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Player Analysis

Experts Mock Draft, Part 1

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

You’re looking live at the 2015-16 Play Togga Fantasy Premier League Experts draft.  We have convened this mock draft in an effort to help those new to fantasy soccer drafting get a sense of where players may go in a draft scenario.   In other words, how would experts who know a lot about the Premier League as well as draft-based games based on NFL/NBA/MLB approach draft their Premier League teams. 

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as we analyze this mock draft. 

  • We are drafting 17 player teams.
  • There is no longer a formation requirement so benches can be whatever we want them to be and starting line-ups can be 3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-5-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 5-4-1, 5-3-2, and 5-2-3 (or anything else that Louis Van Gaal can think up other than Spain’s vaunted 4-6-0).
  • Scoring is based on the PlayTogga.com scoring system from last season, there are going to be some updates to this scoring system for the 2015-16 season but those are not in effect for the purposes of this draft.  If you want to see player points from last season you can do that here.
  • The draft is a “snake style” draft meaning that the player who picks first in the first round picks last in the second round, the player who picks second in the first round picks second to last in the second round, etc.
  • The draft was conducted in mid-to-late June so there's still a lot of speculation associated with the Transfer Window and managers were allowed to speculate within reason but were encouraged to do so only on a limited basis rather than drafting entirely speculative teams that wouldn't help readers get a sense of value. 
  • The experts assembled for the draft (in first round draft order) are as follows:

1. Rob Allen, Rotoworld

2. Todd Shenk, PST

3. Andrew Laird, RotoWire

4. Kevin DeVries, EPL Index:

5. John Wallin / Will Cline, Togga

6. Ralph Lifshitz / Rob Langevin, Razzball

7. Neal Thurman, Rotoworld

8. Steve Rothgeb, Rotoworld

9. Mike Gottlieb, RotoWire

10. Mike Phillips, Togga

 

In the first analysis today, I'm going to go through all 17 rounds of our draft, round-by-round and show you who was picked and provide some notes about what it appeared was going on in each round.  I'll follow up in the next two parts on team-by-team analysis and then dive into my own thoughts during each round to give you my mindset and other players I was thinking about and why at each step along the way.  

First Round

  1. Alexis Sanchez
  2. Eden Hazard
  3. Sergio Aguero
  4. David Silva
  5. Cesc Fabregas  
  6. Diego Costa
  7. Leighton Baines
  8. Santi Cazorla
  9. Memphis Depay
  10. Wayne Rooney 

Round one kicked off pretty much as expected with Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, and Sergio Aguero going #1, #2, and #3 overall.  None of the three has any significant issues hanging over them, they are in their respective primes, they are not challenged by other potential meaningful contributors at their positions.  The only minor worries for Sanchez and Aguero will be that they will be heading into the season on the backs of almost two continuous years of matches between league seasons, the World Cup, a second league season and then the Copa America. The big surprise in round one was the Memphis Depay pick at #9.  Certainly the Dutch international is touted for big things but he is going to have to adapt quickly to the Premier League if he is going to live up to being the number nine overall choice. 

Questionable Picks - I thought Cazorla (worry over playing time in a packed Arsenal midfield), Depay (very speculative), and Rooney (hard to know where things are headed for him at this stage in his career) were the questionable picks in the round.  All could definitely pay off but in a round where you need guaranteed payoff, these were gambles at varying levels. 

Second Round

  1. Mesut Ozil
  2. Harry Kane
  3. Christen Eriksen
  4. Gylfi Sigurdsson
  5. Philippe Coutinho           
  6. Kieran Trippier
  7. Raheem Sterling
  8. Angel di Maria
  9. Charlie Austin
  10. Danny Ings 

Round two shows off an interesting mix of draft philosophies.  The top half of the round features players who are all coming off strong seasons and appear to be locks to be starting for the clubs where they produced those results last season.  The back half of the round is the exact opposite.  All of the players put up strong numbers last season but none could be classified as “settled” with Trippier and Austin not actually attached to Premier League teams for the season yet, Ings’ role uncertain based on the health of Daniel Sturridge, and Sterling and di Maria both at significant risk of moving clubs and maybe even countries.  The managers picking in the first half of the round were essentially placing low risk bets on very good but not exceptional performance while the managers in the bottom half could be rewarded with exceptional performance but could also face the prospect of getting almost nothing for their picks depending on what happens once the dust settles.  The interesting thing to note here is that managers who picked an almost guaranteed superstar in the first round felt empowered to take a bigger risk in the second round.  Those who might have felt a little less strongly about their first round pick were more cautious in the second.

