TDS Community Special: The Crystal Ball with Omar Barajas

Here at The Draft Society we’ve always said that what makes the Draft game different is the community that it 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. This week’s winner is Omar Barajas, who used this classic Hangover gif to sum up his fantasy season! As we’re heading into the playoffs, it only made sense to bring out the Crystal Ball to find out which team will be crowned Draft Fantasy Champion 2021/22. So, Omar Barajas, are you and your rivals ready to see into the future?


The Crystal Ball

We’re almost there. The finale 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 argue with the Crystal Ball if you don't know what it’s all based on?


The Rosters and Some Context

For those of you who continually miss the Sky Sports or ESPN coverage of this league, here's a quick recap of the rosters, current league standings, and rules.


The league contains 10 teams, which play a 35-game season followed by three gameweeks of playoffs. The top six qualify, with the top two earning a bye in the first round. Roster size is capped at 15 and the scoring system is OFPL. Here are the squads of the teams that will compete in the playoffs:


How We Got Here...


How It All Ends…

Enough with all the formalities - let's break out the crystal ball! Quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final results are just seconds away…


Quarter-Finals

(Cuppa Thiago and Preston Bell receive byes)


Saka Las versus Men Behaving Chadli

Joao Cancelo, Virgil van Dijk, and Sadio Mane…and this side finishes four wins off the top? Probably a sign of just how good that number 1 seed is. That, and a testament to the under-performance of Jack Grealish and Harvey Barnes. The two wingers should have contributed far more for Saka Las this season. But that’s in the past. Time to focus on their quarter-final matchup in gameweek 36.


A Manchester City double against anaemic Wolves and past-their-purple-patch Newcastle equates to a monster outing for Cancelo (and yes, he does get both games). Barnes also feasts in the second of Leicester’s tasty double header, whilst Mane puts in solid showings in both Liverpool fixtures. The issue, though, is that Timo Werner returns to the Chelsea bench, Jack Grealish continues his pedestrian season, and Dejan Kulusevski fails to produce.


In the case of Men Behaving Chadli, we have the proverbial “just happy to be here” side. The manager and players were last seen walking round smiling, signing autographs, and admiring the scenery. Nobody expected the playoffs, but by the skin of their teeth they’ve made it. Not just made it, actually...they’re going to give it a good go, too. Whenever you have Kevin De Bruyne, you have a chance. And he’ll be on the pitch long enough to make a difference (though in fairness, that could be as little as 30 minutes for him). This roster is surprisingly loaded for a team that finished sixth. Injuries to Reece James and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been costly, but now’s not a bad time for them to make their mark.


It’s a massive double gameweek, but even so, this one’s going to be a high scoring affair. In fact, it’s going to be a thriller. Less than six points will separate the teams, who will both put up huge numbers. In the end, though, we’re going to see an upset. Men Behaving Chadli are scraping through, just liked they scraped into the playoffs in the first place, and – despite all the big names on show – it’s Anthony Gordon who will prove most instrumental.

Sonoma Savages versus Highbury Heroes

The second quarter-final is a less thrilling affair. That’s not to say it’s a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination (though Saka Las will be frustrated that they would have beaten both). It’s a good matchup, just not a great one. The 22 Jump Street follow up to 21 Jump Street, if you will. The Cristiano Ronaldo-led Sonoma Savages take on the Bruno Fernandes-led Highbury Heroes, but it’s a less publicised (though better) Portuguese attacker who will be critical in this one.


Yes, Bernardo Silva has proven everyone wrong this season, and after being rested in gameweek 35, he should be fit and firing for the double in gameweek 36. Alongside him, the Chelsea defensive duo of Thiago Silva and Marcos Alonso bring in a couple of clean sheets, but the fixture list has not been particularly kind to Sonoma. Star men CR7 and James Ward-Prowse only have the one game apiece, whilst Eric Dier faces matches against Liverpool and Arsenal. Will it be enough?


With a name like Highbury Heroes, it’s not a surprise to see a couple of Gooners on this roster. Unfortunately for the club, it’s not the couple that you want ideally. That said, it could be far worse, and Gabriel will grab another clean sheet at home to Leeds, whilst Martin Odegaard will do his usual thing (IRL > fantasy). A mini-Watford revival, with Emmanuel Dennis at the heart of it, will mean that this roster has a chance.


Fairly close one again here – enough to keep both managers interested heading into that Thursday night North London derby. Ultimately, the Sonoma Savages are going to have enough to progress. It’ll be a nervy one – that Arsenal goal wiping out Lloris and Dier’s clean sheets will ensure slightly squeaky bums in the closing minutes – but it’s the end of the road for Highbury Heroes.

Semi-Finals


Cuppa Thiago versus Men Behaving Chadli

The semi-final stage, and now the big dogs have entered. And Cuppa Thiago is the Saint Bernard of fantasy big dogs. Heung-Min Son (2nd highest scoring player in the league) and Trent-Alexander Arnold (3rd highest) are a formidable one-two punch. Throw in the likes of Raphinha, Kai Havertz, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Andrew Robertson and you begin to see why the side cruised to that first place finish. Josh Brownhill is the “worst” player on the roster, which says it all.


