much before the restart due to injury and the presence of Sébastien Haller. After the restart he was a revelation as David Moyes seemed to figure out how best to arrange his pieces. We’ve had this experience with Antonio before so just about anything is on the table from him being a credible 2nd forward to him struggling to find minutes again after missing time due to injury. I suspect he’ll be a 4th or 5th round pick based on how he ended the season. If you can get him after that, he’ll be a worthwhile risk.
Sébastien Haller, West Ham (102; 2259) – He started out well enough after a big-money move from Germany but it just didn’t work out. Hard to justify drafting him as anything other than a pairing with Antonio.
Jay Rodríguez, Burnley (100; 2002) – If you’re looking for this season’s Danny Ings, you could do worse than Rodriguez. Playing for Burnley will probably keep his best case scenario under 20 goals but I could see him putting up 18 goals and 140 fantasy points in approximately 2800 minutes of action.
Oliver McBurnie, Sheffield United (86; 2105) – A waiver wire option who will frustrate given the extent to which the Blades rotate their attackers.
Lys Mousset, Sheffield United (84; 1223) – Similar to McBurnie. If you knew he was going to play frequently, he’d be a great 3rd forward with the potential to be a 2nd forward. I wouldn’t hate having him as my initial 3rd forward in the draft on the chance he’s make “the leap” but more likely I’d drop him after the Blades bring in a better forward or Mousset fails to start more than one of the first four matches of the season.
Che Adams, Southampton (78; 2678) – Adams had a rotten start to his Southampton career but showed signs of life during the restart. The problem is that Michael Obafemi showed signs of life as well. Feels like the two of them will split the time opposite Danny Ings and cut into each other’s value.
Olivier Giroud, Chelsea (68; 988) – With Werner and Abraham ahead of him, Giroud will be a very talented and very good looking emergency third forward. Sadly, not worth drafting.
Wesley, Aston Villa (67; 1782) – He could be back for the start of the season but Villa have been chasing lead forwards in the transfer market so it seems unlikely that he’ll have a clear shot at the starting role he lost due to injury even if he is healthy come mid-September.
Timo Werner – Given his youth, health, and the quality of the attacking talent around him there’s a case that Werner should be the first forward drafted. He probably won’t be but if he’s your first forward, you shouldn’t be at all upset by that. If that happens early in the 2nd round then you should be ecstatic.
Eddie Nketiah – If Lacazette is shipped out it could mean that Aubameyang moves infield at makes room for Saka and Pepe to play in the wide attacking roles. It could also be that Aubameyang continues to play wider (he did score 22 goals there last season, so it isn’t exactly holding him back) and Nketiah gets the first shot to replace Lacazette. The chances of Nketiah having draft value will depend entirely on where the Lacazette situation is when you draft.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – Feels a lot like a more volatile Chris Wood. Solid chance to be a very credible 2nd forward. If you go with premium midfielders early, miss out on the bigger-name forwards and end up with Calvert-Lewin, Rodriguez, and Mitrovic in rounds 5-8 it wouldn’t be the worst outcome.
Patrick Bamford – We’ve been tantalized by Bamford before. The chances are that Leeds buy an alternative before the start of the season and we won’t have to think about him trying to make “the leap” from the Championship. If he’s still a starter come the beginning of the season then he’s worth a shout if you’re desperate.
Dwight Gayle – Gayle was incredibly productive when introduced into the mix at Newcastle late in the season. It seems more likely that he’ll be replaced by someone with more upside but if the Magpies stagnate in the transfer market due to a second potential sale and Gayle is still starting then he’s a solid short-term option as a third forward.
Michy Batshuayi – Will Batshuayi ever get another chance to shine? Hard to see any reason for the Blues to keep him around but Chelsea’s valuation on a permanent move seems to have been wildly inaccurate until now for a guy who has only eclipsed 400 Premier League minutes once.
The more I think through my draft approach, the more I find myself gravitating toward the notion of taking premium midfielders early and then filling in with solid, unspectacular forwards later. The risk of picking the likes of Vardy, Aguero, or Kane with a first round pick and then seeing them lost for half a season’s worth of minutes due to injury is just too real.