Loading scores...
Player Analysis

Early Summer Mock Draft - PT 1

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

If the NFL has taught us nothing it is that it's never too early to do a mock draft.  Now, the Premier League doesn't have an annual draft to disburse young talent to the teams like the NFL does but with the growing popularity of the draft fantasy format, there is more and more interest in and demand for draft fantasy-focused analysis and we aim to please.  I was invited by the team at Togga to participate in a Mock Draft with a bunch of other writers and pundits.  The draft started a little over a week ago and is being conducted via email so it is dragging on but, given that a full draft analysis lends to a pretty long column, I've decided to start the write-up today with the draft hitting the halfway point.


Just a few details about the draft before we start in on the analysis.  The hypothetical league we are drafting for is a 10-team league.  The instructions we were given relative to potential transfers in and out is to use our best judgment on whether you think a player will be in the Premier League next season and, if you draft someone not currently in the league, do so in the position you would draft him in if you knew his transfer were confirmed (e.g., if you think Griezmann is coming, draft him in the first/second round, don't make wildly speculative picks like Messi late "just on the off chance").  


With those few ground rules in mind, here's the rundown of the first eight rounds with my analysis where a pick was particularly good or where (and why) I thought some were poor uses of draft position.


Round One

  1. Harry Kane
  2. Alexis Sanchez
  3. Eden Hazard
  4. Kevin De Bruyne
  5. Gabriel Jesus
  6. Christen Eriksen
  7. Antoine Griezmann
  8. Mesut Ozil
  9. Romelu Lukaku
  10. Dele Alli

Overall Analysis: The first round went pretty much to expectation.  There are certainly concerns, ranging from mild to serious, about the status of Hazard, Sanchez and Ozil with respect to potential transfers outside the Premier League that would have had me devaluing them at least somewhat in the first round.  Similarly, Lukaku's destination is uncertain and could dramatically impact his value.  If he's sharing time with Diego Costa at Chelsea then he's probably not a first roudn pick.  If he's the "next Drogba" at Manchester United and essentially unchallenged as a starter then you might consider getting him at the end of the first round pretty strong value.  The Ozil pick is really the biggest concern.  When it was made we knew he was coming off of a sub-par season and could leave.
My Pick: Not too much to say about this one that isn't pretty obvious.  I picked 3rd and Hazard is really good and seems unlikely to be leaving Stamford Bridge this summer. He's young and could still be improving so the chances of a decline seem minimal.  I considered Gabriel Jesus given his incredible productivity when he started this season (every start included at least one goal or one assist and usually more than one) but I didn't have the balls, even drafting for a league that is never going to happen, to put him above a proven commodity like Hazard. 
Round Two

  1. Roberto Firmino
  2. Paul Pogba
  3. Philippe Coutinho
  4. Sadio Mane
  5. Gylfi Sigurdsson
  6. David Silva
  7. Diego Costa
  8. Sergio Aguero
  9. Leroy Sane
  10. Christian Benteke

Overall Analysis: Most of the quibbles here have to do with personal preferences.  I would have chosen Coutinho over Firmino as an example.  The position for David Silva looks a little high as well for someone who is aging and facing a fair amount of competition for places in the squad.  I see Silva as more of a 3rd or 4th round pick not because he isn't talented but because I think Pep will start using the strength of his depth to give him a little more rest.  

My Pick: I was thrilled to get Sergio Aguero with the 8th pick in the 2nd round.  I think the chances of him leaving City this summer are way overblown and on a points/match basis he was better than Costa by 2 points/match.  He doesn't carry the uncertainty of Alexis Sanchez and his sample size is better than Gabriel Jesus.  The way I look at it, I got the 4th most reliable forward option as the 7th forward selected in the draft.  That's some solid value.
Round Three

  1. Son Hueng-Min
  2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  3. Wilfried Zaha
  4. Manuel Lanzini
  5. Bernardo Silva
  6. Marcos Alonso
  7. Danny Rose
  8. Marcus Rashford
  9. Kyle Walker
  10. Kieran Trippier

