TDS Community Special: The Crystal Ball with Sharp

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 Sharp, who perfectly summed up how most of us are feeling with all these postponements! Anyway, the Crystal Ball analysis was chosen, so Sharp, are you and your rivals ready to see into the future?


The Crystal Ball

We’re now past the halfway mark in the Premier League season, yet for you mere mortals, the end is still nowhere near in sight. 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.


This league works to a full 38-game season with no playoffs. Roster size is capped at 18 players and the scoring system has been customised considerably with the inclusion of categories such as ball recoveries and blocked crosses (0.25 points each), errors leading to goals (-5) and errors leading to shots (-1), and accurate passes (0.25 per five), amongst others. The league also allows dual positions for certain players, and interestingly, players are scored based on where they play IRL (e.g., Ndidi is a DEF when played by Rodgers in defence) – such are the opportunities with Fantrax! In the below image, players in orange are goalkeepers; yellow are defenders; blue are midfielders; and green are forwards. Players in grey above the blue are hybrid defender-midfielders whilst players in grey below the blue are hybrid midfielder-forwards.


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 – Equipo Golazo (current position: 11th)

With Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Marcus Rashford on the roster, you’d be forgiven for questioning the clarity of the Crystal Ball in placing Equipo at the foot of the table. But if there’s one thing that holds true in Fantrax it’s this: superstars win matches. Those first rounders – the Salah’s et al. – hold unrivalled power in determining fantasy fate. And Equipo don’t have any. Worryingly for the side (and a major reason why they take home the wooden spoon), the Crystal Ball has revealed that we have already seen the best of Silva and Sterling this season – at least fantasy-wise, which leaves a lot of responsibility at the feet of the returning-from-injury DCL and the out-in-the-cold Rashford. But ultimately, what kills this team most is the midfield. Jorginho, Fred, Douglas Luiz, and Joao Moutinho accompany Silva and none of them are close to MID2 quality. Or MID3 for that matter.


11th – Freed Shaqiri (current position: 12th)

Climbing just the one spot may not suggest a great second half of the season, but it should do for a side who currently have just 3 wins from 21 games. Freed Shaqiri go on to win 10 from the final 17 – a record bettered by only three other teams – and they do so on the back of numerous Phil Foden masterclasses, an Ollie Watkins feeding on a surplus of creativity behind him, and the Brighton duo of Leandro Trossard and Marc Cucurella finally getting the bang for their buck that their play deserves. This is a very solid roster, and it begs the question: “what the hell has been happening for the past three months?” Unfortunately the Crystal Ball can only look forwards, not backwards, so we’ll leave that question to Sharp and his league to answer. But seriously, there are some legit players here and they should be far, far higher up than they are.


10th – Menu del Dias (current position: 8th)

Okay, so I’ll hold my hands up now: Menu’s roster slightly contradicts my previous “superstars win matches” motto. But perhaps this side is the exception that proves the rule. Outside of the genuine powerhouses that are Raphinha and Heung-Min Son, Menu has assembled what can only be considered as an impressive lack of depth. Our recent Consensus Ranks back this up, as the 4th best player in this team – according to us at least – is the 89th ranked Ruben Dias! This explains the Crystal Ball’s forecast of 10th place. Raphinha and Son are great fantasy players, but they can’t carry the load for eight other starters. It’s going to be a tough second half of the season for Menu’s, but fortunately for them, they’ve done enough already to ensure they steer clear of the dreaded wooden spoon.


9th – Smack My Bilic Up (current position: 10th)

Winning the award in the “best of the worst” category is Smack My Bilic Up, whose 9th placed finish probably flatters the side and is more indicative of what is below them (they end up five wins behind the team in 8th!). Despite managing to jump aboard the Conor Gallagher hype train – a train that will continue chugging along nicely all season – this club has missed with far too many other arrows. Kai Havertz, Jadon Sancho, and Hakim Ziyech are the obvious names here, but even the likes of Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes have vastly underperformed their draft day expectations. The team currently sit in 10th, so hopes going forward are unlikely to be high, but SMBU will cause a couple of upsets before the season is done because this is a roster with a high ceiling…it’s just a shame – for them at least – that this ceiling is approached far too sporadically.

8th – The Insufferables (current position: 1st)

Lance Armstrong, Charlie Sheen, Milli Vanilli: meet the newest member of your “falls from grace” club. Yes, The Insufferables are going to drop like a lead balloon from here on out and will see that 1st placed position that they are currently in quickly evaporate into a mid-table dogfight (that they ultimately lose). This roster is bad. To the point where I legitimately had to check that the data that I had been sent was correct and that I was matching up the team names with the correct players. It is a miracle that the club somehow find themselves atop the table, but it will not last. Not when the best player on the team is away at AFCON, the second best player is more interested in sweet-talking his exes, and the third best player is Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu.


7th – Harry Kane & The Honeytones (current position: 6th)

Mid-table now, mid-table later. Yep, the rollercoaster ride, sorry, tea-cups ride of a season for Harry Kane & The Honeytones is going to see them end just about in the bottom-half, but there’s little to choose between them and Barbara Walters in 6th. It’s the game-time that will prove costly in the end as there are a lot of players here who have solid fantasy value, but too many of them can’t be relied upon to start. Emile Smith Rowe, Pablo Fornals, Martin Odegaard, Alexis Mac Allister, Paul Pogba, and Alex Telles all have that frustrating characteristic of being too good to throw away in fantasy, but too attached to the substitutes bench IRL. Like with Smack My Bilic Up, there will be a few times when the heavens align and all these pseudo-stars get the nod, which makes them as dangerous opponent as any, but unfortunately not enough instances to push the club further up the table.


