And so it begins….THE EPL IS BACK BABY! Saturday is the first main EPL slate of the year, I could not be happier. If you read my first article on Friday’s single-game slate, feel free to skip down to the breakdown, but if you did not read, please keep reading for some housekeeping items. After a fun and successful 2017 EPL season fantasy-wise, I am returning to FanCave DFS as the main soccer contributor for the 2018 season. If you’re unfamiliar with my articles, I have a few different formats I use depending on the slate. For larger slates, I like to give advice position-by-position with top players and value, for smaller slates I focus on team-by-team breakdowns, and for single-game slates I break down the players into three groups (captain, supporting cast, and defenders). I also tend to favor FanDuel’s prices and scoring system, but I will toss in comments on DraftKings or Yahoo as well. Since the last EPL slate, FanDuel has undergone some scoring changes, so if you haven’t played in a while, do check that out. One last thing, if you haven’t become a member of FanCave DFS yet, YOU SHOULD. We have writers and analysts providing content for all fantasy sports for only $10/month. Our Discord chat groups are all available for as little as $5/month as well. With all that taken care of, let’s get to my break down of Friday’s single-game slate that features Leicester City traveling to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the first game of the 2018 EPL season.
Alvaro Morata (Chelsea @ Huddersfield Town, $12,000) – Chelsea is the only big 6 team on this slate and stacking them will be a popular move. Morata is the clear-cut stud striker on this slate, and he is in a good matchup against Huddersfield on opening day. Morata started strong last season but faded hard and fast. He benefitted from break during the World Cup and should be ready to go under new management at Chelsea. He’s had a fairly inconsistent preseason but has shown positive flashes. Now that the games matter, Morata will be on his A game in an attempt to revenge last season’s woes. Chelsea should control this game on both ends making Morata one of the more likely goal scorers on this slate. He’s a top cash option. With Eden Hazard out due to rest, Pedro ($10,000) is the most likely candidate to step into the starting lineup. I like Pedro, but that price is too high. I would only reserve him for GPPs.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace @ Fulham, $10,500) – Last season, Zaha became one of my favorite EPL players in both the real game and in fantasy terms. He ended the season strong with 5 of his 9 goals in the last 6 games. Zaha continued his success with 4 goals and 1 assist in 4 preseason appearances. Zaha looks prime to have a break out season and starts off with newly-promoted Fulham. Zaha is a top GPP forward option. If you trust CP on the road, feel free to use him in cash games as well.
Diogo Jota (Everton @ Wolverhampton, $8,500) – Diogo Jota is my top value forward on this slate. Jota showed he can score goal last year with 17 in the English Championship. Playing at home against Everton, a team whose strength is not defense, is a solid matchup for the young striker. Jota will most likely be a somewhat popular play given the lack of attractive punts at the forward position on this slate. Nevertheless, I would not use that as a reason to avoid him.
Deep punts: Troy Deeney ($7,500), Kenneth Zohore ($7,000)
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton @ Wolverhampton, $8,500) – The best thing about Sigurdsson is his knack for peripheral stats while still having good goal/assist upside as a midfielder. With FanDuel’s new scoring system, midfielders who have goal/assist upside will be at a premium, while midfielders who normally play more defensively and rely on passes will not have as much value. After an up-and-down campaign last year, Everton looks ready to compete for a top spot which should help free Sigurdsson up compared to last year. Sigurdsson has a really nice price tag for cash games, especially when you look at the overpriced midfielders above him. Wolverhampton cruised in the English Championship last season, but this is going to be a new level of competition for them. Everton should have the upper hand in this game, which gives Sigurdsson some goal/assist upside in the game.
Jorginho (Chelsea @ Huddersfield Town, $8,500) – Jorginho was one of the Premier League’s biggest signings of the summer from Napoli. He should fit right in under Maurizio Sarri (Chelsea’s new coach) as they were on the same team last year. Chelsea was also desperate for some help in the central midfield aside from N’Golo Kante. Jorginho’s fantasy value mostly relies on peripheral stats with his goal/assist upside lacking. However, in a prime opening day matchup against Huddersfield, those peripheral stats should come early and often for him (especially with Kante out).
