How to Choose Between Rookies and Mid-Pricers

Mid-Pricer Ball

Hey guys, Dylan – Coach of Hird5 here. As ‘Team Picker’ became available tonight, I thought I would give you a little help in deciding which types of cheap players to choose. (WARNING: This article may contain maths!).

Many coaches on AFL fantasy sites play favourites. You know… that unspoken acknowledgement that the Australian Cricket Selectors still suffer from. Admit it; we all do to some extent. And we can all also admit we haven’t won the car… yet. I played favourites last year choosing GAJ over Piggy simply because I hate Collingwood. Favouritism is detrimental to DT because we are putting personal opinion into our decision making. While for the half-hearted coach this means nothing, to the dead-set full-on, arguably mentally unstable, 100% passionate, DT-living-and-breathing percentage of DT coaches, personal opinion destroys our team. After spending much of last year in the top 10k, finishing in the teens really bummed me out. I discovered a combination of personal opinions had let me down. Hargrave over Lake, Scotland to Broughton, the list goes on. In particular, I found my knack for ignoring mid-priced players worrying.

Picking Your Team

When choosing our DT line-up, many coaches (including myself) adopt the ‘Guns n Rooks’ approach. This is where you stack your line up with Premiums across all your positional lines and then fill the blank spaces with the cheapest spuds we can find. This, however, overlooks a key aspect to DT that many of the top ranking coaches already adopt, and that is the magic of Mid-Priced players. These are players who are either Fallen Premiums (Luke Ball in 2013) or Wonder Kids about to go bang (Dangerfield in 2012). Typically, this range can be anything from 200-350k, depending on playing position. The reason Mid-Pricers (MP’s) are so important is that they are players that not only have senior experience, but will be locked in for Round 1.

It’s All About The Money

What we have to remember is that DT is a virtual business. It is essentially pitting our business skills against one another to find that combination of purchases and sales within a given budget that will give us the greatest return. Like business decisions, personal opinion clouds good judgement of DT investments. DT in its simplest form is a game where we try to make money… lots and lots of money. Ideally, we want to pick the players that will make us the most money so we can pack our team with Premos through upgrading. Theoretically, Rookies have more room to improve and increase their value.

However, the benefit of choosing fallen Premos is that they have previous high scoring experience. If they replicate this high scoring they will make similar profits to the rookies. For example, Luke Ball is a previously high scoring DT player. He will is priced at what is essentially a stock-standard mid-level player at $343,100. If he scores similarly to what he’s produced in the past, his profit margin will be huge.

The trade off with here is that if you buy too many MP’s you lose flexibility in your salary cap. 10 MP’s will naturally cost much more than 10 rookies, which means less Premos in your starting squad.

For example, Ball and Andrew Embley will be priced at $343k and $264k respectively, and will therefore comprise $607k of your salary cap. Comparatively, Jaeger O’Meara and Jack Viney will cost you around $215k for the both of them. That’s $392k you can’t spend elsewhere. So are MP’s at all worth it? To figure this out I used the 2013 Magic Number (roughly 5,150) and multiplied it by predicted point averages for each player that I was interested in.


Fallen Premiums

In 2011, Ball averaged 96.3 from 21 games. He had similar tallies in previous years and it is safe to assume he will again near this level. For simplicity, let’s say he will average 95 in 2013. Embley averaged 94 from 21 games in 2011 and Calvin has already pointed out he has averaged similarly in previous years. So, let’s use Calvin’s prediction that he will average 88 this season. To estimate their end of season price we multiply their predicted average by the Magic Number.

Player Ave. x Magic No. = Price
Luke Ball: 95 x 5150 = $489k
Andrew Embley: 88 x 5150 = $453k

Basically, (and ignoring changes in the Magic Number throughout the year and the effects of the 3-game rolling average) Ball’s price will increase by roughly $146k. Likewise, Embley’s price-tag will swell by $189k.


To predict the average scores that rookies might achieve, we must look at last year’s cohort. Of the top 10 rookies from last year, only two averaged above 80 (Greene and Treloar). The majority of the top 10 were in the mid-to-low 70’s. Dylan Shiel averaged 73.4 and Taylor Adams averaged 75.3. So, let’s assume that Viney and O’Meara will score similar to Shiel and Adams respectively:

Jack Viney: 73 x 5150 = $376k
Jaeger O’Meara: 75 x 5150 = $386k

Viney and O’Meara will cost us approximately 103k and 109k respectively in 2013. This means that Viney will increase $273k and O’Meara will increase $277k.

