Mock season is well and truly upon us and The Draft Society is ready to deliver! We host weekly mocks, mostly 12 team and 10 team, and members of the Inner Circle get first dibs on getting in on the action. Mock drafts usually help us identify fallers, risers, and overall player value beyond the ADP figures. I recommend that everyone does at least a few mocks before actual draft day comes around. "A mock draft a day keeps the bad picks away!" a great philosopher once said. Or was it Ryan?
Without further ado, here is a brief analysis of the inaugural Inner Circle Mock which was a "normal" (non-slow) draft and it happened on Independence Day.
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First rounds are usually pretty straightforward, by the time Draft Day comes around there are usually only a few picks that are not unanimously agreed. We are in early July, though and that is far from the case. Even in early mocks there seems to be a top 6 that is set in stone, but after that it is anyone's guess. This also means, that there is a relatively big drop-off at pick 7.
Best Pick | Pick 6 | Sadio Mané
It is safe to say that the Liverpool forward did not enjoy the 20/21 season particularly, scoring only 11 goals in comparison to Salah's 22. However, the picture in Fantrax world is very different, where the Senegalese forward matched the Egyptian on points even though he played 2 fewer games. With issues at the back sorted and a summer of rest for Mané, I expect him to come out guns a-blazing for 21/22. Getting a proven goal scorer and one with strong ghost point potential at pick 6 is a good start to any draft.
Worst Pick | Pick 12 | James Maddison
I was tempted to go with Jadon Sancho (Anthony Elanga was used as a stand in) for this, but unproven superstars are always risky in round one and anyone who picks Sancho should know that full well. Maddison, on the other hand, has had 2 seriously below-par seasons on the trot and although his ability is clearly there, the Leicester team has proven to be able to function, and more importantly win, without him. Losing set-piece duty and being unable to fully recover from a recurring injury are 2 other reasons I am staying away from Maddison in the first 2 rounds.
Wow! This draft went off the rails quickly. This is some seriously haphazard drafting already in round 2.
Best Pick | Pick 25 | Phil Foden
A WAR beast, on his day, Foden can outscore literally anyone. I don't really like the Manchester City stack this early, but Foden is pure value at the end of the second round. We have said it many times, but this will be the season of Foden. Great pick at pick 23.
Worst Pick | Pick 19 & 21 | Pedro Neto & Bukayo Saka
I had to go for two here. Neto is a quick and easy one: he is injured. By the time he is back playing, you will be out of the running for the title, out of the cup, and frustrated as hell if you wasted your second-rounder on him. DO NOT DRAFT NETO in Rd2 (or anywhere, let others play half a season with 4 bench spots). Saka is a different beast. Arteta clearly likes him, he is a great talent and a constant in the revolving door that is Arsenal's attacking starters. However, he does not possess enough goal/assist threat OR ghost point potential to warrant second-round consideration.
Everyone is starting to get into a groove now. This is where looking at value starts turning into a panic about positional scarcity.
Best Pick | Pick 25 | Raheem Sterling
I know, I know. He was pants last season and lost his "chosen one status" in Pep Roulette as well. That said, if you can get a City attacker in Rd3 who is usually a proven goal scorer, you cannot pass on the opportunity. I do not expect him to last till Rd3 when people are drafting for real.
Worst Pick | Pick 33 | Patson Daka
Shiny new toy alert!! But it's waay too early for him in Rd3. The reasons are plentiful: adapting to the Premier League, having to unseat Vardy and/or Iheanacho, playing for a manager who is notoriously slow to integrate players, need I say more? Also, listen to JWill's interview with Leicester superfan and insider Sam Martin for more Daka love, but also more Daka realism. You can listen to the episode of the Key Pass Collective here.
I love this round! Amazing value to be had in mid-tier midfielders and top-end defenders if they fall to round 4.
Best Pick | Pick 48 | Youri Tielemans
Love me some Youri, especially at the end of round 4. He has become "The Set-piece Guy" at Leicester and he comes up with the odd wondergoal as well. He was mega consistent even before Maddison got injured (the second time). He is almost guaranteed 8-9 points, with double-digit scores coming in droves as well. A steal in Rd4. The new JWP?
