The 21/22 Fantasy EPL season has drawn to a close, but before we take a quick post-season break Draft Genie & Ryan Barnes are here for a post-mortem analysis of the biggest flops of the season. Whose hopes were dashed by these Premier League disappointments? Who makes the cut? Read below!
Biggest Flops of the EPL Season
Every season yields pleasant and unpleasant surprises. We're going to discuss the latter - the players who underperformed the most severely, relative to their lofty preseason expectations. The graphic below lays out the biggest flops of the season, comparing their Average Draft Position (ADP) with their End of Season (EOS) points ranking. Ryan & Genie delve into this list, analyzing why these folks were coveted before the draft, why they underwhelmed, and what to expect next season. Here are your biggest flops of the 2021/2022 EPL season!
Pre-Draft Rationale: The Leeds striker had an impressive debut season in the Premier League in 2020/2021, ending the campaign with 17 Goals & 7 Assists. Fantasy-wise, he was the 9th highest scoring player, just behind KDB, with 418 points and a ppg of 11. While his ghost points were somewhat lacking - not too uncommon for a striker of his ilk - these are staggering numbers for a FWD not on a top 6 side. It is, thus, no surprise that he was coveted as a FWD1 coming into the draft. He was taken in the mid to late 2nd round in most leagues.
What Happened?: A combination of the dreaded second season syndrome, which we (Genie & I) predicted for Leeds, and some persistent injuries doomed Bamford's 2021/2022 campaign. The Leeds striker only started 7 games this season, compared to 37 last season. And in those 7 starts, he only mustered 57 points and a ppg of just over 6, roughly half of his production from the prior campaign.
Next Season: It really isn't fair to judge Bamford given the lack of playing time and the subpar, turbulent season Leeds had last season. But will these injuries carry over into the coming campaign? And even if he does manage to stay fit, can he regain a semblance of his old form and quickly adapt to new manager Jesse Marsch's system? There are so many questions attached to Bamford going into the draft. This uncertainty drops him down to a late 4th/early 5th round punt for me. If he gets back to his old ways, he is going to be pure value at that position.
Pre-Draft Rationale: The Colombian playmaker stormed the Premier League the year before under Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Despite only starting 21 games in 2020/2021, James posted 6 goals and 4 assists, to go along with a solid ghost point floor (he averaged just under 9 ghost points per game). In short, he produced MID1 numbers when he was on the pitch. And given the key pre-draft narrative of a dearth of quality midfielders, it is no surprise that James was taken in the 4th round of many drafts.
What Happened?: James never played a minute of the EPL season. He was a darling of former manager Carlo Ancelotti and wasn't in the plans of incoming manager Rafael Benitez. As a result, he was frozen out and shipped to the Middle East (no, seriously, he went to Al-Rayyan in Qatar). Some of this should have been priced in pre-draft but nothing was official until it was too late. It's a cautionary tale. Do your research prior to gambling on an asset that may not see the light of day. The risk/reward prevented me from taking him; let someone else take the risk.
Next Season: N/A; it's very unlikely that James will make a glorious return to Blighty this summer. His career seems to be on the beach, so the MLS is more likely in his future than the Premier League. However, if he does somehow join a Prem side, he becomes a decent round 7/8 pick.
Pre-Draft Rationale: The man with the bangs and giant calves was a fantasy god at Aston Villa over the two previous seasons. In 2020/2021, despite only starting 24 games, he was 10th in total points, boasted a mouthwatering 17.7 points per start, and bagged 6 goals and 10 assists. He was 2nd in ghost points with an average of over a dozen ghosties per game. Given this level of production and the suspected dearth of quality midfielders, it is no wonder that Super Jack was highly coveted in the middle of the first round in most drafts.
What Happened?: What many folks failed to realize is that while Jack's summer move to Manchester City would guarantee him more silverware, it would also be detrimental to his fantasy value. At Aston Villa, every attack went through him and he was given license to make things happen, resulting in a boatload of points. He was also comfortable and relatively carefree at his boyhood club. In contrast, at Manchester City, he would have to adapt to a new team, manager, role (no longer the main man, just another elite player), and a rigid system. I had Jack as a top 5 pick if he stayed at Aston Villa, and much lower if he departed for Manchester (despite being in a better team that scored more goals).
