On this week's MLS Fantasy Insider podcast Reid, Jason, Mike and Blayne preview the Opening Weekend Challenge in MLS Fantasy. They make all the picks you need to have a successful first week of MLS Fantasy!
The first is improved point generation thanks to clean sheets increasing from four to five bonus points. Second, and more important, is that quality defenders are now more affordable than ever due to the decrease in maximum starting player prices.
These changes should significantly impact how fantasy players value defenders. Below is my ranking of the top 20 fantasy defenders.
Overall Defender Rankings
As with my keeper article, I focused mostly on 2016 point generation per 90 minutes played and total price when making these rankings. I also tried to include a player from each team because I believe the new transfer rules will allow fantasy managers to utilize a wider variety of players and take advantage of the best defensive matchups each round.
*All prices in millions
|1. Harrison Afful||CLB||$6.0|
|2. Walker Zimmerman||DAL||$6.5|
|3. Axel Sjoberg||COL||$6.5|
|4. Justin Morrow||TOR||$6.0|
|5. Ike Opara||SKC||$5.0|
|6. RJ Allen||NYC||$5.5|
|7. Drew Moor||TOR||$6.0|
|8. Daniel Steres||LA||$6.0|
|9. Jonathan Campbell||CHI||$5.5|
|10. Matt Hedges||DAL||$6.5|
|11. Taylor Kemp||DC||$6.0|
|12. Jared Watts||COL||$5.5|
|13. Victor Bernardez||SJ||$5.5|
|14. Victor Cabrera||MTL||$5.5|
|15. Aurelien Collin||NY||$6.0|
|16. Chris Tierney||NE||$5.5|
|17. Justen Glad||RSL||$5.5|
|18. Chad Marshall||SEA||$6.0|
|19. Oguchi Onyewu||PHI||$4.5|
|20. Francisco Calvo||MIN||$6.0|
Budget friendly options
While the rule changes have made some of the best players more affordable, budget players will still be needed to help you spread more money into other parts of your team. Several teams have starting defenders as low as $5.0m (such as Orlando, Portland, Real Salt Lake), but there are also some $4.5m players who have a chance to start.
Opening Weekend Challenge Standouts
If you’re tempted to field five defenders for the OWC, be cautious. History shows that the first week has not always results in a bounty of clean sheets. Many of the players I listed above will be great options, but if you want to focus on just a handful of teams, I’d stick with Portland (vs. MIN on Friday, 9:30 pm ET, FS1), Columbus (vs. Chicago on Saturday, 2 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Toronto (at RSL on Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, TSN1), and maybe San Jose (vs MTL on Saturday, 10 pm ET, TVAS). All have promising matchups and are coming off good preseason performances.
These are my top defender picks for the start of the 2017 season. Share your favorites in the comments below? If you want to get more player selection tips, listen to the most recent episode of the MLS Fantasy Insider podcast at the top of this page.
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