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Player Analysis

Early Summer Mock Draft - PT 2

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

Last week we reviewed the first eight rounds of an early summer mock draft conducted with a bunch of Premier League fantasy experts who contribute to or write about the Togga scoring format.  As you’ll recall, the direction given to those of us drafting related to transfers was to use your best judgment when it comes to whether a potential inbound or outbound player was likely to arrive and only draft them in a spot appropriate to where their talent would see them drafted if they were already confirmed.  In other words, if you think Griezmann is coming then draft him in the 1st or 2nd round but you can’t react to news that breaks during the middle of the draft about Lacazette potentially coming to Arsenal or Manchester United and draft him in the 9th round because that’s where the draft currently is. 


As you’ll see, some of the picks already look a little dated given where the news cycle stands.  I suspect that the Griezmann pick looked far better two weeks ago before the Atletico ban and the likely consequences.  So too the Diego Costa pick given this news.  Eden Hazard might be drafted a little lower than 3rd overall given his ankle injury but probably not much as he’ll likely play for nearly all of the Premier League season. 


On to the second half of the draft where real value can be found if you play it right.  As before, I’ll take it round by round and give some overall thoughts on the picks made, some specific comments on my pick and why I made it, and finally, I’ll wrap up with some observations about the entirety of the draft.  If you’re worried that this information will be out of date by the time you do your draft, fear not, we’ll be doing this at least one more time if not two more over the course of the summer so you’ll have a chance to see how draft position for various players moves based on the latest transfer news and rumors ahead of the new season.



Round 9

  1. Eric Bailly
  2. Ivan Perisic
  3. Kamil Grosicki
  4. Xherdan Shaqiri
  5. Kevin Mirallas
  6. Benjamin Mendy
  7. Gary Cahill
  8. Islam Slimani
  9. Olivier Giroud
  10. Glenn Murray

Overall Analysis: We’re still in the range (first 10 rounds) where I want to be picking regular starters who I can count on every week.  For me, this means that Mirallas (rotation/injury), Shaqiri (injury), Slimani (rotation), and Giroud (rotation) are questionable picks at this point in the draft.  Perisic is a bit of a wildcard.  At the time of the choice he was the flavor of the day for Manchester United but that seems to have quieted somewhat.  If they do buy a new attacking midfielder who appears to be a likely starter this is probably a reasonable spot for him given uncertainty about playing time for any attacking midfielder under Mourinho.  Murray is an interesting pick.  He lit up the Championship but he has proven to be limited in multiple Premier League attempts and he’s not getting any younger.  If he’s your third or fourth forward then that’s OK but that should probably be the limit of your expectations of him.


My Pick: With Marco Silva arriving at Watford, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grosicki following the man who gave him his Premier League chance.  If he does make a summer move within the Premier League I expect him to improve on his Hull City performances with better teammates leading to more assists.  I also expect that he’ll be a regular starter in his new Premier League home.  Not a sexy pick but my hope is that Grosicki, with some Premier League experience under his belt and a better team around him, will be a worthy fantasy starter in the Togga system for the 2017-18 season.



Round 10

  1. Luke Shaw
  2. Ayoze Perez
  3. Aaron Ramsey
  4. Daley Blind
  5. Christian Fuchs
  6. Michael Keane
  7. Geoff Cameron
  8. Laurent Koscielny
  9. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
  10. Anthony Martial

Overall Analysis:  Managers should still be shopping for players who are virtually assured to be starters unless they see an uncertain option with incredible upside.  For me, Luke Shaw, doesn’t have the proven upside even if he manages to stay healthy and escape Jose Mourinho’s doghouse either via transfer or better play for United.  There are a few cases here of managers over-valuing the fame of guys like Shaw, Daley Blind, and Anthony Martial over the chances of them actually playing on a regular basis this coming season.  At this stage of the draft I’m much more interested in sure things like Fuchs, Keane, and Cameron. 

Moving from the Manchester United portion of the draft to the Arsenal portion, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both incredibly interesting cases at this point in the summer.  Oxlade-Chamberlain was the starter as right wing-back over Hector Bellerin as the season closed for the Gunners.  With rumors of a potential Bellerin move to Barcelona and a contract extension for the Ox he could be poised for a Victor Moses-like campaign next season, definitely a solid starter.  That said, Bellerin’s departure is no sure thing and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury history is such that this is still a touch too early for me.  As a Gooner myself, I am hoping against hope that the Ramsey pick is a bad one.  He looked better after Arsenal moved to the 3-4-3 formation that relieved him of most of the defensive obligation that undermined his play in the 4-2-3-1 formation.  That said, I’d much rather see Arsenal spend some money on a better, more reliable option in that spot over the summer. 


