FPL Draft

A new series of articles from Will following his FPL Draft league over the course of the 2021/22 season.

I’m a disgruntled Fantasy Draft manager.

It’s because of the head-to-head format: no matter how well you do, if you are playing someone who does even better, you lose.

My team scored an impressive 60 points in Gameweek 9, the second-highest tally in our eight-team Fantasy Draft league. Unfortunately I was facing Sam, and Sam’s team – the aptly named ‘Best in Alderweireld’ – got a staggering 96 points. 

Sam owned Mohamed Salah, Phil Foden and Mason Mount?!?!?! And this being Draft, no-one else can have those players.

Boy was it the wrong week to play Sam: Salah, 24 points, second-biggest-career haul; Mount, 24 points, biggest-career haul; Foden, 18 points, biggest-career haul. I didn’t stand a chance.

Sam’s Gameweek 10 FPL Draft Team

It made no difference that five of her players blanked or that Luke Shaw got a minus one.

If only I could have faced her in Gameweek 4 when neither Mount nor Foden started and Salah got just the one goal.

And no, I haven’t finished moaning yet. 

The other thing that irks me is that I was seventh in the order for the draft picks. Sam was first, obviously. Not only that, but we did our draft picks in Gameweek 1 – before the likes of Ronaldo and Lukaku had arrived in the Premier League.

Then somehow I was top after Gameweek 1, having got the highest score and won my opening match, but this meant I was last when it came to the ‘waivers’ for Gameweek 2.

I didn’t have a hope of getting Lukaku, a player who despite his recent blanks and injury, will undoubtedly have a big say in the destination of the Premier League title and the outcomes of many Fantasy Draft leagues.

The draft, as the name would suggest, is the most crucial part of any Fantasy Draft league and really it should happen once the transfer window has closed. Not that Khalid Ameen cares one bit given that he snapped up both Ronaldo and Lukaku thanks to his poor start. 

Ok, I’ll stop eating those sour grapes…

I do, actually, really like Draft.

Because the opportunities for gains each week are limited – with managers often going for the same players – it requires a different set of tactics compared to regular Fantasy in order to be successful. Although it does make a big difference if you get Salah… (I’m sorry, I promise I’ll stop now!).

The temptation is to think of Fantasy Draft as a league for ‘dead teams’: pick your squad of 15, don’t touch it for the season, whatever happens, happens.

And this is how some managers approach it, like Sam, who’s made just three transactions all season, the fewest in the league. But, you know, getting a player who after nine rounds is 50 points ahead of his closest challenger in the standings will help boost your score… (Cease and desist with the moaning Will! No-one cares! And don’t talk to yourself in public, it’s weird).

Draft-Specific Tactics

Team news is important in FPL but perhaps even more so in Draft.

In FPL, we are only really concerned about the upcoming Gameweek when making our transfer decisions. OK, that’s not completely true because we often map out transfers a few weeks in advance, so we can buy players at the start of a nice fixture run for example.

But we don’t ever buy a player until he’s fit and available – that’s not necessarily the case in Draft. 

As mentioned, everyone will be going for the same players, and the manager who is last in the league table always gets the first pick. So you are by no means guaranteed to get the player you want. Unless you are bottom.

What can sometimes be a good idea, then, especially when a decent player is available, is to get that player a week or more before he is due to return. This way you are less likely to have competition for him from your Draft rivals.

So following that logic I picked up Pulisic ahead of Gameweek 10, following the news that he has returned to training. It could be argued that I’m just replacing one rotation risk with another – given that I got rid of Pepe – but ultimately I think Pulisic, when fit, will prove the better option.

This would be a fairly ridiculous move to make in regular Fantasy, but there’s no price changes to consider in Draft, there’s no squad budget, so a different mindset is required.

Below are some of the key differences between Fantasy and Draft:

  • There’s no player value or budget to think about
  • There’s no limit on the number of players you can own from one team
  • There’s no overall rank to fret over, just Draft league glory!
  • There’s no captaincy

That last one makes Sam’s score even more remarkable – 96 points without a captain. And it wasn’t even a Double Gameweek.

That’s the luck of the draw I guess… (I kind of said something nice, almost!).

Cashless Society

With no prices to consider there’s no such thing as a player being overvalued or undervalued.

So in regular Fantasy, if you didn’t think a player represented value for money because he was too expensive, you’d never consider buying him. But that restriction doesn’t apply to Draft – although it can be tricky to disassociate from that way of thinking. 

Conversely, a great-value player in FPL will be talked about and hyped up a lot in forums and on Twitter, perhaps unconsciously inflating their actual worth in Draft.

You can have ‘em all!

A few seasons ago, a Manchester United-supporting friend of mine filled his squad with his beloved Red Devils. And why not? There’s no restriction on having more than three players from one team.

If United kept a clean sheet and scored a few goals, chances are he was going to get a big score. 

But aside from putting all your eggs in one basket, there are tactical advantages to be exploited by this rule that you wouldn’t necessarily consider in Fantasy. Well, apart from your goalkeepers perhaps.

I’m talking about players who rotate for one spot in a team. Ordinarily you wouldn’t want to take up two of your Chelsea spots with both Ben Chilwell and Marcos Alonso – people are likely to go for the one they feel is most likely to start – but it’s something that’s a viable strategy in Draft.

Given that the players from the best teams will be snapped up quickly, especially the ones who are nailed, there’s often an opportunity to be gained from picking a non-nailed asset and the positional back-up. You should get one of them playing, which in the case of a Chelsea full-back is a good thing.

Essentially, you can use your subs bench differently. It’s no longer a place to put your cheapest squad member and hope they might provide some points if called upon. You can use it to feature rotating pairs or take a few risks, such as buying an injured player who, when fit, is an excellent option.

How long is it worth holding an injured or out-of-favour player for?

This is a very tricky question to answer in Draft because once you let a player go, you aren’t certain of getting them back.

I picked up Ben Chilwell ahead of Gameweek 8 after Glen Meadowcroft, who got him in the draft, gave up on the England international the round before. At the time it appeared that Marcos Alonso had become first choice. I got lucky.

But equally you don’t want to end up with too many non-playing assets, especially if you have a rotating pair or are holding someone who is set to return from injury.

Ultimately it’s about squad balance, and if you can afford to invest in a few ‘sleepers’ – players who you think will ‘wake up’ and come good in the future, then that seems a sensible tactic. 

To give her some credit, this is something Sam has done very well.

At the start of the campaign there was potential but also uncertainty with the likes of Foden and Mount. But she stuck to her guns (or just got too busy and forgot) and her faith in both players has been rewarded.

Not that I’m salty about it.

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