Our Gameweek 1 Sleepers XI article provides Fantrax managers with a lineup of Fantasy EPL hidden gems. Our starting eleven of Draft Premier League differential picks will help you find a golden ticket to a big score this weekend! These hints and tips will give you a better chance of picking up an all-important victory, as any one of these under-the-radar picks could make the difference in a head-to-head game!
We'll be focusing on players that will bring us not only attacking returns or clean sheets, but also those players that score Ghost Points in the sophisticated and statistics based Fantrax Scoring System!
Fantasy EPL Gameweek 1 Sleepers XI
For this article, we use the percentage rostered calculation from Fantrax. Our only rule is that each player we highlight is rostered in 60% of leagues or fewer at the time of writing. Therefore there's a good chance some of these players will be free agents in your Fantrax Draft League! As always, we'll take form, fixtures, projected points, and a healthy dose of intuition into account to make our selections.
The first week of the 23/24 Premier League season is finally here and, unless you're in one of the very few leagues that drafts on opening day, you've already got your roster(s) set. If you're like me, you might have taken a few punts on players in your draft that can deliver bigger scores than some of the more reliable starters. In the event that one or more of those guys doesn't start this week and you need to look elsewhere, you're in luck.
The Sleepers XI table below includes a full team of Starters, as well as 5 Reserves -- high-upside players with some question marks around whether or not they'll start in Gameweek 1. Keep an eye out when lineups drop and pick them up if you see them starting and need to fill a spot on your roster. Read on below for the rationale behind each of the Starter selections.
Jason Steele (G, Brighton)
Roberto de Zerbi reportedly gave Steele a chance in the starting lineup last season as a way to light a fire under the under-performing Robert Sanchez, but Steele did enough to convince his manager he deserved the starting role moving forward. Sanchez has since joined Chelsea, but a likely reason for Steele's low rostership is the fact that Brighton brought in another keeper, Bart Verbruggen, in the summer transfer window. De Zerbi has continued to heap praise on Steele, however, and for now he appears set to remain in the starting lineup for the Seagulls. Opening day is unpredictable and there are always a few surprises with promoted sides, but Luton don't look like a team that's going to score too many goals so this could be an opportunity for a clean sheet. Brighton also rank best in our Fixture Difficulty Tracker for goalkeeper points over the opening 5 gameweeks, so Steele should be a medium- to long-term option in your team.
Anel Ahmedhodzic (D, Sheffield United)
After selling their best forward, Iliman Ndiaye, and best midfielder, Sander Berge, things are looking pretty rough for the Blades' prospects back in the top flight. The good news is that, at least so far, they haven't looked like moving on their best defender, Ahmedhodzic. The Bosnian center back is a reasonable aerial presence, something that's heavily rewarded in Fantrax Default Scoring, and is also a goal threat from set pieces. The 24 year-old scored 6 goals for Sheffield United in the Championship last season. He's a very proactive defender and should offer a reliable floor of ghost points from his other in-game activities to hopefully offset any goals he concedes. With no data to fall back on in terms of his fantasy output, we look instead to the fixture, where Crystal Palace rank the best fixture for defenders in the opening gameweek and have also lost quite a bit of their attacking power with Zaha's departure and Olise's injury. Ahmedhodzic may end up being one of the best promoted assets this season, and week 1 is a good time to see what he's made of.
Joachim Andersen (D, Crystal Palace)
On the opposite side of the pitch, Andersen faces a similar set of circumstances. The Danish center back is aerially dominant and will be facing a Sheffield United attack missing its best players with Ndiaye leaving and McBurnie unlikely to be fit in time. Roy Hodgson is nothing if not pragmatic in his approach to the game and this match could end up being a war of attrition where neither side is able to break down the other. Andersen has historically been one of the first options I look for on the waiver wire or free agent pool if Crystal Palace have a decent matchup, as he has the potential to rack up the ghost points. Depending on how the Eagles perform, this may be the last time for a while that Andersen qualifies for selection here, as he's already close to the 60% rostership threshold.
