Here we are at the end of another season of the Premier League, and what a season it was! Another 38-week marathon full of twists and turns and drama all the way to the final day, which also played out in our draft fantasy leagues. Whether your fantasy season was a rousing success or you’re still licking your wounds, the good news is there’s the promise of a new season—and a new draft—on the horizon.
Before the Draft Kit drops and we turn our attention to preparations for the 2022/2023 season, though, let’s have a little fun. Following the time-honored high school tradition of commemorating the end of each year with a combination of reflections on the year gone by and predictions for what lies ahead, I’ll be nominating a select few folks to reward with superlatives.
2021/2022 Draft Fantasy Premier League Superlatives
Traditionally, these awards are doled out based on popularity for mostly superficial reasons (Best Smile, Most Likely To Become Famous, Class Clown, etc.), but I’m going to take a stab at updating them to be more applicable to the fantasy game we love. Let’s get to it!
Best Surprise - Bernardo Silva
Rewind to this time last summer and the rumor mill was just beginning to pick up steam, with reports that Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder was headed for the exit door. Regardless of whether a move materialized, Silva was coming off a poor season by his standards, falling victim to Pep roulette and generally looking out of favor. This earned him a pre-season consensus rank at the end of the 9th round (pick 119). Fast forward to the end of this season and the diminutive playmaker established himself as a prime fantasy asset, outperforming his previous season by 175 fantasy points and earning himself a spot more than 100 places better than predicted at 17 overall. Managers who drafted him in that late round surely laughed their way all the way to the bank.
Most Likely To Have Peaked - Michail Antonio
Speaking of surprises, West Ham's attacking talisman shocked us all by staying fit for a full season and, at least in the early stages of the campaign, maintaining his white-hot form from Project Restart. His efforts were enough to vault him into 22nd in the overall rankings for this season. But I can’t help thinking we’ve witnessed the best the Jamaican has to offer. David Moyes’ charges will be competing in Europe again and are facing the prospect of losing a few more members of an already paper-thin squad. Particularly if the club cashes in on the hefty sum Declan Rice will command this off-season, you have to imagine they’ll be reinvesting in a new long-term striker to ease the load on Antonio’s aging hamstrings. While a new striker may keep Antonio off the treatment table, it will also likely result in fewer appearances than the career-high 36 he made in the Premier League this season. If they don't bring in reinforcements up top, it'll be another long season for fantasy managers just waiting for the Hammer to fall.
Best Newcomer - Ivan Toney
It’s actually pretty rare that the obvious choice for fantasy investment of a season’s promoted clubs lives up to the expectations heaped upon them (I’m looking about you, Aleksandar Mitrovic), and even rarer to exceed them. Yet, that’s exactly what Brentford’s star striker did this season, putting up nearly 400 points in his inaugural Premier League campaign to claim 16th spot in the overall ranks (a full 25 places ahead of what many, present company included, viewed as too high of a pre-season rank of 41). If the Bees can keep hold of Toney (he seems pretty determined to secure a move away) and beef up their squad with a few more solid supporting pieces in the attack, he could even improve upon his 12 goal, 5 assist tally from this year.
Most Likely To Rise From The Ashes - Dominic Calvert-Lewin
There was a lot of competition for this award, with the likes of Pedro Neto, Marcus Rashford, Patrick Bamford and even forgotten man Donny Van De Beek staking a legitimate claim to put this season in the rearview and come out swinging in 22/23. But it’s also easy to forget just how good DCL looked at the beginning of the campaign before his unfortunate injury. It took until the final month of the season for the Everton man to look anything like the player that earned a pre-season consensus rank of 15, but two goals and an assist in his last three games to help secure safety for the Toffees is a good sign that the 25-year-old is headed back to the top of his game.
Best Couple - Harry Kane & Son Heung-Min
Tottenham’s dynamic duo have been the league’s best strike partnership for a couple seasons now. But let’s not forget there was very nearly a nasty breakup to begin the year. Like the now-classic meme, Kane had a good thing going but had his head turned by the very attractive prospect of playing for Manchester City. Son could easily have spurned his go-to guy when he came crawling back, but kept it together for the kids and was the solid foundation Spurs needed while Kane got over his rejection. The pair quickly made up for lost time, linking up on multiple occasions on the way to securing the #1 and #5 overall scores.
Most Likely To Break Through - Chiquinho
Every season there are a few fringe players who go undrafted and later establish themselves as legitimate fantasy options. Think Anthony Gordon or Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. There’s a case to be made for Harvey Elliott establishing himself as a regular in the Liverpool midfield next season, but with rumors of Aurelien Tchouameni coming in, I’m turning my attention to Wolves’ electric winger, Chiquinho. The Portuguese was just starting to get more playing time in Bruno Lage’s squad when the season came to a close. Wolves’ scoring troubles are well-documented at this point and they’ll need a spark of attacking creativity to make a push back into the conversation for Europe next year. Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence may be the players to get the goals flowing, but both have had injury troubles and may have their minutes managed. With Trincao departing and Adama Traore likely to be offloaded in the summer before he can leave for free, there should be plenty of game time up for grabs. I like the youngster's chances.
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