For many fantasy managers, goalkeeper is an after thought. If you play in a points league, that’s generally a good line of thinking – your GK is not going to score enough points to make a drastic difference over the course of a season, and you might as well wait until the later rounds to draft one. The difference between the highest points scorer (Thibaut Courtois) and tenth-ranked GK (Huerelho Gomes) in standard points leagues last year was 58 points; not insignificant but also not worth a. That’s less than one point per match.
However, in a category league your GK can be the difference between a win and a loss each week, and it’s recommended that you spend a high round pick on grabbing an elite keeper. Once you get past the top four or five, you’re really grasping at straws.
1.) Hugo Lloris
Spurs’ #1 has an absurdly high saves/goal, given how few shots he faced. He also kept 15 clean sheets last year, just one shy of Thibaut Courtois’ 16, while missing four games through injury. There’s not a ton of room for improvement, but with a healthy season we expect him to lead the league in clean sheets, saves/goal, and finish as the clear #1 GK in terms of net passes and pass percentage.
There are some minor questions surrounding Tottenham’s defense, as Kyle Walker and Danny Rose look likely to leave the club, but it’s hard to imagine much of a drop off for Lloris. He provides a nice differential with his 472 net passes, far and away the best among goalkeepers.
Bottom line: Lloris a 2nd-rounder in standard category leagues, but don’t reach for him before the 5th round in standard points leagues.
2.) Thibaut Courtois
Courtois comes in at #2, as the undisputed starter for one of the best defenses in the league. Chelsea’s goals against and clean sheets will likely improve after another year in Conte’s three-at-the-back system. Courtois doesn’t have a terribly high saves/goal – just 2.43 – but that’s mostly because he doesn’t face an awful lot of shots. He’s still a world-class shot-stopper with good distribution and a rock-solid pick who can singlehandedly win you categories each week.
Bottom line: We don’t expect him to pass Lloris in standard category leagues, but it’s not out of the question. Late 2nd-rounder in categories, 6th-rounder in standard points leagues.
3.) Petr Cech
How much does the 35-year old have left in the tank? The occasional error might indicate that the lanky Czech is slowing down a bit but he was still an integral part of an Arsenal defense that kept 12 clean sheets. He’s always been a world class shot-stopper and last year he made an impressive 115 saves, versus 37 goals conceded.
Cech is not quite what he once was, but he’s got a ton of value in points leagues due to the sheer number of saves he’s forced to make, as well as a healthy number of clean sheets.
Bottom line: Regardless of your league’s scoring format, Cech a safe bet to finish in the top five for GK’s.
4.) David DeGea
Despite being among the best all-around keeper in the world, with incredible shot stopping ability and a good passing range, De Gea was not an elite fantasy keeper last season. United’s back line was injury-plagued and constantly changing, and gave up far more goals than one would’ve expected.
In Mourinho’s second season in charge, with the newly-acquired Victor Lindelof and some more stability, we expect a big improvement for United – and de Gea – in both goals conceded and clean sheets. Of course, with Madrid sniffing around for a transfer, de Gea could be out of the league entirely, so make sure you stay up to date on his situation.
Bottom line: If he’s a Manchester player on September 1, expect top five numbers for the young Spaniard, with upside to rank in the top three.
5.) Simon Mignolet
After bringing in the young German keeper/would-be Game of Thrones character Loris Karius last year, it looked like Jürgen Klopp was ready to send Mignolet to the bench. Then Karius broke his hand on Dejan Lovren’s face in pre-season (it was accidental, we swear) and Mignolet started the season as Liverpool’s #1. When Karius’ hand was fully mended, Mignolet was again second choice until Karius looked shakier than cafeteria Jell-O. Klopp had no choice but to recall the Belgian.
Still with us? Good.
Barring any other plot twists, Mignolet will start the year in the net for Liverpool on the back of what was an impressive season, keeping nine clean sheets in 28 appearances and finishing the season ranked 10th in standard points leagues, despite a limited playing time.
Bottom line: Liverpool’s defense needs to improve, and despite some drama over Virgil van Diijk’s would-be transfer, they’re expected to bolster their options at both center back options and left back. If Mignolet holds onto the gloves, he could have sneaky value in all scoring formats.
