MID-priced players are always a hot topic in AFL fantasy circles, with some coaches eager to roll the dice, while others prefer to stick to the traditional guns and rookies strategy. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, there’s no denying there’s plenty of value up for grabs in season 2020 with the right investments setting up coaches for a fast start and a leg up on their rivals. Finding those game-changing players is easier said than done with the 20 blokes below causing a lot of coaches sleepless nights right now.
All numbers/stats provided are sourced from AFL Fantasy
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Grant Birchall, Brisbane Lions, $428K
AT the age of 32 with nearly 250 games to his name, there’s too much risk associated with Birchall in my opinion. He got through Brisbane’s first preseason game unscathed, scoring 26 of his 43 points in the third quarter when he looked very like the Birchall of old – sweeping across half-back and claiming four premierships while at Hawthorn. He’s only managed eight games over the last three years and even if Birchall’s chalking up regular games as a Lion, I can’t see him being much better than an average in the low 70’s.
Sam Docherty, Carlton Blues, $563K
WHILE injury concerns are keeping Birchall out of a lot of our teams, fantasy coaches are turning a blind eye when it comes to Sam Docherty’s past woes, with the most popular defender residing in roughly half of all fantasy teams. A breakeven of 76 definitely seems achievable for Doc, who played 80% of Carlton’s preseason bash against the Dockers while shaking off the rust from his two-year absence. Don’t overthink it, start Docherty with confidence at this rate.
Dan Houston, Port Adelaide Power, $596K
SPEAKING of confidence, now that Dan Houston is residing in the midfield for the Power he can only expect his ownership to grow. Over the last five games of the 2019 season as Houston’s role was changing the Port gun averaged 103.2 fantasy points, including a career-high 123 in Round 20 against the Bombers. Here’s hoping he can break the triple-figure threshold with regularity this year.
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Tom Doedee, Adelaide Crows, $403K
IF Tom Doedee was in your plans to start the year it’s probably wise to draw a line through the Adelaide defender. While he is priced at just 58 points, tempting a lot of coaches to consider the young Crow we won’t be seeing him back on the field in the near future, with Doedee ruled out of the Marsh Series and potentially Round 1 due to a bone bruising complaint. Pass.
Hunter Clark, St Kilda Saints, $574K
SIMILAR to Dan Houston, a role change in the second half of 2019 shot Hunter Clark into fantasy relevance. Posting 87.9 points per game in 10 matches to close out the year suggests Clark has the talents to be a 90+ player if he’s allowed to roam through St Kilda’s midfield for the entire season. Given the pieces, they gained in the offseason and the continued growth from other Saint youngsters, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clark’s role chopped and changed throughout the year, which has turned me off the young jet. Make no mistake though, if he’s in the middle he’s worth picking – but for now, it’s a no.
James Aish, Fremantle Dockers, $496K
A stellar 100-point game from James Aish last weekend has piqued the interest of a few coaches around the globe. The former Pie had his best fantasy season back in 2014 – his first year in the system where he went on to post an average of 74.2 from 21 matches. I wouldn’t be surprised if he topped 75 for the first time in his career, but there’s not enough value in picking Aish to start the year in my opinion, especially when Freo regains their key personnel.
Quinton Narkle, Geelong Cats, $497K
IT’S worth noting that Quinton Narkle scored a team-high 99 points in Geelong’s 68-point loss to Gold Coast a few weeks ago. However, I wouldn’t be taking that result with too much seriousness as the Cats engine room looking very different to the one we expect will take on GWS in Round 1. Narkle could be a bargain, given his breakeven of just 67, but I think there are smarter gambles to take in the midfield.
Andrew McGrath, Essendon Bombers, $554K
I’VE been high on Andy McGrath all preseason and there’s an increasing likelihood I start with the former No. 1 overall pick this year. After splitting time between the half-back line and the midfield for the past few seasons, McGrath was allowed to shine predominantly in the guts against West Coast – attending 17 of the game’s 31 centre bounces. When the Bombers are healthy he may be the odd one out, but given their current injury woes, there’s plenty to like about McGrath in your starting outfit.
Brayden Sier, Collingwood Magpies, $493K
MAKING more headlines for his basketballing exploits than his footy ability Brayden Sier had a fairly ordinary year last time out. 2020 could be his chance to finally carve out a roll for the Pies, especially with their midfield copping bullet’s left, right and centre. While I think Sier is a better play in your Draft league than your Classic team, there’s certainly opportunity their for the bullocking MID. Time will tell if he can make the most of it.
Rupert Wills, Collinwood Magpies, $458K
SIER’S teammate Rupert Wills finds himself in a similar boat this preseason, eager to cement a regular spot in Collingwood’s best 22. I’m higher on Wills as a fantasy prospect thanks in large part to his prowess as a tackler. Not only did he have 11 hugs on debut (the most in VFL/AFL history), but he became the fastest player to reach 100 career tackles – bringing up the milestone in just 14 games. Don’t be scared off by his handball-happy style of play, there’s plenty to like about Wills in 2020.
