If you're wondering how to play Fantasy Premier League draft then wonder no more. We're here to explain everything.
The traditional method of FPL - where you have a set budget and pick your squad limited only by position and having no more than three players from the same team - is hugely popular all over the world, but for those of us who sampled the fantasy sports culture in the US, where it is almost exclusively draft based, there was always the desire for a similar system.
We'll talk about why it's so much fun in a bit, but first lets cover the basics.
How to play Fantasy Premier League draft
Fantasy Premier League Draft is a alternative method of playing fantasy Premier League football in private leagues of 16 or less.
Instead of picking whatever players you like within a budget, you must now take it in turns with the other managers to select players to fill a 15 man squad.
Once a player is picked, he cannot be selected by another team.
The draft usually works in a 'snake' pattern, with a timer set, where whoever has the last pick of round 1 has the first pick of round 2 and working back to the start where the process is reversed again. That is to balance the #1 overall pick having an advantage, as he must then wait until the end of round 2 to pick again. It sounds more complicated than it is. Here's a quick diagram from a 12 team league with 15 picks each:
Players that are unpicked in the draft are free to be picked up as free agents to replace a player in your squad of 15.
The scoring can be a traditional leaderboard or head-to-head. You can enter a team in up to 10 leagues, but that is insane as you will have players playing for you in one league while against you in another, and is a nightmare to keep track of. Any more than 3 is going to be tough to keep up with, realistically.
What is the big deal?
The reason people are so excited about this game mode is that they know how fun it is to play the NFL equivalent. While everybody likes tinkering with their team 100 times before the first deadline in the traditional game, the draft experience is fantasy sports at its absolute best, and the nature of the game makes it much more difficult to copy someone else's winning tactics.
The 'Draft Board':
If you agree to enter a fantasy Premier League draft, you absolutely cannot go in unprepared. You need to know who you want, and when you want to take them, because your early picks are absolutely vital.
Before entering a draft, you should have a 'draft board' which is your personal power ranking for the top 20 or so players in each position. As they are picked by your opponents, cross them off your board, and when it is your turn you can save time in finding out who you want to take.
You've got to think about who on your list will still be there when you are making your next pick, and who won't be. You'll need two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders, and three attackers. Make sure to prioritise them accordingly.
The Draft Itself:
For the absolute best experience possible we suggesting creating a league with your friends and having a 'draft night', where you all meet up and do the draft together while slagging each other at every step of the process, and scolding people for stealing the player you wanted to pick. Even if a few people have to join in via Skype, things will run quicker and be a lot more fun that way.
It is also perfectly acceptable to do the draft online, where you all agree on a date and time and take your turn making picks. DO NOT miss the draft and let 'Autopick' make your selections for you. It's an uphill battle if you do.
The best strategy to be happy with any fantasy draft is to have your draft board set, and then to plan to cover the positions you feel are most important. You might want to front-load on strikers with your first three picks, but then all the top midfielders may be gone. It's about finding value for your pick at whatever stage you are at.
You want players that you know for sure are going to play week in, week out. The beautiful thing is that there will always be surprises, for example who'd have known Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure could have become so valuable last season.
Free Agents (The Waiver Wire):
One of the most entertaining aspects of fantasy NFL, and crucially the thing that makes managers come back week after week, is the waiver wire.
A 'waiver' in American football is a player who has been released, so they are free agents without a team. Crucially, it's not a free-for-all when it comes to acquiring a free agent.
Typically, the order of who gets to pick the best free agents is determined by results, so if you score the least points in a given week, you will likely have first pick of the free agents to help your squad. If you score the most points, you may not need to strengthen your team at all, but if some of the other managers forget to submit a bid for a player you can swoop in and take them.
In fantasy NFL some of the top scoring players every year go undrafted, so you'll need to be watching a lot of Premier League football to keep up with what cheap/underrated players are scoring big points. Josh King being a perfect example, as is Marcos Alonso of Chelsea, who nobody would have expected to be as good a fantasy player last summer.
Also, new signings brought into the Premier League in the January transfer window will be free agents, so if you had a bad week and a club makes a huge deadline day signing, you could be in luck.
Transfer Window/Trade Deadline:
Having a squad of players that are unique to you means that other managers are going to want some of them, and the draft format allows for trades between teams.
If I've got Dele Alli on a great run of form, but I notice that his upcoming fixtures look really difficult, I can afford to 'sell high' and trade him for a one, or even a couple of other players.
You'll have to watch out for snakes trying to swindle you out of your stars, so make sure you pay attention to injuries, form, and fixtures!
Improving Your Knowledge:
The best thing about the Fantasy Premier League Draft is that it will really separate the men from the boys.
You can't win a league, or enjoy success, without doing your research and knowing your stuff, whereas some feel with the traditional game everybody ends up having the same core group of players and you don't have to do much other than copy the top players' squad.
By comparing players in your squad who are underperforming with free agents, you'll find you learn a lot about who is making an impact in actual Premier League games.
So that is all you need to know, set-up a league, tag a friend, fill up your draft board, and (if you can) do the draft night in person!