Welcome back to The Bargain Hunter. It’s been an odd, yet fun first two weeks, but I wouldn’t get too caught up in the point leaders at the moment, especially defensively after just two clean sheets last week (Everton and Sheffield United, of all teams). Outside of a select few, the big guns have yet to get going, but don’t worry, things will slowly start to even out as the sample size of games grows.
My first week back was a very successful one with Ashley Barnes scoring another goal, Yerry Mina recording another clean sheet and a bonus point and Lewis Dunk recording a bonus point for his role in a 1-1 draw with West Ham. In fact, the three of them are now no longer available in a majority of FPL Draft leagues, growing by more than 30 percent in ownership after just one week. If you missed out, there’s plenty of other options still available.
Without further delay, here are the bargain hits and misses ahead of Gameweek 3. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL)— I would love to include your thoughts here in this column next week and throughout the season. If you don’t want your name mentioned, just let me know; otherwise, I’ll be sure to give your Twitter handle a shout-out.
All of the stats used in this column come straight from the good folks at Fantasy Premier League on a weekly basis. Our friends at FPL.com take the data from a thousand private leagues, all of which consist of eight teams, in order to minimize the impact of data from public leagues where autopick drafting is more prevalent.
Of course, it’s just a sample size, so it’s not hard and fast; but it should give us a good idea of the tendencies of FPL Draft leagues and managers. Remember, the waivers deadline is a full 24 hours before the first game of the week, and the lowest-placed team in your league gets the first pick.
One-week Pick (OWP) - When a regular is suspended for a match, ineligible to face his parent club as a loanee, or his fill-in looks to deputize for only a week while the regular nurses a minor injury, this is where to find some replacements. They should only be looked at when you really need help at a position that week alone, and not looked at as long term plays. Best for salary cap leagues with unlimited transactions, not so much for draft leagues.
Short-term Pick (STP) - When a regular faces a multi-game suspension, an injury layoff lasting 2-5 weeks, international commitment, etc., this is where you look for players that can offer more beyond one week but do have a limited shelf life in most cases. Worth using a waiver claim or spending a bit more of your free agent budget (FAAB) than the One Week Buys. Can be useful in salary-cap format as long as you are comfortable with possibly needing to transfer them out in a few weeks.
Long-term Pick (LTP) - When a regular is either facing a month or more out or has lost his spot seemingly to someone better, these are the players that emerge as potential long-term investments and are therefore the most valuable of the group and worth paying up. Great for any format, but especially valuable in draft leagues with limited waiver claims.
GK – Nick Pope (Burnley)
Pope was originally going to be my pick last week before an injury to Liverpool starting keeper Alisson made the acquisition of Adrián a top priority for the short-term. However, with Pope you have a long-term pickup who is a perfect option for a platoon situation. For the tough fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester City, etc. it wouldn’t hurt to coordinate a backup keeper who has an easier fixture during the same gameweek, but Pope can even be depended on to be a primary keeper in FPL Draft leagues as he is grossly underrated mostly due to him missing the entirety of last season with a long-term injury.
The English international is still available in 44 percent of our most recent sample of FPL Draft leagues after an impressive season opener where he recorded a clean sheet and one bonus point. Even last week in a 2-1 loss to Arsenal, Pope recorded seven saves. Meanwhile, the Clarets upcoming schedule is extremely favorable with only Liverpool and Chelsea as imposing fixtures between now and the end of November, including a stretch that features games against Brighton, Norwich City, Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester in successive fixtures. So take a chance on Pope before it’s too late; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him near the top of the goalkeeper charts in a month.
DEF – Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)
New Chelsea manager Frank Lampard believes so much in the club’s youth that he jettisoned veteran defenders in David Luiz and Gary Cahill the week of the transfer deadline while Marcos Alonso hasn’t been able to break into the first team despite contributing to 10 Chelsea goals last season. And with Antonio Rüdiger still recovering from injury, Lampard has relied on two young defenders who have been waiting in the wings for some time. But of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen the latter has been far more impressive in the opening two matches of the season and looks more likely to keep his starting role once Rudiger builds up his match fitness.
After the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United in the opening week, Chelsea settled in but were unfortunate to draw Leicester City 1-1. However, with an upcoming schedule that features Norwich City, Sheffield United, Wolves, Brighton, Southampton, Newcastle and Burnley leading up to November, it might not be a bad idea to have a Chelsea defender in your side. That leads me to Christensen, who is taken in only 24 percent of FPL Draft leagues despite starting for a side that finished in the top-four last season. It might take a little bit of time for the youngsters to jell under a new manager, but picking up a Chelsea defender is a very low-risk, high-reward proposition.
DEF – Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City)
From one Champions League defender to another, Otamendi is another defender from a top club who’s being overlooked at the moment. The only fear with Otamendi is that he has to compete with John Stones for a starting role in the Manchester City defense with Aymeric Laporte locking down the other spot at center-back. But even with limited playing time, Otamendi could be a massive bargain as a third or fourth defender typically reserved for second-rate defenders. Even if he starts in half of the club’s games, Otamendi is likely to record more clean sheets than most mid-table clubs this season.
It’s not that you need convincing to pick up a Manchester City player, but the club’s next four games come against Bournemouth, Brighton, Norwich City and Watford and continues with a favorable string of fixtures until a Gameweek 12 showdown with Liverpool. With Otamendi sitting on the threshold of being available in a majority of FPL Draft leagues, it might not be long before his 45 percent ownership jumps over 50 percent and makes a starting Manchester City defender nearly impossible to acquire on the waiver wire, barring injury. If you don’t have another pressing need to fill with a free-agent, take a chance on Otamendi this week.
MID – Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
I’d prefer to wait on Ceballos until we get to see more of him, but my concern is that he will be unavailable in the majority of FPL Draft leagues in the next week after his two assists in his debut Premier League start, a 2-1 win against Burnley over the weekend. Before his man of the match performance, the midfielder on loan from Real Madrid was already taken in 30 percent of FPL Draft leagues based solely off hype and 26 minutes in the season opener against Newcastle. After catching the eyes of fantasy managers, it may be now or never to acquire the young Spaniard before his ownership doubles.
However, if you do manage to pick him up, patience will be key for the 23-year-old Ceballos as he adapts to the Premier League while trying to fend off competition from Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and even Nicolas Pepe for a spot in the Arsenal attack. The good news is that manager Unai Emery has employed Ceballos in a more attacking role, which paid dividends against Burnley. For the moment, Ceballos is a short-term pick who looks like a great option to have as your first midfielder off the bench and has the potential to blow up this season.