6.) Tom Heaton – Burnley
Heaton is more valuable in points leagues than category leagues. And with Burnley’s disparity in home/away form, he’s not a bad candidate for a fantasy platoon: play him at Turf Moor and stick in a backup/streaming option when the Clarets away from home.
Bottom line: a known commodity with plenty of Premier League experience, you can expect a boat load of saves, and if you’re strategically savvy, enough clean sheets to warrant being the sixth goalkeeper off the board.
7.) Ederson – Man City
We wouldn’t blame you if you were skeptical of Pep Guardiola’s ability to spot a good keeper. He shipped out a perfectly decent Joe Hart in favor of Claudio Bravo, who was pretty much a punchline (no pun intended) all year. Pep eventually turned to Wily Caballero, a guy he’d already had on the payroll, who was marginally better. Caballero looks to be on his way out and City have brought in a guy who is now the world’s most expensive keeper.
Ederson looks to be a different story from Bravo – he’s the first goalkeeper to command a fee north of £30Msince Gigi Buffon and he turned out pretty okay. It’s a different market, with massively inflated transfer fees, but Ederson’s hefty price tag is derived from some pretty great performances for Benfica. In 27 appearances last year he conceded just 12 goals while keeping 18 clean sheets.
There will be questions about how Ederson can command his back line, one likely to look a whole lot different than the 2016-17, and how he’ll deal with the drastically different style of play in England.
Bottom line: City’s defense should be better this year and if Ederson acclimates to a new league, he could be an elite fantasy keeper and should outperform his predecessors.
8.) Jordan Pickford
There’s no doubting Pickford’s pure ability between the posts. He was a fantastic keeper last season, coming in at fourth in saves per goal at 2.7, behind Lloris, Cech, and Heaton. He only kept four clean sheets and conceded an eye-popping 50 goals, but he was constantly peppered with shots as part of a porous Sunderland defense. After a record-breaking £30M transfer (for goalkeeper in England), it’s safe to assume he’ll face considerably fewer shots at his new club, Everton, whose GK’s kept 13 clean sheets between them last year.
Bottom line: Can the young England international make the big save when he’s called upon? Everton’s defense should improve with another year of Ronald Koeman at the helm and Pickford has an outside shot to rank in the top five in both clean sheets and saves per goal, making him a nice sleeper pick in all scoring formats.
9.) Fraser Forster
Along with West Brom’s Ben Foster, Forster led all goalkeepers in time on the pitch last year, not missing a single minute of play. Southampton gave up far too many goals, due in some part to a shaky center back situation – Jose Fonte was sold in January, Virgil van Diijk was injured for most of the second half of the season, and Jack Stephens had little Premier League experience.
Bottom line: Forster isn’t anyone you should reach for in your draft this year, but his numbers should improve 2017-18. A lot depends on whether or not van Diijk, arguably the best center back in the league, will be a Saints player come September, so adjust your valuation of Forster accordingly.
10.) Kasper Schmeichel
In what was a terribly disappointing follow-up to their title-winning campaign, Schmeichel wasn’t much of a bright spot, falling right in the middle of the goalkeeper pack. He had a decent saves per goal of 2.40, but the Foxes’ keeper gave up 47 goals – 1.6 goals per 90 – with just eight clean sheets. That is, uh, not good.
Will Leicester’s defense improve? Well, they signed Harry McGuire for £17M (which might look like a steal at the end of the season) and he should replace some creaky pieces in the back – take your pick between Robert Huth and Wes Morgan – so there’s that.
Bottom line: Schmeichel is about the last keeper worth drafting in 10-team leagues. You’d rather have someone else in your starting XI each week, but if you’ve waited until the keepers ahead of him are taken, he’s probably the last decent option.
11.) Jack Butland – Stoke City
Butland’s 2016-17 season was pretty much over before it started. He was expected back for the beginning of last season after picking up a nasty ankle injury on international duty that forced him to miss the Euros, but less than 24 hours before the season kicked off, he re-aggravated it and
Ben Foster – West Brom
12.) Huerelho Gomes – Watford
13.) Wayne Hennessy – Crystal Palace
14.) David Stockdale – Brighton
15.) Artur Boruc – Bournemouth
16.) Lee Grant – Stoke
17.) Ali Al Habsi – Reading
18.) Carl Darlow – Newcastle
19.) Danny Ward – Huddersfield
20.) Darren Randolph – West Ham