We’re all chasing value. When picking your first AFL Fantasy side, coaches are trying to find a healthy balance between true stars of the game and the players who will rise rapidly in price. To balance out your annual team, mid-priced players become popular targets with the fantasy faithful flocking to the mainstream names and nestling them into their starting outfit. It’s impossible to pick all 16 of these players, but nailing the right ones can catapult your fantasy success in 2023.
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Elliot Yeo, $625K, BE 71, Eagles
Injuries have seen Elliot Yeo fall off the face of the fantasy world, with the rugged Eagle playing just 27 games in the last three seasons. The three years prior to that (2017-19), Yeo played 64 of a possible 66 fantasy games, averaging an eye-popping 105.9 points in those contests. It’d be unfair to expect him to record a triple-figure average, but a clean bill of health is the only thing that can stop Yeo from averaging around the 85 mark in my eyes. West Coast isn’t ready to hand the keys over to their young guns just yet and Yeo should still see more than his fair share of midfield work this season.
Christian Salem, $653K, BE 74, Demons
Being subbed out of the game during the first quarter of the season isn’t exactly how Christian Salem wanted his 2022 campaign to start. The premiership-winning Demon missed about three months of action after undergoing surgery on chipped cartilage in his knee, however he returned in the back half of the season to average 80.9 points from his final 10 matches. His finals performances weren’t great, and while Salem does come at a slight discount he’ll be one to monitor closely in the preseason hitouts.
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Nick Coffield, $379K, BE 43, Saints
Yet another defender who found his 2022 season ruined by injury, Nick Coffield is primed for a breakout this year. Entering the new fantasy campaign priced at just 43 points, it’s not farfetched to see the St Kilda youngster slotting into a regular role in the back-6 and producing an average in the 70’s. Coffield may have to prove he belongs in the Saints’ best-22 over the preseason, although, thanks to his cheap starting price, it will be hard to pass on him if he’s named in Round 1.
Jack Bowes, $607K, BE 69, Cats
Even if he doesn’t carve out a role in Geelong’s midfield, there’s still merit in starting the season with Jack Bowes down back. A shoulder injury almost exactly 12 months ago wrecked his final season with the Suns, but back in 2021, Bowes was able to average 80+ thriving primarily off the half-back line. Having made the move from the Gold Coast to Kardinia Park in the trade period, Bowes has been splitting his time between the backline and midfield throughout the preseason, and he could prove to be a defensive diamond in the rough.
James Worpel, $463K, BE 52, Hawks
Last year didn’t go according to plan for James Worpel. After announcing his fantasy arrival in 2019, the ‘Worpedo’ has been a serviceable part of Hawthorn’s MID rotation. However, last season, he only featured in 11 matches for an average of 52.3 and looked like a shell of his former self. His starting price has made Worpel an appealing target this summer, and with the loss of Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara in the midfield, we could see him recapture the form that made Worpel fantasy relevant in the first place.
Dom Sheed, $591K, BE 67, Eagles
Personally, I think Dom Sheed is poised for the best season of his career. Previously we’ve seen the famed Eagle produce averages in the 90’s when he’s fully fit and firing – 2023 should be no different. He only managed to play one game last season as West Coast went through the season from hell, paving the way for a bounce back season not only for Sheed, but for the entire club. Shaping up as an important stepping stone for fantasy coaches in the midfield, Sheed already finds himself in 23% of teams and that number will only increase.
Jai Culley, $490K, BE 55, Eagles
Another Eagles MID who screams value to commence the season is mid-season draftee Jai Culley. The former Dandenong Stingray made the move West last year and featured in four AFL games for scores of 76, 87, 36 and 71. A tackling machine, Culley showed plenty of promise in the two’s as well, chalking up an average of 62.3 from the limited WAFL games he did play. You’d imagine the likes of Sheed, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff will dominate the midfield minutes in the upcoming season, but if West Coast continue to deploy Culley in the engine room, he should excel.
