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Proceed with caution: Which Fantasy guns are battling injuries?

The Traders pick Fantasy's best midfielders Calvin, Roy and Warnie find the value picks in the engine room.

HEADING into the season, a clean bill of health is important for AFL Fantasy selection. Players who have experienced interrupted pre-seasons have historically started the year poorly or, in many cases, have performed well below their best.

For Fantasy Classic, it might be a matter of looking at the injured guns as upgrade targets. That is, aim to bring them in later in the season when they may have dropped some value or they've proven they're at their best.

Coaches planning for their Fantasy Draft may decide to drop them down their pre-draft rankings or opt for a more reliable option that has, dare I say it, been burning up the track this pre-season.

There have been plenty of gun Fantasy players who have an injury cloud over them heading into the JLT Community Series. It is important for coaches to be aware of any hiccups that could potentially have them touch-and-go for round one.

KICK-IN KINGS Who takes the responsibility at your club?

Defenders

Sam Docherty (DEF, $593,000)
With a 30 per cent discount on his price due to missing 2018 with an ACL, Docherty was set to be one of the most selected players this year in Classic. The same injury back in December has ruled him out of 2019. Be sure to send him to the bottom of your pre-draft rankings so you don't accidentally take him.

Connor Blakely (DEF, $664,000)
More midfield time was looming for Blakely, but he may have to wait until mid-season as he recovers from a severe hamstring injury.

Jeremy Howe (DEF, $597,000)
Resumed running following a thigh injury. While in the mix as one of the defenders who could average 90-plus, don't consider him until he has proved his fitness.

Don't consider Jumping Jeremy until his fitness has been proven. Picture: AFL Photos

CASE FOR THE DEFENCE We rank every club's backline

Grant Birchall (DEF, $350,000)
After three operations on his knee, Birchall is aiming to return to football between rounds four and eight. The upside is that he is super-cheap and may help you free up some cash when he gets back in the team. James Sicily owners may see a few extra points early in the season, as Birchall was his main competition for kick-in duties. Tim Mohr will be one to watch out for as a rookie-priced player who may get an opportunity in Birchall's absence.

Corey Ellis (DEF, $261,000)
The former Tiger is listed as 4-6 weeks as he recovers from groin surgery. The Suns are taking a cautious approach and could mean coaches could consider Ellis as a downgrade target a few rounds into the season.

Harrison Wigg (DEF, $170,000)
One of the most selected players as a basement-priced bench option, Wigg will have to wait until 2020 to make his AFL debut following a torn ACL in an intraclub game earlier this month. 

Midfielders

Tom Mitchell (MID, $938,000)
It was a sad day when the Fantasy Pig went down with a broken leg that has ruled him out of this season. Pencil him in for next year with a discounted price tag.

Zach Merrett (MID, $736,000)
It's not ideal to be in a moonboot six weeks out from the start of the season. Usually it would cross a premium player off the list, however, Merrett is so under-priced that so long as he plays a JLT match, he's a lock for our teams. Coaches who were bullish on him prior to the injury shouldn't worry too much as he steps up training, joining in match simulation in the past week.

Dyson Heppell (MID, $738,000)
Now taking limited part in match-sim after hamstring tendinitis threatened to see a line put through his name to start the season. Draft coaches should be wary as to when they take him.

STRONGEST MIDFIELDS Every club's engine room ranked

Ollie Wines (MID, $678,000)
The much-publicised waterskiing accident is likely have Wines making a delayed start to the season, as he is listed as 4-8 weeks. Players returning from shoulder surgery have often seen a dip in Fantasy output from their previous season.

Dan Hannebery (MID, $434,000)
Regarded as one of the bargain buys of 2019, the risk is increasing for the former Swan, who is battling an ongoing hamstring issue. Hannebery is a sure thing to make cash when he's playing after averaging the fewest Fantasy points since his debut season way back in 2009. Just remember he won't be making you any coin if he's on the sidelines. For the 29 per cent of coaches with the new Saint, start thinking about plan B.

Risk is increasing for new Saint Dan Hannebery. Picture: AFL Photos

Harley Bennell (MID, $236,000)
It's time to forget about Harley's glory years at the Suns, where he enjoyed four seasons averaging 85 or more. A lingering calf issue has flared up again, and despite the obvious value we're unlikely to see him early in the season, and when he does return, you would be better off finding another rookie-priced player who has a more dependable body, even if they don't possess the same upside Bennell does.

Rucks

Matthew Kreuzer (RUC, $576,000)
Priced well below his outstanding 2017 season that saw him top the table of all Fantasy ruckmen, recent surgery on his knee was probably enough of a setback to rule him out of starting squad calculations. With Kreuzer's injury history, Draft coaches should opt for one of the players who has the capacity to average in the 80s and not miss any games.

Aaron Sandilands (RUC, $554,000)
The full extent of Sandilands' calf issue is yet to be determined, but it doesn't look great for anyone considering the 36-year-old. Sean Darcy may benefit while the 211cm ruck is watching from the outer.

A calf injury to Aaron Sandilands is yet to be fully assessed. Picture: AFL Photos

Sam Naismith (RUC, $299,000)
With Naismith still recovering from last year's knee reconstruction, Callum Sinclair will shoulder the majority of the ruck load with Darcy Cameron a potential back-up, with Naismith 7-8 weeks from resuming.

Forwards

Devon Smith (MID/FWD, $774,000)
Last year's No. 1 forward suffered a biceps injury in the first week of February but was recently demonstrating his trademark tackling at training. His 30.9 per cent of owners shouldn't be worried about his fitness.

BEST FORWARDS We rank every club's attack

Sam Menegola (MID/FWD, $716,000)
A knee injury has restricted Menegola during the pre-season, but he is likely to resume full training within a fortnight. While he may play round one, the Cat is a perfect example of an upgrade target in Classic.

Lance Franklin (FWD, $666,000)
Heading into his 15th season, it's hard to make the statement that Buddy's Fantasy days are over considering he is still producing numbers that put him right in the mix as a top forward. With a prognosis of 4-8 weeks until he recovers from the off-season groin surgery, expectations have to be lowered when he does play.

Expectations for Buddy Franklin have to be tempered given his limited pre-season. Picture: AFL Photos

Chad Wingard (MID/FWD, $598,000)
Although he was predicted to pick up some extra midfield minutes in the absence of Tom Mitchell, the idea of seeing a big spike in Fantasy output may need to be shelved. Wingard missed AFLX and aims to play in one JLT game, the Hawks may nurse him through the early rounds, and therefore his price is unlikely to rise too quickly.

Tom J. Lynch (FWD, $487,000)
Many Fantasy coaches have earmarked Lynch as being a value option this year. His last year as a Sun was one to forget as a knee injury restricted him to 10 games. The Tigers have been extremely cautious as he'd built up his training but there have been reports that have suggested he is unlikely to line up in either JLT matches. Only look to him as a late-round draft selection.

Will Setterfield (MID/FWD, $251,000)
Behind Patrick Dangerfield, the new Blue is the second most selected forward. While spending the last 12 months out of the game due to an ACL injury suffered last pre-season, he participated in the second half in the recent practice match against the Hawks, spending the entirety of his game-time in the midfield.

Josh Corbett (FWD, $170,000)
More than a quarter of Fantasy Classic coaches have picked up the 22-year-old former Werribee forward with the thought he may take one of the vacant roles in the Suns' forward six. He is likely to begin in the NEAFL as he is four weeks away from availability following a minor procedure on his knee.

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