We had the pleasure of participating in the Togga fantasy Premier League experts mock draft for the 2015/16 Fantasy Premier League season. Togga scoring is much different than the official Premier League game, as well as daily sites like DraftKings and MondoGoal, as it includes stats like chances created, successful take-ons, interceptions and tackles, among others.
The draft was made up of 10 teams that were required to choose at least three forwards, five midfielders, three defenders and one goalkeeper within the 17 rounds. Togga required a traditional 4-4-2 lineup last season, but they will expand with a number of different options this year.
Below is a chart showing the results of the draft, color coded to make the position breakdown better. After you've had a chance to review the draft, we'll break down our steals and reaches.
One note: we were allowed to choose players who are/were rumored to be transferring into the Premier League, using our best judgement in deciding the probability of the move (i.e. we shouldn't waste a pick on the ridiculous possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to Manchester United or Lionel Messi going to Manchester City).
Rounds 1-4 Steals and Reaches
In the beginning of drafts, there are always more reaches than steals (it's hard to steal players at the level of Sergio Aguero, Eden Hazard, etc.), but there were still some surprise steals and reaches. Andrew somehow getting Benteke in the third round is astonishing. At 2.02, I was strongly debating between Benteke and Harry Kane, ultimately deciding on the latter. The fact that it took 10 more picks for the big Belgian to be selected completely boggles my mind. With Mata and Sturridge, there are some risks, but the ceilings are tremendous considering the price of a fourth-round selection for each. Well worth it.
I don't want to give myself too much credit for the Benteke pick, but there is no reason (in my opinion at least) that he should go after Danny Ings and Charlie Austin. Benteke was clearly not fit at the beginning of last season, and he has legitimate 20-goal potential, whether at Aston Villa or another club that can utilize his skills in the box. Sturridge in the fourth round was also a great get. Yes, he gets injured quite a bit, but we've seen him bag 20 goals in a season when he's healthy, and in the fourth round, he's worthy of the upside. Ings going 13 picks ahead of him was very surprising.
As soon as I selected De Bruyne at 3.09, I instantly regretted it. Not only are the rumors pointing the wrong way towards a Premier League return for the Belgian, but even if he does transfer to Man City, his projected position would be on the right flank replacing Jesus Navas. Not exactly sexy, considering the third-round selection. Another midfielder that isn't a sexy selection is Albrighton. Yes, he had a good end to the season under Nigel Pearson, but that fire wasn't burning all season – nor does it have the ability to. Ings at 2.10 seemed strange considering Benteke was still available among a host of other options. With Ings, you're counting on one of two things: Daniel Sturridge having long-term injuries or Liverpool utilizing two strikers. I'm not convinced. The number of defenders going off the board this early was startling, but Rose is not among the elite ones that were being selected here. On that note, Baines' time as an elite defender, and the first defender taken, has passed. Everton's new style of play under Roberto Martinez is not conducive to the left back flying up and down the pitch. Combine that with the lack of penalties and a sharp decline is in order for the defender who is going on the wrong side of 30.
Sigurdsson was the 10th highest scoring player in Togga last season, but I think it's a little naive to think he'll reach those figures again without Wilfried Bony in the box. While he's a set-piece master, Sigurdsson got a lot of his early season points by creating chances (plenty for Bony) and there is no way that Bafetimbi Gomis provides as much of a target as Bony next season. I'm not saying Sigurdsson was a bad pick, but I think he was a reach ahead of guys like Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Aaron Ramsey, among midfielders. Ings going ahead of Benteke, Olivier Giroud, Romelu Lukaku and his own teammate Sturridge was astonishing to me. Maybe I have more hope that Sturridge will stay fit, and if he does, he'll vastly outscore Ings. The addition of Nathaniel Clyne could at least give Ings a guy to send balls in like Kieran Trippier did last season, but Liverpool also gets much more production from their midfielders than Burnley did. Even if Sturridge can't ignore the injury bug, I am struggling to see Ings getting significantly more than 10 goals next season.
Rounds 5-8 Steals and Reaches
15 goals and 17 assists in 42 appearances is impressive for anyone at any level. Those were Matt Ritchie's numbers at Bournemouth last season. At the fifth-round price, it is well worth the risk of seeing if his Championship numbers will translate to the Premier League. I was considering him when I took De Bruyne at 3.09. As for Bony and Remy, an eighth-round price is insane value for two players who may start for explosive offenses (Remy strongly linked to Crystal Palace and West Ham).
Wilson was a prolific scorer in the Championship last season and the easy comp to make is looking at how Danny Ings and Charlie Austin played for their promoted teams last year. 15 goals isn't out of the question, and I almost took Wilson at 5.3 but passed hoping he'd make it back. Obviously he did not. The Everton defense wasn't overly impressive last season, but Coleman moves forward so much and I thought it was surprising he went after guys like Hector Bellerin, who may not even start because of Mathieu Debuchy, and Cesar Azpilicueta, who seems allergic to joining the attack most days. Sure, those guys may end up with more clean sheets, but the chances created by Coleman are too many for him to be picked behind those guys and Danny Rose.