But Wait… That’s Not The Final Answer!

It would seem like it is a simple choice – but hang on a minute… Think about what you’re using your rookies for. You’re using them as Cash Cows. How can you access the cash they make? You trade them out. When will you trade them? Around the time the Multi-Bye Rounds arrive. This means that the values we just calculated aren’t fully representative because they are calculated for the end of season. Therefore, we need to calculate what they would be at the time of the MBR’s.

By the time GWS had the bye in 2012, Shiel and Greene were 91.5% and 71.5% of their end of season values respectively. After looking at a few more players I decided that most of the consistently playing rookies would be about 70% of their final value by mid-season as a conservative estimate.

Final Profits

Luke Ball: = $146k
Andrew Embley: = $189k
Jack Viney: 271k x 70% = $190k
Jaeger O’Meara: 281k x 70% = $197k

The reason Ball and Embley have not been multiplied by 70% is because they are what I consider Keepers that are used as one of your non-super-Premium Mids that you may or may not trade out come finals time.

What Does It All Mean?

So what does this all mean? Essentially the statistics are telling us that there are Mid-Priced players who have dropped in value that are definitely worth picking up for 2013. From a numerical stand point, Ball will likely score 20 points per game higher than the majority of the rookies but will make a smaller profit. That being said, Ball will be guaranteed a game and will play round 1 and he will likely miss out on the vest.

The situation with Embley indicates that he will make just as much money for you as a gun Rookie but with the added benefit of being guaranteed to play every game. This statistical observation indicates that choosing MP’s like Josh J Kennedy in the forward line or Bock in the backline may be more beneficial than choosing a Joe Daniher or Lachie Plowman type.


  1. Choose players that will make you the most money – leave opinions out of it.
  2. Use the above formula to decide which players to choose or pass on.
  3. Don’t completely neglect Mid-Priced players.

Final Helpful Notes

  • The stats suggest picking Embley over Ball
  • Cheap rookies will generate more cash profits. For example, picking Lachie Whitfield at $184k will not generate as much cash as a basement-priced rookie. To generate the same amount of cash as O’Meara ($197k), Lachie will need to average an extra 31 points per game!
  • Be careful of Mid-Pricers that are not proven DreamTeam guns like Ball or Embley.



Follow me on Twitter: @yunglux


  • Good write up,

    How many MPs do you think is too many. Not including the Burger

    • It’s a good question Shane.

      As I said it’s pretty difficult to decide ‘exactly’ how many MP’s to choose for a starting line up. You want to pick enough to ensure you’re not getting donuts from kids like Aaron Hall who aren’t playing every single one of the first 10 games. MP’s ensure you get a value for money scorer at a reduced price. However, you can’t pick too many.

      I would pick at least 1-2 in each of the major lines. I’m looking at Bock, Embley, Berger & Kennedy for my 4 lines for example.

  • I’m looking at 3 Mid Pricers in Embley, Leuenberger and Kennedy. As well as 2 players that aren’t really Mid priced but are certainly not Premium priced in Mundy and Sylvia.

  • great write up. but a few queries…. do you really see ball or specifically embley as keepers?? especially with the new 6 8 2 6 structure all your money should be spent on mids… surely making money quickly e.g. crouch, o’meara, morabito etc will be more beneficial than having potential keepers on your list that will make less money… the 70% equation here will be completely useless as none are keepers… for arguments sake i am starting with ball but simply because he will make me $100-150k whilst averaging 20+ points more than a rookie for the duration that I keep him…..

    • You’re exactly right. Ball and Embley may not be keepers but with 8 spots in your mids now it is almost impossible to expect to get the top 8 mids in your line without MR’s helping out. Their benefit is they are guaranteed a game and they will still profit a bit. You naturally can go with the guns n rooks approach but be warned that we all know that they will not all play every one of the first 10 rounds without getting rested or a vest. The 70% applied only because we are trading out rookies during the MBR’s and they are typically 70% of their end of season value and it is a way to predict what they will be worth. Understand we’re just predicting here.

