Why should I pick him?
The theme for AFL Fantasy in 2014 will be value. As far as the rucks go, Nic Naitanui certainly appears to be a sound investment at this early stage of planning. He will cost coaches $419,800 which equates to an average of 77.5 from last year. When we consider that this average included a green vest and numerous leg, groin and back niggles throughout the season then it’s fair to say that there is plenty of room for improvement from the big fella next year.
Although it may not always seem like it, nice guy Nic is a competitive beast. No one would be more disappointed with the Eagles 2013 campaign than Naitanui so look out for him to make a significant impact early in the season. In the first 5 games of 2014, West Coast face the Bulldogs, Melbourne, St Kilda, Geelong and Port. This favourable draw should see Naitanui with one of the highest ruck averages early on setting him up for a huge season.
So far, so good for Naitanui this preseason even though he’s been on a restricted program to date. Coach Adam Simpson confirmed on Friday that he expects Nic to hit peak fitness early next year (source). A full preseason for any player is invaluable but more so for Naitanui who needs to get the Kms in the legs in order to take advantage of his running and athletic traits. Keep in mind that Naitanui is still only 23 years old so expect him to get stronger, faster and wiser in 2014 and beyond! I can guarantee that we have not yet seen the best of sideshow Nic.
An abundance of gun midfielders have the Round 8 bye so when a guy like Naitanui presents himself with value, a good draw, full bill of health and a Round 9 bye then he becomes that little bit more appealing.
Why shouldn’t I pick him?
There is a huge question mark over Naitanui’s recent groin and back problems but after only one season ruined by injured I would hardly call him injury prone. The Eagles hierarchy will take a careful approach with Nic throughout the preseason but a set back or two will likely mean that he won’t be at 100% at the start of the season. Even if Naitanui gets through preseason, there will be a ‘no risk’ mentality with him each round so expect a ‘general soreness’ rest at some point.
We all know Naitanui dominates the hitout and tackle counts each round but he doesn’t accumulate many possessions nor does he take more than a handful of marks in a game. With Simpson’s possession style game plan, he may improve his kick and handball numbers but there is no doubt that there will be the odd occasion where he stings coaches with a substandard score. To be fair, consistency is an issue with most players.
Big Nic will go into 2014 without his DPP Ruc/Fwd status making him far less attractive. Fewer options to cover the ruckman during the year will be a risk, so if you’re going to pick him then you’ll need decent ruck back up.
Deck of DT Rating.
QUEEN – With a tight salary cap and no standout ruckmen knocking on the door, Naitanui will be a great pick to begin your 2014 Fantasy campaign. When fit, he’s by far the best ruckman in the AFL. Keep a close eye on him throughout the preseason and if he gets through relatively unscathed then he’ll be hard to ignore. At this stage, Naitanui is the first picked ruck in my team and unless something drastic happens that’s unlikely to change.