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Don’t sleep on Rupert Wills (MID, $458K) AFL Fantasy coaches. His 64-point game against Richmond over the weekend doesn’t scream ‘pick me’, but the tackling machine could be in for a serious boost in 2020. Dayne Beams’ retirement leaves a big gap in the Pies midfield rotation with Wills one of the youngsters cueing up for more responsibility. Formerly a member of Collingwood’s VFL team, Wills has been a consistent scorer in the two’s and has shown enough in his 15 AFL games to suggest a breakout could be coming. Since being drafted in 2015, Wills has chalked up 42 appearances in the VFL were he let his numbers do the talking – an average of 93.3 points with 23.8 touches and 7.1 tackles. A lot of those disposal tally’s were handball-happy, but a high tackle count helps balance out Wills’ scoring efforts. At the AFL level the young Magpie looked solid a year ago, averaging 67.9 from 7 senior games. He took his game to another level in the finals – posting a 94 and an 84 including 25 tackles! The writing is on the wall for Wills to average 80+ this season, but is that enough to justify picking him? I’ll be watching him closely in the second Marsh game, especially if Adam Treloar misses the start of the year 🤔 #sportsbyfry
Joel Selwood, Geelong Cats, $585K
WITH a hardened approach now on concussion protocol’s in the AFL, Joel Selwood playing 22 games is a near-impossible feat. Geelong’s skipper has built his reputation on his hard-nosed ability to extract the footy from any contest, even at the detriment of his own health. Speaking of, there are no guarantees the champion Cat will be cherry ripe to start their new campaign with a hamstring issue interrupting his preseason preparation. I want to do it, but there are just too many cons in picking Selwood this time around.
Nic Naitanui, West Coast Eagles, $471K
VALUE is everywhere in the ruck department and after a few horror seasons with injury, Nic Naitanui could emerge as the pick of the bunch this season. In just half a game against Essendon, the West Coast big man chalked up 11 touches, 28 hitouts and a very respectable score of 64 – shooting his ownership percentage up to over 15%. There’s a chance he hits and puts up solid numbers this year, but with their eye’s solely on another flag, don’t be surprised if Nic Nat is wrapped in cotton wool and rested a handful of times this year. That coupled with a low TOG% is enough to turn me off.
Sam Jacobs, Adelaide Crows, $514K
SOMETIMES a fresh start is all you need and aging ruckman Sam Jacobs achieved just that this past summer, landing at GWS with his sights set on an elusive premiership. After succumbing to injury in 2019, Jacobs was forced to watch Reilly O’Brien lead the Crows’ ruck brigade with ‘Sauce’ only able to play five games over the whole season. A criminally low starting price has seen most coaches invest in Jacobs in their second ruck spot and if he’s the Giants’ solo ruck, it’ll be hard to ignore him.
Image from foxsports.com.au
Rory Lobb, Fremantle Dockers, $588K
LET’S address the elephant in the room in the form of Rory Lobb. While he is coming off the best score of the weekend – a 130 fuelled by 23 disposals and 13 marks – I wouldn’t expect anything close to this with regularity from Lobb. Granted, the health concerns of Sean Darcy could see Lobb play as Freo’s sole ruck occasionally, which would certainly raise his fantasy ceiling. Given that he has never averaged over 80 for an entire season though, I think this outing was an anomaly for the Dockers tall piece of timber.
Bailey Smith, Western Bulldogs, $513K
WHILE I’m a big fan of the ferocity Bailey Smith plays with I just can’t justify picking him. All the traits are there for Smith to be a fantasy star, however, given the prolific scorers that reside in the Western Bulldogs midfield, Smith finds himself a lot lower down the pecking order for midfield minutes. He should still be solid and if injury strikes he might seize the opportunity in front of him, but I can’t see his average climbing much past 80.
Andrew Brayshaw, Fremantle Dockers, $516K
FOR just $3k more than Smith, I’d much rather roll the dice on someone like Andrew Brayshaw, who has an awesome opportunity in front of him. Having lost noteworthy midfielders over the past few seasons and with David Mundy going down with an injury, there are plenty of holes that need filling in Freo’s engine room – with Brayshaw all but certain to feature more prominently around the ball. If he scores well and is right amongst it this weekend like we all expect, then go ahead and lock Brayshaw in before throwing away the key.
Sam Powell-Pepper, W, $559K
TACKLING beast Sam Powell-Pepper has always been tricky to peg in fantasy footy with the 2020 edition no different. As Port’s midfield continues to evolve/change SPP’s role remains largely unknown, with an increasing likelihood he pinch hits in the guts while spending a lot of his time resting on a forward flank. Another season around the 75 average mark seems like a safe bet for Powell-Pepper.
Hugh Greenwood, Gold Coast Suns, $581K
YES, a lot of coaches jumped on after his stellar first game at the Gold Coast, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss the boat. Hugh Greenwood has always had the talent to be a relevant fantasy player, but a lack of time on ground and a sporadic role hasn’t seen him develop into the true star he could be just yet. That leap could be just around the corner with Greenwood shining brightly for the Suns with 25 touches, nine tackles and 114 fantasy points in their preseason hitout.
Image from thechronicle.com.au
Chad Wingard, Hawthorn Hawks, $582K
WINGARD’S fantasy scoring in 2020 hinges purely on his place in Hawthorn’s midfield rotation. I know I sound like a broken record, but hitting on the players who integrate themselves into the on-ball rotation and stay there flourish most almost every time – and the early signs point to Wingard being one such player. It feels like a lifetime ago, but Chad managed to attend the second most centre bounces for Hawks midfielders in the first Marsh Series game almost two weeks ago, despite playing just 51% of the game. If he plays that role again vs. the Dees I’ll be all over him.
Connor Rozee, Port Adelaide Power, $539K
ANOTHER Marsh Series darling who is seeing a spike in ownership is Rising Star runner-up Connor Rozee. The youthful Power talent grew in confidence as 2019 progressed, leading to Rozee finishing the year with 29 goals and the 5th most tackles inside-50 in the entire AFL. More time in the guts could see his fantasy ceiling rise, but his talents in front of the sticks are too good for Port to waste. My guess is he bounces between position this year with a heavier emphasis on Rozee residing up forward once again.
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