My Pick: At this point in the draft the ability to get a player who is likely to start at center back for a top six team as frequently as he is healthy seems like a no-brainer.  Koscielny’s Togga stats slipped a bit this season but he still scored the 11th most points among defenders over the course of this past season and of defenders who played more than 20 matches, he had the 14th highest points/match and that includes three players – Ben Davies, Daley Blind, and Aleksander Kolarov – who aren’t likely to start as often again in 2017-18.  The point is, Koscielny is just going to churn out points steadily week after week which is a great thing to get in the 10th round.



Round 11

  1. Willian
  2. Seamus Coleman
  3. Tammy Abraham
  4. Leighton Baines
  5. Jordan Henderson
  6. Granit Xhaka
  7. Sofiane Boufal
  8. Charlie Austin
  9. Toby Alderweireld
  10. Andreas Christensen

Overall Analysis: The seeming desperation to continue to draft lottery tickets who COULD end up as starters from “big clubs” despite not currently holding that status (e.g., Willian, Christensen) seems to be trumping interest in buying guaranteed points from mid-table and below clubs.  The fact that Willian went before sure things like Baines (later in the 11th), Albrighton (12th), Van Aanholt (12th), and others just doesn’t make much sense to me.  If Pedro falls off or Willian gets a transfer to Manchester United for a Jose reunion then he’s a great get this late but when you could be bringing in sure starters like Baines that seems like a huge risk to take. 


Boufal and Xhaka are both interesting cases.  Both arrived last summer for big transfer fees and disappointed.  Xhaka started showing much better down the stretch for Arsenal in a role that could become more fantasy friendly as he starts making more key passes and is counted on less for his dubious tackling.  Boufal, unfortunately, didn’t fare as well down the stretch in a difficult first season.  Upheaval at Southampton could mean a renewed opportunity and he is still young enough that a jump up in his second season in the top flight of English football isn’t unreasonable. 


My Pick:  The nice thing about focusing on guaranteed or nearly guaranteed starters over the first ten rounds is that it leaves you free to take some risks later on and not worry too much if they hit.  Tammy Abraham is the result of that freedom.  He lit up the Championship last season and, when I made the pick, looked certain to land at either Brighton or Newcastle for the upcoming season.  He could flop like Patrick Bamford once Bamford got his loan move(s) to the Prem but he will likely get every chance to show he can make the leap.  If he does, he will return excellent value for an 11th round pick.  If he doesn’t then I’ve only cost myself an 11th round pick and I still have a squad chocked full of sure starters.  


Round 12

  1. Tom Lawrence
  2. Marc Albrighton
  3. Ederson Moraes
  4. Dwight Gayle
  5. Hugo Lloris
  6. Cedric Soares
  7. Theo Walcott
  8. Ilkay Gundogan
  9. Patrick Van Aanholt
  10. Adam Smith

Overall Analysis: I share a birthdate with Tom Lawrence even if he’s 24 years younger than I am.  The Manchester United youth product scored 9 goals on loan at Ipswich Town last season and could get a chance to “make the leap” if Riyad Mahrez departs.  Personally, I’d have taken Demarai Gray instead and Albrighton for sure but I haven’t seen Lawrence play so there could certainly be another manager out there with a better feel for how ready he is to make the leap to Premier League starter.  Ederson and Lloris are still a little too early for me and I continue to wonder at managers who pick goalkeepers from big clubs when mid-table is where the best points come from. 


My Pick: I took a huge risk here with Ilkay Gundogan.  When healthy, he can be a great fantasy contributor orchestrating an increasingly dynamic Manchester City attack from a deep-lying role.  If Gundogan is healthy I suspect that he’d start over Yaya Toure but that’s clearly a massive IF on his health.  Again, this is the benefit of having drafted players who are highly likely to start and contribute significantly most weeks earlier in the draft.  I can shoot for the stars here and not be too upset about lost value if the gamble doesn’t pay off.



Round 13

  1. Roberto Pereyra
  2. Nathaniel Clyne
  3. Idrissa Gueye
  4. Ryan Fraser
  5. Aaron Cresswell
  6. Andre Ayew
  7. James Ward-Prowse
  8. Joel Matip
  9. Jonjo Shelvey
  10. James McClean

Overall Analysis: Some very strong choices in this round for whatever reason.  I like Ayew’s upside.  Clyne and Matip are solid, if unspectacular, choices highly likely to start regularly.  Cresswell should be starting regularly and could rebound if West Ham as a team end up even halfway between what we saw last season and what we saw the season before.  Shelvey should start regularly and, while I don’t love him as a real life player, there’s no doubt about his peripheral stats like chances created and successful dribbles.  The only real question mark here is Pereyra.  I was on his bandwagon when he arrived from Juventus but he was disappointing and then injured.  Maybe a new manager will help him live up to his potential and we are talking about the 13th round here but it seems like he’s someone you could have waited on and picked up on waivers later in the summer if the reports from summer training were positive.


