Draft Fantasy: In The Beginning…

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Whilst many still scoff at the notion of playing fantasy football, the game has enjoyed major growth in recent years, even if it still hasn’t quite reached the popularity of fantasy sports in America.

Budgeting, checking fixture lists, planning ahead and regularly asking the question of ‘who got the assist?’ may not be to everybody’s taste, but fantasy football has been growing — and many may now be turning to draft fantasy too.

The standard setup in American fantasy sports such as NFL and NBA, a draft is fairly simple; managers take it in turns to pick players, forming a unique team for themselves in order to negate one of the big problems with the Official Fantasy Premier League game; managers ending up with the same players due to everybody’s availability, within budget constraints.

Drafts, especially those with head-to-head games, promote healthy — and sometimes unhealthy, depending on the other teams in your league — competition, whilst also allowing the ability for trades, waiver wire pickups and so much more.

The Official Premier League game does come with a draft option, but their limited scoring system means it isn’t ideal for that setup. Instead, sites such as Dugout FC, Draft Fantasy and, the website I use, Fantrax (RIP Togga, gone but not forgotten) offer outstanding draft formats with comprehensive scoring models; here is just a quick look at the scoring setup in my league.

Virtually every action on the pitch leads to points in some way, and leads to hugely competitive head-to-head games with division rivals, whilst draft night before the start of the season is also something that the Official Fantasy Premier League game doesn’t offer.

For years now, my friends and I have staged draft nights, much like the television show The League, where picks are made up on a draft board in what becomes something of a key event in the social calendar; so when you and your friends weigh up your fantasy football options for next season, draft should be your go-to.

My draft this season went…not particularly well. I landed the fourth pick in the first round, and spent it on Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne. With goals, assists and created chances galore, De Bruyne was up with Mohamed Salah as one of the highest-scoring players in last season’s game, but having suffered a major injury after the first game of the campaign, I haven’t exactly got much out of the Belgian — and the nature of draft fantasy means that you either drop him and risk losing him to another team in your league, or stash an injured player using a bench spot until he returns.

My full draft went as follows…

  1. 4: Kevin De Bruyne, M, Manchester City
  2. 7: Jamie Vardy, F, Leicester City
  3. 4: Cenk Tosun, F, Everton
  4. 7: Aaron Ramsey, M, Arsenal
  5. 4: Pascal Gross, M, Brighton and Hove Albion
  6. 7: Aleksandar Mitrovic, F, Fulham
  7. 4: Andrew Robertson, D, Liverpool
  8. 7: Nacho Monreal, D, Arsenal
  9. 4: Davinson Sanchez, D, Tottenham Hotspur
  10. 7: Max Meyer, M, Crystal Palace
  11. 4: Seamus Coleman, D, Everton
  12. 7: Rui Patricio, G, Wolverhampton Wanderers
  13. 4: Antonio Rudiger, D, Chelsea
  14. 7: Kenedy, M, Newcastle United
  15. 4: Thibaut Courtois, G, Chelsea
  16. 7: Glenn Murray, F, Brighton and Hove Albion

De Bruyne has been out injured, Vardy has blown hot and cold and Tosun was a gamble, believing that Everton’s early season fixtures would make him a hot commodity…I was very wrong. Ramsey has been in and out of the Arsenal side given questions about his contract status, Pascal Gross has been injured for some time now, and forward Mitrovic had a real purple patch but has dipped in recent weeks.

Robertson has been an outstanding pick and a mainstay of the side, whilst Nacho Monreal has been a consistent points-scorer when fit. Davinson Sanchez, Max Meyer, Seamus Coleman and Rui Patricio sparks a run of players who have featured at some point but are no longer with my team having been released, much like Kenedy in Round 14.

Rudiger has proven to be a late steal in Round 13, featuring regularly for my side, whilst Murray is a solid striker and occasional goalscorer for a final pick. Courtois was a punt as nobody else wanted him given that there were rumours about a move to Real Madrid at the time; if he stayed I had a bargain, if he went — and he did — I hadn’t invested much in Round 15.

This game is far from easy; points can come from everywhere, whether it’s goalkeepers with saves, centre backs with clearances, full backs with crosses, midfielders with tackles, interceptions and created chances, wingers with dribbling, strikers with shots on target, there are points all over the field — but if anything sums up just how difficult this format can be, this is a shot of my current team.

It’s not pretty. And is virtually unrecognisable from the beginning. Kind of like a major car crash victim.

From here on in, I will document my team’s trials and tribulations, as well as offer some fantasy football insight and advice to those playing draft fantasy or even the Official Premier League game, and merely hope that you do as I say, not as I do…