An exciting start
It is week 3 of the 2016/17 Premier League season and we have been treated to an exciting start so far. Fantasy football is in full flow now and makes the weekends that more enjoyable.
Whilst we expected the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea to start well and score plenty of goals between them, there is a surprise inclusion at the top of the table.
Hull City have got off to a miraculous start taking maximum points from their first two games. They beat last year's champions, Leicester City 2-1 in the opening game of the season, then went to Swansea and beat them 1-2 last week. Hull have a very thin squad and currently Mike Phelan is still in charge as caretaker manager. There is no reason to expect Hull to pull off what Leicester did last season, but it is a good start all the same. Phelan will be hoping to get the gig full-time and a good result against his former employers will only help his cause.
Elsewhere there are seven more Premier League games to enjoy today. Liverpool are playing Tottenham in the early kick-off, which looks to be a thrilling encounter. This is the pick of the games today but as it is the early kick-off, the focus from a fantasy point of view will be elsewhere. The 3pm kick-offs and the later games is where to focus your attention for fantasy football on DraftKings.
Let's take a look at the best and value plays for today's games.
Points last week: 12.0
David De Gea ($5,600)
At $5,600, De Gea is one of the more expensive goalkeepers this week but for good reason. Hull's bubble has to burst sooner or later and today may be the day.
Hull will look to counter this very strong Man Utd side, so De Gea may have some saves to make but he will expect a clean sheet and a win. As a result he can lock up 10 points for fantasy owners (+5 for a win and +5 for a clean sheet) and any saves will mean bonus points (+2).
Abel Hernandez (3 shots a game) and Diamonde (2 shots a game) may well test De Gea today and hopefully keep him busy, without scoring. Robert Snodgrass also had 5 shots against champions, Leicester on the opening weekend.
Utd have to be favourites and after improving on the one goal they let in against Bournemouth, with a clean sheet against Southampton they should be capable of more of the same today.
Last week's stats: 1 win, 1 clean sheet, 1 save
Fraser Forster ($5,500)
Points last week: 2.0
A slightly cheaper option to De Gea this week is Southampton's, Fraser Forster. He has had a rough start to the season, as his side are without a win or a clean sheet, but that can change this week.
Southampton played De Gea's, Man Utd last week and despite making an encouraging 3 saves, Forster still conceded two. Utd look strong however and today's opponents, Sunderland are a less daunting prospect.
Sunderland have lost their first two games of the season 2-1, against very different opposition. A 1-2 loss away to Manchester City seemed an admirable effort, but a loss in front of their own fans last week to their newly promoted rivals, Middlesbrough was clearly disappointing.
Jermaine Defoe is the main threat to Forster today and he registered just 2 shots at home last week, both off target. Adnan Januzaj was more of a threat firing in 4 shots (1 on target), but Forster will look to keep the pair out. Southampton are the better side and have home advantage so a win and a clean sheet look entirely possible.
Last week's stats: 3 saves, 2 goals conceded.
Steve Mandanda ($5,000)
Points last week: N/A
Possibly a bit expensive for a value play, but Mandanda looks a good price at home v Bournemouth. Mandanda made his competitive debut for Crystal Palace against Blackpool in the cup this week, and as expected kept a clean sheet.
Whilst you cannot judge him on what he did against a League One outfit, the reviews of Mandanda's performance were positive. With Wayne Hennessey facing a late fitness test, it looks as though the French International will start. He was called up for the latest France squad this week, which is a good sign his respective managers think he is ready.
Bournemouth scored at home against Man Utd on the opening day of the season, but drew a blank away to West Ham last week and I expect the same this week. A clean sheet and a win looks probable for Palace, especially after strengthening at the other end of the field.
Last week's stats: N/A
Tom Heaton ($4,200)
Points last week: 20.0
Heaton has averaged 16.0 fantasy points over his first two games of the season and can score points again today. Whilst you wouldn't want to bet on Burnley keeping a clean sheet away to Chelsea, he should certainly be busy.
On the opening day of the season, Heaton made 7 saves against Swansea so despite conceding 1 goal, still garnered 12 points. A win and a clean sheet against Liverpool last week were a real bonus.
He has made 12 saves in two games so far this week and as long as Chelsea don't go overboard and put 3 or 4 past him, Heaton should score well for fantasy owners again today. Chelsea have won both of their games 2-1, against West Ham and Watford and a similar scoreline today could see Heaton keep up his 16 point average.
Last week's stats: 1 win, 1 clean sheet, 5 saves
Branislav Ivanovic ($5,100)
Points last week: 10.3
Burnley were impressive last week against Liverpool but Antonio Conte would have studied that game and should be aware of the counter-attacking threat.
