Here at The Draft Society we’ve always said that what makes the draft game different is the community that is has fostered. It’s all love, baby. The support we get from each and every one of you every day of every week is beyond anything we could ever have imagined when we founded back in March of 2021. And whilst we’ll never be able to thank you all enough for this, we hope that we can give a little something back in the best way we know how: the Community Special.
Each week @the_innergeek will write up a personalised article for the league of one lucky winner. It’s your call on the topic. Whether it’s a Trade-Maker Special, a Gameweek Preview, or The Crystal Ball Breakdown, the Inner Geek has you covered. A word of warning, though: no punches will be pulled when the Inner Geek gets to work! This week’s winner is Darryl Elliott, whose gif of 90s UK cult icon Mr Blobby perfectly encapsulated who we think would be the best man to take over at United next! Anyway, the Crystal Ball analysis was chosen, so Darryl, are you and your rivals ready to see into the future?
The Crystal Ball
We’re not even a third of the way through the season yet, and for you mere mortals, the end is nowhere near in sight. But for me, blessed as I am with my crystal ball, the end has been in sight since draft day. In fact, it is not so much “in sight” as it is “annoyingly obscuring my view of the rest of the world”. Time to remedy that. It goes without saying, but the following article WILL contain spoilers..
Before we begin, we need to take a look at the rosters. After all, how can you agree with my predictions if you don't know what they're based on?
The Rosters and Some Context
For those of you who continually miss the Sky Sports or ESPN coverage of this league, then here's a quick recap of the rosters, current league standings, and rules.
This league works to a 35-game season with 12 teams – 6 of which qualify for the playoffs. Roster size is capped at 16 players and the scoring system is default Fantrax with a couple of very minor amendments.
The Current Situation...
How It All Ends…
Enough with all the formalities - let's start seeing into the crystal ball! Here we go then, in reverse order (though if you can't stand to wait any longer, the final league standings are at the foot of the article!).
12th – Ryan (current position: 11th)
How can the team with Mo Salah – undisputed number 1 player in Fantrax right now and for the rest of the season – finish bottom of the league? Quite easily actually. You just need to have a terrible defence and an awful midfield. I may be wrong, but I’m thinking that Ryan must have acquired Salah through a huge trade rather than simply in the draft. There’s no alternative explanation for why there is only one other top 70 player on this roster. Yep, Ryan has surely sold everything but the Gabriel Jesus-shaped kitchen sink to get Liverpool’s star man, and unfortunately, it’s going to cost them. The Crystal Ball has foreseen just four more wins for the rest of the season, and the team will not even be close to avoiding the wooden spoon.
11th – Ran out of Steam (current position: 8th)
They may currently sit with the same number of wins as the team in 5th but this roster will soon drop down to its actual level. The midfield contains breakout player of the season Connor Gallagher, but that really is it. The MID2 in this side is either McArthur, Sambi Lokonga, Rodri, Odegaard, or Pulisic – options so woeful that I’m not going to even decide who gets that #2 rank. The defence is barely any better, and it could get even worse if number 1 option Luke Shaw starts losing game time to Alex Telles. What keeps this team competitive (and off the bottom spot) is the frontline. Mbeumo, Son, and Bailey are a nice trio and will have their days. Overall, though, there is too much waiver material on this roster and it will slide its way down to 11th in due course.
10th – Levy La Vida Lucas (current position: 10th)
A 10th place finish for Levy La Vida seems very harsh given that they will end up only two wins off 5th, but this is what happens when your forward line is made up of Mahrez, Richarlison, Lacazette, and Werner. The not-so-fab four are proof that name value isn’t important in the draft game – minutes and starts are. It also goes to show the importance of having a strong frontline because this defence and midfield isn’t actually too bad – I rank both positions (slightly) above average in the league. Maguire will improve, Azpilicueta will return to the starting XI, and Lamptey will be serviceable in defence. In midfield, JWP is legit, and Eze, Pogba, Sancho, and Moura all have big time potential to haul – they just lack consistency. It’s that inconsistency – and that forward line – which had led to the 10 spot.
