Updated: Aug 5, 2021
There are a few things more satisfying in Fantasy EPL then a late round draft pick paying off and becoming a mainstay in your title bid. Those of you who drafted Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford or Ollie Watkins last season know what I'm talking about. What do those players have in common? They were all playing in the Championship the previous season. Players who come up from the second tier are prime candidates for late round value picks simply because we know less about them. This is your chance to get one over your league mates and find that hidden gem before anyone else!
Check out our 21/22 Draft Kit for all the pre-season information you would ever need. Draft Rankings, Team Previews, Strategy, Draft 101. We've got it all!
How Last Season's Promoted Sides Fared
The last two seasons have seen two remarkable performances from promoted sides. In 2019/20 Sheffield Utd finished 9th, thanks to an incredible defensive record. Their 1.03 goals conceded per game was by far the best of any promoted side over the last 11 seasons. Leeds also finished 9th, but it was their attack that got them into the top half of the Premier League. Of the 33 teams to be promoted over the last 11 seasons, Leeds were the only team to actually improve on their goals per game from the previous season in the Championship, going from 1.50 to 1.58. Those who follow xG trends will remember that Leeds were very wasteful in the Championship (77 goals from 87 xG according to Infogol), so this apparent anomaly can largely be attributed to Patrick Bamford finally finding his shooting boots.
Leeds are the only promoted team since 2010/11 to have scored more goals per game in the Premier League than in their previous season in the Championship.
Fulham and West Brom fared less well. Fulham’s defence, after they brought in a whole new back line, was respectable, but they just couldn't score. From our sample of 33 teams, their 0.68 goals per game was only better than the 0.66 of both Norwich (2019/20) and Huddersfield (2017/18). West Brom weren’t great in attack (0.87 goals per game), but their defence (2.00 goals conceded per game) was woeful.
West Brom and Fulham had contrasting fortunes in terms of their defensive displays last season.
Looking at the players, Bamford and Jack Harrison were crucial to Leeds’ success. Both players performed better in the Premier League than they had the previous season, with Bamford’s goals and assists (G+A) per 90 rising from 0.47 to 0.71, and Harrison’s G+A per 90 going from 0.33 to 0.51. In terms of Fantrax output, this amounted to a 10% increase for Harrison's points per 90 (PP90), and a staggering 32% increase for Bamford's PP90. The promoted player we were all most excited about going into the season, West Brom's Matheus Pereira, struggled along with the rest of his team, but, after a resurgence in the second half of the season, his PP90 decline (16%) was better than average. Grady Diangana, on the other hand, was a massive disappointment. You may have forgotten about the outrage from West Ham’s players when he joined the Baggies permanently at the beginning of the season, but it’s safe to say they have got over that one.
Outfielders only. PP90s are based on the updated Fantrax Default Scoring (2021/22).
This Year's Promoted Teams
The eventual league winners had a slightly sticky start to last season. Rumours were swirling around that attacking midfielders Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia wanted to leave, and Daniel Farke left them both out of the squad for the GW3 match at Bournemouth, which the Canaries ended up losing 1-0. Another loss followed at home to Derby County in GW4, but Norwich got back to winning ways against Rotherham Utd and it was plain sailing from there. This win coincided with Grant Hanley’s first game of the season, and the Scottish centre-back went on to start every match thereafter, bar the last when Norwich had already secured the title.
Norwich are better defensively than they have been in previous promotion-winning campaigns.
Norwich managed to keep hold of both Cantwell and Buendia, and the Argentine ended up being voted Championship Player of the Season thanks to a remarkable season where he scored 15 goals, provided 16 assists, and picked up 2 red cards! Other key players included Max Aarons at right back, defensive midfield loanee Oliver Skipp, and striker Teemu Pukki.
Milot Rashica (~9.7 PP90, 14 starts for Werder Bremen last season) is essentially a direct replacement for Emi Buendia, although Rashica will be more direct and run the channels, and could even partner Pukki up front. Billy Gilmour will start in midfield but is unlikely to feature much in Fantrax squads. Pierre Lees-Milou might partner Gilmour in midfield and could be a serviceable Fantrax asset, having averaged ~8.9 PP90 for Nice last season.
Watford finished second in the Championship last season thanks to a stellar defensive record. Their 0.65 goals per game was comfortably the best in the league and was also the best of any promoted side in the last decade. Continuing the Pozzo's merciless approach to managerial appointments, Vladimir Ivic was sacked 20 games into the season with the Hornets four points off second-placed Bournemouth. The Serbian was criticised for his overly defensive approach; too often he was happy to settle for a 1-0 win, which left fans frustrated (remind you of anyone?).