Questionable Picks - For me, Ozil (injuries) and di Maria (possible departure) were the questionable picks here.  Both could be great but, again, there's a gamble involved that caused me to have third/fourth round grades on those players.  I would say the same thing for Raheem Sterling but it seems safe to assume that if he leaves Liverpool that he'll stay in the Premier League, most likely with Manchester City.  [NOTE: Kieran Trippier hadn't finalized his move to Spurs at this point, I think he would have gone in the first round if he had definitely been in the Premier League when we drafted].


Third Round

The top end of Round 3 jumped back to fairly sure things after Round 2 ended with a lot of risk-taking.  Ivanovic is a very strong value play in Round 3 based on his performance last season against other defenders.  Benteke is a nice value play in the third round coming off an injury-marred season.  If he ends up at Spurs then he could be exceptional value but alternatively, he could end up out of the league or as a reserve at Chelsea.   Outside of Ozil and Sanchez, Arsenal present a difficult challenge for fantasy managers.  Giroud and Ramsey are both very good to excellent players on a points/match basis but exactly how many starts they’ll get next season is about as tough as thing as there is to call in the Premier League.  Mane seems like he SHOULD be a sure starter with a similarly excellent points/match ratio but somehow he finished the season with only 24 starts in a Southampton midfield packed with a lot of B+ players.  Kevin De Bruyne was an interesting call late in the round given that his arrival in the Premier League hasn’t been confirmed and isn’t even particularly close by the standard of transfer sagas.  On the other hand, with Erik Lamela off the board with the last pick in the round, you can see why De Bruyne is an attractive risk. 

Questionable Picks - The Premier League and soccer in general make things difficult on fantasy managers in unique-ownership formats because the transfer window closes after you will have drafted your team.  Most leagues will likely handle this via a waiver wire system or some sort of bidding.  The notion of drafting Kevin De Bruyne is very useful here because it gives you an idea of how you will have to play the uncertainties associated with players who could leave the Premier League or who could suffer significant devaluation if a better player comes in at their position.  I'd consider De Bruyne a wasted pick here under our rules because he isn't particularly close to arriving but if it hits, it's probably some very good business.  

 

Fourth Round   

  1. Romelu Lukaku
  2. Yannick Bolasie
  3. Daniel Sturridge
  4. Patrick van Aanholt
  5. Stuart Downing
  6. Nathaniel Clyne
  7. Danny Rose
  8. Jason Puncheon
  9. Juan Mata
  10. Marc Albrighton

 

Lukaku, Bolasie, and Sturridge are all upside picks in one way or the other with Sturridge trying to come back from significant injury issues, Lukaku trying to bounce back from a disappointing first season as a full-time Everton player.  Bolasie’s fortunes have been heavily tied to who has been managing Crystal Palace.  He has been very good under Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew but less so under Neil Warnock which put a big dent in his early 2014-15 production and with Pardew looking like a long-term hire there could well be upside in Bolasie. Clyne and Rose are excellent value picks with the sixth and seventh picks in the fourth round as there is a significant dip in past production and stability beyond those two with Seamus Coleman and unsettled City outside backs next in line as far as production last season.  

Questionable Picks - The first real shock of the draft to me is the Marc Albrighton pick in the fourth.  I had very high hopes for him when he signed with Leicester City last summer but it took him most of the year to start seeing significant time.  I'm all for projecting out players who started fewer than a full slate of matches and seeing their upside but using a pick in the fourth round for someone who only played 10 matches last season, no matter how productively (and he was very productive), seems like poor value.  I'd have seen Albrighton as a sixth round pick or thereabouts. 

