Before we dive into Friday's slate, it's important to note that FanDuel changed their soccer scoring rules for the World Cup, some of which will change the way we value certain positions. Here is a breakdown of the changes:
As you can see, the attacking stats didn't really change much but the defensive stats and goalkeeper scoring can turn our player evaluation nearly upside down. In the previous format, taking underdog goalkeepers was the way to go because the 2.0-point difference between saves and goals allowed made it viable to go with a goalkeeper who could make six saves and allow one or two goals versus the heavily favored keeper who may not make any saves but might get the clean sheet. With goals allowed now being nearly the same as saves, the upside in stopping shots isn't there as much. Instead, we can focus on the favored keepers now that they get seven points for a win and 10 for a clean sheet. You'll pretty much never see saves make up that difference for the losing keeper.
The defensive peripherals were also evened out, which actually makes clearances more important because they're the most reliable statistical category for defenders, more so for central defenders than fullbacks. Blocked shots are pretty rare in comparison to clearances, and while interceptions and tackles (FanDuel uses total tackles and not tackles won) happen more often, no one racks them up like some do with clearances.
The new five-point clean sheet bonus for defenders now makes us aware of players on favored teams, and those who create chances are still excellent plays.
In terms of attacking players not much has changed other than the 0.5 points for fouls drawn, which was removed completely. However, not many players even get four or five per game, so it's a minimal deduction in the overall scoring scheme.
8:00 a.m: Egypt v. Uruguay
11:00 a.m: Morocco v. Iran
2:00 p.m: Spain v. Portugal
Luis Suarez, URU v. EGY ($12,500): Playing for the biggest favorite and coming in with the highest anytime goal scorer odds, Suarez figures to be a popular fantasy choice Friday against Egypt. His shooting upside is arguably higher than any other player on the slate, and while teammate Edinson Cavani ($11,500) is potentially around to poach some of those looks, he's simply not the volume shooter that Suarez is regularly for Barcelona and Uruguay. Egypt usually play pretty defensively even with Mohamed Salah ($11,000), who may not start or will at least be less than 100 percent if he does, and the expectation that Uruguay will have plenty of possession fits right into Suarez's fantasy potential.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh, IRN v. MOR ($7,500): Iran and Morocco both come into this game knowing it's their best shot at three points, as they'll be big underdogs against Spain and Portugal, respectively. The oddsmakers aren't expecting this match to be high scoring, but with both teams having to go for it, we could see plenty of peripheral points. Jahanbakhsh does it all for Iran, which is similar to what he does for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, as he averaged 4.5 shots, including 2.0 on goal, 2.5 chances created and 3.5 tackles per 90 minutes this past season. Oh, and his 21 goals were the most in the league and his 12 assists were the third-most. If you're confident in an Iranian win, or at least that they'll score and it won't be Jahanbakhsh putting it into the back of the net, paying all the way down for someone like Karim Ansarifard ($5,000) could really open up some salary.
Hakim Ziyech, MOR v. IRN ($8,500): Going along with the Jahanbakhsh thought that there could be plenty of action in this match, Ziyech makes way too much sense at this price because of his dominant role within the Morocco attack. Also playing his trade in the Eredivisie, Ziyech averaged 4.9 shots, including 1.4 on goal, and 4.2 chances created per 90 minutes this past season, leading the league with 15 assists while also chipping in nine goals. His averages look more like cash-game plays, but he definitely has GPP upside.
Georgian de Arrascaeta, URU v. EGY ($7,500): While Suarez and Cavani will be responsible for scoring the goals for Uruguay, de Arrascaeta will likely be the one setting them up. He is averaging 4.7 shots, including 1.3 on goal, and 3.4 chances created per 90 minutes for Cruzeiro in Brazil in limited appearances this season, but his opportunities on set pieces for Uruguay should see him be a reliable source of fantasy points, even if his teammates have the much higher upsides.
Isco, ESP v. POR ($8,000): I actually don't love this game because I expect both teams to try to grind out a result, which doesn't equate to many fantasy points, but Isco's price is too low for the dynamic player he is for Real Madrid and Spain. David Silva ($10,000) plays more forward for Spain than he does for Manchester City, but I find it tough to pay that much in a game I don't expect to have a lot of scoring. Additionally, Isco is will be playing a similar position but on the other side and can set up others just as much as Silva. The Spanish midfield is filled with (usually) great fantasy plays, and Isco certainly shouldn't be one of the cheapest.
Ali Gabr, EGY v. URU ($5,000): Even though the new scoring rules benefit favored defenders who can get clean sheets, Gabr figures to get plenty of clearance opportunities against an Uruguay attack that is the best in their group. Five points for a clean sheet is nice, but Gabr could pile up double-digit clearances in this match and comes in much cheaper than center-back partner Ahmed Hegazi ($6,000).
Alvaro Odriozola, ESP v. POR ($4,500): Expected to start for the still-recovering-from-injury Dani Carvajal ($6,000), Odriozola doesn't have the ideal matchup for a defender, but he showed this past season for Real Sociedad that he can create chances out of the right-back position, and he comes in with decent clean sheet chances (albeit, not great). I wouldn't pay Carvajal's price for Odriozola, but the $1,500 in savings definitely puts him in play.
Jose Maria Gimenez, URU v. EGY ($5,000: There a possibility that Ruben Dias ($4,000) gets a start in central defense alongside Pepe ($6,500), but playing in the late game makes it too risky to roster him for his salary savings because there are no available pivots. Instead, I'll jump all the way to the first game and make a play at the team with the best clean sheet odds in Uruguay. Gimenez is the cheapest of the expected starters, and while he doesn't have the goal upside of Diego Godin ($7,000), the realistic outcome is that neither score; they are center-backs, after all. You could also try to get some attacking upside out of the fullbacks, whether it's Guillermo Varela ($6,500), Maxi Pereira ($5,000), Gaston Silva ($4,500) or Martin Caceres ($6,000), though Uruguay's real chances are going to be from de Arrascaeta.
Fernando Muslera, URU v. EGY ($5,500): Muslera is the second-most expensive goalkeeper on the slate, but he has the best win and clean sheet odds. If there is one thing capping his upside it's that Salah might not play, but if the Liverpool attacker does get the start, you have to imagine Muslera will be put to work. Sure, Salah's presence dampens his clean sheet upside, but the win is still very much in play even if he concedes.