9th – Exeter (current position: 7th)
Exeter have seen Levy La Vida’s strategy and decided to go in the complete opposite direction. A below average defence, a below average midfield (that’s being kind), and a good forward contingent will see them finish 9th in the league – missing out on the playoffs by just the single win. It is a weak roster being held together by the talent up top. Kane (yes, he returns to former glories), Aubameyang, Wilson, and Zaha provide solid options week-in, week-out, but unfortunately, they need to be joined by at least seven other outfielders, and that’s where the issues arise. Trossard as the MID1, Reguilon as the DEF1…these are not normally sentences that are associated with a playoff-making team. That said, if Chilwell’s injury is a season-ending one, that Alonso asset changes things…
8th – Cobz (current position: 4th)
Not the final position that high-flying Cobz would like to see, but there’s no arguing with The Crystal Ball. Losing out in a close playoff race always hurts, but it’s especially agonising when you do so on total fantasy points scored. The midfield is strong but it is desperately crying out for some depth, particularly given the fact that Kovacic’s current injury is going to run and run, Raphinha will continue to pick up slight knocks, and Gundogan will endure the frustration of Pep Roulette all season long. Antonio nearly drags this team into the top 6 single-handedly, but he doesn’t quite get the consistent support from fellow forwards Pepe, Rodrigo, and Ings. The defence will have its moments, but there is nobody there that you can really trust. All in all, this is simply an okay roster, but okay isn’t good enough for the playoffs.
7th – Top of the Klopps (current position: 6th)
Another team agonisingly missing out on the playoffs by virtue of total fantasy points is Top of the Klopps, and as with Cobz, it’s a below average set of forwards that has to take some of the blame. It’s not a terrible trio of options, but it’s not top-6 worthy either. Crystal Palace’s Edouard will become a rotational piece in a side that has suddenly got a wealth of attacking talent available, whilst Diogo Jota will remain in a timeshare with Bobby Firmino (save for when Mane and Salah are at AFCON). Adam Armstrong is improving as a fantasy asset, but he doesn’t exactly strike fear into opponents. This side needs Jack Grealish and Youri Tielemans to play like round 1 and 2 picks…the former will – when on the pitch – but the latter will see his production drop off as Leicester’s rocky season rolls on. Close, but no cigar for Top of the Klopps.
6th – Tyers (current position: 9th)
Making it by the skin of their teeth is Tyers, who will be riding the coattails of a rejuvenated Romelu Lukaku from December onwards. Regardless of whether you think the Belgian is a great player or not, as the lone forward in a Chelsea side that can dominate (most) opposition at will, his fantasy value is going to be top-10 ROS. The other reason that this side makes it – despite what is an average defence and a so-so midfield – is that it can pick and choose Lukaku’s forward partners nicely based on matchups. Midfield and forwards are key in draft fantasy and having a 6-deep front line is ludicrously greedy…and smart. That said, trading one of them out to strengthen the midfield could push this side higher or, more importantly, give them a better chance in the playoffs. (Sterling to Show Me The Mane for any of their MIDs – bar Fernandes, obviously – would be a fair trade in my opinion…).
5th – Flying Without Ings (current position: 5th)
It’s an awful defence, but it’s a 5th place finish – telling you everything you need to know about what positions are valuable in draft fantasy. Yes, a Dias-Veltman-Lowton backline is going to be repping this side in the playoffs, but it’s in the forwards where the focus will be. Firmino is back, Vardy will never go away, and Benrahma is here to stay. The Demarai Gray injury is a considerable loss, but he was the 4th choice here anyway, so it’s not a fatal blow to the team’s league ambitions. Add in a midfield that includes Mount (still a 1st rounder), Saka (a strong 2022 sees him finish with a 10+ FP/G), and Bernardo Silva (perhaps the comeback player of the year?) and you can see why this side has squeezed into the playoffs.
4th – CSKA Mortimer (current position: 5th)
Okay, okay, okay. I’ve ranted all article about the importance of forwards (and midfielders) to season-long draft fantasy success. Well, CSKA Mortimer are the exception that proves the rule. Che Adams, Joelinton, Bamford, and Greenwood will strike fear into no team, but not to worry – the midfield has Kevin De Bruyne. KDB has been a disappointment so far this season, but that’s largely been fitness related. His PP90 still ranks 15th in the league, so he just needs starts and minutes – which he will get eventually. Fornals is a nice little follow up in midfield, and you have a similar one-two punch in defence with Cancelo and Keane. These four are the reason that CSKA make the playoffs, but the fact that we’re not mentioning any other names is the reason that they’re some distance from the top three.