This suspicion was proven correct fairly early on. The "Pep Tax" is a real thing - it usually takes at least a season to adjust to the demands of Pep Guardiola and find one's footing (something to consider with Erling Haaland this coming season). Indeed, Jack struggled. He only managed 3 goals and 3 assists. And his 255.5 points relegated him to outside of the top 10 scorers just at Man City. He still averaged just under ten points per game but he was a shell of himself on the fantasy front. Managers taking him in the early first round were understandably very disappointed and left pining for the good ole days at Villa.
Next Season: Grealish could be value in the upcoming draft. This underwhelming campaign will still be fresh and his heroics at Villa all but forgotten. And with a year of Pep under his belt, he should start to crack on in his second season at City. He gave us a glimpse of the old Jack in his last start v West Ham, dropping 20+ with a goal. Some of the pressure from his big money transfer has lifted as he hoisted the Premier League trophy in his debut season. Grealish recently admitted that he has been in his own head for much of the campaign, trying to impress his manager at every turn. This should subside and allow him more freedom to express himself in 2022/2023. Fellow TDS analyst Luke Wilkins seemingly concurs, including him in his recent Four Players Not to Sleep On piece. If Jack slips to the 2nd or 3rd round, time to pounce.
Pre-Draft Rationale: The diminutive Portuguese - which could aptly describe the majority of the Wolves roster - was arguably the biggest revelation of the 2020/2021 season. Pedro Neto went from a rotational piece to the beating heart of the team. And the fantasy points flowed. He dropped 375 points, with a ppg of over 12 (on the back of 5 goals and 6 assists). His double digit ghost point per game average aided the cause. The only thing that could stop him was a gruesome knee injury in April 2020 v Fulham. This long-term injury, which usually entails several months of rehab, prevented Neto from being drafted earlier than his ultimate ADP of 42. Many thought he represented value in the 4th round - they'd need to just wait a little while until he regained fitness and came good.
What Happened?: Well, they were wrong. Those unfortunate souls who drafted Neto either dropped him, traded him for scraps, or held him/burned a roster spot for 8 months. Neto didn't end up making his first cameo until March of 2021 and only started 5 games all season. As I noted in the Do Not Draft List, published in last summer's Draft Kit, selecting players with long term injuries, especially in relatively higher rounds, is a losing strategy. It's just too much investment and sunk costs - roster spots are valuable and having an unusable slot for several months will damage your prospects. The juice is never worth the squeeze. And so it was with Neto.
When Neto did play, he looked mostly off the pace, which is to be expected after such a devastating injury. However, he did show some glimpses of his erstwhile brilliance, nicking a goal and an assist in those 5 starts. He also was on most set pieces - very important for fantasy purposes.
Next Season: Similar to Grealish, but to an even greater extent, a lot of folks will sleep on Neto and momentarily forget how good he used to be. Or they'll be weary about his recent injury history. Either way, he should be great value for money after Round 3. I saw enough this season to know that he's still got it. He hopefully worked the kinks out in these 13 appearances this season and will be raring to go after a full preseason with Bruno Lage, who will be under pressure to improve a sputtering attack. Neto will surely be instrumental in that process. The only potential drawback, of course, is the susceptibility to injury. He went off with a knock in the last game of the season v Liverpool. This is worth monitoring over the summer. If he has shaken it off and has a good preseason, he should be off to the races come August.
Pre-Draft Rationale: Rashford was coming off a great season with 11PPM and 11 goals. He headed into the campaign on the injury list and would miss at least the first 3-5 games. He was slipping to rounds 5-7 in most drafts, and the value was definitely there with the assumption he would reach similar heights of last season. Getting someone with FWD1 upside after round 4 could be the difference to winning you your title. He had a virtually guaranteed starting role with Greenwood not having had the best of preseasons.
