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Jeppa’s Juniors – 2017 Defenders

In a time of need, Jeppa brings us his best rookie defenders for 2017. Quality, cheap defenders are few and far between this season so take note of what’s available for Round 1.

  • Jeppa

I’m back ladies and gentlemen and it’s time for some hardcore Fantasy and Dreamteam planning so I hope you’re ready!? To start, I thought we’d look at the slim defender options available.

Decent cheap defenders aren’t in abundance this season so plan carefully. With a lack of scoring punch evident, I think it is sensible to start with no more than two rookie priced defenders on your field!

Considering role, job security and scoring ability, here are my best defender rookie options (not in order) TO START WITH this season…

1. Nic Newman

jj_newman1AFL Fantasy Price: $150,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $132,400
Predicted Average: 65

Skillful, composed and hard working. These are the adjectives that describe Nic Newman. In 2016, the rookie listed Newman dominated the NEAFL competition, averaging 28 possessions and winning best on ground in the NEAFL grand final. Gaining promotion to the Swan’s senior list back in November was reward for his excellent season. Sydney don’t have a clear ball wining half back but Jake Lloyd and old man McVeigh appear to be penciled in for defence roles this year. Never the less, Newman is at bargain basement price and he just cant be ignored. Hopefully he can find some hot form in the preseason competition and force his way into the Swans best 22. Put him on your watchlist!

2. Matthew Scharenberg

jj_scharenbergAFL Fantasy Price: $234,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $197,500
Predicted Average: 63

Injuries have got the better of Scharenberg to date but don’t let that deter you. The skillful halfback was an elite junior and Collingwood could definitely do with some polish from defensive 50. Coming off his second knee reconstruction, Scharenberg has done plenty right this preseason and he was one of Collingwood’s best in their intra club last Wednesday (source). Assuming he’s 100% fit, Scharenberg has no job security issues, in my opinion, but at an inflated rookie price, is he worth the risk? We’ll definitely have to wait on Scharenberg’s JLT Series form before making a call. Watch this space.

3. Lachlan Keeffe

jj_keefeAFL Fantasy Price: $184,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $139,100
Predicted Average: 53

A change of role could see Keeffe as a regular in the Pies 22. After serving his 2 year ban, the agile big man has returned to the Westpac Centre in ripping condition and he’s been penciled in for a forward / ruck role this season (source). Buckley might finally have a reason not to pick Jesse White! Jokes aside, don’t expect too much from Keeffe in an AFL Fantasy scoring sense. He’ll likely average in the low 50’s which makes him bench cover at best. I’ll be keeping a lose eye on him for the remainder of preseason before deciding whether or not he’s worth that little bit extra in price. Don’t ignore him.

4. Luke Ryan

jj_ryanAFL Fantasy Price: $150,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $125,300
Predicted Average: 60

The word around the West is that Luke Ryan was drafted to fill a need at Freo. He’s a medium defender with an elite kick that reads the play extremely well and he takes plenty of intercept marks. The mature age recruit averaged an impressive 14 kicks, 6 handballs, 6 marks, 3 tackles and 84 Fantasy points for Coburg in the VFL last season so the Fantasy potential is definitely there. The Dockers don’t have an abundance of quality kicking players and he’s made a good impression thus far (source) so I think there’s a spot for him pending form in the lead up to Round 1. At this stage, he’s my first picked defender rook and I suspect that he’ll be a popular pick this season.

5. Andrew McGrath

jj_mcgrathAFL Fantasy Price: $250,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $219,800
Predicted Average: 67

Not a lot of first year players are as AFL ready as Andrew McGrath. The Sandringham product is likely for Round 1 but Worsfold has already flagged plenty of rest for him throughout the season (source). McGrath has drawn comparisons to Johannisen given his pace and ability to create from half back. He averaged an impressive 118 Fantasy points in the TAC Cup last season so he’s Fantasy relevant but we need to see how he copes playing alongside the bigger bodies. As good as McGrath is, I’ll struggle to pay top dollar for him. He’s not for me unless he dominates in the JLT series. It’s a wait and see.

Image result for andrew mcgrath essendon

6. Ed Vickers-Willis

jj_vickerswillisAFL Fantasy Price: $150,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $132,400
Predicted Average: 50

Untried defender Vickers-Willis looks set to make his mark at a new look North Melbourne this season. At 190cm and 86kg, he’s a little undersized for a key post but suits a lockdown role like the one that has been recently vacated by Michael Firrito. For a young bloke, Vickers-Willis’ leadership traits are quite impressive and after a couple years of development, he’s physically ready for the AFL. History tells us that young talls do not score well but his job security and bargain basement price could still make him a very handy D8. I’m very keen to see what he produces in the JLT Series.