Overall Analysis: The Zlatan pick is a little too optimistic for me.  He is freak of nature and you can never rule out the possibility that he recovers, recovers fully, and does it faster than the usual recovery time for an ACL tear.  That said, at his age and with Manchester United sniffing around other center forward prospects it's hard to invest a third round pick in that much uncertainty.  Speaking of uncertainty, the pick of Bernardo Silva, is rife with similar risk to Zlatan but for the opposite reason.  Look no further than the rest of the attacking positions at Manchester City (Aguero, Jesus, Sane, KDB, Sterling, David Silva and Yaya Toure) and how Pep slowly worked Leroy Sane into the mix last season.  I have little doubt that Bernardo Silva will be a good buy for City over the next five years but if you look at how Sane was brought into the fold he played very little over the first half of the season.  He got significantly more productive over the back half of the season but presumably Silva will have to beat out one of Sane, KDB, Jesus, Aguero, or David Silva for a starting spot immediately to justify this selection.  Speaking of reaches, I'd add Kieran Trippier to the list as well.  We all remember his time at Burnely where he would have crushed the Togga scoring system.  I agree that Kyle Walker is likely to leave for Manchester City but I have a hard time believing that Trippier is going to be elevated to starter.  He'll be great when he does start but I don't think he'll crack 10 starts in the league unless Walker's replacement suffers a significant injury. 

My Pick: I don't LOVE Wilfried Zaha but I do like him a lot.  I will admit that I'd be much more comfortable with the pick if Big Sam were still managing or if Marco Silva would have gotten the job.  Still, Zaha was even productive under Allan Pardew and he just signed a 5-year extension so he should be a well-above average midfielder who I don't have to worry about being rotated which is what I'm looking for high in any draft. 
Round Four

  1. Thibaut Courtois
  2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
  3. Adam Lallana
  4. Michail Antonio
  5. Jamie Vardy
  6. Cesc Fabregas
  7. Ross Barkley
  8. Virgil Van Dijk
  9. Matt Ritchie
  10. Georginio Wijnaldum

Overall Analysis: Thibaut Courtois sticks out like a sore thumb here.  We're well into the 9th round as I write this analysis and, rightly, no other goalkeeper has been selected.  If Courtois were, by far, the best fantasy goalkeeper in the Togga format then this wouldn't necesssarily be a bad pick but, despite Chelsea's incredible run of 13 consecutive wins which included more than their share of clean sheets, Courtois was only the 5th best keeper in total points and 9th in points/match among goalkeepers who started 20 or more matches.  The manager picking Courtois clearly wanted to give me the platform to remind everyone that in most formats, there just isn't that much difference between goalkeepers so you draft one eventually because you have to but using an early round pick on one is an inefficient use of resources. 

The other really interesting pick here is Matt Ritchie.  I was all in on the Matt Ritchie bandwagon when he came up with Bournemouth two seasons ago.  His stats from the Cherries' promotion season in the Championship were gaudy and of the sort that typically translates into an excellent fantasy player on a bad team.  For whatever reason, it really didn't work out for Ritchie in his first season in the Premier League.  Dropping back down to the Championship after a move to Newcastle he returned to his prolific ways scoring goals, getting assists, making key passes and generally doing all the things that made me excited for him the first time.  So, the question is whether some seasoning after that first harsh learning experience will position him to break through on the second opportunity or whether he will be discovered as being capped out as an excellent Championship player who just isn't good enough for the Premier League.  A fourth round pick with sure things like Pedro, Andros Townsend, and Cesar Azpilicueta still on the board seems like a lot to invest to find out.  I'd have been more inclined to take that risk in the 7th or 8th round. 
My Pick: Virgil Van Dijk isn't a terribly sexy pick but, unless he doesn't come back healthy from his injury, he seems like a pretty solid bet.  The rumors have him moving to a bigger club with Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all mentioned at various times.  Whether he stays at Southampton, where he was 4th in points/match, or moves somewhere that might see him get fewer chances at tackles and interceptions but boost his clean sheet totals I'm pretty sure he'll be a top ten defender and a starter almost as often as he's healthy.  If you're sensing a trend with my first four picks, there is one.  I want all of those guys (and the next few) to be guys I don't have to worry about starting week-to-week. 
Round Five

