The midfield has been very settled lately and has emerged as a decent source of budget options. Pilkington's 3 goals over the last 4 gameweeks appear to have gone unnoticed (1% owned) while Johnson (16 points over last 4 GW) and Fox (14 points over last 4 GW) have also been useful bench players. Another option in Hoolahan actually leads the team in key passes (15) with Fox (12) being the only other contributor of note. Pilkington has registered just 5 shots on goal, which suggests his goal scoring rate will decline over the season, though Johnson could see some better production if he start hitting the target more (14 shots, 3 on target). Finally, Fox's corner duties are a nice addition to his fantasy package. No one players here looks like they are likely to contribute consistently across all categories and so I would lean towards the cheaper options in Fox (4.4m) and Johnson (4.5m) as my bench player.
Steve Morison appears to have made the forward spot his own and has some good numbers to show for it so far this year. He's managed to contribute a goal, two assist and three bonus points in just 5 starts and his 15 total shots (5 on target) are higher than the likes of Agbonlahor (13) and Adebayor (12) despite playing less minutes than both. With Best finding himself at risk of rotation and Andy Johnson yet to secure a regular spot in the first team, Morison (along with Danny Graham who we'll get to later) looks like the best sub 5.5m option around and could be argued to be as good as anyone available for 6.0m or less.
Player pool candidates: Tierney, Fox, Johnson, Pilkington, Morison
My pick: Fox
Queens Park Rangers
I don't think there's much argument that QPR have the most talent among the promoted sides, having added proven Premier League options like Barton, Young and Wright Phillips to a squad that already looked serviceable. The defense has been consistently good so far, with just the one (major) blemish in GW7. At home they've conceded 3 in 4 and have emerged as a good rotation option. It's also pretty simply to see who will play here with the three new signings (Young, Ferdinand and Traore) lining up alongside Gabbidon/Hall. With no-one particularly standing out offensively, I liked Gabbidon here given his lower price tag but until he is back and healthy I'd go with Ferdinand who is the next cheapest pick. I think there's plenty of value here and QPR should be one of the better teams to provide sub-5.0m options this year.
This midfield looks very talented on paper but no-one has really kicked on to produce anything more than average production. Faurlin is clearly the best value pick to date and given his solid underlying numbers (18 key passes, 8 shots) he remains a good bench option who brings limited upside and guaranteed minutes. Taarabt, Barton and Wright Phillips still provide the upside, though it's tough to know who to chase here. I've spoken at length about Taarabt's underlying numbers before but it's worth repeating that his 18 shots (7 on target) place him second among midfielders and 7th among all players. Add in his 17 key passes (7th among midfielders) and his set piece duties and it becomes baffling how he has failed to register a single goal or assist this year. While I think Barton's outburst about Taarbat was a bit harsh and unprofessional, it can't really hurt his production, so from our perspective it was probably a good thing. As for Barton, I don't see him as hitting the heights of last year, given the lack of set pieces and lower scoring potential of this team compared to Newcastle. As for Wright Phillips, he appears to be the 2010 rather the 2008 model with the dubious addition of collecting yellow cards supplementing his faltering game. There's certainly potential here but Barton and Wright Phillips are a bit pricey for their current situation while Faurlin' upside is probably limited. For that reason, I am sticking with the unimaginative position and backing Taarabt to come good here.
Up top there is basically no value as while Bothroyd seems to be favoured to play each week, he's failed to contribute a single point this year, other than those awarded for simply showing up. He has added 11 shots this year which suggests he is at least getting into some decent positions but even at 5.6m he looks overpriced and you'd be better off with the target men from the other promoted sides discussed above and below.
Player pool candidates: Kenny, Ferdinand, Taarabt, Faurlin, Barton
My pick: Taarabt
Going into the season I thought that QPR had the strongest squad, but that the duo of Sinclair and Graham were the most promising of the promoted players (yes, even ahead of Taarabt). After 4 gameweeks this looked foolish but then Sinclair hit the back of the net and Graham returned to the first team to add his own goals, and suddenly the Premier League first timers look like a good source of budget talent. Defensively, Swansea have emerged with some of the most pronounced home/road splits I've ever seen with 4 clean sheets at home and 12 goals (3 GPG) conceded away. Vorm is of course old news, but he deserves the attention he has received and is close to a must own player for anyone looking to employ a rotation strategy. Rangel has played well so far this year but his underlying numbers are only okay (3 key passes, 4 shots, 0 on target) and he's only managed a single bonus point in offensive points. For that reason, I'd go with Neil Taylor and save the extra 0.4m if you want to double down on this defense (assuming you have Vorm already).
Sinclair has been an excellent goal threat this year adding 17 shots (4th among midfielders) to go with his penalty duties. His advanced deployment means that his assist potential is down (4 key passes all year) but you are essentially getting a 4th forward for just 6.0m who brings goal threat numbers to rival anyone in the league outside of the elite group of strikers. The majority of Sinclair's points have come at home but his penalty duties should allow him to have some success at any time and he makes a good budget option who you feel comfortable starting pretty much every week. Dyer has the highest ownership among the midfield group but he's only really had the one big gameweek and his underlying numbers are starting to look underwhelming (8 key passes, 5 shots, 2 on target). He's still worth a spot on the bench given his low price tag and the lack of alternatives in that price bracket, though I think he's more of an emergency starter rather than a solid rotation option. Elsewhere, Britton isn't doing a whole lot of anything in the attacking third while Gower (9 key passes), Agustien (9 key passes) and Dobbie (10 shots) have some promising numbers but a lack of guaranteed minutes. Until something shifts here permanently, each look overpriced compared to Dyer or the other options on other teams in the lowest price bracket.
Up top the story starts and ends with Danny Graham, who has shown why he has highly rated coming into the season over the past couple of gameweeks. His 15 shots - including 8 on target - both rank 8th among forwards with only Di Santo and Morison coming close to Graham's low price tag. There isn't much to distinguish between that trio and it probably comes down to chasing the hot hand and playing the fixtures. Norwich probably have the slight edge there, but I'm happy holding onto Graham for now, especially if other areas of your squad need work.
Player pool candidates: Vorm, Taylor, Sinclair, Dyer, Graham
My pick: Graham and Vorm
Hopefully the above has given everyone a few things to think about for the promoted sides, who can be key in differentiating your teams from others, given that most don't know who to target until it is too late. On a side note, I am away on vacation for the next two gameweeks, so while I hope to get the stats updated, other posts will likely be few and far between for a couple of weeks.