My Pick: I went back to solidity for the 13th round after a couple of swings for the fences.  Idrissa Gueye is unlikely to have many spectacular fantasy weeks but he tends to produce solid results with low variance.  I’m not counting on him to start but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if I started him for a couple of weeks at the start of the season while Hazard gets healthy. 



Round 14

  1. Joe Allen
  2. Yaya Toure
  3. Ashley Williams
  4. Sam Vokes
  5. Marcos Rojo
  6. Ademola Lookman
  7. Petr Cech
  8. Tom Heaton
  9. Calum Chambers
  10. Martin Olsson

Overall Analysis: Marcos Rojo is reportedly out until January so I’m going to go ahead and assume that the person who drafted him hadn’t checked in on his status.  It seems likely that Manchester United will have a new center back to pair with Eric Bailly and his draft status will probably be higher than this when he arrives.  Ademola Lookman is an interesting high risk/high reward pick as he has been tipped for big things once he matures.  If that happens this season then this is a great pick.  If not, flaming out on a 14th rounder is no great tragedy as you’ll be able to pick up a solid player on waivers who doesn’t have Lookman’s upside but will be productive. Finally, I’m baffled at the continued drafting of “big name” goalkeepers – Coutois (4th round), Ederson (12th round), Lloris (12th round), and Cech (14th round) all went before the guys who finished with the most points and points/match this past season.  Tom Heaton (see My Pick) below was the overall points leader while Heaton, Jordan Pickford, Joel Robles, and Jack Butland/Lee Grant combo all finished about all of those goalkeepers drafted earlier with the exception of Lloris who finished ahead of Butland/Grant (but didn’t finish ahead of any of the others).  The lesson, keepers who play for big teams, like holding midfielders who play for big teams, just don’t see enough action to be great fantasy goalkeepers.


My Pick: I went for Tom Heaton in the 14th round.  He has been among the best goalkeepers in this format over the two seasons he has started in the Premier League for Burnley and he’ll be back at it in a goalkeeper-friendly system at Turf Moor.  I’m confident that my pick of Heaton will out-perform all of the goalkeepers picked ahead of him. 



Round 15

  1. Fraser Forster
  2. Dominic Solanke
  3. Rob Holding
  4. Erik Pieters
  5. David De Gea
  6. Tom Davies
  7. Ben Davies
  8. Mamadou Sakho
  9. Robbie Brady
  10. Benik Afobe

Overall Analysis: If you read the 14th round analysis above you’ll likely know where I’m going with the Forster pick.  How you make that pick with Jack Butland still available is a bit of a mystery to me, especially given how poor Forster was last season.  Same analysis on De Gea.  I like the potential upside pick in Tom Davies and Ben Davies has great value for this manager who also drafted Danny Rose and his uncertain injury status in the 3rd round.  Handcuffing a high round pick with his deputy is great business this late, especially when there’s already an injury concern.  I also really like the Robbie Brady and Mamadou Sakho picks here.  Brady didn’t feature as often as expected after arriving at Burnley but maybe a summer to train with the team will put him in position to be their primary source of attacking points which would be great value here.  Sakho could be anywhere from out of the Premier League to back at Palace and playing well but that’s a risk worth taking at this point in the draft.


My Pick: Oddly, Calum Chambers went before Rob Holding despite Holding having earned a starting spot at Arsenal down the stretch while Chambers was featuring at Middlesbrough.  I’m not saying that Chambers couldn’t unseat Holding but having seen both play multiple times this season the eye test tells me that Holding is the better player.  Maybe he doesn’t start regularly but he’ll start more than his share and for a 15th round pick, that’s some pretty solid value.



Round 16

  1. Lewis Cook
  2. Jack Butland
  3. Divock Origi
  4. Kasper Schmeichel
  5. Salomon Rondon
  6. Andy Carroll
  7. Christian Atsu
  8. Demarai Gray
  9. Karl Darlow
  10. Erik Lamela

Overall Analysis: Finally! Someone did the right thing and picked up Jack Butland.  If I had to guess, I’d say he’s going to be a top three goalkeeper in this scoring format.  There isn’t a ton of separation between goalkeepers overall but getting a top three player at his position in the final round of the draft is great value no matter how you look at it.  The rest of the choices are generally of the high risk/high reward variety.  Carroll and Lamela have proven to be starting-quality fantasy players if they can stay healthy but, that’s a big if for both.  Atsu and Darlow are solid bets on emerging players coming up with Newcastle back to the Premier League. 