Ryan Fraser (Cardiff @ Bournemouth, $8,000) – With a small-ish slate with 1 big 6 team and many studs ruled out for rest, the attacking power at the midfield position is lacking. Fraser did not have a great season last year by any means, but he did average about 14 FDP per game. In a matchup at home against newly-promoted Cardiff City, I foresee a near-ceiling game for Fraser. On paper, it looks like Cardiff might get relegated after just one season, so I expect Bournemouth to get off to a fast start in this game. Fraser likely will not be high owned, making him a good GPP flyer.
Pascal Gross (Brighton @ Watford, $7,500) – Pascal Gross played all 38 games for Brighton last year and averaged about 16 FDP per game. Gross will continue to be one of Brighton’s most important players this year, especially as their main set piece taker. Last year, Watford’s defense was very porous, and they haven’t made any substantial personnel changes over the offseason. Gross is an affordable play in all formats with his peripheral stat ability and assist upside.
Deep punts: Jeffrey Schlupp ($6,500), Callum Hudson-Odoi ($6,000)
Shane Duffy (Brighton @ Watford, $6,500) – Shane Duffy ended last season on a really consistent run averaging 18.6 FDP over 12 games. He thrived on defensive peripheral stats especially clearances and blocks. Duffy has a good matchup to pick up where he left off on the road against Watford on Saturday. He’s a good cash option if you have the money, but his offensive upside is limited so I would stay away for GPPs. Additionally, Brighton could squeak out a clean sheet in this game which would be an extra 5 points for him.
James Tompkins (Crystal Palace @ Fulham, $6,500) – If you read my articles last year, you’ll know that I am normally not a proponent of paying up at defender. However, James Tompkins is wonderful option if you have the money to spend. It doesn’t take much to look at his game logs from late last season to see that he was absolutely on fire. If he can continue that trend this season, it will not be long before his price jumps. He has a strong floor with major upside making him viable in all formats. Mamadou Sakho ($5,500) is another good play from CP’s defense, and he’ll save you $1,000. Aaron Wan-Bissaka ($5,000) impressed me late last season when he started, and it looks like he impressed CP management as well. If you can’t afford Tompkins or Sakho, AWB is your man. Sakho and AWB do have a little bit of a lower floor and less upside, but they are hard to beat for the price. Also, if Crystal Palace take care of business, their defenders should be in line for a clean sheet bonus.
Terence Kongolo (Chelsea @ Huddersfield Town, $5,500) – Last season, playing defenders from a big underdog was a winning strategy. The clean sheet bonus added a wrinkle to the thinking at the defender position, but not enough to change it that much. Terence Kongolo and Zanka ($5,500) are big underdogs at home against Chelsea this weekend, so I expect them to be targeted by many DFS players. Their price is really affordable on this slate, and there should be plenty of opportunities for them to get defensive stats with Chelsea controlling a lot of the game. Both players are viable in all formats. As the cheapest player expected to start on the slate, Chris Lowe ($4,500) will be viable if you want to pay up for studs.
If you haven’t checked out FanDuel’s new scoring system for goalkeepers, definitely take a look because it’s a big change. FanDuel will now award up to 17 bonus points to GKs (+10 for clean sheet, +7 for win). Also, goals allowed are now -2.5 instead of -1.0.
Ben Foster (Brighton @ Watford, $4,500) – With FanDuel’s new scoring, there is an emphasis on GKs getting a win and a clean sheet. I like Foster to get the win and a clean sheet is possible as well. He is far too cheap for having decent odds at the bonuses. Brighton was horrid on the road last season only scoring 10 goals in 19 games. If Foster can get a few saves as well as the bonuses, he’ll reach a fantasy output in the mid to high 20s.
Willy Caballero (Chelsea @ Huddersfield Town, $4,500) – With #1 GK Thibaut Courtois on his way to Real Madrid, Caballero will take over as the starting GK for Chelsea until expensive transfer Kepa Arrizabalaga is ready to go. Huddersfield only scored 28 goals in 38 games last season total and their average at home wasn’t any better. There is no reason for Chelsea to not come away with a win and a clean sheet making Caballero a great option in all formats, especially given his super cheap price.
Thanks for following along with me for the fun. Good luck to everyone playing. As always, I’ll be available on Twitter (@vdray5) and in the FanCave DFS Discord chat.