IN AFL Fantasy this year, all we are hearing about is mid-priced madness.
However, at the end of the day you will need premium players in your team to be your captain and to help carry the load for your under-performing players.
So, who can you rely on and who could you possibly start with from round one?
Here are some of the most relevant, top-priced players that we have on offer this year and a breakdown of what we can expect.
Max Gawn (RUC, $944,000)
Avg. 123 - Ownership: 22 per cent
Gawn opens the season with a dream run. If he scores like he did last year against his first six opponents, Gawn will be averaging 131 at the end of round six. He loves playing at the MCG where he plays four of his first six games. He averaged 144 (two games) there last year and 111 and 115 at the ground in the years before.
Verdict: Obviously he's expensive but Gawn should get off to a great start. With Braydon Preuss and Rowan Marshall going down with injury, his ownership has increased by eight per cent as many are now spending up with a set-and-forget ruck combination alongside Brodie Grundy. Gawn is also one of the most reliable captains options going around so you're not just getting one Max Gawn, you're actually getting two.
Lachie Neale (MID, $935,000)
Avg. 122 - Ownership: 24 per cent
If you're looking for a guy who starts the season in style, then look no further than Neale. He averaged 133 in his first six games last year and in 2019 he averaged 128 in his first four. However, he plays Sydney in round one, a team that tagged him to just 46 last year. Adding to that, he only plays at the Gabba three times in his first eight games, a ground he averaged 130 at last year.
Verdict: Before averaging 122, Neale's best-ever average was 111 in 2016. He's an upgrade target only as I doubt he'll be able to maintain that huge average.
Zach Merrett (MID, $884,000)
Avg. 115 - Ownership: nine per cent
Once again, Merrett had another super season averaging 115, a mark he has hit twice before. He finished the season on fire, averaging 133 in his last six games and could easily start from where he left off as he meets Hawthorn, which he scored 153 against last year and the Power who he had 121 against. Amazingly, Merrett plays his first five games in four different states. However, due to hub life last year this shouldn't be a problem as he averaged 120 in his 14 games outside of Victoria.
Verdict: Merrett has now averaged 115+ three times in his career and unlike some players on this list, there is no reason why he won't again. He's a player you can confidently lock in from the start.
Lachie Hunter (MID, $882,000)
Avg. 119 - Ownership: one per cent
He's unique, but that's because Fantasy coaches don't think he can replicate his 2020 season average from his nine games. Before his outstanding coronaball season, Hunter had averaged 97, 105 and 90, a long way short of the 119 he's priced at. Prior to last season, Hunter was as durable as they come, only missing one game in the past four years.
Verdict: It's a pass. Hunter will be awesome, but he is an upgrade target only.
Clayton Oliver (MID, $875,000)
Avg. 114 - Ownership: seven per cent
Oliver only leaves Victoria once in the first six rounds. At first glance, this sounds promising. However, in 2019 Oliver averaged 97 when playing at the MCG or Marvel Stadium, a long way short of his average on the road of 120 from eight games. Oliver also has a tough run early with some potential taggers in the waiting.
Verdict: He's durable and one of the best Fantasy midfielders in the game. Oliver will average 110+ once again but may not hit that mark till later in the year.
Jake Lloyd (DEF, $873,000)
Avg. 114 - Ownership: 31 per cent
Based on the data from 2020, if Lloyd scores the same against his first seven opponents, he will be averaging a solid 112. He plays four of his first seven at the SCG where he averaged 115 last year and 101 in 2019. Last season, Lloyd got off to an uncharacteristically slow start in round one with just 69 points, a long way short of his opening rounds in 2019 and 2018 where he scored 126 and 115 respectively.
Verdict: At the start of the year, Fantasy coaches were tossing up between Lachie Whitfield and Lloyd. With Whitfield on the sidelines, the decision has been made for you. He'll be the best defender this year so you might as well start with him.
Tom Rockliff (MID, $873,000)
Avg. 114 - Ownership: three per cent
Rockliff ended 2020 with more pig-like performances. He averaged 131 in his last five games and 145 in his last three, boosting his average over 110+ for the fourth time in his career. If you have Rockliff, then expect a fast start to the season. He scored 114 last year in round one and a massive 166 in 2019. This could easily happen again as he meets the Kangaroos and Essendon in the opening two rounds, teams he scored 153 against last year.
Verdict: Rockliff is an exciting pick. He's unique and could be a gamechanger if he comes out firing like he ended the season.
Jack Steele (MID, $867,000)
Avg. 114 - Ownership: six per cent
Firstly, I can't see the inclusion of Brad Crouch hurting the amazing numbers that Steele put up last year. Steele had a breakout season improving his average by 18. This will turn off many coaches to start with as he is fully priced, with some saying overpriced. Steele has a nice run of home games early though, playing at Marvel Stadium in four of his first five games where he averaged 123 last year from four games.
Verdict: He is an elite tackler which accounts for 20-30 points of his score each game. However, he is an upgrade option to target throughout the year.
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Andrew Gaff (MID, $831,000)
Avg. 108 - Ownership: seven per cent
Year in and year out, Gaff delivers! Over the past three years he has averaged 108, 111 and 111, and will once again be one of the premium players in the competition. In Gaff's first five games he only plays at Marvel or Optus Stadium. Over the past two years, he has averaged 115 at Marvel from four games and 114 at home from 18 games. He will reward you early as he runs wild at two of his favourite venues
Verdict: Reliable, durable and one of the safest ways to spend your money. Gaff will average 110+ again this year and could definitely be a starter in your initial team, with some saying he is slightly underpriced.
Reilly O'Brien (RUC, $828,000)
Avg. 108 - Ownership: 14 per cent
After injuries to Preuss and Marshall, Fantasy coaches who don't want to pay the big bucks for Gawn have opted for the saving of $116k on O'Brien. He ended the season averaging 124 in his last four games and has now progressively improved his average each year since debuting from 74, 96 to the 108 it stands today. O'Brien plays three of his first games at home where he averaged 105 and could easily continue his improvement and be a 110+ averaging player this year.
Verdict: With O'Brien, you get exactly what you pay for. The third-best ruckman in the game. However, at his price, is he ever captain material? Probably not, but a serviceable premium ruckman nevertheless.