With this in mind, a first clean sheet of the season looks a good bet for Ivanovic and Chelsea this week. Last week I got Burnley wrong and it cost me, but Chelsea shouldn't roll over in the same manner.
In two games so far, Ivanovic has 10 crosses, 7 of which he whipped in at Watford last week. If he can get the same number of crosses in today, points should be scored. Add on 3 points to his average so far for a clean sheet and he looks a good play.
Last week's stats: 7 crosses, 1 foul drawn, 3 tackles won, 2 interceptions
Cedric Soares ($4,900)
Points last week: 7.3
The Euro 2016 winning full-back has averaged 8.0 points so far this season and will emulate that this week. Soares has achieved this 8.0 average without a clean sheet in the first two games, so he can reach double-digit points for the first time this season.
Soares is putting in five crosses a game and also had two shots (both on target) against Watford in his first game. He will be coming up against fellow attacking full-back, Patrick Van Aanholt today, but he can get the better of him at both ends of the field.
If he can still get his crosses in, which he did against a better Man Utd last week, Soares is still a viable option. I do believe Southampton will keep a clean sheet today, which is why he looks a better play than he has so far.
Luke Shaw ($4,300)
Points last week: 6.0
Luke Shaw has recovered from a broken leg, which kept him out for the majority of last year, but he now looks raring to go. Still just 21, the best is to come from Shaw and he will look to prove that this season.
After keeping a clean sheet against his former club last week, Shaw scored 6 fantasy points. He will look to emulate all his numbers last week against arguably a weaker Hull side and keep up the good defensive efforts from Man Utd so far this year.
Shaw has only put in two crosses (both last week) so far in his two games, but he will look to get forward more today. Using his pace, he often draws fouls, which actually scores him more fantasy points than his crosses, so hopefully he is brought down (pain-free) a lot today.
3 points for a clean sheet coupled with a more attacking performance from him today could see him score double digits for the first time this season. Shaw will also look to put in more tackles, as he has only managed to win 1 over his two games, which again will score more points.
Last week's stats: 1 clean sheet, 2 crosses, 1 foul drawn, 1 interception
Kyle Naughton ($3,700)
Unless Swansea change their style of play dramatically, Naughton will be a focal point of their attack once more.
Naughton put in 7 crosses last week against Hull and 4 in at Burnley last week, but it is the 5 shots he fired in last week that boosted his numbers.
On the defensive side of the ball, Naughton has managed to win 7 tackles and also intercept the ball 5 times in his two games, and he should get the chance to add to that against Leicester's wingers today. Whilst he may be drawn into his first foul of the season, he should still put in some solid numbers.
Leicester have not got off to a great start, scoring just one goal over the two games, which was a Riyad Mahrez penalty. If they stumble to another draw as they did last week at Arsenal, Naughton could prove great value given his modest salary.
Last week's stats: 5 shots, 7 crosses, 3 tackles won, 1 interception
Eden Hazard ($8,600)
Points last week: 16.0
Hazard will probably feature in this article each week, until he becomes the most expensive midfield option. There are four midfielders more expensive than him, none of which have had made a better start than he has.
After scoring in the season opener against West Ham, Hazard failed to find the back of the net last week at Watford. Back in front of his home fans, in which is arguably an easier match-up, he can get back amongst the goals again.
It is not essential that he scores though. He managed 16.5 points against West Ham, and only dropped half a point last week at Watford.
He has the ability to rip any team apart and he looks in the form where he will do just that. Hazard will draw fouls, put in crosses and test the keeper, everything you want from an attacking player in fantasy. His 16.3 average so far is good enough, but I can see him scoring 20+ points today.
Last week's stats: 4 shots, 2 shots on target, 6 crosses, 6 fouls drawn, 1 foul conceded, 1 tackle won, 1 interception, 1 yellow card
Ross Barkley ($7,800)
Points last week: 13.8
Barkley has made a great start to the season with a goal and an assist already to his name and he looks set for another good performance against Stoke today.
Stoke were hammered 1-4 by Manchester City at home last week and that was a week after drawing away at Middlesbrough. Everton on the other hand have drawn 1-1 with Tottenham and beaten West Brom as they adjust to life under Ronald Koeman.
Barkley setup Kevin Mirallas last week, and with Mirallas' countryman Romelu Lukaku also in the fray, Barkley is surrounded by some great attacking talent.
Similar to Hazard in the respect that his points are scored across the board, this match-up looks good for him. Stoke are generally good defensively, but they have conceded 30 goals on the road in 10 games so far in 2016. Expect Everton to score today and expect Barkley to be involved one way or another.
