Reilly O'Brien (RUC, $828,000) is now a proven star. He averaged an impressive 87 (109 adjusted due to 16-minute quarters) in 2020, backing up his previous best season of 96. O'Brien is now knocking on the door of the two best rucks in the game, Grundy and Gawn. It's only a matter of time before he joins them.
Last year's Brownlow Medallist enjoyed his best Fantasy season to date. Lachie Neale (MID, $935,000) averaged 98 (123 adjusted) to be the top scoring player of 2020, an impressive 135 points clear of Clayton Oliver. After scores of 164 and 91 in the pre-season games, coaches who saw those numbers and started with Neale were handsomely rewarded. Five Coronaball tons on the trot (143 adjusted average) to start the season saw his price sky rocket. Although a score of 37 in the Fantasy preliminary final leaves a sour taste in the mouth of many, the high-scoring Neale could be here to stay. Most will look at him as an upgrade target, but based on last year, it could take some time to gather the coin to buy him!
Patrick Cripps (MID, $718,000) appears to offer some value this year after the combative beast dropped off enough last season to be considered underpriced. Once again carrying a huge workload in the middle for the Blues, Cripps averaged 75 (94 adjusted), well down from 102 in 2019 and 109 in 2018 despite leading the League in centre clearances. He is in great shape following off-season shoulder surgery and has been flagged to spend stints in the forward line to add a few +12s to the tally.
Taylor Adams (MID, $873,000) had an amazing 2020 season. With Adam Treloar gone, Adams could be even better than the 114 he averaged last year, which just fell short of his career-best average of 115 from 2017. Over the past three years, Adams has averaged 99 when he has played with Treloar and 112 with Treloar out. The writing is on the wall for Adams to have another standout season.
Essendon's best Fantasy prospect is Zach Merrett (MID, $884,000). He enjoyed an almighty third-year breakout in 2016 when he averaged 118, backing that up with 117 the following season. Since then he's been a premium performer and one of the most durable in the game. Merrett was the fifth highest scoring Fantasy player in 2020, going at 92.6 (115.8 adjusted) per game. From round eight, the 25-year-old averaged 101 (126 adjusted) and should continue to be the biggest accumulator at the Dons.
Out of all the Dockers, Nat Fyfe (MID, $720,000) still sits at the top of the wishlist. After averaging 75 (94 adjusted) last season, Fyfe is 11 points underpriced based on his 2019 season. With Fyfe rumoured to be playing more out of the forward-50 in 2021, he is a strong chance of picking up forward status throughout the year. Fyfe is a worthy draft selection and a potential bargain in AFL Classic.
Elite interceptor and rebounding defender Tom Stewart (DEF, $736,000) is one of the best options down back. The fifth-year 'veteran' keeps his score ticking over with a high volume marking game, last year registering nine or more on six occasions including 14 in a season-high 110 (which could be adjusted to 138) in the semi-finals. He has averaged 95 and an adjusted 96 the last two years and is a safe set and forget star who is capable of stepping up with a huge score.
Hugh Greenwood (MID, $737,000) made a profound impact with the Suns in his debut year for the club and after being thrown straight into the middle, it didn't take long for his impact to be reflected in his Fantasy numbers. He was a mark of consistency throughout the season in which he averaged 77 (97 adjusted), highlighted largely by his tackling pressure after leading the League with 117 (+4s) including five games with double figures.
A pre-season shoulder injury meant that Tim Taranto (MID, $718,000) missed a fair bit of footy and didn't hit the heights of his outstanding 2019 season. In that year, his third season, Taranto averaged 113 ranking him as the third-highest-scoring midfielder. 2020's average of 75 (94 adjusted) means he's priced almost 20 points cheaper than his best return. That's a $150k saving on a top-eight midfielder.
In 2021, Tom Mitchell (MID, $823,000) could be unique. After missing the entire 2019 season with a broken leg, Mitchell started 2020 slowly by his standards averaging 74 (93 adjusted) from the first five games. However, from round six onwards he found his feet and averaged 91 (114 adjusted) for the remainder of the season. Expect this little pig to be back to his very best in 2021 with an average of 120+ not out of the question.
With an adjusted average of 124 next to his name, you’re going to need to be very crafty with your cash if you want to start with the best ruckman in the game and the most expensive player available. Max Gawn (RUC, $944,000) had a phenomenal season and demolished his previous best averages of 111. By locking Gawn into you team early, you will not only secure 120+ scores each week but a reliable captain option that scores you double points.
Luke McDonald (DEF, $692,000) flicked a switch in round eight which triggered a run of games to show he can score with the best defenders in the League. His hot form over the next five weeks returned an average of 102 (128 adjusted) and included scores of 118, 123 and 121, all despite playing shortened quarters. McDonald thrives when attacking out of the back half and he could play a key role for Noble.
Oink! Oink! Who can smell bacon? Tom Rockliff (MID, $873,000) had a phenomenal 2020 season averaging an adjusted 114. The pig was back in sty-le. He scored over 100 (125 adjusted) in half of his games and reminded us all of what he is truly capable of. Rockliff ended the season averaging an adjusted 145 in his last three games and could be back to his 120+ averages this year. Currently he only sits in two per cent of teams and could be a very unique pick to start with.
This season appears to be all about finding value in Fantasy Classic and Dion Prestia (MID, $645,000) is a midfielder who ticks a lot of boxes. With just five games to his name in 2020, he receives a 15 per cent discount to price him equivalent to 85. Going back to 2019 where he played 22 games and won the Tigers' best and fairest, Prestia averaged an impressive 99. He started slowly and hit his straps from round 12, averaging 108 which included eight scores of 110 or more.
Jack Steele (MID, $867,000) elevated his game to elite status and has become a genuine option to lead your midfield cohort. One of the most impressive tools in Steele's kit is his ability to tackle while picking up more than his fair share of the ball. Last year, despite the shortened quarters he managed a whopping nine or more tackles on three occasions highlighted by 10 against the Lions which he converted to 110 (adjusted to 138). With a couple of midfielders joining the squad, it will be interesting to see how it effects his scoring output but he is a class act and first round Draft option.
Isaac Heeney (FWD, $603,000) has been a consistent performer over the last few years, averaging 92, 91, 92 and an adjusted 88 last season. He played six games in 2020 making him eligible for a discount. This prices Heeney at the equivalent of a 79 average meaning he offers some value. With a priority being placed on hunting value picks and the new-look forward offerings, with Heeney, you can get a premium FWD for a sub-premium price. Just make sure he is fit for round one.
There aren't too many players in the competition that Fantasy coaches can rely upon like Andrew Gaff (MID, $831,000). In the past three years he has posted season averages of 111, 111 and 87 (109 adjusted) to be one of the most consistent midfielders through that time. With limited interchanges and quarter length back to 20 minutes, coaches can expect Gaff to spend more time out on the ground due to his big tank and maintain, if not improve, on his recent performances. A first-round selection in Draft and someone you will want to have in your side for Classic finals.
Dogs skipper Marcus Bontempelli (MID, $801,000) had an uncustomary slow start to the year, taking until round 11 to really get going and he didn't look back from there. The beauty of the slow start is that it brings his price down to an adjusted 105 which isn't close to a reflection of how he finished the year with an average of 129 in his last seven games. In that time, he showed he can score with the best, highlighted by a 33-possession, six-mark, nine-tackle and two-goal performance for 145, which would be adjusted to 181. It remains to be seen how much time he will spend forward but the worst-case scenario in that is he would receive forward status.