 

Fifth Round       

  1. Morgan Schneiderlin
  2. Matt Ritchie
  3. Yaya Toure
  4. Saido Berahino
  5. Graziano Pelle  
  6. Aaron Cresswell
  7. Callum Wilson
  8. Oscar
  9. Andre Ayew
  10. Roberto Firmino

 

After Schneiderlin, I saw a lot of value in the fifth round.  The Ritchie pick made me angry because he’s one of only two midfielders rising from the Championship that is likely to make a significant dent in Premier League fantasy this season (Nathan Redmond is the other) and I was hoping to nab him in the sixth round.  Toure wasn't bad in this scoring system last season and there is every chance that he could have a significant bounceback season with no World Cup or ACN to drag down his fitness.  Berahino seems like he’s in a good position to either stay at West Brom and build on his 14 goals or move on and maybe take a step up with better teammates around him.  Pelle is a bit of a worry given how hard Southampton seem to be pursuing Charlie Austin but on his own merits and production from last season this is a solid pick.  Cresswell is a very solid, above average outside back who is only likely to improve in his second season in the Prem.  Oscar is a high risk/high reward pick – he could stay at Chelsea and continue to improve, he could stay at Chelsea and fall into Jose Mourinho’s doghouse, or he could be off to Juventus.  Ayew and Firmino close out the round as managers start to speculate on players arriving in the Premier League from abroad. [NOTE: Ayew arrived officially as the draft was in progress and was probably drafted in at about the right level if not a little high.  Firmino's move to Liverpool was still in the future and the speculation during the draft had him heading to Manchester United.  I suspect that Firmino will be more valuable at Liverpool than he would have been in a crowded United attack and might creep up into the third/fourth round if the draft were held today.]

Questionable Picks -  Even if he goes to Arsenal or Manchester United, I don’t love the Schneiderlin pick for fantasy (I think it would be an excellent move for the player and whichever club lands him in real life but he’s not a fantastic fantasy player by Togga’s 2014-15 rules).


Sixth Round      

  1. Pablo Zabaleta
  2. Dusan Tadic
  3. Bafetimbi Gomis
  4. Hector Bellerin
  5. Cesar Azpilicueta
  6. Riyad Mahrez
  7. Seamus Coleman
  8. Nathan Redmond
  9. Marko Arnautovic
  10. Petr Cech

 

A little bit of everything here with some solid picks that you know what you’re going to get in Zabaleta and Azpilicueta, some picks that could have upside with more playing time in Tadic, Mahrez, Gomis, and Arnautovic and some big speculation on Redmond and Cech.  Of note that the first goalkeeper of the draft went off the board with the last pick of the sixth round and, at least so far, the group seems to be voting that it was a little premature because there has been no scramble to follow suit.  The lesson here, goalkeepers are pretty much indistinguishable from each other and trying to guess which one is going to be the best in a given season is an inexact science at best.

Questionable Picks - I'm as excited as anyone about Cech-to-Arsenal (which was not a done deal as of the completion of the draft although rumors have it finishing up late this week or early next) in the real world but this scoring system just doesn't differentiate goalkeepers enough or make them predictable enough to value one this highly.  I'm also not keen on the Arnautovic pick.  His numbers project very well if he were to become a full-time starter but I don't know that there's any evidence that Mark Hughes is thinking that way.  Bojan should be coming back and Stoke City have been linked with a lot of wide attackers including Yehven Konoplyanka and Victor Moses.  When making projections to a full season you need the evidence of productivity as the first ingredient but you also need a reason to believe that the productive player will actually see more minutes. 