Michael Keane (D, Everton)
Even closer to that 60% mark is Keane, who may be the league's biggest beneficiary from the overly-inflated aerial duel points in Fantrax Default Scoring. Keane is an adequate defender, but he's nowhere near as valuable to Everton as he is to his fantasy managers. His fairly limited skillset and proneness to the occasional error have led to murmurs that he'll be replaced in the Toffees' starting lineup by youngster Jarrad Branthwaite, but at least through the pre-season fixtures we didn't see that come to bear. With Yerry Mina leaving and Mason Holgate also deemed surplus to requirements, there's a strong possibility Keane partners with his former Burnley teammate James Tarkowski for the home opener against Fulham. Keane has the highest projected score of any qualifying defender for gameweek 1, with Ahmedhodzic next in line more than 3 points below him. The double-digit projected ghost points underscores the Everton defender's potential in this format.
Milos Kerkez (D, Bournemouth)
A summer transfer that may have gone a bit unnoticed (unless you read our Bournemouth team preview or Transfer Analysis piece on him), Kerkez is an exciting, attack-oriented young left back who has joined up with a manager who relies heavily on his fullbacks to influence his team's attacking sequences. The Hungarian teenager should go straight into Andoni Iraola's starting lineup for the opener against West Ham at the Vitality. The Hammers are close to securing a few new signings to shore up their defense following the departure of Declan Rice, but none of Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse or Harry Maguire has completed their transfers just yet, so this could be an opportunity for the Cherries to capitalize on the situation. West Ham have been very poor in pre-season, particularly defensively, but they've also got some major question marks surrounding their attack (more on that in a bit) that may offer a small chance of a clean sheet as well (though I wouldn't bank on it).
Abdoulaye Doucoure (M, Everton)
While he may eventually move back into a deeper central midfield role to accommodate the arrival of Arnaut Danjuma, the Dutch attacker's injury likely means we'll see Doucoure as the most advanced of Dyche's midfield three (or five, if you don't want to consider Iwobi and Garner wingers...which is fair enough) for the match against Fulham. Doucoure carries with him a bit of an unfair reputation as your typical "Steady Eddie" central midfielder, likely to consistently deliver 6-8 points for your team each week. Dyche transformed the former Watford man into a much more explosive player after bringing him in from the cold, and Doucoure put up scores of 20+ on three occasions across the back half of last season. In that more attacking role as a box-to-box midfielder who makes late runs to join the attack, Doucoure is worth trotting out. With fitness and transfer concerns in other areas of the pitch, he could make that role his own for a longer period than expected, and could be an easy way into Everton's attractive opening run of Premier League fixtures.
Elliot Anderson (M, Newcastle)
Uncertainty reigns supreme at the beginning of every season as managers experiment with different tactics and lineups in pre-season, and there's a pretty decent chance Anderson finds himself on the bench for the opening gameweek despite his excellent performances in the build-up to the new campaign. That said, both Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock are injured, while Joelinton and Sandro Tonali have had their minutes managed in pre-season, affording the Scottish central midfielder the chance to grab the attention of his manager. Eddie Howe shared that the 20 year-old was miles ahead of everyone else in the squad when it came to his fitness during pre-season, and with Tonali potentially being eased into life at the club and in England more broadly, the opportunity is there for Anderson to start against Aston Villa. With four goals and three assists in pre-season, he's shown that he can offer a different facet to the midfield than the likes of Tonali or Longstaff and can provide cover for the more attacking Joelinton and Willock. Anderson will likely not be a regular starter in the Premier League for Newcastle this season but is worth a punt to see whether he can give Howe a selection headache in the early stages. You may need to be prepared to jump to another option who plays on Sunday, though, given that Newcastle-Villa is the last match on Saturday.
