I've touched on the new SimPrem game before, and now we're a couple of weeks into the season, I thought it was time to meet the teams and see how the draft went. We start with one of the co-founders, John Wright, owner and manager of Oglethorpe FC.
What was your strategy going into the draft?
As one of the two founding members of the SFP, I felt like I had a decent feel for what I would need going into the draft and perhaps a leg up on the opposition. Last year, I favored players who would receive more guaranteed playing time, only to find my team lacking quality at times. If not for a couple of lucky hits like Robin van Persie and Ben Foster, I probably wouldn't have won the league.
This year, I came into the draft favoring quality over quantity. The biggest constraint in the current SFP system is that you are limited to 90 minutes of action per week at 11 team places, just like real football. With 25 players to fill those spots, I knew that each week, I would have some mix of "matchup" type players who would fill minutes and "quality" type players on whom I could rely for goal and assist production on a per-minute basis. Of course, the best players mix both quantity and quality, so Wayne Rooney was at the top of my draft board as a player who is a near-lock to be in the top five for goals scored while playing a lot of minutes for a top team. Having the eighth pick, I was unlikely to get him, but I settled for another top striker in Andy Carroll.
The next biggest constraint is depth by position. I wanted a balance of players at each position, since the best formation bonus comes from a balanced formation like a 4–4–2 or 4–3–3. The top forwards and attacking midfielders are inevitably the class of the league, but forwards in particular are very difficult to replace with any quality, so they received the biggest positional adjustment. Defenders from the big six clubs received a boost from me, since they're less vulnerable to matchup problems. One other difference worth noting in my strategy compared to others is that I gave quality keepers considerably less weight than most others in the draft. The main reason for this is the unpredictability that I perceive in predicting saves, and thus, predicting who is actually going to be a quality fantasy keeper.
A side note about keepers: without better data from a source like Opta, there's not a good way to construct a scoring system to favor the actual best keepers, since the worst will get plenty of "cheap" saves, and even a poor keeper on a good team will allow relatively few goals with a good back line in front of him. In our system, a keeper is going to score a lot of defence points, more than any regular defender, but the difference between the top keeper and the worst is fairly small for me, given the unpredictable nature of the position.
Did you have a favorite pick?
My second round pick (9th overall) is where I probably started to divert from the conventional wisdom, taking a relative part-timer in Rafael Van der Vaart, who is a prolific fantasy scorer when he plays. The same could be said of Theo Walcott (Rd 3), Rafael (Rd 7), Salomon Kalou (Rd 9) and Steve Fletcher (Rd 11). So, to some extent, I'm relying on their minutes overlapping enough for me not to have a problem filling out a team from week to week. On the other hand, I felt like these were great values in the draft.
Some of my favorite picks from other teams were Didier Drogba with the 19th overall pick and Nani with the 16th pick, among the earlier selections. Later in the draft, I liked Clint Dempsey (Rd 7, great attacking midfielder for our format), Adam Johnson (Rd 13, quality in short bursts), and Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Big Six defender in Rd 19). Johnson is probably the player I wanted most at the time he was taken.
My biggest reach was probably Emmanuel Adebayor in Round 18, given the uncertainty that he will play in the Premier League at all.
Lessons so far
I've learned over the years playing fantasy games not to overreact to one week's results, so you won't find me overrating Chris Eagles or the Bolton defence based on one match against a newly promoted club. The biggest lesson I think you can learn from the first week is which players might be first choice at their positions in cases where playing time was previously uncertain.
It was revealing to learn that Steve Fletcher, in keeping with his late-season form from 2010/11, was chosen to start and play the full 90' in the same team with Kevin Doyle, especially in the event that Doyle doesn't move to Arsenal as rumored.
All in all, I am happy with my team. Now it's all about setting the right tactics for each week and bringing in the right players to fill my smaller needs.
Oglethorpe opened the season with 0-0 draw in week one followed by a 3-0 loss to a good looking Cat & Moose FC, owned by the excellent team over at Never Captain Nicky Butt.