What Happened?: It all started great! A goal off the bench in his season debut against Leicester, and then an immediate start the next game. Well, that was the only good news.....Rashford had the worst season of his career, starting just 13 games with only 4 goals and 2 assists. While United were poor as a whole Rashford didn't even look half decent in any of his appearances. He never even showed glimpses of reaching the heights of previous seasons, and it was the hope of fantasy managers and United fans that hurt the most. Tough to drop a player with 10+ PPM potential, but also was more detrimental to fantasy teams than useful, ESPECIALLY when starting!
Next Season: It is very hard to say what role Rashford will have next season, but there is hope he will at least be given a chance to fight for a starting wing role. Surely a new signing will come in to challenge him, but Ten Hag will be hoping to get the best out of the 24-year-old forward. I would still punt on Rashford, but it probably wouldn't be until the double-digit rounds unless he showed significant improvement in the preseason, and no new wingers end up coming in.
Pre-Draft Rationale: Calvert-Lewin was set to lead the line in what was a decent Everton attack, with potentially Rodriguez behind him in a CAM role, and new signing Gray joining the starting lineup, as well as some depth in Townsend. The perfect storm for crosses into the centre forward. All of these signings pointed towards just doing everything possible to feed Calvert-Lewin. We also can't forget DCL was coming off his best attacking season with 16 goals in 32 starts.
What Happened?: Calvert-Lewin started the season with 3 goals in 3 games...the perfect start....then was out until January. The perfect disaster for managers who didn't "sell high", thinking they have a potential Top 5 forward this season, ended up being stuck with a player holding up a valuable roster spot, who was in the undroppable category. After returning in January, Calvert-Lewin was on and off again with various injuries, but worst of all didn't score another EPL goal until May 15th vs. Brentford.
Next Season: I personally believe in the DCL resurgence, he had a great end to the season including scoring potentially Everton's most important goal of the campaign in the dramatic win vs. Crystal Palace. Calvert-Lewin should still offer FWD1 upside, in what will hopefully be an improved Everton squad, bringing in a proper attacking midfielder. Depending on signings I would look to draft DCL in the first 4 rounds.
Pre-Draft Rationale: The rationale was tough here, after a very poor debut season, and a slight revival under Tuchel it was always going to be tough for Werner to offer FWD1 value. The signing of Lukaku made things even more difficult. There was always the appeal of having a starting Chelsea forward, with rumours that Tuchel would have Lukaku playing just in front of Werner.
What Happened?: Werner decided to, well.... do a Werner. He managed just 4 goals all season, and only 15 starts. Two of those goals came in the 6-0 thrashing against Southampton...other than that he was pretty much useless. He couldn't quite find his feet as a winger/second striker and faced both injuries and a lot of rotation.
Next Season: Personally, I am completely avoiding Werner unless I can use a Round 13 or later punt on the forward. There's no doubt some sort of a new attacking signing joins the Chelsea rotation mess, and Werner and his poor fantasy output is someone I will gladly pass on.
Pre-Draft Rationale: Sancho was coming into a team that was looking decent under Ole, securing top 4 and adding Ronaldo and Varane, in addition to himself. Sancho also had a defined role in the team, which made planning to draft him seem safer. Unfortunately, that and his amazing stats from the Bundesliga made a lot of managers, myself included, take him in the first round.
What Happened?: Sancho got off to a very slow start - he didn't make the starting xi the first few games then he mustered 0 points in his first start vs. Wolves, followed by only 4 points vs. Newcastle in the next game. After that Sancho proved to be very very inconsistent. It was difficult to predict when he would be able to provide the minimal expected return of around 7-8 points (for such a high-profile player). After Ole was let go, Sancho did start to find his feet and finally looked like he belonged in the EPL. For a decent amount of time, he looked like United's best attacking outlet and the only United attacker who wanted to go forward at times. Unfortunately, he ended the season with injuries and tonsilitis.
Next Season: I am super excited for Sancho to thrive next season under Ten Hag. Sancho will no doubt be one of the first names on the team sheet and will be looking to finally make his mark in the Premier League. He could easily be United's top fantasy scorer next season, and taking him in the first round is not a bad idea at all. If United buy a CDM and a younger striker to rotate with Ronaldo, Sancho should only improve as the pieces around him do. I personally still see him as a top 10 player entering next season.
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