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TDS Community Special: The Crystal Ball with Haymakers

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

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 Haymakers, whose gif from The Office perfectly summed up how we all feel about the International Break that is upon us! Anyway, the Crystal Ball analysis was chosen, so Haymakers, 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 is an epic piece of work – the Fantrax equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. It works to a full 38-game season, contains 16 teams, and has a maximum roster size of 19 players. It’s safe to say that the winner of this league knows a thing or two about draft fantasy football! In terms of scoring, this league uses the classic Fantrax default.

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!).

16th – AFC Hellfish (current position: 16th)

Okay, what did Hellfish sell in order to get first dibs on Cristiano Ronaldo? It must have been a lot because this roster is skeleton thin when you remove the Portuguese superstar's name. Either that or this was just a damn awful draft. James Ward-Prowse actually makes a respectable number two, but then the next best player here is…Aaron Wan-Bissaka? Che Adams? This team is 1 and 10 for a reason, and I’m surprised that the Crystal Ball has even predicted six more wins this season for them. But hey, perhaps she’s feeling generous. (Side note: the Crystal Ball has also foreseen a hellish forfeit for this side, dished out by Rexys, First Losers, Saka, and Declan).

15th – Cobra Venom (current position: 15th)

They may have avoided the wooden spoon, but a 15th place finish is still nothing to shout about for Cobra Venom. Whilst the front three will have its moments (for example, the Crystal Ball has foreseen Jadon Sancho finally getting a run of games in February, just as United go on a 15-game unbeaten run to propel them up to 8th in the table and save Ole’s job…again), the rest of the roster is a hotspot for irrelevant fantasy “talent”. Hojbjerg, Neves, Ritchie, Thiago, Milivojevic, and Sigurdsson make up all of the midfield options – these six will score less than Mohammad Salah on his own.

14th – Team Arsenalarethe (current position: 14th)

In a league with some terrible team names, this is maybe the worst – which in itself makes it deserving of the 14th spot. You look at this roster and you see a couple of decent-ish players in defence (Pereira and Cash), a superstar in midfield (Fernandes) alongside a few other good pieces (Trossard, Gross, Maddison), and then you get to that forward line. I’m actually lost for words. It feels like the manager has somehow simultaneously gone back in time to when Pedro Neto wasn’t out with a prolonged injury, and forward in time to when Anthony Elanga actually plays for the Manchester United first team. And making the situation even odder – if that were possible – is seeing the name Connor Wickham there. The guy hasn’t been part of a Premier League team all season!

13th – Hop Skipp Jump (current position: 8th)

Our first major mover is Hop Skipp Jump, who fall from the mid-table mediocrity of 8th to the bordering-on-embarrassing position of 13th. They are, however, a much better side than the three teams below, and finish just two wins behind 10th, so perhaps “disappointing” is a fairer reflection on the season. The big issue for the side is in midfield – arguably the most important position in fantasy. Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe is the only name here that holds any relevance and he can’t do it alone (though in fairness, doing it alone may be preferable to doing it with Dele Alli, Giovani Lo Celso, or Josh DaSilva). The forward contingent is not bad – Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a top 20 asset and the rest should also contribute at times – but there’s just not enough in this roster to push it any higher.

12th – Team Paggioram (current position: 11th)

Coming in at 12 is Team Paggioram and again, we’re seeing the consequences of having a midfield that has more holes than the plotline in season 8 of The Walking Dead. Youri Tielemans is having a fine season and the Crystal Ball has seen that continuing, despite the injury he’s recently picked up. But Kai Havertz will continue to frustrate, and the less said about the rest in that area, the better. Things don’t improve on the defensive side of things either, with Ruben Dias the lone player of value, but what salvages this side is the front two/three. Ivan Toney, Romelu Lukaku, and when Ole gets desperate, Edison Cavani, will score points at regular enough intervals to steer this side away from the basement of this league.

