Versus: 3rd Year Options

Over the past few years, numerous players have had ‘breakout seasons’ in their third year at AFL level. Some examples of this are Adam Treloar (averaged 103.4 in 2014), Jordan Lewis (averaged 94.7 in 2007) and even Brisbane’s Tom Rockliff (averaged 112 in 2011). So this week, I’ll be comparing eight players who look poised to breakout in their third years. Don’t get me wrong, players like Kolodjashnij, Merrett and Bontempelli were decent fantasy options last year, but are yet to really breakout in the Fantasy side of things and push a 100+ average. Do you agree or disagree with the verdicts? Or maybe there is someone else you hope breaks out in 2016? Let me know in the comments section.

Tom Langdon ($442,000) V Kade Kolodjashnij ($464,000)

Collingwood’s 21-year old defender’s swift transition from the lower end of the 2013 Draft to a regular senior football has been faultless. Tom Langdon was perhaps the steal of the 2013 draft when he was selected with pick 65. Langdon is shaping up to be a very nice POD given his current ownership rates. The classy half back played all 22 games in 2015 to back up his 19 game effort in 2014. He collected scores of 81, 103, 91, 99, 111, 82, 97, 102 and 89 last year and is poised to go even bigger in 2016. Langdon is a very composed and level-headed defender and reads the play extremely well given his age. Already a key member in the Collingwood defence, Langdon went just six games under four marks in 2015, proving his worth as the third tall defender.

Kade Kolodjashnij, on the other hand, was secured by Gold Coast early in the draft. Kolodjashnij was a popular pick for Fantasy coaches during pre-season last year but failed to impress, which led to many coaches parting ways with the Tasmanian. But on the back of a poor opening month, ‘Kolo’ rewarded those who kept the faith by scoring 98, 86, 96, 108, 57, 108, 105, 85, 100 and 114 in the next ten rounds. This promising mid-season flurry contributed greatly to his overall season average of 83.7. At $464,000, Kolodjashnij has the ability to average 90 and rank among the top defenders by the end of the season. With the Suns regaining key players such as Ablett, O’Meara and Swallow, expect a solid season from ‘Kolo’.

Verdict: Langdon and Kolodjashnij are similar type players and will both be looking to become mainstays of their respective teams for many years to come. Although I’d have to prefer Kolodjashnij here, don’t rule out Langdon just yet, especially if your after a reliable POD in defence.

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James Aish ($293,000) V Christian Salem ($360,000)

Could James Aish’s pre-season trade to Collingwood be the move that elevates the midfielder/defender into one of the games elite?Clearly many people think so as he is already one of the most popular players in the game. Originally selected with pick seven in the 2013 draft, Aish, at times, has shown what he can do but is yet to fulfil his potential. Renowned for his silky smooth skills, Aish made his SANFL league debut aged just 16. His entrance to the AFL scene was also fluent as he recorded an average of 74.2 Fantasy points in his debut season, including three tons. In round 15 of 2014, Aish amassed 23 disposals, 9 marks and 9 tackles on his way to scoring a whopping 140 points against North Melbourne. 2015 didn’t go to plan for the young gun as he could only muster up eleven games before being sidelined for the remaining rounds with a finger issue. This resulted in Aish wanting a move to Collingwood where a role across half-back awaits him. Aish will make you cash given his lowly price, could 2016 be the year where he turns his undoubted potential into excellence?

With similarities to Aish, Melbourne half back flanker Christian Salem was also snapped up in the 2013 draft. The Demons used pick nine to land the youngster and see him playing a commanding role as a midfielder in the future. Although his debut season wasn’t overly outstanding, Salem showed signs of his ability during his ten games in 2015. Despite missing a large chunk of last year, he produced scores of 85, 76, 92, 73 and 105. With the likes of Vince, Viney, Jones and the returning Jack Trengove set for years in the midfield, I can see Salem experiencing another season across half-back and if he can stay on the park, I’d be hoping for an average of around 75-80. Traditionally third year players generally have breakout years. Could this be Salem’s year?