7. Tom Stewart

jj_stewartAFL Fantasy Price: $172,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $125,300
Predicted Average: 64

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Stewart has the best job security of any rookie defender this season. He’s the modern day backman with his ability to take an intercept mark and burn opponents on the rebound. Stewart’s got plenty of admirers at Geelong including defensive coach Matty Scarlet and if that’s not enough well he’s been given the famous #44 in his first season. Stats wise, he gets plenty of +6’s from an uncontested mark and kick game and can push up the ground and kick a snag or two. Stewart is currently sitting as my D5 in both Fantasy and Dreamteam. He’s the real deal.

8. Aaron Francis

jj_francisAFL Fantasy Price: $230,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $258,000
Predicted Average: 62

Young Francis has the tools to become a champion footballer. He’s strong, athletic, good overhead, an accurate kick and can run and create from defence or kick a goal when he’s up forward. From his 3 games last season, Francis failed reach the heights we expect in the world of Fantasy but with another preseason under his belt he’ll definitely improve on his 48 average in 2016. Given his talent and ability to play a variety of positions, I believe there’s a spot for Francis in the Bombers best 22, question is…will you pay the extra to have him in your side? His dual position status is handy but I’m sitting on the fence for now.

9. Mitchell Hibberd

jj_hibberdAFL Fantasy Price: $150,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $132,400
Predicted Average: 61

A lot of water needs to go under the bridge before you pick Hibberd. Naturally, his bargain basement price is a big draw card but his game time might be scarce and / or inconsistent which would be a huge burden to those that own him. Listed as a defender, Hibberd has the aerobic capacity to win plenty of the footy in the midfield, namely on a wing. At a 190cm, he’s a big running unit that would be handy in any team and with a contract extension in place for some time now, the Kangas appear to rate him too. We wont know much about Hibberd until the JLT Series but I highly recommend putting him on your watchlist!

10. Curtly Hampton

jj_hamptonAFL Fantasy Price: $204,000
AFL Dreamteam Price: $171,500
Predicted Average: 67

Forgotten footballer Curtly Hampton looms as a tasty prospect. Injuries ruined his 2016 season however, a new midfield role in 2017 and a healthy body are points worth noting. If Eddie Betts is impressed (source), then we should be too. Back at GWS, Hampton averaged a solid 68 Fantasy points per game in 2014 and I see no reason why he cant better that slightly pending the opportunities are there for him at the Crows. Get Hampton on your watchlist immediately because I believe he still has plenty to offer. Don’t be surprised if he has a breakout season.


Unfortunately, Jarrod Berry recently suffered a knee injury and faces a 6 week stint on the sidelines. Berry wont be ready for Round 1 but you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll feature at some point this season. Follow him closely.

Other rookie priced defenders that could come into Fantasy and Dreamteam contention this season include Andy Otten, Griffen Logue, Francis Watson, Jordan Ridley, Bailey Rice, Jack Scrimshaw, Ben Long, Alex Johnson, Daniel Nielsen, Colin O’Riordan, Caleb Marchbank, Alex Morgan, Declan Watson, Kieran Collins, Hugh Goddard, Tom Doedee and Pat McKenna.

Look out for my post JLT Series analysis on the defender rookies that performed well, those that struggled and maybe one or two that snuck under the radar! Remember rooks are classified as players under $250,000 in either Fantasy or Dreamteam.

Pick three defenders...

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A legend of the AFL Fantasy game, Jeppa provides the best rookie content on the internet, bar none! Follow the man behind the most viewed Fantasy series on the web, the Juniors, on Twitter: @JeppaDT.



  1. Avatar


    February 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm


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    February 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    What about Tim Mohr?

    • Warnie


      February 16, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      On the radar. Good to see he’s playing this weekend, but hard to get a read where he is at the moment for the Giants. Fingers crossed our good Tassie boy is a good chance to play early on this year.

      • Avatar


        February 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        Cheers Warnie

  3. Burger


    February 16, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Great to have you back Jeppa. Looking forward to your articles again this year.

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    A lot of these can average similar to Thurlow for quite a bit less

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Francis rolled his ankle last week, and Worsfold mentioned that he has some work to do even before that setback

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    With the increase in player pricing this season, shouldn’t the rookie category be increased too, say 300k?

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      February 16, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      McGrath is the highest priced actual rookie and he is $250k so everything equal or below that is rookie priced.

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    What about Marchbank!?!?

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      February 16, 2017 at 7:04 pm


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      February 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Yes interested in Jeppa’s thoughts on him.

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks Jeppa. Good to have ya back.

