West Coast AFL Fantasy Preview
Do you agree with Tbetta that the Eagles will be one of the big fantasy improvers this season? If so, you might want to check out the players that he has lined up from the West for you!
This series of ‘club preview’ posts are written by DT TALK regular contributors choosing their 5 players they have on their watchlist from the respective club. These aren’t who we think will be the top 5 highest scoring players… and are not necessarily in order. They are just our opinions of the 5 players who we have on our watchlist heading into the 2012 season.
Hey guys, Tbetta here, and welcome to the article where I get to talk up my heroes. I’ve covered a few of the guys below in the Deck Of DT, but so much has happened since then that I’ve chosen to go ahead and analyse the five players that I would actually consider for my 2013 fantasy side. In my opinion, we have a lock, an upgrade option, a breakout premium, a mid-price improver and a smokey for your midfield. Hopefully one of these Eagles below tickle your fancy – but if not, please be gentle with my boys in the comments…
Tbetta’s Five from the Eagles:
1. Dean Cox (RUC/FWD) – $512,400
There are only two players currently in my plans that I have breaking my golden rule for 2013 – where I must only pick players whose average I expect will increase – and that’s Swan and Cox. Swanny gets a gig because he’s a no-think Captain lock, and the logic with Coxy is similar. He’s easily the greatest fantasy ruckman of the last decade, and despite being on the wrong side of 30, he’s still the most reliable ruck option in the game.
A few stats caught my eye when glazing over Cox for a spot in my side. Firstly, he is the only ruck-eligible player to play all 22 games last year. Out of every single ruckman. All of them. Secondly, he’s also played all 22 games three years running. The man is as durable as they come; in fact, he currently boasts the 7th longest streak of consecutive games in the competition, a whopping 71 on the trot. Lastly, he has averaged more than 95 DT points in 7 of his last 8 seasons, going at a huge 99.6 DT points per game over that period.
So while I don’t expect Cox to increase on his average from 2012, I’m not expecting any sort of sharp decline. His reliability factor – a deadly combination of consistency and durability – more than makes up for any small drop off in production that he may see in his twilight years. His days of averaging 22 disposals per game are certainly behind him, (’08 and ’09), but 15 touches per game alongside 20+ hit-outs, 6 marks and more than a goal a game are still unparalleled numbers in a notoriously fickle and unpredictable position. Nic Naitanui’s groin recovery is an early-season bonus for Cox, meaning he’ll see more centre square time and release the pressure on him to kick goals to score well fantasy-wise.
Oh, and I almost forgot; he’s a ruck-forward DPP this year. In case you needed the extra incentive to pick him.
2. Beau Waters (DEF) – $472,100
While Waters is exactly the type of player that should be on your watchlist – a kick-happy, mark-loving intercept defender – he’s also the type of player that we often remind ourselves to steer clear of. He’s not only injury prone, but he’s no stranger to the MRP given his ferocious and fearless approach to the game.
This volatile mix of potential to please and potential to disappoint makes him a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde selection prospect this season. Will he reward you with an 88+ point average from 19+ games – like in both 2010 and 2012; or will he drag your season through the dirt with a 68 point average from just 8 games, which he accomplished in both 2008 and 2011? Even last season, where he averaged 92 points per game, he still managed to miss one game through suspension and pick up two separate and unrelated injuries – a shin issue in Rounds 15 & 16, then a season-ending ankle injury in the Eagles’ first final. Add in his highly concerning history of elbow issues, which forced him to sit out of the entire 2009 season, and Waters is far from a stress-free selection for your Dream Team.
And yet, his potential is so boundless that we cop every injury and suspension on the chin, then wait patiently for his return to our starting sides. He is one of very few defender-eligible players who can net you 21 disposals per game or 7 marks per game, let alone both. Like I said, Waters is exactly the type of player you want to have sitting in your backline.
Unfortunately, Beau has played just the one pre-season game this year as he recovers from hip surgery. This is the definition of ‘underdone’, so I’m confidently recommending that you start the season without him. Bide your time and wait for him to either prove us doubters wrong from the get go, or until he’s dropped enough in price before gaining the match fitness that one requires to be an elite fantasy defender. Either way, I want Waters in my side by the end of the season; just not the start.
3. Scott Selwood (MID) – $503,500
Those who follow me on Twitter and/or have read my Deck Of DT articles know that Scooter is my boy. Three years ago, he was an Eagles supporter’s afterthought. I know that personally, I had serious suspicions that the West Coast recruiters had simply drafted Scott out of some misguided family loyalty (Masten, McInness, and Brennan were others recruited with family ties to the club) and that he wouldn’t amount to much more than a Patrick McGinnity.
Fast forward to 2012 – a year where Selwood would lose the ‘tagger’ tag and became an elite ball-winner (ranking in the top 30 for possessions per game), notch 15 Brownlow votes and top his fine season off with a Club Champion award, all without an actual pre-season – and it’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same brother. Joel, maybe, but not many thought Scott would grow into the player that could one day stake a claim as the best Selwood in the game.
