This article is part of our MLS Fantasy Rankings series.Welcome to the second of RotoWire's four positional previews for the 2016 MLS season. Matches are just around the corner and the official Fantasy MLS game has launched. Here to help are Schuyler Redpath and JD Bazzo, two of Fantasy MLS's top-20 finishers last season.
There are a lot of complications come with trying to rank players for the season-long game. For simplicity's sake, we ignored potential absences for the many international tournaments coming up this summer. We also did not favor players with a generous opening schedule, but you certainly should look at that when putting together your team!
Honorable Mention:Ike Opara, Michael Parkhurst, Andoni Iraola, Fabinho, Robbie Rogers, Jose Goncalves, Ambroise Oyongo, Waylon Francis
Omitted Due to Injury: Roman Torres
JD: This year, Fantasy MLS is enhancing their scoring system and the changes largely benefit defensive players. Center backs appear to gain the largest boost but the talent level of the league's attacking fullbacks continues to grow leaps and bounds every year. One flashy fullback I'm not sure I'll be able to stay away from is Harrison Afful. His appearances for Columbus towards the end of last season were outstanding, including attacking maneuvers in the final third that should make most MLS wingers jealous. I know he isn't a machine when it comes to compiling clearances, blocks and tackles, but I think he and some other elite outside defenders can make up for it in attacking gains this season. Where do you think payers like Afful, Chris Tierney and Brek Shea should fit into our fantasy considerations?
Schuyler: I'm always a sucker for attacking backs like you mentioned, but it's important to stress that these rankings are based on the season-long game and not daily fantasy. Historically, center backs have always been more relevant in season-long, so I had to squash my attack-minded tendencies and rank defenders accordingly. It is usually pretty tough to fit more than one of the high-priced central defenders in a team, so I usually do end up with some lower priced outside backs. Fantasy owners should be happy to see Shea listed as a defender again. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a more advanced role at some point in the season - as he was forced to do last season when Orlando was hit by the injury bug.
JD: I do think Orlando are deeper on the wing this year, so hopefully Shea can settle into his left back spot and really make the leap this season. Regardless of where he lines up, he will be a factor in the offense. While Orlando will finally have a new back line in terms of everyone being healthy at once, many teams are entering 2016 with major defensive overhauls. The four that really stick out are Toronto FC, NYC FC, Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy. I expect to take a wait-and-see approach with both the Galaxy and Fire, even though I see promise in both. As for Patrick Viera's new side, I think the midfield quagmire is more of a concern for the team's defensive performance than the new pieces they brought in. Toronto is the opposite, where I think Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou and Will Johnson in the midfield will really help a new back four. Do you trust any of these teams right off the bat?
Schuyler: Of those four, I trust Toronto FC the most from the get-go. Their off-season additions, Steven Beitashour and Drew Moor, are MLS regulars, whereas the other three teams have several players who are new to the league. You mentioned another MLS veteran that TFC picked up in Johnson, and I agree that he helps to solidify an already strong defensive midfield unit. The Chicago Fire defense is intriguing, as they will likely field a completely overhauled unit. Their fantasy relevance will be a complete unknown until we see them first hand. I noted in our goalkeeper rankings that I think the Galaxy defense should be fine once they build some chemistry with offseason acquisitions Ashley Cole and Jelle Van Damme. As for NYCFC, I still can't completely trust any defender that plays their home games in the diminutive confines of Yankee Stadium.
JD: Let's dive a little bit deeper into some of these newcomers at center back. Los Angeles have brought in hard-nosed Van Damme who seems to me like he will be a nastier version of Laurent Ciman, last year's MLS Defender of the Year. NYC FC's Frederic Brillant looks to bring quality vision and passing ability out of a back line that sorely lacked it last season. Gideon Baah, rumored Barcelona (B) target, will try to fill some big Matt Miazga-size shoes for the Red Bulls and has all the tools to do so. Some other names that didn't make our list but are worth watching are Chicago's Johan Kappelhoff, Sporting KC's Nuno Andre Coelho, and Philadelphia's Anderson Conceicao. Which of these back line anchors intrigue you the most? Should our readers be running to roster any of them right away?
Schuyler: I wouldn't jump to roster any out of the gate, but with the changes to the scoring system I think all could be fantasy relevant. I honestly don't know a lot about any of them but am hearing good things across the board out of each respective camp. With that being said, several of the names you mentioned above are worth considering from the get-go since they will likely be low owned and have a favorable schedule to start the season. Chicago Fire, Sporting KC and New York City FC all play three of their first four games at home.