Watford have the worst average Shots on Target per game of any promoted side since 2010/11.
Xisco Munoz was brought in from Dinamo Tbilisi and initially set up the team in a 4-4-2 formation, but eventually settled on a more effective 4-3-3. Munoz made some key personnel changes: veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster was dropped for Daniel Bachmann, and ‘hidden gem’ Francisco Sierralta became first choice centre-back alongside William Troost-Ekong. Club Captain Troy Deeney got injured around the time Munoz shifted to a 4-3-3, so it remains unclear if there’s a spot for him in the starting lineup.
Watford have brought in several uninspiring forwards, including Ashley Fletcher (10.5 PP90, 5 starts for Middlesbrough last season), Emmanuel Dennis, and Josh King (a shadow of the man who scored 16 goals for Bournemouth in 2016/17). Imran Louza (8.5 PP90, 28 starts for Nantes last season) could be a solid performer in midfield. Danny Rose will compete for the left-back spot with Adam Masina.
Brentford (3rd, Playoff winners)
2020/21 was a monumental season for Brentford. Not only did they secure a return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 74 years, but they also moved stadiums, leaving Griffin Park after 116 years as their home venue. In 2019/20 Brentford had the 3rd lowest revenue in the Championship, which highlights just how remarkable the last few years have been under owner Matthew Benham.
The Bees started last season slowly, before going on a 21-game unbeaten run. This was ended abruptly by Barnsley in GW29, with defeats to QPR and Coventry City following in GWs 30 and 31. This was just a minor blip, however, and strong finish saw them finish 3rd and eventual Playoff winners. With left-back Rico injured, Brentford shifted from the familiar 4-3-3 to a back three for their final ten games of the season. We are likely to see a mixture of the two formations in the Premier League; new centre-back signing Kristoffer Ajer adds more strength in depth in that position.
Led by record-breaker Ivan Toney, Brentford scored the most goals (1.72 per game) in the Championship and were 4th best for goals conceded, at 0.91 per game. Although this makes them the worst of the promoted sides in terms of defence, they were actually the best in terms of xG conceded from open play, so they may not be the whipping boys some expect them to be.
Signed from sister club FC Midtjylland (yes I did have to look up how to spell it), Frank Onyeka will be a ball-winning presence in midfield but is unlikely to merit a place in your Fantrax squads. Norwegian centre-back Kristoffer Ajer will win aerial duels and is deceptively good at bringing the ball out from the back, but is still young and isn't a guaranteed starter.
Projected Points per Start for Promoted Players
Last year, when I provided projected PP90s for the promoted players, I didn’t have much of a data set so the adjustment calculations were fairly crude. This season we’re getting a little bit more granular. I have separated a player’s PP90 into separate parts:
Goals/Assists per 90
‘ghost points’ per 90 (all scoring categories except goals, assists, clean sheets, goals conceded, own goals, yellow cards, red cards)
Goals Conceded per 90 (defenders only)
Clean Sheet % (defenders and midfielders only)
Each separate part is then adjusted, based on the average difference for that position over the last 3 seasons. For example, Goals/Assists per 90 declined 34.5% for Forwards over the last 3 seasons. These four parts are then added together to get a projected PP90 for a promoted player. To go one step further, I took the average Minutes per Start for each player (from FBRef) and used that to estimate their Points per Start (PPS).
Outfielders with over ten starts only
† The player has left the club for another Premier League club
* The Player has left the club for a non-Premier League club
There are limitations with this approach. Full-backs are being treated the same as centre-backs, for example, when they are very different positions. If I had more time I would separate the positions even further to improve the accuracy. 'Ghost points' could also be separated divided up into each separate scoring category (e.g. key passes, aerials won etc.) but this is probably overkill!
The Big Names
Emi Buendia | Average Draft Position (ADP) 22 | Projected PPS 15.1
We're big fans of Buendia at The Draft Society. A projected PPS of 15.1 looks very high but given these projections only factor in players who stayed at the club they got promoted with, it's possible this is undervaluing the Argentine, seeing as he has moved to a better team. Back in 2019/20, when he only managed 1 goal and 7 assists, he had a PPS of roughly 12.7; I expect Buendia to surpass that comfortably this time around.
Ivan Toney | ADP 55 | Projected PPS 11.9
Thanks to his projected PPS of 11.9 and his track record of starting almost every game, I have Toney uncomfortably high in my preseason ranks (26th at the time of writing). The main concern is that in recent history, Bamford aside, Championship strikers don’t have a particularly strong record of adapting to the Premier League. The good news is that Brentford don’t have much strength in depth, so Toney will start most games regardless of form, plus his aerial ability and link up play will give him a reasonable floor.