Worst Pick | Pick 44 | Bertrand Traore
Don't get me wrong, I like Traore and his explosiveness. I just don't know where he fits in the Villa attack until the white smoke appears regarding Grealish staying or going. If Super Jack stays, I don't really see Traore retaining a regular spot with Emi on the books, if Grealish leaves, the attacking output suffers. Either way, I'll be avoiding Traore this early.
Jota ahead of Firmino is just blasphemy. You'll see!!! You'll ALL SEE!. Anyways. I am calm now. There are some strange picks in this round. I will not be highlighting Eze in this segment, because it is pretty obvious to me. Eze, unfortunately, should go undrafted in every league this season. You do not wanna pick him early because he is seriously injured and you should not pick him late as you will just be dropping him soon, so why waste a draft pick at all?
Best Pick | Pick 58 | Christian Pulisic
This is the season Captain America finally cements his place as either a superstar or a superstar made of glass. Either way, his upside is just too high to let him fall even further.
Worst Pick | Pick 56 | Emile Smith Rowe
Again, I am not going to knock the player, ESR is great, and will be even better once he nails down a regular spot on a team, gets set-piece monopoly, and the keys to the attack. Currently, however, he is a youngster on a seriously stuttering Arsenal team, who got 7 double-digit returns, only 1 of which came without an attacking return. For comparison, think Douglas Luiz, but less consistent. A punt in Rd14, sure! Rd5? Not for me, thanks.
Back to some normalcy, finally. good consistent roster-building on all fronts. Solid picks all around. Kudos to everyone.
Best Pick | Pick 72 | Thiago
The Spanish international was one of the players who suffered the most with Liverpool underperforming for most of the season, but that shouldn't deter managers from looking at him in the early mid-rounds. His purple patch coincided with the Mersey Reds' turn in fortunes and it is no coincidence. By the final third of the season, he was gradually able to provide much-needed creativity in a team that desperately needed it. His ghost points are usually pretty consistent, with some monster performances littered in for good measure. After failing to nail down a regular spot in the Spanish national team, he will come back to England hungry for the new season. (NB. He has only played more than 2000 minutes in a season 4 times in his career. proceed with caution)
Worst Pick | Pick 70 | Milot Rashica
Everyone remembers Norwich of 2 years ago.. Not a lot of value besides Emi Buendia and early season Pukki. As much as I like Rashica, he is no Buendia and we should not be drafting him to be that. I suspect the manager drafting here realized that at the end of Rd6 with a midfield of Pascal Gross... and nobody else, he needed to add firepower. Rashica is good, but not this good.
Best Pick | Pick 73 | Reece James
I know Chelsea rotation scares a lot of people. I get it, I am one of those people. But James in Rd 7 is obscenely valuable. At this point in the draft, you should not care if James is a week in week out starter, you should only care for upside as you will be able to get players to slot in the lineup in case your 7th rounder does not start. James has DEF1 upside. This is a no-brainer.
Worst Pick | Pick 78 | Tariq Lamptey
This could go 2 ways. Either we see images of Lamptey running around and terrorizing opponents' penalty boxes in pre-season and then this pick is a "Best Pick" contender or, he is touted as being "very close", "touch and go", "on an individualized training schedule", in which case avoid him this early as he is still at least a few weeks away.
Best Pick | Pick 96 | Nicolas Pepe
At the time of writing there have not been any creative players signed to replace the Real Madrid loanees Ceballos and Odegaard, so why do I think Pepe is a good pick here? Copy-paste what I said about Reece James. Pepe is the ultimate FWD3 if you have a solid midfield. This guy will win you games, but at pick 96, he will not lose you any. That's the dream mid-round pick.
Worst Pick | Pick 91 | Max Aarons
I am not much for picking defenders in the mid-rounds. you will be able to get pretty good value in later rounds and the top-tier defenders are gone already. Aarons unfortunately is not a defender I would look at for late rounds either. He has not been lights out, to say the least, in the Championship, he is going to ship goals (a lot of them) and there are so many better players on the board. This might have been an auto-pick. Or at least I hope it was.
Sergio Reguilon (Rd11), Trincao (Rd11), Adams (Rd10), Benteke (Rd11), AEG (Rd12), Cooper (Rd14), Dubravka (Rd16)
Deeney (Rd12), Alonso (Rd14), Brownhill (Rd11), Dowell (Rd13)
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