11th – Pique Blinders (current position: 6th)

Pique Blinders – it’s an oldie but a goodie when it comes to fantasy football team names, and as someone who hails from the fine Birmingham region, I’m disappointed to see the club finish down in 11th spot. But the Crystal Ball can’t just go around inventing endings that please it. And with a roster that boasts John McGinn as its MID1 and Hakim Ziyech as it’s MID2, some might say an 11th place finish would be an achievement. This is a threadbare roster, but…it has two certifiable first rounders in its midst. Reece James will continue his outrageous form from here on out and cement his status as the number one right back in the country (which is no mean feat!) and Heung-Min Son will thrive under a rejuvenated Spurs side that pips Arsenal to 5th spot on the final day of the season.

10th – Squashua FC (current position: 12th)

My boy Phil Foden is great, but he can only carry a team so far, and that’s 10th spot in the case of Squashua. My bold prediction at the start of the season was that City would go unbeaten and Foden – despite coming in with a significant injury – would finish as their highest fantasy points scorer. The first of those got shot down in gameweek 1 when Spurs pulled a 1-0 win out of nowhere, but the second – according to the Crystal Ball – comes true to magnificent effect. It’s enough to make the season a respectable one for Squashua, particularly when combined with a resurgence from the Everton duo of Lucas Digne and Richarlison as Rafa finally gets his side to click in early 2022.

9th – Rexys 44 Club (current position: 5th)

Okay, now we’re getting into the teams that can field a starting XI without getting embarrassed by the names in their lineup. In fact, Rexys 44 has the opposite problem to most of the teams below them in that they have nice depth to their roster, but don’t have someone that they can hang their hat on for points. Ben Chilwell is the closest to this, particularly as the manager has been astute enough to acquire the Alonso handcuff, but still, there’s probably no first or second rounder here. The Crystal Ball foresees a lot of close matchups for Rexys this season, but unfortunately, without that star power, too many of them are going to end up adding to the loss column…hence the 9th spot.

8th – Definitely Maybe FC (current position: 9th)

A top half finish for Definitely Maybe, spearheaded by Raul Jimenez and his gang of attacking misfits. Yes, despite the 8th spot, this is the only roster in the league with what I would class as having five serviceable forwards, with Maxwell Cornet, Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, and Raheem Sterling all supporting the Wolves man. Cornet, in particular, has been Supersonic since his arrival, but the bigger question is whether Benteke will Live Forever in the Crystal Palace starting XI. Newcastle’s James Tarkowski holds the fort in defence to a sufficient level from January onwards, and Paul Pogba does just about enough at just the right times to ensure that Definitely Maybe end their campaign with a respectable finish.

7th – Declan Fried Rice (current position: 7th)

A 7th place finish may not seem like the greatest of seasons, but Declan Fried Rice were just two wins from the number 2 spot in what was a congested battle for “best of the rest”. The side boasted a more balanced squad than those below them, with Bukayo Saka and Tomas Soucek forming a solid pair that grew stronger as the season went on, and Michail Antonio, Gabriel Jesus, and Said Benrahama continuing to bring in points up top too. The faith shown in West Ham’s assets ends up being justified as Moyes’ men balance their domestic and European commitments to finish fourth in the league – if there had only been more help in defence, the same might have been said for Declan Fried Rice.

6th – The First Losers (current position: 3rd)

Currently sat tied for 1st in the league, it will be disappointing for The First Losers to see their side end up finishing 6th, but there wasn’t quite enough in this roster to edge them ahead of those above. The defence is strong – probably the second best in the league behind Rexys – but the lack of quality in midfield really hurts them. Pablo Fornals is a decent player who will continue to put up solid numbers, but Nathan Redmond remains too inconsistent and the rest…well, the rest are probably waiver material. Outside of Ismaila Sarr, the forward line ends up providing more headaches than they’re probably worth, with Mason Greenwood, Hwang Hee-Chan, and Jordan Ayew swapping the starting XI for the bench more often than the Watford board swaps managers (side note: good old Ranieri gets sacked in December).

