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TDS Community Special: The Crystal Ball with FPLements

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 FPLements, whose response to our KDB-inspired request for GIF’s was our favourite amongst a strong collection of contenders! Anyway, the Crystal Ball analysis was chosen, so FPLements, are you and your rivals ready to see into the future?

The Crystal Ball

We’re once again on the home stretch of another Premier League season, yet for you mere mortals, the end is still a mystery. For me, though, 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.

FPLements has chosen to have his DPL Raphinha Riot division analysed. This league plays a full 38-game season, with the top three earning prize money. Roster size is capped at 16 and the scoring system is default Fantrax.

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: Caretaker FC (current position: 12th)

If the team’s name is a description of what has happened this season, then kudos on the not-so-subtle deflection of inadequacy. Maybe this team has undergone a managerial change, but it still doesn’t excuse the roster that is currently on show. The only name worth their salt is Conor Gallagher, and even he’s become colder than my house since April 1st (that’s a dig about rising gas prices for any of you non-UK readers). "Whatever happened to Wout Weghorst?" will be the question we’re all asking when he pops up for some random German team in the Europa Conference league in three years’ time, as well as the question his current fantasy managers have been asking since January. The Dutch forward has not been the star signing that many of us thought he would be and even the odd performance between now and Gameweek 38 won’t be enough to help Caretaker FC add another win to the column. This is very much an Alan Shearer-type caretaker appointment as opposed to the Roberto Di-Matteo type.

11th – Falling Away From Mee (current position: 11th)

A strong finish to the season for Falling Away From Mee, though they’ll be disappointed with the de facto wooden spoon (Caretaker FC surely don’t count, right?). The Reece James Injury has hurt, but equally damaging is Ivan Toney going round the season in par and Sadio Mane at a couple of shots over. One of your big guns needs to overperform to finish in the upper reaches of a league. There’s a lot of Twitter-fashionable names here – Alexis Mac Allister, Liam Cooper, Christian Norgaard, Marcal, Milot Rashica – but these guys become fashionable because they’re sleeper picks. Too many sleeper picks and eventually your team will just fall asleep. On the plus side, Gabriel Martinelli is an absolute baller, and his form (as well as a couple of big Liam Cooper returns) is what sees the team pick up four wins for the remaining stretch, including a ding dong battle with Earth, Wind & Maguire in the penultimate weekend.

10th – White Said Fred (current position: 10th)

A lack of roster depth does not necessarily indicate a poor side, which is just as well for White Said Fred when you see the likes of Jonny Evans, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, and Tyrone Mings there. What is more important is the ceiling, and it’s here where the team aren’t too sexy. Bruno Fernandes is having a very good season, but he's not hit the heights of his previous two campaigns. He sits 8th for total fantasy points and 6th in OverthinkingFootball’s WAR rankings – excellent relative to the rest of the league, but not when you are expected to finish 1st or 2nd on these metrics. Still, it’s more that he’s had no support around him. Jack Grealish, Harvey Barnes, and Jamie Vardy have disappointed, and whilst each is going to have one more big game this season, it’s a case of far too little, far too late for WSF.

9th – Draft Punk (current position: 6th)

Hopes of a top three finish (and the lucrative financial rewards that go with those places) are quickly dashed as Draft Punk take L’s against Earth, Wind & Maguire and HODAR in gameweeks 33 and 34. In fact, it’s a fairly brutal end to the season, with the side slumping all the way to 9th on the back of five defeats from six. There’s a chance that the side could Get Lucky and maintain their challenge in the upper reaches of the league, but they’ll need someone like Joshua King to get a big return "One More Time" this season, and the Crystal Ball doesn’t see that happening. In fairness, it’s a miracle that a roster holding just King and Danny Welbeck as forward options has managed to put themselves into contention, but the magic that has been worked on the waiver wire up until this point is sadly going to run out for Draft Punk.

8th – FPL Boss (current position: 9th)

Sitting in 8th spot, nine points behind 3rd and with six games to go, FPL Boss is kicking back in their sandals, sipping piña coladas, and watching the tide drift slowly in and out. No fantasy manager wants to be in that position – at least a wooden spoon scrap is entertaining. But unfortunately for those sides with something to play for, Boss aren’t going to Dylan Thomas it for the rest of the season. Three wins, including a big one against Kinder Mbeumo in Gameweek 33, will have ramifications for the rest of the league, and it’s this continued competitiveness that ensures the side finish above Draft Punk on points scored. There’s a lot of big names on this roster – it’s as if the manager has specifically targeted players from top six sides, even if those players aren’t consistently quality in fantasy. If there’s one thing that our draft game has over OFPL*, it’s that quality can be found all the way down the league. Boss will do well to remember this next season, otherwise another season in the lower reaches of the league will be in store.

*there’s not one ; there are about a 12,756 things

7th – The Konate Kid (current position: 5th)

I said earlier that one player has to overperform for you if your team is to challenge towards the top. Well, The Konate Kid have that in Bernardo Silva, but unfortunately, there’s a whole load of players around him that are countering his successes with some seriously bad underperforming. Raul Jimenez, Timo Werner, Danny Ings, Vladimir Coufal, Marcus Rashford, Christian Pulisic, Emiliano Martinez… all of these have seen their fantasy value plummet as the season has gone – it’s no wonder that this side finishes 7th. The 2 and 4 slump that sees them slide from contention will be disappointing, but it has its moments – not least the two big gameweeks from Timo Werner which see him return 25+ each time. Sergio Reguilon and Allan Saint-Maximin will get in on the act too with a couple of big games of their own, but too few clean sheets from here on out will see this side have to settle for mid-table mediocrity.