Last week's stats: 1 assist, 2 shots, 1 shot on target, 1 cross, 4 fouls drawn
Alternatives to these two if struggling with salary would be Adnan Januzaj ($7,400) and Andros Townsend ($7,100) who have averaged 10.1 and 19.8 points respectively so far.
Kevin Mirallas ($5,600)
Points last week: 14.3
Another Everton midfielder who looks set for a good game against Stoke.
Mirallas opened his account for the season against West Brom last week but like Hazard and Barkley doesn't rely on goals to score fantasy points. He had two shots (both on target) and 7 crosses against Tottenham, whilst he scored with his only shot last week.
The tricky Belgian draws fouls, puts in crosses and generally does everything a good winger should do.
After falling out of favour last year, Mirallas has enjoyed the minutes he has had on the field so far. Roberto Martinez has just taken over as Belgium boss and although he was the one who wasn't playing him last season, he has recalled him to his latest squad. Another good performance this week will be vital for Mirallas ahead of the international break.
Last week's stats: 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 shot on target, 3 crosses, 1 foul drawn, 2 fouls conceded
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg ($4,700)
Points last week: 9.3
Primarily used as a defensive midfielder, Hojbjerg doesn't seem the most viable fantasy option, but he can get points.
Given his strong presence in the middle of the park he has the ability to break up play (3 interceptions and 5 tackles won last week) but he can also offer attacking value.
Hojbjerg is a class player, you only need to look at his past to know that. He already has 17 caps for Denmark at 21, and made 17 appearances for Bayern Munich before they sold him to the Saints.
He managed to score a decent amount of points against Utd last week in his first start (played 35 minutes week one), so he should be able to build on that as Southampton improve. That improvement should start this week against Sunderland so he is worth chancing. Hojbjerg scored 12 goals in 32 starts when representing Denmark at U17, U19 and U21 level so if given the chance to get forward he could pitch in with a goal. He also netted twice in the Bundesliga last year during his 16 appearances on loan at FC Augsburg.
Last week's stats: 3 crosses, 2 fouls drawn, 3 fouls conceded, 5 tackles won, 3 interceptions
Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($9,600)
Ibrahimovic has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, already bagging three goals in two games. He scored 2 last week against Southampton and a repeat performance looks likely.
The big man can drawn fouls even when he's not scoring and just his sheer presence gives defenders a hard game. There are no points for being an effective presence though, so fantasy owners will want goals.
Ibrahimovic has attempted 5 shots so far, 4 of which have been on target and 3 which have been goals, which is a great ratio. Whilst he is expensive, he is playing a make-shift defence that can't put the heroic shifts they have been so far in every week.
Man Utd could put in 3 or 4 against Hull today, of which Ibrahimovic will be right at the heart of.
Last week's stats: 2 goals, 3 shots, 2 shots on target, 2 crosses, 2 fouls drawn, 1 foul conceded, 1 tackle won, 1 interception
Romelu Lukaku ($9,000)
Points last week: 3.3
Lukaku came off the bench after 37 minutes last week after West Brom took the lead, in what was his first appearance of the season.
Now that all the speculation of a transfer away is behind him, it should be another good season for the man who scored 18 in the league last year.
In the three seasons Lukaku has been at Everton, he has played Stoke 6 times and scored 4 goals including 3 last season. He scored 2 in the home fixture last year and can do the same today.
With Barkley and Mirallas' support, Lukaku can run this Stoke defence that has looked fragile, absolutely ragged today.
Last week's stats: 2 shots, 2 shots on target, 1 cross, 3 fouls conceded
Shane Long ($6,800)
Points last week: 9.0
Coming off the back of his best goal-scoring season in the Premier League (10), big things are expected of Long this season to.
Whilst he has not found the net in his opening two games of the season, Southampton as a side have not been at the races and if expected they improve today, Long should to.
With the pace of Long and Nathan Redmond in attack, the Saints should cause defences all sorts of bother this season and Long will be looking for 15+ this year.
The Sunderland defence is suspect at best and Long will use his pace to get in behind and score today.
Last week's stats: 4 shots, 1 shot on target, 2 fouls drawn, 2 tackles won
Nathan Redmond ($5,900)
One or the other are going to score today as Southampton should record their first victory of the season. Redmond has the upper hand on Long so far after netting against Watford on his debut and can do the same again today.
Redmond could easily drift out wide an provide support as well as be in the middle to score and this makes him an exciting fantasy option.
He didn't have a chance to do anything against Man Utd last week, but he should have more opportunities this week. Whilst his 3.5 points last week was disappointing, the 19.3 in week one was great especially given his salary each week.
This is the most expensive he has been all season, but at sub-$6k he is still more than viable.
Last week's stats: 1 shot, 2 crosses, 2 interceptions