With that all said…this isn’t plain sailing for our stacked league champions. To add the playoff trophy to their cabinet, they will need some big performances – and the fixtures haven’t fallen that kindly for them. The Liverpool defensive trio will get their inevitable clean sheet against Southampton, but Raphinha and ASM will struggle, Son takes on a suddenly Barcelona-esque Burnley, and no players have the free pass that is a matchup against Norwich City.


Can the fairytale continue? Hopes will rest on the shoulders of the quarter-final hero Anthony Gordon and the finally fit-again Dominic Calverr-Lewin as Everton have a very favourable double of Brentford and Crystal Palace. Matthew Cash is in a similar position, but with Cuppa holding Lucas Digne, the Villa fullbacks cancel each other out. De Bruyne and Foden (away at West Ham) and Reece James (vs Leicester) aren’t the marquee matchups you want when you need pretty much everything to go your way to have a chance, but stranger things have happened.


The Crystal Ball is seeing an even closer matchup here than in Men Behaving Chadli’s quarter-final match. This one is really going to go down to the wire, and a huge upset is a real possibility. Unfortunately for the millions of neutrals watching around the world, though, Cuppa Thiago are going to sneak it. A Kai Havertz goal at home to Leicester puts them over the edge, and the dream is over for our 6th seed.

Preston Bell versus Sonoma Savages

Fighting for the chance to take on Cuppa Thiago in the final we have Preston Bell and Sonoma Savages. The former has relied on some underappreciated names to make it this far – the likes of Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka, and Diogo Jota still probably don’t get the credit they deserve given their output. Whilst not boasting a superstar of the KDB/Salah ilk, the roster is deep, and that will play nicely if the manager can make the correct calls with their team selection.


One such call is what to do with Jarrod Bowen. The West Ham man is the team’s top scorer, but will be facing a Manchester City side whose eggs are now all in the Premier League title basket. Other than that, there are some decent fixtures for Preston. Ollie Watkins scores during the double against Crystal Palace and Burnley, whilst teammate Emiliano Martinez comes though with a clean sheet as well. The Crystal Ball also sees a clean sheet for old-reliable Seamus Coleman – the Everton defender continuing what has been a much improved second half of the season for him.


Can the Savages prevent a boring 1 vs. 2 seed final? They couldn’t have asked for a worse schedule, what with Manchester United (and therefore CR7)'s blank gameweek and James Ward-Prose facing off against Liverpool. Even the Manchester City duo of Bernardo Silva and Rodri won’t have it easy as they head to the London stadium to take on a West Ham side eager to claim that coveted Europa Conference League place. It comes to something when your hopes lie with Odsonne Edouard and Jordan Ayew.


This isn’t going to be a classic. Even with a few double gameweeks on the cards, we’re looking at an average score for the one team and a poor score for the other. It should go without saying, though, that you can’t be relying on Crystal Palace assets to take you into a fantasy final (especially ones that aren't nailed-on) and that is what the fixture list is forcing Sonoma to do. Preston won’t mind that they would have lost if they had faced Men Behaving Chadli – those are the breaks that fall your way when you manage to finish as the second seed. Preston to win this one, fairly comfortably.

Final


Cuppa Thiago versus Preston Bell

Cuppa Thiago and Preston Bell finished first and second for a reason: they were better than everyone else. And whilst the playoffs can spring some delightful upsets from time to time, let’s be honest, these two make a fitting finale. Cuppa Thiago is disgustingly loaded – we’ve already talked about all of that. If this matchup gets played ten times, they cruise it in eight of them. But as Al Pacino would say, on any given Sunday, anything can happen, and that will be the concern of the Cuppa manager.


A Liverpool team needing to win to have a chance at completing a historic quadruple works well for a side containing TAA, Robertson, and Matip in defense. As does the fact that Klopp’s team are at home (where they’ve only conceded seven this season) against a Wolves side who have only scored 15 on the road. You don’t need a Crystal Ball to foresee those clean sheet points coming in. Tottenham will still be fighting for fourth too, and a trip to Carrow Road is the dream for the team’s leading points-scorer Heung-Min Son. It’s ominous for their opponent…


Of course, plenty of Preston Bell players have something to play for too. The Saka-Laka partnership have a big game at home against relegation-threatened Everton, and it’s one that will produce points. James Tarkowski and Maxwel Cornet are also fighting to avoid the drop, and a home tie against Newcastle isn’t the worst fixture there either. The curve-ball comes in the form of Leandro Trossard though. We’ve seen that ‘on the beach’ teams like Brighton can turn it on just as easily as they can turn it off, and the Crystal Ball is seeing a big return for the up-and-down Belgian.


Some may say that a final between the top two seeds is boring. Many might also add that a victory for the league champion – the team that cantered to the title by seven points – is equally dull. But unfortunately, dear readers, the Crystal Ball is a vision into the future, not a script to be written by the Duffer brothers. So with that said, I present to you your inevitable playoff champion: Cuppa Thiago. And unfortunately, it isn’t even going to be close. It’s a walk in the park, just like the league was.

The Final Whistle

So there we have it. The Crystal Ball has revealed its secrets. Omar Barajas, you and your league may as well do the old Championship Manager trick now and ‘Go on Holiday’ – the outcome of the playoffs have already been decided. Cuppa Thiago, take some time to bask in the glory of a well-deserved playoff title. The rest of you, well, you have about 90 days until the new season starts. Get preparing now (I know a good source…) so that you can be the one lifting the trophy next May.



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