Well, we’ve made it through four weeks of the new FPL Draft format, and I’ll have to say I’ve been completely mesmerized with the format and the competitive feel of my head-to-head league. I’ve done Fantrax and other more complex draft leagues before, but for some reason, the simplicity of the FPL Draft format has raised the stakes.
While managers in the original FPL.com format contemplate using Wildcards this week, we in FPL Draft have no such recourse to save a struggling team. That’s why the waiver wire is so important, and why the Bargain Hunter may be more important than ever before based on the mere fact that these forgotten players could very well be the key to turning around a squad’s fortunes.
Since last week I featured Deadline Day transfers who will still need some time to be assessed, I figured I would focus on a different issue. This week I received an email from Adam (team name: Vote for Pedro). Adam mentioned that he wishes there was an extra bench spot for each outfield position to make squads deeper (I couldn’t agree more), which got me thinking: especially if injuries or suspensions strike, you could be forced into dropping high-draft picks just for the sake of surviving a week or two. Maybe a “Disabled List” option like in fantasy baseball or football, where you can pull in a replacement player until the incapacitated player returns, could come in handy in the future.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 5. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the Premier League on a weekly basis. Our friends at FPL.com take the data from a thousand private leagues, all of which consist of eight teams, in order to minimize the impact of data from public leagues where autopick drafting is more prevalent. Of course, it’s just a sample size, so it’s not hard and fast; but it should give us a good idea of the tendencies of FPL Draft leagues and managers. Remember, the waivers deadline is a full 24 hours before the first game of the week, and the lowest-placed team in your league gets the first pick.
One-week Pick (OWP) - When a regular is suspended for a match, ineligible to face his parent club as a loanee, or his fill-in looks to deputize for only a week while the regular nurses a minor injury, this is where to find some replacements. They should only be looked at when you really need help at a position that week alone, and not looked at as long term plays. Best for salary cap leagues with unlimited transactions, not so much for draft leagues.
Short-term Pick (STP) - When a regular faces a multi-game suspension, an injury layoff lasting 2-5 weeks, international commitment, etc., this is where you look for players that can offer more beyond one week but do have a limited shelf life in most cases. Worth using a waiver claim or spending a bit more of your free agent budget (FAAB) than the One Week Buys. Can be useful in salary-cap format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks. Also someone used as a
Long-term Picks (LTP) - When a regular is either facing a month or more out or has lost his spot seemingly to someone better, these are the players that emerge as potential long-term investments and are therefore the most valuable of the group and worth paying up. Great for any format, but especially valuable in draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Rob Elliot (Newcastle)
Four weeks into the season, I’m thinking that this batch of picks will be my best yet, and it starts with Elliot in goal. In the original Fantasy Premier League format, Elliot is the second most-taken goalkeeper after David De Gea, but mostly because he’s the only starting keeper priced at £4.0. However, I think Elliot could play a critical role in the upcoming months of FPL Draft, which is why I would consider him a long-term pick, well that and Newcastle’s extremely favorable fixture list leading up to December.
I list the matches, but in the next 10 matches, until November 28, the Magpies will face only two clubs from last season’s top seven: Liverpool at home and Manchester United away, while facing Stoke City, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Bournemouth and Watford along the way. The Irishman has started every game this season and is currently on a streak of two consecutive clean sheets after wins against West Ham and Swansea City. And better yet, Elliot is taken in only seven percent in our sample of FPL Draft leagues, making him a widely-available No. 2 keeper.
DEF – Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Jones is my favorite pick of the year thus far—so watch, he won’t start this weekend for some karmic reason. The one-time Fergie favorite has played his way back into Jose Mourinho’s good graces and back into the England national team as well, all the while keeping Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof out of the Red Devils’ starting lineup completely. The injury-prone defender has started and played 90 minutes in every league match this season, recording three straight clean sheets to start the season.
However, FPL Draft managers are clearly taking notice; since the international break, his ownership has more than doubled from 23 percent of leagues to 54 leagues. But that tells us Jones is still available in about half of FPL Draft leagues, and I would make it your No. 1 waiver priority to grab this bargain this week before it’s too late. Jones is clearly a long-term pick as a starter in one of the league’s best defensive setups, so I couldn’t recommend a pick higher.
MID – Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke City)
This week, I’ll feature two midfielders who are completely different players and will play two completely separate roles depending on what you need in your fantasy team. If you have a steady midfield and want to take a risk with your fifth midfield pick, Choupo-Moting has the potential to pull in some massive returns. The summer arrival from Schalke announced himself to the Premier League with a two-goal performance that almost singlehandedly stole a point of Manchester United last weekend.
The Cameroon international is known as a fluid winger/forward type who roams and poaches goals and who could see plenty of chances with Xherdan Shaqiri and Jese drawing some of the attention. Mark Hughes has recently played Choupo-Moting up top as a lone striker, making him a clear asset as a registered midfielder in FPL Draft. As the club’s leading shot-taker at three per game, Choupo-Moting is worth the risk as a short-term pick with serious long-term potential.
MID– Matt Ritchie (Newcastle)
For those of you who have a midfield in dire need of a stabilizing crutch, I think Ritchie would be a better option than Choupo-Moting, at least from a consistency standpoint. The former Bournemouth captain is locked in as a long-term pick as Newcastle’s playmaker. Last season in the Championship, Ritchie recorded 12 goals and seven assists, building on his four goals and six assists in his first Premier League season.
The Scottish international leads the club in crosses and is even third in passes per game, a stat usually dominated by defenders and defensive midfielders, showing his involvement in the club’s setup. After a slow start, Ritchie has recorded an assist in each of the last two matches. And as the club’s set-piece taker, that adds another threat to your side’s repertoire. However, he is only available in about half of our sample of FPL Draft leagues, meaning it might not be long before he is a rare find on the waiver wire.
FWD– Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Surprise surprise, Welbeck leads Arsenal in FPL points. The former Manchester United forward has started every match so far this season for the Gunners and has repaid Arsene Wenger’s trust with three goals, including two goals, an assist and three bonus points against Bournemouth last weekend.
His biggest challenge yet will come against Chelsea this weekend, but then the Arsenal schedule opens up nicely. The biggest knock against Welbeck is his health, which is the reason, along with a lot of competition within the club at the position, I wouldn’t call Welbeck a long-term pick just yet; however, this looks like the striker’s best chance yet to notch double-digit league goals for the first time in his career. And the best part, he’s taken in only 44.7 percent of our FPL Draft sample. Someone like that is just too good to pass up.