With Cech now officially going to Arsenal, part of my objection to this pick has been alleviated, but the core of my issue of taking a goalie in the sixth round isn't. There simply is not enough value between the top tier and lower tiers of goaltenders. The same goes for taking Fabianski in the eighth round. Arnautovic was an odd choice due to the potential of Bojan and Victor Moses competing for the same position. Ulloa started and ended last season strongly, but Leicester will need to rely on more than just the motivation of not being relegated to be of fantasy relevance for an entire season.
The run on defenders early was quite surprising to me given that last year's top-5 players really only had two that you'd expect (Leighton Baines and Branislav Ivanovic). There is no one who would have predicted in the preseason that Kieran Trippier, Daryl Janmaat and Ryan Bertrand would be the others in the top-5, so I was more than comfortable to wait on defenders and snap up those at more reliable positions. Zabaleta was the 10th defender taken, so while I don't have much problem with that, I'd rather wait on defenders and take someone who has more free-kick duties like his teammate Aleksandar Kolarov (full disclosure: I drafted Kolarov, who had 22 fewer total points in Togga last season than Zabaleta, four rounds later). Arnautovic was the 12th highest scoring forward in Togga last season and he was the 17th forward taken in the draft. It's not that I don't think he could have another solid season but there are at least three forwards I would have taken ahead of him that weren't: Wilfried Bony, Jamie Vardy, Theo Walcott, plus possibly Robin van Persie and Loic Remy if I knew where they were playing next season. Bojan is such a big injury risk, though even if he was fully fit, I don't see how he outperforms Bony. With how we've seen players return from ACL injuries (Falcao), Bojan just wasn't worth the shot this early in the draft.
Rounds 9-12 Steals and Reaches
Most of the usual suspects went in this area of the draft so there weren't too many outliers of note. I may be alone, but I believe in Vertonghen's talent and his ability to contribute offensively on set pieces. As for Delph, the big clubs are taking notice of his talents, and a transfer may not be out of the realm of possibility (Arsenal, specifically). He's a good box-to-box midfielder who can both pass and shoot from distance.
Laird Steals:Wilfried Zaha (10.2)
The only thing that has held Zaha back in recent seasons is lack of playing time. He's a blazingly fast player than can occasionally find himself in the right place at the right time. With Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon setting him up by taking up a considerable amount of attention from opposing defenses, Zaha could be a breakout star this season. I still don't know how he lasted this long.
Forster's return date may not be until 2016, and taking any goalie before the last round is like taking a kicker in fantasy (American) football. There's not a ton of value there. Montero's job is in deep question with the acquisition of Andre Ayew, and he was largely ineffective last season. Coquelin is a great story and really helped Arsenal last season, but in fantasy terms, he is too much of an offensive liability.
The top-5 goalkeepers in Togga last year were Lukasz Fabianski, Adrian, Tom Heaton, Costel Pantilimon and Robert Green. Two of them were relegated and one of them confirmed their spot in the Prem for next season in Gameweek 37. Spending a pick on a goalie who will be out until at least November, and possibly until March, is questionable in my mind, particularly for a fantasy team that already had Petr Cech. There's no questioning Coquelin's value to the Gunners last season, as he finally filled the defensive midfielder role that they've needed for so long. However, he's simply not a great Togga scorer, hitting over 12 points just once (yes, he didn't start playing until January, but that's still plenty of opportunities to hit 12 points; for reference, Nemanja Matic hit that level nine times).
Rounds 13-17 Steals and Reaches
As disappointing as Sissokho's ending to last season was, he was still a valuable EPL fantasy contributor. Over the course of a 38-week campaign, his value far eclipses a 13th-round selection. Andrew getting Cuadrado at 14.08 is insanely valuable. Playing time is a concern, but no one has a better opportunity this late in the draft should they get consistent time on the pitch. Can, if he receives defender eligibility, is also another tremendous value given his ability on the ball and possibility of being a box-to-box midfielder. Last, but not least, Aarons was a bright young star for Newcastle prior to his injuries. Taking a chance on his development is well worth the last round flier.
Deulofeu was a very important piece for the Toffees two seasons ago while on loan, and he's back on a permanent this summer after transferring from Barcelona. He's a bit of an injury risk, something that popped up during his time at Goodison Park too, but with manager Roberto Martinez seemingly uncomfortable locking Ross Barkley or Kevin Mirallas into his starting XI, Deulofeu could be primed for plenty of playing time in an attack spearheaded by Romelu Lukaku. Aarons dealt with considerable injuries for most of last season, but he showed flashes of being an exciting player that could really pick up the Newcastle attack (something they desperately lacked last season). If he can cement a spot in the starting XI, he could be the steal of the draft.
Paredes was just a speculative addition, with no true merit. I suspect the same went for De Jong, who Newcastle are desperately trying to forget about with the emergence of Ayoze Perez and their desire to sign the likes of Charlie Austin, Troy Deeney and others. Finally, Balotelli is only a name at this point. He provides zero FPL value and, best case scenario, winds up in the Turkish league.
Laird Reaches:Mario Balotelli (13.05)
I've never been a big proponent of believing there can be reaches this late in a draft, but Balotelli sticks out to me here (where doesn't he stick out though, really?). I don't think I could be convinced that he will be any kind of contributor to Liverpool next season, and if there is a belief that he could be transferred, it couldn't possibly be to another Premier League club given his recent failures in England. He's stuck behind Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, Rickie Lambert and maybe Fabio Borini on the depth chart, so while this part of the draft is somewhat about fliers, Balotelli's upside is just way too limited.