Forwards are the sports cars of fantasy Premier League – they’re flashy and fun, but not terribly reliable and they really only serve one purpose. Still, it’s hard not to get excited about players who light up the scoreboard.
The forward position feels particularly murky this year, with few tried and true goal scorers whom you can trust to get the job done. Among last season’s top ten forwards, at least five are either leaving the league or have serious question marks surrounding their future with their club: Zlatan has been released, Diego Costa was sent a breakup text message from his manager, Alexis has Arturo Vidal and Pep Guardiola whispering sweet nothings in his ear, Sergio Aguero is a possible target for PSG and might lose playing time to Gabi Jesus, and Jermaine Defoe will turn 84 this fall.
So what does this mean? Well, if you’re drafting in the top five, it’s hard to pass up any of the bona fide strikers who will be available to you. After the first few forwards, you’re looking at guys who are far from sure things and you’re probably better off waiting a few rounds to grab a guy with upside, even if they come with considerable question marks.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 for this season.
1.) Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
We cover Alexis Sanchez in our Top 10
2.) Harry Kane – Tottenham
We cover Harry Kane in our Top 10 Overall.
3.) Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United
We cover Lukaku in our Top 10 Overall.
4.) Gabriel Jesus – Man City
5.) Firmino – Liverpool
Bobby Firm is a bit of a square peg in a round hole, slotting in as an unorthodox #9 for the Reds. He’s an effective striker for Liverpool, even if his goal scoring numbers are not elite. (He had only 11 last season.) However, because of his solid all-around production, Firmino finished the season as the fifth-best forward in both category and points leagues and we expect him to be right around there this season as well.
In category leagues, he’s an intriguing fantasy option at striker due to his differentials – his stats read more like a midfielder than a forward; he averaged 1.3 tackles and 27 net passes per 90, far and away the highest among forwards for both stats.
In points leagues, his well-rounded, consistent performances will give you a nice, reliable base to build off of each week. None of his stats are terribly eye-catching but it doesn’t take flash to win the league, and Firmino is a solid bet to repeat his versatile, steady performances from this past season.
7.) Joshua King – Bournemouth
King marks the start of a new tier of strikers: guys we like but are a little hesitant to pull the trigger on. The next few forwards in our list have a lot of upside but aren’t necessarily guys you want to depend on as your #1 striker.
King’s performances in the second half of the season – a blistering 14 goals in 19 matches – put him among the best players in the league. Was it a half-season hit or can he continue to find the back of the net at anywhere near a comparable pace?
No one could blame you for being skeptical about King’s chances of repeating his second half production – or even coming close – but there’s no reason to think that he doesn’t have 16-18 goals in him over the course of the season. He’s a fantastic dribbler with good pace and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
As you can see from the video, he scores his goals in a variety of ways:
Bournemouth are looking to acquire Jermaine Defoe this summer. If Defoe supplants Benik Afobe, it could help King by giving him more space to operate, as well as boosting King’s stats in the creative department.
8.) Sergio Aguero – Man City
Aguero managed to stay virtually injury-free the entire 2016-17 season, missing fewer games than any other season since 2011-12. Ironically, he still missed seven games due to red card/suspensions, hurting his owners in the process.
At 29 years old, he’s theoretically still in the prime of his career and it’s not unreasonable to think he could lead the Premier League in goals this season. His injury record last year is encouraging and you’d expect a slight uptick in City’s attack this year under another year with Guardiola, so perhaps he’s being underrated as the #8 striker on our board.
But the Argentine hasn’t played more than 31 games since the 2011-12 season and Gabriel Jesus’ presence, along with the rigors of Champions League football, could mean the occasional spell on the sideline for Kün.
Finally, while Aguero is an out-and-out goal scorer, he won’t bring much else to the table. Even if he’s a reliable goal scorer this year, his value takes a knock because of his lack of contribution across the other categories – he averages just 14 net passes per 90 over his career and he’s tallied a paltry 5 assists over the last two seasons combined.
There’s no doubt that Kun is an elite finisher, but there are more question marks than ever surrounding the Argentine this season and he should be drafted with caution.
9.) Jamie Vardy – Leicester
10.) Raheem Sterling – Man City
It would be hard to draft Sterling as a #1 forward for your team. His goals return – just 7 last season and 6 the year before – is not what you’re looking for in a player who’s expected to lead your fantasy line. So in category leagues, beware that you’re likely going to have to find your goals elsewhere, and draft Sterling knowing that he’s going to factor into your scoring elsewhere.
Which is to say that Sterling’s value fluctuates greatly depending on your scoring system, and if your league doesn’t count “fantasy assists”, you should peg him back a few spots. Last season he had an astounding six fantasy assists, mostly because he wins a lot of penalties which his teammates then convert.
It’s hard to believe that he’s still just 22 years old, and that it’s been four years since he broke out in a big way, grabbing 9 goals and 5 assists for Liverpool. Has his development stalled or has he just scratched the surface of his potential? Will the arrival of Bernardo Silva light a fire under the young England international or does it mean his playing time could be under threat?
It seems likely that he can repeat his 33 appearances last year – with Jesus Navas no longer at City, Sterling is their best option for a speedster on the wing. The added competition should put a chip on his shoulder and he’ll need to step his game up. Nine goals, double digit assists (again, if you include fantasy assists) and better than average passing numbers for a forward give Sterling some sneaky value, though you can likely wait on him until the middle rounds.