Updated: Mar 30
First-time Fantasy EPL managers usually learn the hard way about the importance of roster spots. Regular starters can be inexplicably benched late in the gameweek or a valuable fantasy EPL scorer can suddenly emerge. But you don't have any room on your roster to pick up a replacement or to take a punt on this new Fantrax stud. It has happened to the best of us. But there is a way to guard against it and prepare accordingly!
Please note that this article is based on using the Live Lineup Changes setting within Fantrax (lineups do not lock at the start of the gameweek).
Read this Draft 101 article below to learn how to make your team lean and mean!
The Importance of Flexibility
First-time Fantasy EPL managers usually learn the hard way about the importance of roster spots. A regular starting player is mysteriously nowhere to be found in the starting lineup in the last match of the gameweek and there is no room on your roster for a replacement. The result is zero points and a lot of anguish. Or a top fantasy EPL scorer suddenly becomes available or gets the starting nod out of nowhere but you have no one to drop for him. Or an unheralded player emerges from obscurity or comes to the EPL in the January transfer window but you can't pick him up because you don't have an open spot. It has happened to the best of us. But there is a way to guard against it and prepare accordingly.
Timing is everything. If a player’s matchup is early in the gameweek and he doesn’t start, you can swap him out for someone on your bench. Easy peasy. However, if his matchup is later in the gameweek, you might not have that luxury. Manchester City play in the last game and you’re counting on Riyad Mahrez to start and deliver 4 points to win your gameweek. Pep Guardiola has seemingly conspired to prevent that from happening by randomly benching Mahrez – the infamous act of “Pep Roulette”. You have no one else in that matchup on your bench and you can’t/shouldn’t drop Mahrez, so you are forced to keep him in and you lose. Sometimes this is unavoidable but often it is not.
This is the importance of “cover” – holding backup or placeholder players on the bench in a particular matchup that you can swap in or drop on the waiver wire for someone else playing in that game. Cover is especially crucial when rostering luxury players that you know are rotated (e.g., many Manchester City assets). In that scenario above, if you don’t have cover for Mahrez in the late game, you may be forced to start someone else with lower upside in an earlier game just in case. It depends on the level of risk you’d like to take on – or where you are in your matchup at that moment in time – but having cover provides an insurance policy.
If you have an open roster spot and you know that Mahrez is at risk of rotation in that late game, pick up the best available player off the waiver wire in that matchup (either for Manchester City or their opponent) and play them if Mahrez does indeed see the pine. Be smart and plan ahead. The need for cover is also even more acute when fixtures and rotation come thick and fast (e.g., the festive holiday season when there are 20 games played between Christmas and New Year).
Picking Up Free Agents
Draft day doesn’t end up providing most of your regulars by the end of the season. Often your GW1 roster is unrecognizable in GW27. Picking up previously unknown ballers and betting on free agents is part of the fun of Draft EPL – you can serve as your very own Nostradamus, prognosticating on who will pan out and who won’t. But making worthwhile bets on these free agents is also crucial for success. Hence another reason to be flexible.
This also applies to known quantities. Some players are proven Fantrax scorers. They start the season on the bench and are thus available on the waiver wire. But they get a run of starts due to injury or rotation and begin to rack up the points. Take the 2020/2021 season for example. If you were wedded to your original squad, you didn’t pick up likely undrafted gems like Pedro Neto. You also missed out on the purple patches of Fantasy EPL heroes such as Christian Benteke, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Olivier Giroud, and Anwar El Ghazi. The January transfer window can also be ripe for new blood (Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes was, after all, a January transfer). Finally, playing the matchups (as we’ve discussed in the article on streaming defenders) can also yield dividends and you need flexibility to do so.
How to Get There
In order to be able to provide cover and/or pick up these free agent studs, you need room on your roster. It depends on the makeup of your squad but having 2-3 interchangeable slots can be the ideal situation. There are multiple ways to obtain this flexibility, but two primary methods are trades and drops. Try to trade out multiple decent players for a few premium players. For example, parting with solid midfielders such as John McGinn & Declan Rice for a top end defender like Lucas Digne might make sense in this regard. Sometimes it’s easier said than done but swapping depth for more premium assets is a win-win; you not only get upgraded players but also valuable roster slots. Trading players, especially ones you’re thinking about dropping anyway, for FAAB (waiver wire dollars) with which to use on free agents/incoming transfers can also be helpful.
A simpler but still effective way to clear space is by dropping underperforming assets. Is it really worth holding an average (at best) player that is currently underperforming? Some players are not as valuable as an open roster slot. Everything is relative; if the players you are currently rostering are not better than what is generally available on the wire, say goodbye. You have Jonjo Shelvey, who has proven that he can be a solid performer. However, you notice that he is now off set pieces – a key source of his points – has been struggling to score and has had nagging injury issues. He is burning a hole in your roster and preventing you from picking up hot hands like Giroud. No more. Be ruthless and drop questionable players who have gone ice cold.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should drop valuable assets just to have more flexibility. There comes a time – again, particularly in the festive season – when you just must hold up your hands, field less than 11 players, and take a loss that week. While tempting, in the long run, one loss is better than hastily ditching players that could propel your team to more wins in the future. There is also such a thing as too much flexibility. You may see teams that are made up of mostly waiver wire warriors. It is too volatile and there are only so many winning bets you can make based on matchups or newfound form – consistent scorers are still invaluable. Know your team but try to stick to 2-4 flexible slots at a time.
Filling These Roster Spots
Now that you’ve slimmed your team down and have a manageable amount of space with which to tinker, what do you do with this newfound freedom? This usually comes down to a debate on upside (potential for huge scores) versus stability (almost guaranteed set of points), which then can depend on your team and its needs. If your team has enough high upside players, then you may want to go with a consistent scorer with a decent floor of points (a defensive midfielder like Wilfried Ndidi or N’Golo Kante who will get you 5-9 points like clockwork every week), and vice versa. It may also depend on the gameweek. If you are down by a lot, you may need to go with upside (an explosive player capable of posting double digits like Anwar El Ghazi) in order to catch up; if not, stability reigns supreme. As noted above, these roster spots are valuable. Choose wisely! Remember, championship-winning squads usually have the right balance of regular studs along with a few open roster spots with which to provide cover and make bets on in-form or promising free agents.
For more advice on how to fill your open roster spots, please consult our other Gameweek Prep resources. Flexibility is king!
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