    How do you think Thurlow will go compared to the likes of Scharenberg and Hampton? I currently have Hampton, Keefe and Newman at D4-6 and wondering whether it’s necessary to squeeze Thurlow in…

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Very good article Jeppa, always the most relevant DT preseason articles!
    Original back line Thurlow, Hampton, Stewart.
    Thinking now Hampton, Stewart, Newman.
    To risky?

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      February 16, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Have gone for the exact same backline as you with Hampton, Stewart and Newman. I think it’s a little risky but it has given me the extra $$ to get another premo. Go for it I say.

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      February 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      That’s how I have it personally but waiting to see JS for the likes of Hampton before pulling the trigger.

  10. Fooz


    February 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Welcome back for another season TBetta!

    Thanks for this initial review. Any thoughts on Balic?

    • Avatar


      February 16, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Jeppa wrote this article mate, Tbetta haant wrote his Bullets for a couple years now

      • Fooz


        February 17, 2017 at 11:06 am

        jeez i did not have a good day yesterday. Sorry Jeppa.

        (hangs his head in shame)

  11. Fooz


    February 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    uh – silly me – not a defender.

  12. Fooz


    February 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    FYI to all on DT Talk –
    If you can’t make it to the JLT game – Freo v WCE – I’ll be taking notes, seeing as it’s in my hometown – Geraldton.

    That game will be interesting – with a ground capacity of nearly 12,000 and already heaps of tickets sold

    • Avatar


      February 17, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      No way! I spent the first 16 years of life in Gero and just recently moved east. Which school u go to?

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    February 16, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Cheers Jeppa! Legend as always; helping all & sundry sort the wheat from the chaff.

    WA based RDT league for open to all who see a season through.


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    February 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks Jeppa, great article….The Juniors particularly early in the season is a huge help….Keeping a close eye on Stewart, Ryan, Vickers-Willis & Hibberd…With current structure 3 of those will go in plus Scharenberg if he stays fit. Being a pies supporter I bloody pray he stays fit!!

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    February 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’m also wondering why no Marchbank?? Must be 100% lock best 22 down at Blueland, which is good enough for me to have him slotted in at D6

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      Lachie Neale

      February 16, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      Pretty much none of the guys Jeppa wrote about are KPPs (which Marchbank is) meaning while this JS is more shaky, they all have far better scoring potential.

      Keefe is a KPP, but the talk of him getting time to pinch hit in the ruck is what makes him somewhat attractive.

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        February 16, 2017 at 6:37 pm

        I think Marchbank may be the third tall, so may be the guy taking a lot of intercept marks, with Plowman and Weitering the Key defenders

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          Lachie Neale

          February 16, 2017 at 6:49 pm

          If Rowe is pushed out of the 22, Plowman and Marchbank will take the 2 key posts and Weiters will be the 3rd tall.

          He’s a better reader of play and ball user than the other 2.

          • Avatar


            February 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

            Makes sense. Rowe can’t be best 22, I wouldn’t think anyways.

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    February 16, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    I thought Thurlow would be cheap enough to get a mention from you here Jeppa.
    I always look forward to your rookie articles, so was hoping to get your Thurlow opinion here.
    Also surprised at the lack of a Marchbank mention. Any particular reason ?
    Has to be the most disappointing looking defensive rookie list for a few years.
    Apart from Hampton not one really stands out to me.
    If Stewart is the pick of the bunch, that’s a worry.

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    February 16, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Ill be picking McGrath due to the lack of defensive rookie standouts.
    Not much point picking a rookie who will average peanuts. May as well pick Zac Dawson.
    Which is why I wont be touching Keefe or Vickers-Willis.

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      Grovers Guns

      February 16, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      I think it will be hard for Essendon rookies with last years players that stepped up plus the returning players.

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        February 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

        Definitely not 100% on McGrath now. Didn’t really stand out tonight at all. Especially with Stanton taking one half back flank role.

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          Frank Underwood

          February 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm

          How’d Scharenberg look?

          25 pts not great even if he only played 46%

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            February 16, 2017 at 10:40 pm

            Definitely see him starting the year in the VFL.
            Will probably be a good downgrade target hopefully round 5ish.

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        Frank Underwood

        February 16, 2017 at 10:51 pm

        Thanks mate. There will be a big clear out from a lot of teams. Thurlows the next one on jlt watch

        • Avatar


          February 17, 2017 at 7:15 am

          Wouldn’t write off Scharenberg yet. Looked really neevous as his first proper hit out back from long injury and I reckon confidence will grow for the other JLT games. Still safely on my watch list.