  1. Andros Townsend
  2. Naby Keita
  3. Hector Bellerin
  4. Manolo Gabbiadini
  5. Pedro
  6. Joshua King
  7. Cesar Azpilicueta
  8. Ryan Bertrand
  9. Raheem Sterling
  10. Kelechi Iheanacho

Overall Analysis: I don't really have anything bad to say about this round.  Naby Keita is likely to go higher if he does indeed arrive in the Premier League.  Raheem Sterling is a pretty big risk given the proliferation of City attackers that we discussed when we were talking about Bernardo Silva in the Round Three write-up.  Kelechi Iheanacho is obviously being picked here with the assumption that he ends up at West Ham, as has been frequently rumored, or somewhere else in the Premier League where he'll be a regular starter.  If that happens, this is a very reasonable spot to take him.  Perhaps the bigggest concern for me here is Manolo Gabbiadini.  He was on fire out of the gates after arriving in the January transfer window and it seems that his first impression is driving his draft position because he cooled markedly down the stretch.  After three straight matches with one or more goals he didn't break double digit points in the Togga system for the rest of the season.  

My Pick: I took a little bit of a risk here and picked Hector Bellerin to bounce back after a frustrating season at the Emirates.  There are two worries behind the pick.  The first is that he will be sold to Barcelona who is looking for a right back as the long-term replacement for Dani Alves who they clearly missed last season.  The second is that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to win the right wing-back position before being injured down the stretch.  I suspect that Arsene Wenger will both keep and start Bellerin who is the better and younger player but I admit that this one could look like a bad pick as soon as late August. 
Round Six

  1. Vincent Kompany
  2. Yanick Bolasie
  3. Nathan Redmond
  4. Marko Arnautovic
  5. Fernando Llorente
  6. Antonio Valencia
  7. Ander Herrera
  8. Troy Deeney
  9. Riyad Mahrez
  10. Victor Moses

Overall Analysis: The round started off badly but got better after that.  Vincent Kompany was a fantastic real life and fantasy player at his peak but his injury history means there's no way I'd draft him to be a starter (meaning in the first ten rounds of a draft).  COULD he turn back the clock and have a great season? Absolutely.  Would I bet a sixth round pick on it with Koscielny, Mustafi, Luiz, Cahill, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Bailly, Daniels, and many more still on the board? Absolutely not.  The Bolasie pick I'm just going to chalk up to the manager not reading the injury report that says that the Everton winger is going to be out until January or so.  Even if he comes back as early as November it seems unlikely that he'd be worth carrying on your bench for that long.  I absolutely loved the Herrera pick and he would have been my pick had he not gone the spot before my turn.  He was a great two-way force for me this past season and seems to be under-rated because his points tend to come from the peripheral things (tackles, key passes, etc) rather than goals and assists.  He was more prolific on an aggregate and points/match basis than Adam Lallana but went two full rounds later.  That's great value. 

My Pick: After licking my wounds over Herrera being snatched out from under me, I regrouped and picked Troy Deeney.  Agan, not a sexy pick but he's going to start regularly, produce goals, assists, and aerials won.  The upside comes in two potential forms.  Either he stays at Watford and benefits from the fact that Marco Silva seems like a significant upgrade in the talent acquisition and management department which should mean more chances.  Alternatively, he gets a move to a bigger club where he might similarly get more chances.  I suspect it will be the former and Deeney will be closer to 15 goals and 8 assists than the 10 and 5 he had this past season when the Hornets' attack ground to a halt. 