 

Seventh Round                

  1. Nacir Chadli
  2. Jeffrey Schlupp
  3. James Milner
  4. Jesus Navas
  5. Theo Walcott    
  6. Ander Herrera
  7. Jamie Vardy
  8. Bojan
  9. Troy Deeney
  10. Victor Moses

 

A lot of uncertainty and upside bets being placed here.  Victor Moses doesn’t have a team yet (OK, he’s a Chelsea player but he isn’t going to get any run there). Ander Herrera could explode with more playing time or lose out to a new signing at United. Bojan could come back and be exceptional or his injury could linger like Jay Rodriguez’s did last season.  Theo Walcott could be anything from a reserve to an exceptional starter who should have gone in the first two rounds.  Jesus Navas could lose out to Raheem Sterling and/or Kevin de Bruyne but if he plays regularly will be a good value pick.  Troy Deeney could flame out moving up a division or he could be the next Ings/Austin.  The pick of the group for me is Milner who scored very well in this scoring system last season despite only playing 18 matches.  He should start regularly at Liverpool and, if he can keep his production even close to the same level, be a top ten midfielder.  We all slept a little too long on this one.

Questionable Picks - No questionable picks here for me


Eighth Round    

  1. Gael Clichy
  2. Wilfried Bony
  3. Neil Taylor
  4. Loic Remy
  5. Robin van Persie             
  6. Chris Brunt
  7. Seb Larsson
  8. Jay Rodriguez
  9. Lukasz Fabianski
  10. Leonardo Ulloa

 

Two things happened yesterday that, I suspect, influenced this round.  I’ll talk about the Falcao move and its influence on my pick in a later column about my picks but the other thing that happened was that Sergio Aguero came up grabbing his shoulder and wincing repeatedly after scoring a beautiful goal against Uruguay in the Copa America group stage.  It was a strong reminder about the value of reserve forwards on big teams.  Bony could be a solid 10 to 12 goal guy as second banana to Aguero but if Kun goes down for any amount of time then Bony could be a 20+ goal guy on the season.  Otherwise, the round continued the trend of featuring a combination of so-so sure things (Taylor, Brunt, and Larsson) with upside (Bony, Remy, RvP and JRod) that could also flame out. 

Questionable Picks - In retrospect, Remy (my pick) and Taylor could end up looking bad as Chelsea appear to be holding out for a lot of money for Remy that could inhibit his movement and Swansea brought in competition for Taylor the day after this pick was made.  At the time, Rodriguez was the most questionable pick as his injury has lingered and his club situation is up in the air assuming he's ready to go. 


Ninth Round     

  1. Fraser Forster
  2. Carl Jenkinson
  3. Nemanja Matic
  4. Willian
  5. John Terry          
  6. Alberto Moreno
  7. Francis Coquelin
  8. Cedric
  9. Adam Lallana
  10. Jose Fonte

 

It’s a run on Chelsea players who, with the exception of Willian who could pick up a few more starts this season with Andre Schurrle gone and Juan Cuadrado apparently not making the grade, are going to give you pretty much what they gave last season.  That's not bad at this stage, especially given Mourinho's tendency not to rotate.  There's something to be said for not having to worry about one spot in your line-up each week even if it is unlikely to give you top end production.  This is the ninth round after all.  Jenkinson could be a solid upside play since he will likely get full-time minutes wherever he goes on loan [NOTE: Sunderland seemed like the sure-fire answer when the draft was going on but there has still been no official word].  Forster could have upside if his recovery continues on schedule but he will need to be handcuffed for sure.   Adam Lallana could have some serious upside if Raheem Sterling moves on to Manchester City although that upside could just as easily go to Jordan Ibe.  Moreno is another solid upside pick.  He struggled mightily in the time he got last season but he’s young and could “get it” and solidify a starting spot without much trouble based on his reputation and physical skills.

Questionable Picks - For me Forster went too early even in the ninth round.  He isn't scheduled to be back until early in the second half of the season.  If this were a dynasty format where you could keep him for multiple seasons then maybe the pick is a good one but he feels like a player you could have picked up a few rounds later without much worry.   


Tenth Round

  1. Diafra Sakho
  2. Wilfried Zaha
  3. Jack Grealish
  4. Matt Phillips
  5. Jack Colback      
  6. Ross Barkley
  7. Mame Diouf
  8. Aleksandar Kolarov
  9. James Ward-Prowse
  10. Massadio Haidara

 

There’s a little bit of everything to be had in Round Ten as managers look to fill out their squads.  Colback is what he is and will be solid and the same is likely true for Diouf.  Zaha, Grealish, Phillips, Barkley, Kolarov, and Ward-Prowse all come with big upside but significant issues related to playing time.  Grealish’s recent actions off the pitch certainly aren’t helping his cause while Ross Barkley seems to have stalled in his development.  Zaha was in the same boat until heading back to Crystal Palace where he at least showed some signs of getting back on track.  Ward-Prowse is perhaps the best bet here to click as a valuable fantasy asset at some point in his career, the question is whether the regular starting role will come this year or at some point in the future.