3rd – Greaves (current position: 2nd)
It’s going to be a cracking title race, with three teams neck and neck (and neck?). Ultimately, though, Greaves are going to have to settle for 3rd – and also, the drawback of missing out on a bye in the playoffs. Led by Alexander-Arnold (a defender by name, a forward by nature) and ably accompanied by Bowen, Smith Rowe, Calvert-Lewin, and Jimenez, this roster is strong and oh so close to the big prize. In fact, there’s only two players here that are waiver material – Varane and Fabinho – which tells you something about the strength in depth available. The forwards are probably the weakest area, but even Wood (perhaps the most underrated Fantrax player of all time) and Dennis – their FWD3 and FWD4, respectively – have big score potential.
2nd – Show Me The Mane (current position: 1st)
This roster is VERY good. By my reckoning, it’s the 4th best defence, 3rd best midfield, and 2nd best forward line. Unfortunately, these ranks are not quite good enough to win the league, though they will take it right down to the wire. The recent Chilwell injury may actually have made the difference in the end (The Crystal Ball hasn’t gone into that much detail), but on the plus side, Coufal will soon return to the West Ham side and show why he was a round 5-6 pick back in August. In midfield Maddison and Harrison will both have strong second halves of the season, whilst Gross and Lookman will contribute in fits and starts. Oh, and Bruno Fernandes is still Bruno Fernandes. Finally, a Toney-Ronaldo-Sarr front three is going to see so much game time that big points are inevitable. A great roster, a great season, but in the end, only enough for a runners-up spot.
1st – IKanteFit (current position: 3rd)
Ladies and gentlemen, your league champion is…IKanteFit! This roster is supremely impressive everywhere you look. With a spine of Reece James, Foden, Saint-Maximin, Mane, Watkins, and Traore, and then secondary pieces like Digne, Pinnock, Towsend, Buendia, and Trincao, it is no wonder that it ends up on top. The ceiling of this side is seriously high, and The Crystal Ball has actually foreseen a massive 198-pointer being put up in gameweek 35 – which is fitting as this will be the week that the title is sealed. This roster is so good that even the absurdity of holding two goalkeepers (because presumably Sanchez is deemed to be undroppable) cannot stop it from defeating all it’s rivals. Congratulations IKanteFit, a well deserved title in a thoroughly competitive league. Now on to the playoffs!
6th seed Tyers upset the odds and defeat 3rd seed Greaves in a thriller. The Tyers side who scraped into the playoffs capitalize on a Greaves side with some tough matchups (Jimenez at Chelsea; TAA and Alisson against a rejuvenated Spurs). Raheem Sterling – given a chance in the starting lineup bags a hat-trick against Newcastle to see Tyers over the line.
5th seed Flying Without Ings also get the victory, defeating CSKA Mortimer on the back of a big Saka performance at home to Leeds and Benrahma putting Norwich to the sword. CSKA weren’t able to muster enough points with some difficult matchups for their forwards, and main men Cancelo and KDB being given a rest by Pep.
In the first semi-final IKanteFit show why they are league champions with a crushing defeat of the 6th seed Tyers. Big points are put up across the board for IKante and Tyers can’t keep pace. In fact, with their two main men Lukaku and Rashford facing off against each other, they are barely able to put up a fight. An easy win for the champs.
The second semi-final sees a much closer matchup, and this time the higher seed doesn’t prevail. Yes, Flying Without Ings make it to the final thanks to a vintage Jamie Vardy performance who rolls back the years for the penultimate time this season. Show Me The Mane aren’t able to respond, and despite some good scores, fall just short…again.
The final. 1st seed IKanteFit taking on 5th seed Flying Without Ings. A Champions League final matchup between Manchester City and Liverpool looms in the background…to the detriment of IKante. It means Foden and Mane are rested, and despite big games from Reece James (vs Watford) and Saint-Maximin (vs Burnley), the league champions can only put up 98 points. Is it enough? Veltman, Lowton, Saka, and Bissouma all bring in double-digits…it’s close. And then, stepping up one last time. It’s that man Jamie Vardy. A hat-trick on the last day of the season, and it’s enough to give Flying Without Ings a memorable victory.
The Final Whistle
So there we have it. The Crystal Ball has revealed its secrets. Darryl, you and your league may as well do the old Championship Manager trick now and ‘Go on Holiday’ – the results have already been decided, the positions finalised, and the silverware handed out (and wooden spoon too…Ryan…). It also means that you can now bring forward the end of season night out. You’re welcome.
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