My Pick: I’ve been on the Demarai Gray bandwagon since his arrival at Leicester City.  In brief opportunities he has looked like a good fantasy player in this format.  With Riyad Mahrez likely headed elsewhere this summer, Gray could get first crack at his starting spot if a replacement isn’t brought in from outside the squad.  If not, he was my 16th pick and going to the waiver wire to replace him isn’t a big tragedy.


Overall Summary

As you can tell from my analysis of the picks that other managers have made, my bias is always towards spending picks over the first 8 to 10 rounds on productive players that are highly likely to be starting 30+ matches a season assuming good health.  This approach will certainly lead to me losing out on the occasional player who emerges from a potential rotation situation as the clear cut starter as Pedro did this past season.  The bonus is that I don’t tend to end up spending early picks on guys like Willian or Nolito who end up on the wrong side of a rotation.


The other thing that I marvel at when we draft is the unwillingness of managers to look past the badge on the shirt and consider the production of the player.  Neither Gareth McAuley nor Craig Dawson were selected at all in this draft.  Given that McAuley was the 8th most productive defender in the Togga format this past season while Dawson was 13th overall.  Both Albion center backs owed some of their productivity to their regular selection coming in with 36 and 37 starts respectively.  Still, there is great value in knowing that you’re going to get some solid points from a few positions.  With the likes of Erik Pieters, Martin Olsson, Calum Chambers, a crocked Marcos Rojo, and Joel Matip having been drafted the bias against center backs from mid-table clubs seems like a perpetual source of value in draft leagues, even when drafting against guys who spend time analyzing this particular format to write about it.


My Line-up


GK: Tom Heaton

D1: Virgil Van Dijk

D2: Hector Bellerin

D3: Sead Kolasinac

D4: Laurent Koscielny

M1: Eden Hazard

M2: Wilfried Zaha

M3: Anthony Knockaert

M4: Kamil Grosicki

F1: Sergio Aguero

F2: Troy Deeney

Reserves: Tammy Abraham (F), Ilkay Gundogan (M), Idrissa Gueye (M), Rob Holding (D), Demarai Gray (D)


Once you get past the injury that Hazard picked up after I drafted him, I really like this squad from top to bottom.  I’m confident that just about everyone I’ve designated a starter above will start regularly with the possible exception of Bellerin (who could still be sold) and Grosicki (who might not be sold into a starting position in the Premier League).  In Aguero, Hazard, and Heaton I have three players who should be among the most productive at their respective positions.  In Deeney, Zaha, and Koscielny I have rock solid contributors.  In Abraham, Gundogan, and Gray I have three lottery tickets who could hit big and give me week-to-week flexibility to play match-ups or the ability to consolidate two pretty good players in a trade for one exceptional one.   


What Will This Hypothetical Season Turn On?

All season-long draft leagues turn on how good you are with the waiver wire as the season unfolds but as far as things that we can anticipate from this draft, the success or failure of this side will hinge on three things:

  1. Can Anthony Knockaert make the leap to the Premier League and be a worthy starter?
  2. Ditto Tammy Abraham
  3. Is Ilkay Gundogan healthy and starting more than 20 matches?

If all three of those things happen then this would be a dynamite draft barring unforeseen injuries to key players.  Without those things coming through, this side would still be above average but would need a strong waiver wire pick-up or two to be competitive for a championship.


Final Thought

One final note because one of the other managers in the draft asked me a question about it via email while the draft was going on.  The question was what my thoughts are on “stacking” players from a specific team as I have done with Arsenal defenders on this particular squad with Bellerin, Kolasinac, Koscielny, and Holding.  Honestly, it wasn’t intentional.  I think of “stacking” as more appropriate for Daily Fantasy.  Over the course of a season, the benefits of stacking only accrue if the players are going to be productive over time rather than based on a single weekly match-up against a poor opponent.  I liked the value with each of the Arsenal defenders I picked with Bellerin and Kolasinac having Marcos Alonso-like potential as defenders playing outside midfield positions while listed as defenders.  Koscielny was incredibly productive last season and has been in general in this format.  Finally, Holding might have been a bit of a reach over Dawson and McAuley but he played very well down the stretch for Arsenal and appears to be an emerging two-way center back who will get the occasional points with his passing in addition to tackles won, interceptions, and clean sheets.  I didn’t intentionally go after Arsenal defenders, I just thought they represented value where I was picking and that’s sort of the way the draft broke.  Of that group, Kolasinac is probably the one that I’ll really target in draft leagues heading into next season. 

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.