Questionable Picks - Kolarov is a big question for me as a projected starter.  He showed fantastically toward the end of the season but Manchester City didn't have a ton to play for at that point and it seems likely that his biggest value would be as a handcuff for Gael Clichy (Kolarov was not drafted by the same team that drafted Clichy).  Haidara is another pick that has a great points/match projection but with the upheaval at St. James' Park I'm not sure how easy it is to project him taking a bigger role in 2015-16. 


Eleventh Round

  1. Falcao
  2. Simon Francis
  3. Papiss Cisse
  4. Micah Richards
  5. Craig Gardner   
  6. Brown Ideye
  7. Luke Shaw
  8. Jefferson Montero
  9. Christian Atsu
  10. Mile Jedinak

 

A little bit of everything in Round Eleven with Simon Francis seeming to have the most upside here given his classification as a defender and his scoring record in the Championship last season.  Micah Richards is also an interesting pick on the breaking news that he has signed for Aston Villa.  He didn't perform particularly well on the continent last season and his fitness was questioned but we know he has the physical talent and this scoring system favors outside backs significantly so he's probably worth the risk.  

 

Questionable Picks - We're getting to the point where most of the starting line-up should be set so it is very reasonable to take gambles.  I'm a little mystified by another reserve (Falcao) going to a team that didn't have the starter in front of him (Diego Costa).  Like Kolarov/Clichy, this seems like a natural fit but instead someone is playing the risky game of picking up a reserve and hoping for an injury to a star player.  It could pay off but it seems unlikely.  Brown Ideye and Jefferson Montero are both questionable picks as well.  Montero because Swansea picked up Ayew who plays in the same position and Ideye because Tony Pulis has been linked with a number of center forward-types this summer already.   


Twelfth Round

  1. Samir Nasri
  2. Scott Dann
  3. Joel Ward
  4. Jack Wilshere
  5. John Stones      
  6. Ashley Young
  7. Nacho Monreal
  8. Marcos Rojo
  9. Fabian Delph
  10. Jan Vertonghen

 

Everyone should have their starters at this point outside of their goalkeeper perhaps and the picks here range from the solid (Stones, Dann, Ward, Monreal, and Delph) to the speculative (Nasri, Wilshere, Young, Rojo and Vertonghen).  The solid picks are likely to play regularly but not contribute a ton and the speculative picks are ones that could pay off if they players play but could just as easily flame out as the picks sit on the bench as they did much of last season. 

Questionable Picks - Everyone is going to have some fleas at this point in the draft but Marcos Rojo seems to combine two downsides in one package.  First, he's a center back which isn't valued in this scoring system and secondly, he's not a sure starter.  You can gamble on a non-starter like Nasri who might ascend into more playing time one way or the other and you can live with a center back in a scoring system that doesn't favor them but only if he's going to play nearly every match (like Stones).  You can't live with both.    

Thirteenth Round

  1. Eric Dier
  2. Ayoze Perez
  3. Joleon Lescott
  4. Hugo Lloris
  5. Mario Balotelli  
  6. Moussa Sissoko
  7. Leroy Fer
  8. Remy Cabella
  9. Kyle Naughton
  10. Chris Smalling

 

My favorite pick here is Ayoze Perez who is going to be very good at some point.  It could be this season in a squad that should be better all-around with a competent manager in charge.  It could take one more season.  If it’s this season then the rest of us “experts” are going to look foolish for letting him slip to the 13th round. 

Questionable Picks - Mario Balotelli looks like a wasted pick as Liverpool continue to accumulate assets in attack.  This draft happened before they picked up Firmino but Balotelli never seemed likely to put on a Liverpool shirt again which means that just about anyone would have been a better selection.   

