Fantasy Premier League Rankings: What Went Right (And Wrong)
Fantasy Premier League Rankings: What Went Right (And Wrong)

This article is part of our Fantasy Premier League Rankings series.

With the 2017/18 season now behind us, I've begun to think about my fantasy Premier League rankings for the 2018/19 season. However, before I dive into those, I thought it would be beneficial to see what went right and what went wrong from this past season. My final preseason rankings were posted on Aug. 8, a few days before the campaign started but much earlier than the transfer window closed. I also didn't update my rankings after the transfer window closed, something I plan on doing this year. As a result, some players who transferred into the league aren't listed, and others who transferred within the league but into better or worse situations weren't reflected.

GOALKEEPERS

I started with goalkeepers on Aug. 6 and can't say I was particularly great. I ranked Swansea City's Lukasz Fabianski first, which seems a bit crazy given that FPL is a fantasy format heavily dependent on clean sheets and I was leading off with a player who barely escaped relegation last year. I noted that I liked Fabianski's save upside, something that did come to fruition, as his 137 were the second-most in the league. His nine clean sheets weren't a great total, but it was still enough to have him finish third overall in fantasy points among goalkeepers, thankfully not too far off from the top spot.

Speaking of which, I ranked Manchester United's David de Gea fourth, thinking that he wouldn't have to make enough saves to separate himself from the pack, but 18 clean sheets and the fifth-most saves helped him to a league-best (among keepers) 172 fantasy points, 15 more than Fabianski and 14 more than second-place Ederson of Manchester City, who I ridiculously ranked 11th. It's not that I thought Ederson was a poor goalkeeper or that Manchester City would be awful defensively, but I genuinely believed that it would take him some time to replace Claudio Bravo for the starting job. You can't score fantasy points if you're not playing, and the time on the bench would help justify my ranking. A total swing and miss, Ederson started 36 games and posted 16 clean sheets. If there's one thing to hang my hat on it's that he only made 58 saves, a total 17 keepers beat, including three who played fewer than 25 games.

There were a few who came within one or two spots of my rankings, but nothing other than Ederson jumps out as wrong. Goalkeeper variable is alive and well in season-long formats too, so I can't beat myself up about these too much.

DEFENDERS

To say I was high on Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy would be a huge understatement, as I believed his excellent attacking upside would more than outweigh any lost clean sheets. It turned out that Man City were an excellent defensive team (at least fantasy-wise) and I fully believe Mendy would have been the best player at the position had he not suffered a torn ACL in late September.

The difficulty with ranking defenders is that I always want to prioritize attacking fullbacks even though few of them get lots of assists, and that pulls me away from centerbacks who get more points for their even more random goals. Either way, Chelsea's Marcos Alonso made me look good by finishing as the second-highest scoring defender, which is exactly where I ranked him, but equally bad was my no. 3 ranking for Sead Kolasinac, who got a number of starts as a left-wingback but ultimately sat on the bench in favor of Nacho Monreal when Arsenal played four in the back. Given that I ranked Monreal 39th before the season, I clearly didn't see him winning the job.

And on the topic of not winning starting jobs, I was waaaaay too optimistic about Victor Lindelof's arrival at Manchester United, which naturally made me pessimistic about guys like Chris Smalling, a defender who wasn't even in my top 50 and yet finished as the 11th-highest scoring defender. At the same time, I ranked Eric Bailly (95th-most fantasy points) but had no room for Phil Jones (14th-most points). Bailly missed some time due to injury, but Lindelof was a total whiff after presumably falling into manager Jose Mourinho's doghouse. Injuries also derailed the fantasy seasons of Toby Alderweireld, who I ranked sixth, Nathaniel Clyne (18th), Danny Rose (19th) and to a much lesser extent, David Luiz (21st).

Some embarrassing names made it into my rankings as well, with Arsenal's Rob Holding and Crystal Palace's Jairo Riedewald the worst. Holding's ranking was a result of Arsenal tinkering with a back three in the preseason, only for Monreal to end up as the one joining Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi, and even that didn't end up helping my Kolasinac rank.

MIDFIELDERS

If there was one thing I've patted myself on the back for it was my preseason midfielder ranking of Mohamed Salah as the best Liverpool midfielder, ahead of Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane. That seems particularly obvious now, but many were very high on Coutinho early in the season, even with his potential move to Barcelona muddying the waters. Unfortunately, my aggressiveness on Salah only led me to rank him fifth among midfielders, trailing Alexis Sanchez (13th-most fantasy points among midfielders), Kevin De Bruyne (third), Christian Eriksen (fourth) and Dele Alli (eighth).

In total, six of my top 10 midfielders actually finished in the top 10 in fantasy points scored, with Eden Hazard (ranked ninth, finished ninth) and Leroy Sane (ranked 10th, finished sixth) joining the four mentioned above. Injuries derailed the season of Gylfi Sigurdsson (ranked 11th), though he was still at Swansea City at the time of publication and his move to Everton ruined his fantasy value. If there's one I really got wrong it was Mesut Ozil, who I somehow thought would end up as the sixth-best midfielder in the league but he slapped that in my face by finishing 31st. I'd love to blame his nagging injuries, which allowed him to start only 24 of his 26 appearances, but he likely wasn't getting much closer to the top 10 even with 38 starts.