My fascination with Scott this season, besides just a strong pre-season performance, is justified by two statistical anomalies;
1. He averaged 29 disposals, 5 tackles and 115 DT in his first month and a half last season. Woosha finally released him as an attacking midfielder, and these were the fruits of such labour. In my opinion, the lack of a pre-season prevented Scooter from continuing on his rampant form, and hence he was reassigned tagging duties for the remainder of the year. You should note that Scott has been the only peer of renowned pre-season superstar Chris Masten on the track this summer, so it’s doubtful we’ll see a repeat of that this season.
2. He has increased his average by at least 10 DT points in every year he’s been in the AFL system. I’m no fancy mathematician or anything, but that spells an average of 107.7 or more if that current trend continues.
His pre-season has been sensational to date, averaging the most DT points/100min of any Eagle in the NAB Cup so far. He’s my pick for a breakout from those in the Premium-Lite range (85-100 point average), much like Cotchin, Dangerfield and Watson all did last season. You all know how those stories ended…
4. Josh J Kennedy (FWD) – $272,300
With an inexplicably shallow pool of forward rookies on offer this season, we’ve had to turn to low-end mid-pricers to maintain our familiar Guns & Rookies-style structure, whilst still generating cash from our squad members. Josh Kennedy is amongst a group containing Varcoe, Karnezis, Petterd, Knights and Byrnes that all demand serious consideration in 2013.
Why is he so cheap? Long story short, he had a sore foot last year. Didn’t play much, didn’t score much when he returned underdone. While catastrophic for the Eagles, it provides fantasy coaches with a probable bargain this season. JJK averaged over 70 points the previous 3 seasons including an impressive (for a key forward) 79.4 in 2011, the year that he also kicked 59 goals to finish fourth in the Coleman. If he can reach these moderate heights again, he’ll be more than worth it as a mid-price cash boost at worst.
Many coaches seemed to have forgotten that the lad can actually play, and those who were dedicated enough to stream the West Coast-Port Adelaide clash on Saturday evening were presented serious evidence of that fact. Kennedy top-scored with 9 kicks, 7 marks and 5 goals to show just how dangerous he is as a lead-up power forward. His plantar fasciitis issues look well behind him, and I can’t see any legitimate reason why he can’t push his average back above 70 and beyond. Strongly consider him, especially with the Eagles favourable early draw as JJK is a renowned midget-stomper (10 goals against the Bulldogs in a 2011 thrashing, as well as averaging an extra couple of disposals and a goal against bottom 10 sides versus top 8 sides).
5. Andrew Gaff (MID) – $446,100
Andrew Gaff was put onto this Earth for one reason – to excel at DT. He is what I imagine the product of a one-night stand between an uncontested mark and a long left-foot kick would be. In just his second season, he averaged 86.1 in a Premiership-calibre outfit (I say that because Greene, another DT machine, averaged 96.2 in his first year. However, was undoubtedly catalysed by the extra exposure in an unestablished midfield at GWS). He will be a fantasy superstar one day, but will he improve enough this season to justify populating a crucial midfield slot?
Gaff displays all the hallmarks of a breakout contender. He ranked 5th in the League for uncontested possessions per game last year (18.6) – these are basically easy points, which is sure to increase again in his third AFL season. It’s also an omen of things to come; those above him on that list include fantasy heroes in Swan, Beams and Boyd. An increased tank after another full pre-season, further experience as an AFL wingman and a guaranteed spot in a rapidly improving engine room are essential ingredients in the ‘natural improvement’ dish, for which he’ll have his fill.
While it’s inevitable that Gaff will increase his average this season, it’s still painfully hard to allocate him a spot in your starting squad. Guns & Rookies have reigned over the more successful fantasy sides for years, and any significant diversion from this structure is unnaturally stressful. There are also probably more ‘sure’ bets in his price range, with Barlow, Mundy and Fyfe all similarly priced yet much less risky in the sense that they’ve all produced elite-quality seasons before (110, 96 and 98 point averages at some point, respectively).
If you love a smokey, Gaff is your boy. I just can’t wait until he does a Marc Murphy and develops an inside game – he’ll be one scary dude then.
OTHERS ON THE WATCHLIST: For a club that I consider to be a big fantasy improver as a whole this year, the Eagles don’t actually have a huge amount of options that I would actually pick. Given that the Eagles have a clear Best 22 structure, it’s more a case of improvement across the board rather than an individual-fuelled progression. As such, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see any cash cows coming out of the West Coast this season, especially as the Eagles failed to draft any early talent this off-season.
LeCras (FWD, $355,400) is an obvious consideration given his discounted price after that ACL injury cruelled his 2012. However, I don’t think he’ll average enough to justify a more swollen price-tag than we thought he’d have, especially as he’s unlikely to spend any significant time in the midfield this season. Luke Shuey (MID, $488,100) has had a tidy pre-season and should be another solid improver in the midfield, but it’s probably not enough to warrant a selection; and besides, he’s more of a SCer anyway. Nic Naitanui (RUC, $442,800) and Wellingham (MID/FWD, $424,300) are two guys you should have on your upgrade watchlist given that they’re both fantasy jets but are out injured in the early rounds. I can see both increasing their output from last season given the right circumstances, but it probably won’t be from day dot, so keep an eye on their break evens for the right time to pounce.
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