Fourteenth Round

  1. Glenn Murray
  2. Juan Carlos Paredes
  3. Joe Hart
  4. Boaz Myhill
  5. Thibault Courtois             
  6. Costel Pantilimon
  7. Jermain Defoe
  8. Juan Cuadrado
  9. Adrian
  10. Franck Tabanau

 

The run on goalkeepers is on.  Thibault Courtois and Joe Hart are the big names but Myhill (or the Myhill/Foster combination over the course of the year) and Adrian seem more than likely to perform better based on their history.

Questionable Picks - I think "big name" goalkeepers have been over-valued in the draft so far with Cech, Courtois, Hart and Lloris all going before players who rack up more saves (which lead to bigger fantasy totals in this system).  


Fifteenth Round

  1. Yohan Cabaye
  2. Ki Sung-Yueng
  3. Ashley Williams
  4. Erik Pieters
  5. Enner Valencia 
  6. Wes Morgan
  7. Dame N’Doye
  8. Siem De Jong
  9. Gerard Deulofeu
  10. Kevin Mirallas

 

More from the speculation market – Cabaye (not yet in the Premier League), N’Doye (still relegated), De Jong (who knows what he’ll be if he’s ever healthy), Mirallas (seems likely to be gone from Everton), and Deulofeu (just arrived at Everton but not certain to start).  And more from the solidity market in Morgan, Ki, Williams, and Pieters.

Questionable Picks - Hard to call anyone this deep on the bench a questionable pick but given the salary-related difficulties of getting a player from somewhere like PSG to a mid-table club like Crystal Palace, the Cabaye pick seems questionable.  That said, looking at the alternatives, you can live with that sort of risk and pick up a replacement-level guy on waivers if September 1 comes and goes and Cabaye is still cooling his jets on the bench in Paris. 


Sixteenth Round

  1. Michel Vorm
  2. Emre Can
  3. Ben Davies
  4. Mathieu Debuchy
  5. Kasper Schmeichel         
  6. Juanmi
  7. Antonio Valencia
  8. Luke Garbutt
  9. Odion Ighalo
  10. Toby Alderweireld

 

There isn’t too much more to say about these picks overall.  I like the Can pick in general but holding midfielders aren’t favored in the current version of the Togga format that we’re drafting for so there are probably other formats where I would have liked it more.  Garbutt is rumored to be signing an extension with Everton and then going on loan elsewhere in the Premier League which could see him have some significant upside.

Questionable Picks - Ben Davies is an odd pick for someone who doesn't have Danny Rose maybe a trade can be worked out with Kevin DeVries who picked Antonio Valencia (not likely to be a starter when the season starts) and Steve Rothgeb who picked Davies and someone else depending on where Manchester United end up getting their starting right back.  My one take-away from this draft is that there are going to be some orphaned handcuff picks clogging up benches for the first couple weeks of the season.

 

Seventeenth Round

  1. Diego Perotti
  2. Geoff Cameron
  3. Jack Butland
  4. Asmir Begovic
  5. Maya Yoshida   
  6. Jonjo Shelvey
  7. Ben Foster
  8. Rolando Aarons
  9. Simon Mignolet
  10. Heurelho Gomes

This is why you can leave your goalkeeper until late.  Simon Mignolet went in the last round and he was the ninth highest scoring keeper in this scoring system last season.  Brad Guzan wasn't drafted at all and he was 11th in the scoring system.  There just isn't a ton of value in goalkeepers.  Perotti (transfer just announced) and Aarons (high upside youngster) are good risks late and I particularly like the Shelvey pick here.  Based only on his numbers from last season, he went about where he should have but he only started 28 matches and there’s the ever-present possibility with Shelvey that the light will come on and he’ll take the significant leap forward that the flashes of talent he displays on occasion let you know is frustratingly possible.  This late in the draft, that's what I'm looking for, multiple forms of upside (more matches played AND more talent to be realized).  There's always a solid guy to pick up off of waivers for the bench if Shelvey fails to make good on either of those fronts. 

 

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.