Jeffrey Schlupp (M, Crystal Palace)
With club legend Wilfried Zaha leaving the club in the summer and his would-be replacement Matheus Franca set to miss the opening few weeks of the season through injury, there's a gaping hole on the left wing for Crystal Palace at the moment. Lewis Hall looks set to complete a loan move imminently and could play there in a pinch, but for the purposes of this gameweek he's still a Chelsea player. With Michael Olise also missing from the opposite flank through injury, Roy Hodgson could turn to the versatile Schlupp to step into a rare forward role. The Ghanaian is a frequent selection in our Waivers, Ghost Point Hunters and Sleepers XI articles given his transient nature in and out of the starting lineup. When he starts, he's a solid bet to get you a respectable score, with the potential to crop up with an attacking contribution. Given the favorable match-up against Sheffield United and the out-of-position opportunity, Schlupp should be a good bet if you're in need of a midfielder this gameweek.
Dango Ouattara (F, Bournemouth)
I had very high hopes for Ouattara after he kicked off his Premier League career with scores of 16.5, 7.5 and 20 in his first three matches for Bournemouth, especially considering he put up those numbers without scoring a goal. Dango came back to earth after that with a string of subpar scores, and ultimately ended up being an inconsistent fantasy asset to close out last season. Still, he averaged 8.2 PPS and 7.1 gPPS (ghost points per start) in his first half-season in the Premier League. My hopes for him as a fantasy asset have been reignited with the arrival of new manager Andoni Iraola, whose emphasis on high-energy pressing and attacking displays should suit the Burkinabe winger's skill set. As discussed with the write-up on his new teammate Kerkez, Bournemouth have the unique opportunity of being able to play West Ham before their new signings have time to get through the door, so I'm in favor of giving their attacking assets a go in this one while they don't have anything close to sufficient cover for the departed Declan Rice.
Danny Welbeck (F, Brighton)
Given all the fanfare surrounding Evan Ferguson as the next great striker to grace the Premier League, Roberto de Zerbi sure has been careful with his integration into the starting lineup. The Italian has frequently turned to the more veteran presence of Welbeck to lead the line, including in pre-season, and I am predicting that will be the case for the opening match against Luton Town. The former Arsenal and Man United striker can be a bit of a "flat track bully" in that he usually scores well against sides in the bottom half of the table and can go missing against stronger opponents. That also often means he's relying on goals and/or assists for the majority of his points (he only managed 5.1 gPPS last season), and his 8 PPS is inflated by a few big scores (most notably his 35 points in the 6-0 win over Wolves). That score showcases his potential, but you should also be prepared that he could bust without an attacking return. There is almost always some sort of trade-off you have to make for players that aren't more highly rostered, though, and Welbeck's potential in a match against a team widely viewed as one of the weakest sides to be promoted to the Premier League is too much to ignore.
Michail Antonio (F, West Ham)
Before you say anything, yes I am aware that Antonio has been the subject of transfer speculation all summer and is possibly on the verge of moving to Celtic or Leeds or Wolves or some other club we've yet to see him linked with. This is the riskiest recommendation of the lot and admittedly more of a hunch pick than anything more concrete in terms of expected output, but it's not without its merits. With Gianluca Scamacca leaving the club this week to return to Italy, the Hammers are down to three senior strikers, and that's if you include 18 year-old Divin Mubama (which you probably should given his strong showing in pre-season; it's even a possibility he could start). It's hard to imagine the London club will let another forward leave without bringing in some sort of reinforcement, and David Moyes closed out the 22/23 season with the Jamaican as his preferred striker ahead of the lackluster Danny Ings. Similarly to the situation with Welbeck and Ferguson at Brighton, it feels more likely that Moyes will ease Mubama into the Premier League rather than throwing him in at the deep end, if he can help it. Antonio's experience, despite the doubts over his long-term future at the club, could be needed to rally the Hammers through this opening period. It's been a while since we've seen the performances that made Antonio a fantasy stud in seasons past, but it's not out of the realm of possibility for him to play near his best to solidify a transfer move by the end of the window.
For all the latest from The Draft Society, follow @Draft_Society on Twitter!
And for more in-depth and exclusive resources, become a member of The Inner Circle.