Adding to my misery, I didn't even rank Brighton's Pascal Gross, who finished with the 11th-most fantasy points at the position. He actually ended up having a very similar season to Ozil, albeit in almost 800 more minutes, as the Brighton midfielder had two fewer chances created (84 to 82) and the same number of assists (eight) while also scoring three more goals (seven to four). Everyone tries to nail the right players from the promoted teams, and I decided to plant that flag with Anthony Knockaert (ranked 34th, finished 53rd) and Davy Propper (40th and 55th, respectively) instead.

I also didn't find a spot for Anthony Martial in my rankings, as I was concerned with playing time and a potential transfer out of the Premier League, or at least that's what I'm telling myself now. In terms of Manchester United, I liked Paul Pogba the most (ranked 13th, finished 17th) while also being optimistic about Henrikh Mkhitaryan (17th and 35th, respectively). Jose Mourinho is just the worst.

In total, there were 23 midfielders who finished in the top 80 in fantasy sports scored but didn't make it into my top 80 ranking, led by Gross, Luka Milivojevic (15th-most points), Abdoulaye Doucoure (19th), Martial (23rd), Richarlison (24th), Fernandinho and Johann Berg Gudmundsson (28th). Of that group, Fernandinho is the only one I feel like I really missed on, and while I ranked a good number of players, I am not going to beat myself up for overlooking Jake Livermore (52nd), Dale Stephens (54th - seriously, what's with all these Brighton guys?), Andrew Surman (65th) or Sam Clucas (80th).

Instead, I'll give myself credit for my rankings of Pogba, Wilfried Zaha (ranked 16th, finished 18th), Willian (21st, 21st), Dusan Tadic (22nd, 25th), Andros Townsend (23rd, 26th), Matt Ritchie (28th, 29th), Bernardo Silva (29th, 32nd), Ryan Fraser (44th, 45th), Nemanja Matic (47th, 49th), Tom Ince (65th, 66th) and Roberto Pereyra (71st, 69th).

Manchester City dominated the Premier League this season, and for the most part, I was able to place their midfielders close to where they finished...or at least I did with De Bruyne, Sane and both Silvas. And while I feel like I totally missed on Fernandinho, my 18th ranking of Raheem Sterling still feels justified even though Salah was the only midfielder to score more fantasy points this season. Sterling had 13 goals and eight assists in his previous two seasons combined, so expecting him to hit 18 goals and 17 fantasy assists just wasn't something in my view.

FORWARDS

Before last season started there was a common argument that you had to target forwards in draft leagues and that paying up for the position in salary cap formats was a must. That mostly turned out to be true, even if some of the better options didn't play as well as expected.

Eight of my top 10 ranked forwards finished in the top 10, which feels impressive except I'm pretty sure most people would have been able to get at least six. The two forwards I missed in the top 10 of fantasy points scored this season were Ayoze Perez, who I ranked 34th but he finished eighth, and...ugh...Wayne Rooney, who scored the 10th-most fantasy points among forwards this season (I had him 18th). Rooney's season was incredibly up and down, as he scored at least eight fantasy points seven times but fewer than three 17 times. In fact, those seven games with at least eight fantasy points accounted for 62 percent of his total points for the season. Rooney's season could have been better had he not had half of his six penalties saved, but you could also argue it wouldn't have been as good had he not gotten those opportunities (he had seven open-play goals). Either way, I can't get too hard on myself for mis-ranking D.C. United's next superstar.

I didn't rank Harry Kane as the top forward, mostly because I expected Spurs to continue spreading out their goal scorers. Instead, Kane found the back of the net 29 times (even if the Premier League says it was 30), finishing 34 fantasy points ahead of second-place Jamie Vardy, who I ranked 10th. Looking back, I was way too high on Chicharito, who did battle some injuries, though not enough to use as an excuse, while Christian Benteke was absolutely horrible after scoring 15 goals last season, doing so just three times this term. Somehow he still made Belgium's World Cup roster, though he will certainly not start as long as Romelu Lukaku is fit.

CONCLUSION

Looking at how I'll be ranking players for the 2018/19 season, I'm not sure how I'll change my process just yet, other than making sure I'm not too high on any players that work under Jose Mourinho. Players new to the Premier League can be successful over the course of the season, like Pascal Gross, while others can really struggle, like Alvaro Morata. There will be plenty of movement before Gameweek 1, but that won't stop me from introducing my first rankings in the coming weeks. In addition, in-season managerial changes obviously affect players' fantasy values, so I'll do my best to update rest-of-season rankings throughout the campaign to help those looking for them.

Thank you for reading and using our rankings over the past few seasons, and I'm already looking forward to see what the next one brings.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew M. Laird
Andrew M. Laird, the 2017 and 2018 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's Head of DFS Content and Senior Soccer Editor. He is a seven-time FSWA award finalist, including twice for the Football Writer of the Year Award.
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