Not long ago I wrote on these pages about my love for the draft format within fantasy sports. As an advocate, the official FPL launch of such a game excited me and I was very keen to check out the Fantasy Premier League Draft as early as possible.
So when it launched, I logged in as normal and simply expected to see the ‘draft’ option there, ready and waiting. I looked, and I looked and then I looked some more. “Um, where is it?” I thought aloud before actually asking my good friend @FPL_Guru_. Turns out, you had to logout, hover over the fantasy tab on the site, and then the Fantasy Premier League Draft option appears. Thankfully, this has since changed, and a ‘draft’ tab has now appeared once you log in.
Having begun, I had a click around. I instantly entered a public league, which is simply dumping you into a table with a few randomers as quickly as possible. This is ok, though in my opinion removes the edge of possible banter with your league mates. For me, any style of fantasy football should have the competitive streak against your mates at the heart of it, so I set up a private league instead and invited some friends.
I would highly recommend entering a private league over a public one. In public ones, you have zero control over the factors, such as the amount of time each user gets per pick, or even when the draft happens. In my first public, there was 24 hours until anyone in my league picked a player, despite all eight participants being ready to do so. As the tweet above from @FPL_Guru_ reads, this is hardly a perfect game just yet.
Anyway, I set my private league to draft at 1pm UK time on the same day I set it up. This gave me a couple of hours to recruit some mates and get them ready for drafting.
With eight of us ready, I watched the clock tick down for the draft to begin. And that was it – we were in. I expected perhaps a minute on a screen which showed the order of picks but no such thing happened and all of a sudden the first person was picking. Harry Kane, thanks very much.
I’d been randomly drawn out second, with the clock at the top telling me so. This is helpful, and also frozen so that when you scroll the page, this is always visible. However, being second meant my next pick was at number 15 (classic snake draft: 1-8 then 8-1 and repeat). If you navigate away from the page at any point, there is no warning as to how long until your pick – you literally have to be looking at the screen.
An audio note or an on-screen push notification wouldn’t go amiss here, especially if you were trying to draft whilst at work like I was! Similarly, when people enter text into the on-screen chat box (good feature) at the bottom of the page; you have to be looking at it to see the conversation. About five minutes had passed by when I realised my entire league mates were chatting in the box below and I’d not said a word!
The speed of the draft process is excellent. There were eight of us picking 15 players each, with 90 seconds available to make your decision each time. Because 75% or more of the picks are made well within the time frame, the draft moves on quickly and we completed ours in around 45 minutes.
Being able to see everyone else’s squads on the right hand side of the page via a dropdown menu is also very helpful. It allows you to see what positions others need to prioritise. For example, I left goalkeepers late – my last two picks in fact – but worked out I could get Jack Butland and Kasper Schmeichel, not horrendous picks by any stretch, due to others already choosing ‘elite’ goalkeepers before me.
I have two negatives with the game though. Firstly, there are no chips and no captaincy. This annoys me a little, as I think these are strategic elements; however I can see how chips would grossly impact a head-to-head matchup. I still think there is room for something in this department however, which would add something to each gameweek.
Secondly, 15 players per squad is too few. Eight people picking 15 players equates to 120, meaning there are (at the time of writing) 359 players left on the block. This is a massive amount and yes, only 50 or so may actually interest you, but that is still enough to add a few extra to your squad. When you cannot simply play a wildcard, rip up your plans and start again in an injury crisis, my opinion is 18 would be a much healthier squad number for a draft squad. Having completed our picks, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, Michail Antonio and Divock Origi are just some of the undrafted names that would certainly have helped pad out our squads.
Finally, another minor sticking point is that you cannot easily see the round you picked a player in on your squad list. In any draft, this is always a great detail to acknowledge how much value you are getting from a particular player. Once the draft is over you can go into the ‘draft room’ and find it, but this should be information you easily have to hand.
So having completed my first online Fantasy Premier League Draft, I have four tips for yours, particularly if you are in a money league and competition is fierce:
1. Draft as close to the season as possible. Since we drafted 48 hours ago, Benjamin Mendy and Javier Hernandez have arrived on these shores and both would’ve been snapped up in our draft. Yes, they’re great waiver wire options down the line, but in my opinion drafting as near to kick off as possible will generate the best draft possible.
2. Prioritise strikers. Striking options are few and far between – something I knew anyway – but there really aren’t many stand out ones to go around. With my first pick I took Romelu Lukaku and with my third I chose Jamie Vardy. I actually left it late (Round 11) to get Troy Deeney, so I was pleased to get a starting striker, but I think I could’ve got someone better for that third striking spot. The depth in other areas – particularly defenders – is huge, so bare that in mind.
3. Plan ahead. One of the lads in my draft was saying afterwards that he was trying to look at goalkeeping pairs – basically looking at fixtures and seeing if he could dovetail a couple based on match ups. This is an awesome plan, but it’s something you must research prior to the draft. He learnt the hard way, with about 85 seconds of one of his 90 second slots taken up by frantically looking at who he might be able to pair up. Be it goalkeepers or otherwise, have a strategy in mind and plan what you want to do. You will definitely miss out on players you want, but have a backup option to hand so you’re not massively disappointed come the end.
4. Play the long game. Don’t be deterred by players who have an orange exclamation mark by their name or are suspended for the first two fixtures. The squad you draft will be the bulk of you team for the campaign ahead, and it’s a long one. Even the best players get injured, but if Eden Hazard falls to round 3, snap him up because by mid-September you’ll be buzzing to have him.
Overall, this format is fun and different and all eight of us involved collectively agreed that we enjoyed it. It’s not perfect by any stretch but as a first attempt, the FPL have done pretty well. As I’ve stated before, I love the format and I hope it takes of here. With a few tweaks here and there, it really could.
Below is a look at the squad I managed to get myself. Happy drafting.
Written by Joe McPhee (@JPMc99)