Five years ago almost to the week, the 2012/13 Fantasy Premier League game was launched. As per usual, I went on and selected my team, carefully choosing the men who would make up my squad for the opening weekend.
Before the season began, Swansea City signed a player from Spain called Michu, which rang a bell in my head. I’d read an article about this guy before – he could play as a striker but could also operate behind the forward in attacking midfield. With him now a Premier League player, I logged on, saw him listed as a midfielder – a relative bargain at 6.5m – and put him straight into my team.
Instantly, Michu killed it. On the opening day he bagged a brace as the Swans thrashed QPR, setting up another for Scott Sinclair to claim all three bonus points. He then scored goals against West Ham and Sunderland before August was out, and my secret cat was not so much out the bag, but was purring, meowing and leaving its business in everyone else’s litter box.
Michu’s monumental price rise up to 7.4m by gameweek 4 couldn’t deter my mini-league opponents and suddenly, the Spaniard had 400,000 new owners by mid-September. After killing it over Christmas, Michu reached a whopping 8.5m by the back-end of the season for anyone who wanted him, though he remained in my lineup at the paltry price he began with.
Now, I’m not a scout. I’d done my reading and watching of clips of Michu sure, but I wasn’t the only fantasy player in the world who’d selected him prior to that opening weekend. But I won’t lie – it hacked me off. It didn’t seem fair that I had this bargain who was scoring for fun, though soon all my mates would have him to. They’d have to pay a slight premium, though it turned out to be more than worth it in the long run.
By November, my bitterness had become ‘what shall I do about it?’ and by March, I had myself and nine mates signed up for a ‘Draft’ game that I would run from the following season onwards. It wasn’t Fantasy Premier League, but at least this way, if I discovered and picked up a Michu, he would be mine and mine only.
I understood draft systems and the concepts thanks to being an NFL fan, and between the ten of us, we had rules and regs, a ‘Draft Night’ date planned and agreed that we’d use the FPL points format we were all accustomed and used to.
Draft Night, and in turn the season, was a raving success. Ten of us became 11, 11 became 12 last season and for the upcoming campaign, 16 of us will play in two divisions of eight, complete with cup competitions, promotion/relegation and lots of prize money to be won. As a group, we meet on the MNF before Christmas each season to drink beer and eat pizza, whilst a BBQ is always hosted on the final day and our customary ‘End of Season Awards’. In case you were wondering, Josh King picked up our ‘Best Value Pick’ last season, thanks to his low drafting value coupled with a huge points return.
“So what?” I hear you ask. But there is a reason for the laboured point made above; drafting is fun, and although different to what you may be used to, the format is well worth trying, even if just for one season.
The reason for all of this is that the Fantasy Premier League site are planning and update for the coming year, with the addition of a draft mode. The first I saw of it were some leaked images that surfaced Wednesday on Twitter, with drafting being an option on the Fantasy Premier League site when it launches. This was then confirmed when I updated my Premier League app 24 hours later.
Some of the responses to the new feature were negative, with the FPL budget and complex sounding nature of the format listed as reasons. One commenter said he ‘wasn’t a fan and will be surprised if it takes off’ and whilst he has a point, there must be a reason as to why the whole of the US plays fantasy sports this way?
The ownership you feel for your players when drafting is unparalleled to FPL, because only you can have them. I had Lukaku last season. On the week he notched four against Bournemouth, you better believe I was in the ears of my league mates. Big Rom was doing it for me and only me and it felt glorious.
I guess what I’m saying is, when Fantasy Premier League do release a draft format when the game launches (w/c 17th), give it a chance. It’s okay to try a different game and enjoy it – I play FPL and my private draft each season now and love both – I wouldn’t work in the industry or write for this site if I didn’t.
It’s a totally different strategy too, when you’re drafting rather than simply picking whoever takes your fancy. For the first three seasons we participated, the key to winning (we simply played the classic format of overall points) was having a strong striker. Luis Suarez, Diego Costa and then Sergio Aguero were key men in their sides’ in each of those years. Last year, with 12 of us in the league, we revamped and changed to a head to head format, with the winner boasting a mean defence, Sadio Mane carrying the midfield (when not injured) and Salomon Rondon and Jamie Vardy up top. Picking up valuable assets in later rounds can be crucial too, with gems like Michael Keane or Gareth McAuley available towards the end but still worth great amounts of points.
It looks as if draft leagues will be available for up to 16 people, which would be a real challenge. The gulf in class in terms of strikers means that the person picking first (Harry Kane the obvious choice, surely) will have a far nicer looking frontline than whoever is 16th, as they’d likely take a top midfielder over a Jermain Defoe or Charlie Austin. It’s strategic and it’ll be very interesting, though I’d recommend a league of no more than 12 when you’re playing this type of game.
Overall, enjoy the FPL launch, but if you’re daring enough, embrace the draft format too!
Written by Joe McPhee (@JPMc99)