  • Great write up tbetta. Just my observation, but it seems that good mid-pricers rise in value almost as quickly as rooks early on but just slow down a bit earlier because they near their full price. So if you’re tipping Swan or Buddy to score below their average early on and make a trade after say 7 rounds, you can take a mid-pricer who will increase in price less than a good rook but will increase by just as much over the first 7. Is this correct or am I seeing things and the rook will increase at a slightly greater rate throughout the entire season?

    • Rooks have a higher profit margin because they are so cheap but that is determined by their gametime. Griff posted today about the magic number on how most premos drop around 6% in the first few rounds and you can use this to your advantage by picking MP’s who will score highly to maintain your overall ranking but still making you enough money to afford swan when he drops.

    • Cheers mate – but only posted by me, written by @Dylan. All credit goes to him!

  • Good article, mid-pricers certainly have a place.
    However Ball and Bock are both major risks given the severity of their injuries and age. Wouldn’t be surprised if both retired at year’s end.

    LeCras and Kennedy are at least a little younger.

    • Definitely! I reckon the younger the better almost. Kennedy will make you more money than Lecca.

  • Selecting MP’s in your initial team can be very rewarding. They are, however, risky.
    A fallen premo is often a player coming off a bad injury i.e. Knee, Luke Ball. You need to be sure they will recapture somewhere near their previous form (and position in the team) and there will be no lingering effects. It is unwise to assume from the start they will all end up being keepers. There is always one or two every year that are the exception, but most are there for cash generation with the benefits of generally producing more points in the meantime, more assured of getting game time, and being a quicker path to an upgrade. For me, they will only be in the team if they are either a sure thing, or there is a lack of good quality rookies.
    A common mistake is to have too many MP’s. They are very tempting, but mostly do not generate the sort of money that the better rookies will.
    I think of it this way- A Matty Boyd and Jack Viney will cost approximately the same amount as a LeCras & Ball. It is tempting to go for the MP’s because of previous years outputs, but given age, injuries and team structures, I would be opting for the guaranteed 110ppg (Boyd) + the 60-80ppg of Viney. They will probably combine for the same amount of points but Boyd is definitely a keeper and viney will make more money. This will also save you a trade.
    My point is, put a lot of time and effort into selecting the right rookies. Get it right and you will end up with a far better team in the end. A top player will have taken advantage of the best fallen premo’s but will not take chances.
    Gambling on mid pricers is definitely a rookie mistake.

    • You’re 100% correct there SirJames. But with 10 midfield spots this year can you be sure that you want to have 5-6 rookies there knowing you’ll have to trade them all? You need a reliable MP there to ensure consistent scoring while also generating money come time to trade if you need to trade at all. It will be increasingly difficult to get the top 8-10 miss into your line up simply because it will take probably 10 up down trades just to get there. Considering embley and ball were both training at full pace by seasons end they are definitely in the running for your team in round 1. Thanks.

  • my only question there is if whitfield is priced at $184…why does he need to av 31 more points than o’meara if he is $197

  • Your theory is reasonable if you consider them keepers. But lets be honest if Embley and Ball are still on your field come finals you’ll be in trouble. With 30 trades and gifts such as Omeara, Crouch and Viney cash making will be easy and you’ll need the best of the best.

    I’d be very weary of Ball, I think he’ll be a carbon copy of Lenny Hayes. Won’t make you enough as a cash cow and won’t score high enough to be a keeper.

    • With 10 mids 95 is definitely P8 status.

      • 8 Mids and no, 95 is nowhere near it. A 95 average would’ve given you around the 39th best mid last year. You need to strive for the top 8 mids, Top 10 or 15 might be acceptable but you couldn’t possibly justify 39th.

  • Balance in all things gents. Thankfully the days of 10 easy rookies playing from GWS and GC are gone. Now order is restored to the DT universe. I think we will have to embrace more of the Ball, Embley types because the odds of picking 10 or so rookies that will actually play consistently may be pushing it up hill.

    Not saying for a second that I will thrive in such and environment, but it will certainly separate the wheat from the chaff!

    • You’re right Warren. Everyone seems to have forgotten what DT was like before GCS and GWS came in. We cannot pack our teams with rookies this year because we WILL NOT have enough that will play every single game. With GCS and GWS we pretty much had an east street in just picking who everyone knew would play every game. With 10 Mids we need to have mid-pricers.