  18. Avatar

    Grovers Guns

    February 16, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks Jeppa and good to have your articles back

    I think Logue will be ahead of Ryan. From what I have seen plus the intraclub, looks like Logue has been given every opportunity to prove himself for R1 on the half back rebounding role (similar to Ibbo)

    • Avatar


      February 16, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Agree with you there. From what I have read it sounds like Ryan is still a fair way from getting a gig.

  19. Avatar


    February 17, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Great article and as always a great help, but as a Swans fan finding it hard to see Newman getting into the side….

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    February 17, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Great article Jeppa. Always very helpful and informative. Can’t wait for your assessment of the mid juniors.

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    February 17, 2017 at 11:03 am

    As much as Hampton sounds appetising, he’s gonna fill the role Henderson & out the side with not much consistency. Crows backline is solid, there is no need for him back there, hence why Henderson played a lot on the wing & was made to adapt. If he can prove to being able to play along the wing, then I like him a lot. Has to prove that in the JLT though

    • Avatar


      February 18, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      He will have to fight off Cameron Knight Milera and Mackay (how is he on the list still) to get a gig on the wing.

  22. Avatar

    TJP's Heroes

    February 17, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Marchbank surely a 70 average this year with the blues?

    • Avatar

      D Day

      February 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      I think a 55-60 average is more realistic.

      • Avatar


        February 18, 2017 at 2:50 pm


  23. Avatar


    February 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I really struggle to see too many great defensive rookie options this year, no sure who to pick i think Stewart from Geelong, Newman from Sydney and Thurlow are good choices.

    Luke Ryan not enough games to consider, McGrath maybe not ready for AFL action, Sharenbarg due to previous injuries not ready to secure enough games + high price tag not sure who to pick.

    With injury to Josh Wagner today is Joel Smith any chance for Melbourne. scored 60pts with 14 disposals???

    I think Stewart, Newman, Thurlow and maybe J Smith that means maybe a 4 guns 1 mid pricer Thurlow and 3 rookies maybe the way to go.

  24. Avatar


    February 18, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    any thoughts

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      February 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      Yes i’m running the same setup, seems the fwd line has better rook option so take your rooks there.

    • Avatar


      February 19, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      I’m actually looking the other way. Admittedly it’s just one JLT round but quite a few of the cheaper def rooks have shown something, Newman, Stewart, Vickers-Willis and Smith have all done pretty well, along with Thurlow doing the baseline of what was expected and Ryan + Hampton to come. Keefe seems like he could have a spot too, admittedly not enough to justify the extra dosh if the other guys can make it, but still. North Hibbo is the only one who looks beneath the level from one look.

      Really not seeing the forwards thus far. I really don’t want Weideman even on the bench, Hoskin-Elliott looks the goods but isn’t cheap and Kennedy’s good game was a probably preseason positional boost. Lovell failed and I’m not seeing anything from the 150’s at all except for Black. I guess Miles got a roll going early on but died poorly and will struggle to break in. Guess I’m waiting for Jeppa to point out a few more forwards when the time comes, from the ones from teams that have played the def’s have stood out a LOT more.

      • Avatar


        February 20, 2017 at 2:30 pm

        Yeah hard to know off half a weeks data but the fwd options i would think would be Black, Bowes, Whe, McCarthy, Turner, Francis, Eddy, Pickett, Mcluggage, Knight plus a fair few other options i could see possibly getting a gig.

  25. Avatar


    February 19, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Great to have you back Jeppa. Appreciate your work.

    • Avatar


      February 20, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      + a lot

  26. Avatar


    February 23, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    I would love to hear how you order your defensive rookies from 1 to 10.

    For me
    1: McGrath (See him playing around 17 games averaging 70)
    2: Stewart
    3: Hampton
    4: Newman
    5: Scharenberg
    6: Logue
    7: Marchbank
    8: Vickers-Willis
    9: Keefe
    10: Ryan/Hibberd

    Also why no love for Marchbank from you ? Even in the ‘other rookies that could come into consideration during the season’ he isn’t mentioned.

    • Avatar


      February 24, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      1. Stewart
      2. Ryan
      3. Vickers
      4. Keefe
      5. Mcgrath
      6. Scharenberg
      7. Logue
      8. Marchbank
      9. Hampton
      10. Newman
      11. Hibberd

      Obviously this order changes if Newman Hampton or Hibberd play rd 1. but this is how i see them atm.

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        February 25, 2017 at 3:41 pm

        Might have to bump Hampton up after last nights game.

  27. Avatar


    February 23, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I’m not picking Hibberd now Becuase he looks like a complete tool or fruitcake in that photo

  28. Avatar


    March 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Tom Stewart or Caleb Marchbank?

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