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Neil Erasmus, $418K, BE 47, Dockers
David Mundy’s retirement opens up a spot in Fremantle’s midfield rotation for the upcoming season. Jaeger O’Meara will likely get first crack at filling the void, but second-year gun Neil Erasmus is pushing hard this preseason to be included in their Round 1 team. Drafted 10th overall in 2021, Erasmus found it tough to break into the Dockers’ senior side last year, however he still showed promise at WAFL level by averaging 24 disposals and 96 fantasy points. There’s upside to be had if you’re brave enough to pick him…
Rory Sloane, $622K, BE 70, Crows
Rory Sloane’s injury woes the past few seasons have been well documented, but that doesn’t mean he should be ignored in 2023. At the age of 32, Sloane’s best fantasy days are well and truly behind him, with the Crows star poised to play game No. 250 at some point this season. Should he feature in enough games to reach that milestone, Sloane will surely outperform his breakeven of 70 and act as a value choice in the midfield. It would be a somewhat risky choice, but there’s every chance we see the Adelaide star recapture his best form and he produces an average in the high 80’s/low 90’s.
Lloyd Meek, $473K, BE 53, Hawks
One of the biggest questions on the minds of fantasy coaches this season regards new Hawthorn ruckman, Lloyd Meek. If he can wrestle the No. 1 ruck mantle from his now teammates Ned Reeves and Max Lynch, then Meek is a serious bargain at his price. There’s even a possibility of utilising your R3 spot for Meek if you’ve got the cash, although, we’d all love to see him become the solo ruck for the Hawks and reap the rewards. It’s tough to envision that happening and Meek scoring at an absurd rate, but the preseason hitouts will shed some light on his spot in the RUC pecking order.
Scott Lycett, $622K, BE 70, Power
An infection following a shoulder injury derailed Scott Lycett’s 2022 season, and it’s not the first time the Port big man has had complications following a surgery. Now that he’s back to full strength, there’s no reason to suggest Lycett will go under an 83 AVG – the score he has averaged in 53 games with Port Adelaide. He’s hardly a household fantasy name, but with so much uncertainty around some of the top rucks in the game, there are certainly worse options than Lycett out there as one of your starting rucks.
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Luke Jackson, $631K, BE 71, Dockers
Making the switch from Melbourne to Fremantle this offseason has resulted in the purple army expecting big things from Luke Jackson. Having paid a king’s ransom for the 2021 Rising Star winner, fantasy coaches are more interested in how the Dockers plan to deploy the versatile tall. Jackson showed flashes last season as a competent fantasy player, however, the presence of Sean Darcy will cap his scoring capability. Jackson isn’t quite cheap enough to warrant selection in my eyes, but a strong showing during the practice games might see me change my tune.
Toby McLean, $401K, BE 45, Bulldogs
It feels like an eternity since we’ve seen Toby McLean running around in Bulldogs colours. His performance in the Dogs’ final last season has raised the eyebrows of the fantasy community, with the discounted forward currently in a whopping 31% of teams. Scoring 100 points with 21 touches and nine tackles against Freo in his last game is the primary reason why he’s so popular – but can he back it up? Because McLean is so affordable, we don’t need him to produce massive scores each week, and there’s still enough upside to pick him if he cracks the Bulldogs’ 22 to clash with Melbourne in their season opener.
Darcy Tucker, $457K, BE 52, Kangaroos
A fresh start in his home state of Victoria might just be the remedy that Darcy Tucker needs to unlock his fantasy potential. In seven seasons with the Dockers, Tucker was never able to break through as a consistent member of the senior side, hence the reason he asked to be traded to the Roos this offseason. Forced to don the sub vest multiple times last year affected Tucker’s scores negatively, although, it’s worth highlighting his 100-point average from 8 WAFL games. Questions remain over his role at North Melbourne, so watch him closely if you’re keen on the born again Kangaroo.
Jason Horne-Francis, $553K, BE 62, Power
Another player who changed postcodes in the offseason, it’s tough to predict what we’ll see from Jason Horne-Francis this year. Survivng just one season at Arden Street, the former No. 1 pick underwent surgery on both of his knees recently and is building up his workload with every preseason session that passes. JHF showed promise in year one, but ultimately he underdelivered in the eyes of most fantasy coaches. Relocating to Port Adelaide should see him improve on his rookie season and as long as Horne-Francis continues to trend upward, I’ll be picking him.
Ben Cunnington, $668K, BE 75, Kangaroos
There can’t be too many coaches out there who rushed to plug Ben Cunnington into their lineup when the platform launched. Still, with added FWD flexibility, there’s definitely upside associated with the North veteran as we roll into the new season. A picture of consistency for the better part of a decade, we are all aware of Cunnington’s health battles that restricted him to just two games last season and a 53 AVG. If he was priced at that average, Cunnington would be a much more appealing choice, however, there’s still a world where this left of field pick emerges as a serviceable selection.
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