6th – Barbara Walters (current position: 4th)

A mid-table finish maybe, but a look at the table and we see just the two wins separating them from a potential runners-up spot. The recent injuries of Roberto Firmino, Reece James, and Jamie Vardy have really hurt this side, not to mention the continued saga with Harry Maguire and Thomas Tuchel’s insistence that he can occasionally do without his best attacking player (Mason Mount, just in case you were wondering). Had these five been fit and firing, this roster could have challenged for the title. But they aren’t, so it won’t. This is a nice roster, though it could perhaps do with a bit more firepower in midfield. The reliance on Liverpool and Chelsea assets will pay dividends a little too late in the day, but Barbara Walters can console themselves in the fact that they end the season on a six game winning streak.


5th – Rocastle Rovers (current position: 7th)

Boy how this side could have done with the Jack Grealish of Aston Villa, not the Jack Grealish of Manchester City. If they had got the former version, they’d have the superstar that would have certainly made a title challenge more viable. Instead, Rocastle are having to rely on the collective efforts of the group – which isn’t necessarily the worst thing when you have 10 (!) players ranked in the top 90 of our Consensus Ranks. Dwight McNeil, Emiliano Buendia, Gabriel Martinelli, and – still, despite his City shirt – Grealish are going to lead this team to plenty of wins down the stretch, and the multiple positions offered by the latter three provide great flexibility for the manager. I like this roster a lot, and a trade for a big name could defy the Crystal Ball’s projections here…would Grealish + Saka + Tierney tempt Menu to part with Raphinha or Son?

4th – Marcelo Balboa’s Revenge (current position: 9th)

What a turnaround for MBR as they climb from 9th to 4th – a couple more weeks and the silver medal spot may have been theirs. This is the type of roster I like to see: big names and lots of wiggle room. Kevin De Bruyne, Jarrod Bowen, James Ward-Prowse, Andrew Roberson, Raul Jimenez, and Lucas Digne all reside in my top 50, but then we have clearly droppable assets in the likes of Tyrone Mings, Trevoh Chalobah, Nikola Vlasic, Malang Sarr, and one of the two goalkeepers. This roster freedom is such an underappreciated aspect of fantasy success and it will allow the MBR manager to pick up great streaming and/or countering options from the waiver wire week-in, week-out. Oh, and the Rayan Ait-Nouri pickup, and stashes of Pedro Neto and Leon Bailey will turn out to be a masterstroke too.


3rd – Zhu-Li’s Thing (current position: 2nd)

With a 14-7 record at the time of writing, and sitting tied for 1st in the league, this 3rd placed finish may be a disappointing one for Zhu-Li’s Thing, but it shouldn’t – the two teams above are exceptional and there’s no shame in losing to them. The team is led by pre-season #1 pick (in most eyes) Bruno Fernandes, but he is not that player anymore. Even his two monster performances of late are more a case of papering over the cracks than a return to his God-like fantasy status (United were dominated for large parts of each game by Aston Villa and Brentford). Still, this is far from a one-man team – hence why it’s finished so high. Riyad Mahrez, Tomas Soucek, and Adama Traore all improve on what have been frustrating first halves to the season to say the least, whilst the likes of Michael Olise, Daniel Podence, and Patson Daka will prove their worth at regular intervals too. Very strong roster, just not strong enough!


2nd – Can’t Stop the Klopp (current position: 5th)

Another side rising – just not quite enough – is CStK. The side led by forwards – I mean, defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joao Cancelo (who yours truly ranked at #1 and #2, by the way) fall just short of glory but give it a helluva go. In the supporting cast we have the likes of Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabriel Jesus, and John McGinn – nice assets, but ones that probably demonstrate more the dominance of TAA and Cancelo than anything else. Can CStK make an even stronger push for the title? My advice would be to capitalize on the name value of CR7 as siu-n as possible…if a legitimate MID1 can be grabbed – Jarrod Bowen, perhaps?? – then the deal needs to happen. This is another roster with lots of wiggle room and, provided the manager plays the waiver wire well, it goes to show how this strategy really does set a team up nicely for success.


1st – Mane Alcantara & Partners (current position: 3rd)

Ladies and gentlemen, your league champion for 2021-22: Mane Alcantara & Partners! Congratulations to MA&P for putting together an excellent roster and holding off the contenders through 38 games. Obviously this roster is very good, but what makes it worthy of silverware? A Sadio Mane who returns from the AFCON rejuvenated and much more like the 2019-20 Mane is one big reason, but a lot of credit must go to some of the underappreciated stars too. Emmanuel Dennis, Youri Tielemans, Joel Matip and Mateo Kovacic all contribute significantly to the success despite not really getting the fanfare that their numbers deserve. There’s also a number of players with huge ceilings here – Allan Saint-Maximin, James Maddison, Jack Harrison, Philippe Coutinho, to name a few – so the side are never out of a contest. I love the overload of midfielders as well – so many options for the manager. All in all, it’s a hard fought but fully deserved title for Mane Alcantara & Partners – congrats!



The Final Whistle

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



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