      Everyone has to realise that players that are guns on paper and in the juniors may not get every second of game time just on pedigree.

      • We do have more mature age players being picked this year than in 2009 though, and that’ll help. There are also more players available (18 teams v 16 teams) and that’ll help too. It will be a balance though as you say, but the ‘right’ balance is subjective :)

        Also, I think an avg of 95 is good for M9, not M8. After the byes I plan to have 8 mids averaging 105+ (and hopefully 110) and so will many others. If you start with Ball or Embley (or even Nick Lower, anyone?) then they’re good keepers, but only as emergencies I think.

        • As a Fremantle boy, I’m a big fan of Lower. He did well for me in 2011. Should do so again at the Bully’s.

      • I agree, players like Ball, Embley, Kennedy, Bock, Gray, Luenberger etc. take on far more significance this year. Be surprised if more than a few don’t take 3 or so on board.

      • Guns and Rookies was superior before the expansion teams and until mid-pricers are given greater discounts will remain so.

        • Has been said in the past that the first two rounds is a good time to get rid of some no show rookies and pick up a flyer. With the extra trades this year, you bet I’ll be doing that.

        • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is food for thought and I for one will take a at least 1 MP in my mids to ensure scoring during the early rounds.

  • You cant look at things too narrowly, it’s fine to say Ball and Lecras is worth Boyd and Viney but how many viney’s are there, that’s the toyota value question. You need a squad of 30 players and you don’t want t be stuck with your Relton Roberts’s or Aaron Hall’s having to be on your park.

    It has been said here that guns and rookies has actually been the dominant stratergy since pre 2010 and from my memory thats bang on but really the dominant stratergy is finding the ‘value’. To many people get caught up in the having the 6/6 or 8/8 top scoring midfielders. 4 out of the top 6 and another 4 out of the next 20 and you’ll be doing ok as long as the players you’ve selected you’ve obtained for the right price. To often people are sacraficing other parts of there team getting in over priced mids chasing that elusive dream, it’s gonna be pretty dam hard to get the top 22/22 players for all positions.

    I ended the season 2125 overall, so not to bad but obviously no toyota and really points wise it is a fair way back. Basically the winner averaged 90 more points a week than me. I could put this down to me not having Greene or Beams and making some shocking decsions in the Ruck (trading out cox to Kruz! Who does that?)(Oh yeah then I brought in Stef Martin!!), these 3 things alone would have gotten me very close to the car.

    Anyhow i’m saying this because I started with a lot of ‘mid pricers’ and I’d say most were successful. Eski $329 F, Waters $338 S, Grimes $329 S, Ebert $308 S, Parker $244 F, Dangerfied $349 S. With Parker you could nearly say he was a success because I did make $100 000 on him and he got me to a premo with 1 downgrade but his scoring while he was on the field wasn’t great. Eski killed me because I stuck it out all year.

    Ebert I was the most happy with. I had planned to trade him out come bye time but his scoring output throughout the year allowed me to make changes to other areas of my team when holes came up, which they always will!

    Hopefully those examples show there are allways some mid pricers out there that are worth it because of the value they offer, even in the time of 2 fledgling clubs they offered me a lot more than what I got out of the enigmatic Aaron Hall who pretty much sight unseen other than a few cameo flashes in preseason games made it into my team purely because he was named the first game when no other rookies were.

    It’s very early still obviously but at the moment I have 3 out and out midpricers and 5 what I would call value players to go with 7 out and out guns whose price to me really are erralivent. The players may change but something pretty close to this structure is what I’ll be sticking with to hopefully get me the car.

    • I agree. Mid-pricers will play a big role this year. Any one who had any of Waters $338, Grimes $329, Ebert $308, or Dangerfield $349 last year have already adopted MP’s to their team. And I mean c’mon, who didn’t have Danger!! Hopefully you’ll get into the top few mate! I hovered at 5k until I traded Scotland out and got killed with injuries.

  • Nice write up .. Do you think Pedersen has some potential as a midpricer could even become a keeper in the backline?

  • Andrew Embley vs. Midfield Rookie (apart from Crouch, Viney, Hrovat, O’Meara)

    What are your thoughts? Also, if going with the Midfield Rookie, which one would you select?