Verdict: This match up is difficult to compare because of the difference in prices. Both players will be looking to make up for fustrating 2015 seasons by racking up the disposals across half-back in 2016. Although Aish’s role in the ‘Pies ‘best 22’ is still undecided I feel he will be slightly better value in the end. Tough, but I’d go Aish as he should prove a more than handy stepping stone later in the year.

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Matt Crouch ($396,000) V Josh Kelly ($406,000)

Whilst it has been Brad that has caught the majority of the attention this pre-season, his younger brother Matt is quietly shaping up for a breakout season. The Crows tough inside midfielder was vested five times in 2015, resulting in an average of 71. However excluding the vests, Matt averaged an impressive 82. The stars seem to be aligning for Crouch with Dangerfield and the sub-rule now gone, 2016 looms as a big year for the 2013 pick 23. Proving he is a ball magnet, Crouch amassed under 20 disposal just once (in the QF against the Western Bulldogs) when he avoided the vest. Coming in at $396,000 in AFL Fantasy, Matt Crouch may well prove to be just as valuable as Brad. So before you select Brad, just have a think about his brother first.

GWS used their second pick in the 2013 AFL Draft to select speedy midfielder Josh Kelly. The son of dual Sandover Medallist Phil Kelly, is an elite endurance runner as shown in the draft combine where he won the 3km time trial in a time of nine minutes and thirty-two seconds. Kelly averaged 69.7 Fantasy points in his debut season and backed it up with 73.2 in 2015. He was vested four times last year and managed solid scores of 81, 92, 96, 94, 99, 88, 89 and 88. Much like Matt Crouch, Josh Kelly has the potential to turn those 85-90 scores into tonnes.

Verdict: As stated before, both Matt Crouch and Josh Kelly have the potential to dominate at the highest level. Interestingly, the pair both possess excellent tackling ability. Crouch racked up four or more tackles in eight games last year whilst Kelly managed the same feat in ten games. Matt Crouch was one of the Crows best in their recent NAB Cup victory over the Eagles, however his role in Don Pyke’s best team is uncertain at this stage. Crouch wins it here but we’ll have to see more NAB Cup matches before making the call.

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Zach Merrett ($501,000) V Marcus Bontempelli ($511,000)

Zach Merrett joined his brother older brother Jackson at the Bombers when he was taken with the 26th selection of the 2013 draft. The 179cm speedster spent the majority of his second season at AFL level in the forward line. However with players such as Watson, Stanton and Heppell suspended, a role in the midfield looms invitingly for Merrett. In the seventeen games he managed across 2015, Merret was ultra consistent, scoring under 70 just twice (68 and 65). He also managed five tonnes in these matches. It is also worth pointing out that Merrett played under 80% game time in eleven out of his seventeen games. Hopefully he can see some added midfield time in the coming season.

Marcus Bontempelli arguably had his breakout season last year, however I believe he can be even better this time around. He started off the 2015 season with a bang by scoring 104 and 133 in the opening two rounds. Bontempelli thrived on the contested possessions and was instrumental in the Bulldogs successful campaign. However as ‘The Bont’ continued to damage the opposition in the middle of the park, teams began to tag the former number four pick. In the games where he was evidently tagged, Bontempelli didn’t crack the ton. The Saints and Demons kept the young gun to scores of 66 and 45 respectively. Later in the year, the Cats and Kangaroos also contained him but to a slightly lesser extent. Although, the re introduction of Tom Liberatore into the midfield should free up Bontempelli, at $511,000 he is expensive but could prove to be well worth the price tag.

Verdict: Merrett and Bontempelli look set to have better Fantasy seasons in 2016 for different reasons. They currently both have low ownership rates but do come at higher prices this year. It’s hard to choose one of these players over the likes of Deledio, Dahlhaus and Barlow who are all around the same price but if you are after somebody a bit different, Merrett or Bontempelli look solid options. Tough call but it’s Merrett for me.

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