5th – The Zarate Kid (current position: 2nd)

The next title rival falling by the wayside is The Zarate Kid, who currently sit second in the table. This side hinges on Trent Alexander-Arnold, and whilst the Liverpool right back will more than pull his weight (he ends up finishing with the 2nd most fantasy points in the game), he cannot do enough to overcome a midfield that has Bernardo Silva as its number one, or a forward line that consists of Diogo Jota, Adam Armstrong, and Riyad Mahrez. Still, 5th from 16 is a very good achievement, and had the Leicester wingers Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman managed to produce at the levels expected of them early in the season, we might even be talking of a proper title challenge for The Zarate Kid.

4th – Haymakers (current position: 1st)

The league leaders (on fantasy points scored) can’t maintain their great start to the season, and finish in 4th spot, which to be fair, is better than a trophy if my Wengerisms serve me correctly. Nevertheless, the newbie in the league can be proud of a strong debut season, led by the masterful midfield tandem of Raphinha and Mason Mount, and supported by ghost point aficionados Ethan Pinnock and Adama Traore. In fact, it is Adama’s move to Newcastle in January (yes, that’s right, we get to see Adama and ASM in the same side!) that sees the draft cult hero recapture his early season form and maintain Haymakers’ strong campaign. This roster just needed a few players – Nicolas Pepe, Kelechi Iheanacho, etc. – to get more playing time and it might have pushed even higher.

3rd – FC LetsAllLaugh (current position: 4th)

Generally speaking, you need a deep and balanced roster to be finishing 3rd in any fantasy league, let alone a 16-team one. But rules like that don’t seem to be applying to Mo Salah this season. Currently on track for 14,651 points by April, the Liverpool man is making Jack Grealish’s one-man show at Aston Villa look like the epitome of teamwork by comparison. In fairness, this is not quite a case of Salah and the band. When you have Joao Cancelo on the roster as well you know there are going to be days when the opposition doesn’t even stand a chance. Add in guys like Andros Townsend and Marcus Rashford who perform at a round 2-3 level, and it ends up being no surprise that LetsAllLaugh finish on the podium.

2nd – Saka for Pain (current position: 13th)

What a turnaround by Saka for Pain. Languishing in the lowly position of 13th at the time of writing, Kevin De Bruyne and the best frontline in the league put up points after points, and wins after wins, to propel this side all the way up to a runners-up spot. KDB may not hit the heights of previous years, but those who have doubted him will be proven wrong in time, and alongside Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy, and Ollie Watkins, the firepower on this roster is beyond question. The midfield isn’t exactly impressive by second place standards (though Conor Gallagher and Jack Harrison both end with 10+ FP/G seasons), but a defence hosting Valentino Livramento, Gabriel, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Cristian Romero gets stronger as the season progresses and it’s enough to just edge out the competition to finish as “best of the rest”. It’s not enough for top spot, but then that’s probably best after last year’s controversial self-adjudicated coronation of the title.

1st – Michaels Swimming Club (current position: 10th)

Whilst many questions can be raised about the team’s awful name, nobody can question the superiority of this roster. It is the best in the league by some distance, and the league table will show that come May. Ignore the defence (defences don’t win fantasy championships) and focus on the front line and then THAT midfield. Putting together a midfield of this calibre in a 16-team league is some sort of witchcraft. Jack Grealish, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jarrod Bowen, Emiliano Buendia, Dwight McNeil, Michael Olise…fielding five of these on their own each week would still be enough to finish higher than AFC Hellfish and Cobra Venom. The forward contingent isn’t too shabby either. There may not be a big name amongst it, but with the club fielding a 352 almost exclusively, it is easy to pick and choose a couple from Leon Bailey, Trincao, Callum Wilson, and Rodrigo to do the job each gameweek. Congratulations Michaels Swimming Club – a worthy winner of this epic league.

The Final Whistle

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

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