Having checked out the goalkeeper pecking order in our updated Watchlist, we now turn our attentions to the defence.
Our Watchlist rankings can be found in your sidebar on desktop, or via your slide-in menu on mobile or tablet.
They give an indication of our thinking on player selection for each position, listing the factors that are contributing to the given rank.
Southampton’s Cedric Soares sits at the top of our current reckoning thanks to some compelling short-term fixtures.
Home encounters with Newcastle, West Brom and Burnley, in addition to a trip to Brighton in the next four, bode well for the Portuguese right-back.
Soares has yet to claim attacking returns, but boasts some strong underlying numbers. He’s level with man-of-the-moment Ben Davies for shots (10) and efforts in the box (six) and is joint-fifth in defence for crosses (31) over the opening seven.
Despite that, he is perhaps fortunate to benefit from the uncertainty in the Saints’ central defensive positions.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s preferred defensive partnership appears to be up for grabs, with Virgil van Dijk now seemingly back in favour, perhaps alongside Maya Yoshida.
That leaves Soares as the most secure of the 5.0-priced Saints defenders ahead of a run that should see them add to their tally of three clean sheets so far.
Spurs’ Ben Davies is only kept off the summit due to a mixed batch of fixtures.
Home matches with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and West Brom in the next six should allow the Welshman the opportunity to cement his place at the top of the FPL defender standings.
Yet a visit from Liverpool, allied to trips to Man United and Arsenal, means that he may have to rely on attacking returns to maintain his current trajectory.
That’s certainly not been an issue so far, with Davies racking up two goals and three assists.
Top for key passes among defenders, he’s runner-up for shots, shots in the box, crosses and successful crosses and also boasts a share of corner kicks for Mauricio Pochettinho’s men.
As shown in Gameweek 5, he still remains subject to the occasional bench role when the Spurs boss rotates, though Davies’ output has persuaded over 143,000 to invest ahead of Saturday’s visit from the Cherries.
He fends off the challenge of Manchester City’s defenders to hold on to second spot, although our confidence in Pep Guardiola’s rearguard is growing.
Nicolas Otamendi claims a high rung in our ladder by virtue of four successive clean sheets and a spell of fixtures that bring both Stoke City and Burnley to the Etihad Stadium next.
The Argentinian has so far been immune to Guardiola’s rotation, although with a Champions League tie beckoning in midweek, that may not continue should Vincent Kompany return to fitness.
A potential suspension is the other factor to consider.
Otemendi is currently on three yellow cards and another would place him on the suspension tightrope. Should that caution arrive in either of the next two Gameweeks, the centre-back could be preserved for Arsenal’s visit in Gameweek 11.
Below the City man, Stephen Ward (4.6) is Burnley’s form defender and our clear budget defender of choice. He now prepares for home clashes with West Ham, Newcastle and Swansea, plus a trip to Southampton over the next five.
The Irishman has already matched last season’s goal and assist and with three clean sheets – in addition to seven bonus points – in the last four, has shot up to joint-third in the FPL defender rankings.
Second to Davies for transfers-in among defenders for Gameweek 8, he’s been acquired by over 100,000 on the back of a 12-point haul at Goodison Park last time out.
He trails only Robbie Brady for key passes for the Clarets (seven to 13), but does lag some way behind Ben Mee (4.5) for efforts in the box, by two to seven. Indeed, no defender has registered more close-range attempts than Mee this season.
Below Ward, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell is the only defender to better Ben Davies for crosses (69 to 40) and successful crosses (16 to 13), and is second to the Welshman for key passes, by 11 to 16.
Like Davies, Cresswell has also been handed some dead-ball duties – he’s taken 18 of the Hammers’ 27 corners so far.
Slaven Bilic’s side have found some decent defensive form, with three clean sheets in four, and now take on Burnley, Brighton, Palace and Watford over the next five.
Cresswell’s team-mate Joe Hart is cheaper (4.5 to 5.0), but has offered little in the way of save points, ensuring the left wing-back a high placing in our current ranks.
Arsenal have been even more resilient of late, racking up four successive clean sheets ahead of their trip to Watford.