6th – Fantrax ELD (current position: 8th)

Giving themselves just a little too much to do is Fantrax ELD, who end the season strongly with four wins, but can only climb up to 6th spot in the league. It’s a burger of a roster put together by the manager, with all the good stuff happening in the middle. Raphinha, Jarrod Bowen, Mason Mount, and Dejan Kulusevski can hang with the best of them but when your forwards are Raheem Sterling (5th most inconsistent player in the league), Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo, and Armandro Broja, you’re never going to be able to make a serious push for those places at the top. They also hold arguably the two most frustrating defenders in the game in Rayan Ait-Nouri and Luke Shaw. Nevertheless, it’s still a top-half finish for the club, and had Matt Doherty not suffered the season-ending injury last weekend, the Crystal Ball had them beating Let’sFantasyF in Gameweek 37, too…that would have meant a 5th place finish.

5th – Kinder Mbeumo (current position: 4th)

Now we’re getting into the serious business. Kinder Mbeumo currently sits tied for 2nd and it’s going to stay agonisingly close all the way until the very end. That Gameweek 38 matchup against Earth, Wind & Maguire is essentially a cup final – the winner taking 3rd place and all the riches that go with it. Unfortunately for the KM manager, the side can’t quite do the job when it matters most. A heavy defeat for Villa away at Manchester City means Matthew Cash and Ollie Watkins return empty handed, whilst Pep’s decision to rest Phil Foden ahead of their Champions League final means that he doesn’t get the chance to fill his boots either. The Liverpool trio of Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, and Diogo Jota do well at home to Wolves, but EWM are holding Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson, who do even better. It’s just not meant to be for Kinder Mbeumo, but 5th place and an entertaining final day is not a bad season in this game.

4th – LetsFantasyF (current position: 7th)

Damn, that draw turned out to be really costly. LFF have a fantastic roster, and if points made prizes (they don’t in this game) then they’d be popping the champers to a Championship title, not drowning their sorrows to an agonising end. This season Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joao Cancelo have been up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start*. They may well have revolutionised the draft game to the same extent that they’ve revolutionised the fullback position in real life, and if they aren’t top 5 draft picks next season then I don’t know who is. I never thought I’d say that about one defender, let alone two. The rest of the roster is loaded as well, with Kai Havertz ending the season as one of the premium players in the game and James Ward-Prowse doing what James Ward-Prowse does. It’s a hell of an unlucky season for LFF – they deserved more.

*cheat codes, just in case you didn’t get it

3rd – Earth, Wind & Maguire (current position: 2nd)

Boy that was close. It goes down to Baltimore but in the end EWM do enough to scrape that prestigious 3rd place. Nobody can question whether they deserve it though, as the side have a brutal final stretch that unbelievably sees them take on all the teams currently around them to earn their spot. It really is going to be a nail-biting time for the manager and the Crystal Ball has seen that every single game is going to be settled by the finest of margins. Fortunately, they have the players (just!) to end up on the right side of those games more often than not. Obviously, Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson are the key pieces, but Philippe Coutinho has two big returns left in him – as do Riyad Mahrez and Dwight McNeil. The real hero though? Dan Burn and his 26-pointer on the final day of the season that sees them to victory in the pivotal game against Kinder Mbeumo.

2nd – HODAR (current position: 3rd)

Peaking at the right time to secure second spot is HODAR, and whilst it’s a fine roster put together by the manager, there’s one main reason behind the success: Harry Kane. The Tottenham man has been phenomenal in 2022 – the best player in the league (and yes, I am aware of a certain man called KDB). It might be a little greedy of HODAR to think this, but Kane’s performances actually haven’t been reflected in his fantasy points…which is saying something given that he’s returned 252.5 points (1st in the league) at 18.04 FP/G (3rd in the league) this calendar year. Still, it’s more than enough to earn the side five wins from six, and the silver medal for the season. Outside of Kane, this roster is like Nickelodeon in the 90s – it has entertainment for days. Hakim Ziyech, Luis Diaz, Leandro Trossard, Christian Eriksen, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus…these are some fun players for the manager to watch. Yes, it’s not the title, but this has been a fantastic end to the season for HODAR.

1st – Kaisatz Havertzach (current position: 1st)

Congratulations, Kaisatz! League Champions for the 2021-22 season – was it ever in doubt? It’s an extraordinary achievement and one that reminds me of Sir Alex’s final season at Manchester United. That side was not great (Rafael was the #1 right-back and Tom Cleverley started 18 league matches!) but it had a great manager, and in the end, it cruised to the title. A forward line of Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray, Maxwel Cornet, and Romelu Lukaku probably shouldn’t be winning the league, especially when backed up by a defence that essentially consists of one main man: Joel Matip. But there’s one teeny, tiny, thing that this roster does have. Kevin. De. Bruyne. Yes, the Manchester City man has put this side on his back and, along with some astute waiver pickups by the manager, carried Kaisatz to glory. Okay, so they stumble over the finish line with a 3 and 3 record, but who cares? Kaisatz Havertzach, you are the champions.

The Final Whistle

So there we have it. The Crystal Ball has revealed its secrets. FPLements, 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…Caretaker FC…). It also means that you can now bring forward the end of season night out. You’re welcome.

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