Round Seven

  1. Matt Phillips
  2. Michy Batshuayi
  3. Sead Kolasinac
  4. Nicolas Otamendi
  5. Shkodran Mustafi
  6. Dusan Tadic
  7. Wilfried Ndidi
  8. Juan Mata
  9. Nacho Monreal
  10. DeAndre Yedlin

Overall Analysis: I love the Matt Phillips pick.  If he gets his hamstring right this is an absolute bargain and probably should have happened a round or two earlier.  The same is true of the Wilfried Ndidi pick minus the injury comment.  Like Herrera, he doesn't get his points in sexy ways but he was actually even more productive on a points/match basis than Herrera (meaning he was also better than Lallana who went in the 4th) with the only concern being the relatively small sample size for Ndidi (17 starts).  Others he finished better than on a points/match basis were Cesc Fabregas, Leroy Sane, and Riyad Mahrez.  The Batshuayi pick is clearly predicated on the notion that he's going to be loaned/sold within the Premier League and will get a chance to start next season.  The Monreal pick is the only one I really don't agree with here.  It's hard to see the Spaniard continuing to start at Arsenal.  I suspect that he will stick around but mostly be a deputy left back and occasional fill-in as part of the center back trio as he was toward the end of the season.

My Pick: The reason I suspect that Monreal will be out as starter is that Arsenal have been linked with what has been called an all-but-done deal for Sead Kolasinac who plays an attack-oriented left back/left wing back at Schalke and is available on a free transfer.  If he does come over to Arsenal he will presumably be listed as a defender while playing in what is really a midfield role.  I don't think he'll be quite as productive as Marcos Alonso was in that same situation for Chelsea this season but it will be in that ballpark. 


Round Eight

  1. Jermain Defoe
  2. Nacer Chadli
  3. James Milner
  4. Junior Stanislas
  5. Charlie Daniels
  6. Daniel Sturridge
  7. David Luiz
  8. Anthony Knockaert
  9. Robert Snodgrass
  10. Jan Vertonghen

Overall Analysis: Defoe and Sturridge (and maybe Snodgrass) were all picked under the assumption that they'd be playing elsewhere next season.  Sturridge also comes with the "he needs to be healthy" discount but could way outplay this draft position if he lands in the right place and gets some luck with injuries.  Milner's role at Liverpool heading into next season is unclear.  There have certainly been lots of rumors about new left backs coming in which would mean he's no longer a starter.  

My Pick: If the number of emails envious of my Knockaert pick was any indication, he's going to start going earlier in drafts as the summer goes on.  Knockaert's story isn't too different from Matt Ritchie's with the exception that Knockaert was two years younger when he failed to impress in the Premier League with newly-promoted-at-the-time Leicester City.  After a season in Belgium he found his way to Brighton and lit up the Championship for two seasons as a wide midfielder scoring goals and getting assists.  If his skills translate as a 25-year-old coming into his prime in the Premier League then Bolasie/Redmond/Townsend-type production wouldn't be an unreasonable expectation and all of those guys went before the end of Round Six (even though Bolasie is crocked). 
Parting Thoughts (from Part One)

So, that's the end of the first half of the draft.  As you can see, my philosophy, which has served me well in two seasons of Expert Draft Leagues is to focus my earlier picks on guys who are going to start and produce week in and week out.  As the draft wears on, I'm good taking a risk on a guy like Kolasinac who may not arrive or a guy like Knockaert who has a wide variety of possible outcomes.  As we go toward the back half of the draft I'm going to be sure to pick up at least three or four more solid citizens who are going to reliably start and give me options almost every week.  I'll end up with one or two more "wild cards" who could hit big if something (e.g., health, playing time, a transfer) breaks the right way for them.  Finally, in the last round or two I'll add a goalkeeper from a mid-table side who will start every week and end up with a nice combination of saves made and clean sheets without too many goals conceded.  Lee Grant/Jack Butland was my solution last season and I wouldn't be surprised if it were Butland or Ben Foster this season.  Not sexy but likely to be available later than guys who won't be as productive with bigger names like Petr Cech, Simon Mignolet, David De Gea, and Hugo Lloris.  
If we ever finish the draft, I'll write up Part Two of this analysis. 

Neal Thurman

Neal Thurman manages the NBC Sports Edge'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.