Ismaila Sarr | ADP 77 | Projected PPS 9.1
No other Watford player is being taken in the first ten rounds, understandably, but even Sarr is a little underwhelming given his talents, although other opinions are available. He will be subbed off rarely and will start nearly every game, which makes him a reliable draft pick, but he's unlikely to set the world alight. I imagine his Fantrax output will be similar to Dwight McNeil's (providing he stays at Burnley); a key player for his team, but not someone you can rely on for goals and assists. If Deeney doesn't start he is likely to be on penalties, which will give him a slight boost.
Teemu Pukki | ADP 120 | Projected PPS 10.4
Many draft managers will remember the Pukki Party of August to September 2019. The Finn started that season with 6 goals in his first 5 games, which included a hattrick against Newcastle and 43.5 Fantrax points. Sadly the fiesta didn't last long, and he only averaged 4.4 PPS from January onwards. My projections do not account for how the loss of Buendia will affect Pukki. Couple that with his previous Premier League experience and I'd surprised if he ends up with a double-digit PPS. Norwich’s first four fixtures (LIV, mci, LEI, ars) are the hardest in the league, but consider picking him up for GW5 if he has already been discarded by then.
Troy Deeney | ADP 160 | Projected PPS 10.6
Watford have a lot of options up front, but if Munoz sticks with a 4-3-3 it’s likely between Deeney and Josh King for the central striker role. If Deeney gets the nod, I fully expected him to average around his projected 10.6 PPS. The Watford captain averaged 7.3 aerial duels won per 90 when he was last in the Premier League; not many forwards can provide that kind of floor.
Sergi Canos | ADP 133 | Projected PPS 9.7
I highlighted Canos in my Brentford Best Players article, but clearly I've failed to convince you all of the Spaniard's potential. Forwards are ten a penny this year, which may explain his low ADP, but if you draft wisely and focus on midfielders early on you'll have a late round gem on your hands.
The Centre-Backs | ADPs 159, 206, N/A | Projected PPSs 8.4, 8.3, 8.1
Hardly anyone is paying attention to Ethan Pinnock (ADP 159, Projected PPS 8.1), Grant Hanley (ADP 206, Projected PPS 8.4), and especially Francisco Sierralta (Projected PPS 8.3), who is so under the radar he doesn't even have an ADP! These aerially dominant titans are understandably unfancied; Norwich's defence was woeful last time they were in the Premier League and they have very difficult opening fixtures, Brentford are a tiny club that likes to play attacking football, and Sierralta only became a regular in the side half way through last season. I'm not saying you need to draft these players, but for matches against teams that like to play long balls (e.g. Burnley, Newcastle) they should make excellent streamers.
Kieran Dowell | ADP 161 | Projected PPS 8.0
Dowell's projected PPS isn't all that exciting, but it's from a small sample size (934 minutes, 12 starts) and he was often subbed off early. As mentioned in our Norwich Sleepers article, his Championship PP90 was very high and should translate well to the Premier League if Norwich maintain their 4-2-3-1 formation. Again, watch out for those early fixtures, but Dowell has the potential to be a late round star.
The 'Do Not Draft' Players
Max Aarons | ADP 130 | Projected PPS 6.4
The fact that Aarons has been getting drafted regularly in mock drafts has baffling all of us at Draft Society HQ. Aarons is a highly rated young player, but he just doesn't score well in Fantrax. Stay well clear, especially with those opening fixtures.
Joao Pedro | ADP 145 | Projected PPS 8.0
A highly promising young talent, but it looks unlikely that he'll be a starter this season.
Rico Henry | ADP 151 | Projected PPS 5.0
He was named in the Championship Team of the Season, but that doesn't guarantee Fantrax production. Avoid.
Tom Cleverley | ADP 151 | Projected PPS 6.2
Yes he's a familiar name, but come on, you can do better than this.
Will Hughes | ADP 155 | Projected PPS 6.6
Hughes is one of Watford's best players, but he's one of those central midfielders whose game just doesn't translate to Fantrax points. He also is involved in a contract standoff right now. Do not draft.
All references to scoring are based on Fantrax Default Scoring. All data is from StatsBomb or Opta.
Check out The Draft Society's 21/22 Draft Kit for all the draft prep you would ever need! Draft Rankings, Team Previews, Strategy, Draft 101, and so much more!!
For all the latest from Drafterthoughts, follow @drafterthoughts on Twitter!
And for more in-depth and exclusive resources, become a member of The Inner Circle.