Subsequent fixtures against Everton and Swansea have potential, though back-to-back encounters against Man City and Spurs in Gameweeks 11-12, along with the recent injury to Skhodran Mustafi, suggest that defensive returns could be scarce.
With attacking returns perhaps more important over this period, we’ve opted for the raiding wing-back Sead Kolasinac over Nacho Monreal.
Since being installed on the left flank in Gameweek 4, the Bosnian is level with Hector Bellerin for key passes (five), but betters his fellow wing-back for shots (three to two) and efforts in the box (two to one).
Leicester City’s Harry Maguire has collected 33 points despite facing the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool over the opening seven.
The summer signing’s ability to deliver points at both ends is key – he’s bagged a goal and two assists, as well as two clean sheets and four bonus points.
Coming in at 5.1, he’s the most expensive Foxes defender on offer, but looks the most likely to justify the investment for a kind run of fixtures that pits him against just two of last year’s top six in the next 11 Gameweeks.
Between now and Gameweek 18, Craig Shakespeare’s side host West Brom, Everton, Burnley and Palace and also travel to Swansea, Stoke, West Ham, Newcastle and Southampton.
Significantly, Maguire not only offers a goal threat, he is also best placed to earn bonus points in a Leicester City clean sheet scenario.
He tops the Foxes ranks for successful passes and, combined with his penchant for clearances, blocks and interceptions, he is likely to dominate his back four team-mates in the Bonus Points System (BPS).
Ten points over the last four Gameweeks has seen interest in Marcos Alonso wane considerably.
The Chelsea wing-back lost over 151,000 owners last week and has since been shipped by a further 46,000 ahead of a trip to goal-shy Crystal Palace.
Yet the Selhurst Park encounter kick-starts a run of matches that pits the champions against just two of last season’s top six in the next 14 rounds of fixtures – essentially taking us to the second Wildcard phase in Gameweek 22.
Alonso’s potential for defensive and attacking points could escalate over this upcoming period – he’s number one defender for total attempts (11), while no other backline option has bettered his four attempts on target.
The recent injury to N’Golo Kante has calmed our interest somewhat, however. The combative midfielder is a hugely effective shield for Chelsea’s defence and his absence could have an impact on potential clean sheet returns should he remain sidelined.
Elsewhere, both Kyle Naughton of Swansea and Brighton’s Shane Duffy earn honourable mentions as budget options ahead of favourable fixtures.
The latter just usurps team-mate Lewis Dunk as our preferred Seagull’s option, although the jury is still out on this. Duffy surpasses Dunk for CBI and shots on goal so far this season.
Phil Jones drops with a stiffening schedule and new concerns over his fitness following recent injury doubts. The Manchester United centre-back remains the optimum route into Jose Mourinho’s defence and, should we see the Red Devils successfully adopt a rearguard policy at Liverpool in Gameweek 8, then Jones will surely climb our rankings once again.
Lower down, Charlie Daniels looks set to shoot up our standings once next week’s trip to Spurs has passed.
Second only to Leighton Baines for key passes (seven to nine) among defenders in the last four Gameweeks, he’s the number one in the final third when it comes to touches, passes received and successful passes over that period.
And the forward-thinking left-back has the schedule to turn heads, too.
From Gameweek 9-16, Eddie Howe’s side square up to Stoke, Newcastle, Huddersfield, Swansea, Burnley, Southampton and Palace, with a Gameweek 10 encounter with Chelsea the only hotspot on their schedule.
The appeal of Jamaal Lascelles (4.7) is understandably dented by his cheaper team-mate Rob Elliot (4.1) as a route into a Newcastle defence which has conceded just six times.
But Lascelles’ goal threat is worth considering.
Over the last four Gameweeks, he has scored twice and registered four efforts on target – twice the tally of any other defender. As a result, he has bettered Elliot by 26 points to 15 from Gameweek 4 onwards, with the keeper collecting just two save points during that run.
And Stoke’s big-money signing from Spurs, Kevin Wimmer, appears in our thinking for the first time this season.
At a price of 4.4, he’s worthy of consideration once next week’s trip to the Etihad Stadium is done. From Gameweek 9, the Potters have six strong fixtures (BOU wat LEI bha cry SWA) in the subsequent seven.