It’s that time of year once again! It’s the best but most stressful day of the year and one that you simply can’t over-prepare for. It’s draft day!
In our latest draft kit installment, we reveal our very own draft ranks, starting with our defender rankings! As always, these are down to our own personal preference of where we would pick these players in a draft but shouldn’t be too far off the general consensus.
The idea of “tiered ranks” is that you should be happy taking any of the players named in each tier at a certain stage of the draft. For example, if you’re in the 4th round of your draft and looking for a useful defender, we would be equally happy coming away with Kieran Trippier as we would be taking Lucas Digne…simple!
That’s enough waffling…let’s get into the ranks!
In a tier of his own! Liverpool’s chief creator Trent Alexander Arnold will be the first defender off every draft board this summer and is surely destined for another top season.
Unsurprisingly, TAA was the top scoring defender last time and finished as the third top scorer overall. The Liverpool man finished only 15 points ahead of 4th top scorer Joao Cancelo but gets his own tier for me due to being a more guaranteed starter and a set piece taker!
Both elite assets will probably go in the first round of drafts but you’ll probably have to be within the first five or six picks to get hold of Trent.
Let’s say Cancelo is in Tier 1.5 shall we? He enjoyed a season to remember last year but doubts remain as to whether he will be given as many starts this time around, especially if City do secure the signature Marc Cucurella. Either way, I can see him going at the tail end of the first round. Andy Robertson will be a stud (as always) and should be considered in round two after coming in at 13th overall last season.
Reece James is the most difficult defender to place in this summer’s drafts as there’s plenty of variables to consider. The Chelsea man arguably has the highest upside of all defenders but concerns over his fitness, his future position and any possible Chelsea formation change puts him down in my rankings.
Thomas Tuchel played James at right centre back on a few occasions last season in order to preserve his health and is all but killed his value as a fantast asset. If he lines up there in pre-season I will be staying well clear of him. He’s a big gamble but one that can win you a matchup on his own on a decent week!
Judging by our own draft strategy (more to come on that in future articles), tier three is probably where I will pick up my marquee defender. Out of the defenders outlined in this tier, Lucas Digne and Kieran Trippier are my preference due to guaranteed starts, attacking intent and their share of the set pieces. Both should see their number of clean sheets also rise thanks to some impressive defensive signings. Digne and Trippier should have an average draft position of 45-50 so I’m more than happy to take them in round four, maybe round three at a push if I’ve secured a reliable forward and midfielder.
Virgil Van Dijk is your man if it’s reliability you’re after but if you’re one who loves a punt then get hold of Ben Chilwell. He’s back and fit after a lengthy injury layoff and could be one of the bargains of the drafts if concerned managers allow him to drop down to round five. Marcos Alonso deputised wellin Chilwell’s absence so may see minutes if he stays but Chilwell should be the main man. Like team mate James, he comes with some risk but potentially massive reward.
At Tier Four the squad should be starting to shape up now and defenders should be drafted here with a view to potential upside and as a back up to the elite defender you have (hopefully) already brought in. These players could turn out to be high scorers but you shouldn’t draft them counting on them to perform each week.
Matty Cash and Joel Matip are the stand out names here after decent performances in 2021/22. The latter especially enjoyed a top campaign, proving to be one of the bargains of last season’s drafts but there are question marks this year due to the emergence of Ibou Konate.
Matt Doherty is the defender with the highest upside in Tier Four but the links to Djed Spence and late season form of much maligned Emerson Royal should make you think twice about using an early pick in him. He’s a “must draft” if you’ve already got that solid foundation though.
James Tarkowski probably belongs in a higher tier than this to be honest but with any move there’s always uncertainty. He may not be utilised as effectively as he was in an aerially reliant Burnley side when part of Frank Lampard’s Everton side. If Leeds can improve as a defensive unit then Liam Cooper can also be a bargain at this stage of the draft.
At this point we are getting towards streaming territory but keep an eye out. Although some of these names may be free agents a few weeks into the season, there is always a hidden gem among these (think Matt Doherty in 2018) that can go on to be a big part of your roster.
Manchester United’s full backs should provide a bit of a lottery, especially with the exciting but raw Tyrell Malacia completing his move to add to the competition at Old Trafford.
There’s murmurs in the Fantrax community that Rasmus Kristensen could become a ghost point monster while there’s plenty of full backs in here that are streamable for the right fixture but could go on to be usable long term; Jonny Castro Otto, Timothy Castagne and Vitalii Mykolenko to name a few.
This year’s late gem? Antonee Robinson is back in the Premier League. If Fulham can ride the wave of their Championship win and make a better stab at the Premier League than they normally do then he can put up some decent numbers.