One of the most discussed topics each year come draft season is when should you be looking to draft a ruckman for your fantasy team. Some will say to spend that early round, high capital pick to get the top dog; whilst others – like we at the Draft Doctors were heavy on last year – will say there’s plenty of good talent to be had late, much like Jarrod Witts and Matthew Kreuzer last season. And there’s plenty of reasons which we’ve written about and discussed ad nauseum; such as the fact we haven’t seen a ruckman repeat as the number one since Dean Cox, injury issues, teams playing two rucks and of course the fact we see so many rucks crop up and have good fantasy weeks. But what if you’re in a 14 team (or more!) league? What if – and I hope you’re not – in a league that plays two rucks? What if you’re in a ten or twelve teamer and you miss the ruck run? Well, there’s plenty of options – in fact this looks to be one of the deepest years in recent memory of good rucks to draft. Which equals value for those who like to wait on rucks. So if you don’t feel like rolling the dice on Nic Nat coming back from injury, or dealing with the Grundy/Cox or Goldstein/Preuss schmozzles, here’s some blokes who you’ll be drafting near enough to last.
As a side note, if you’re playing in a 10 team league running with the 3-4-1-3 format, I’m more okay with you drafting a ruck early. Given you’re drafting fairly shallow in the other positions, you’ll want to be stronger in the ruck line.
It’s fair to say The Nank had a coming out party in 2017, moving from Sydney to Richmond, duly assuming first ruck duties, winning a flag and most importantly – rewarding those fantasy coaches who drafted him. I expect Nankervis to be a less attractive option to fantasy coaches this year as he’s lost FWD status and is solely listed as a ruck; whilst his averages are OK without being spectacular (86 DT and 88 SC). I like Nankervis as an option as last year was his first full year in the ruck role, having only played a handful of AFL games in the 2 prior seasons. Another preseason, I’m looking for a young ruck to gain some strength and conditioning to improve. He’s shown a great scoring ceiling (140 DT and 127 SC) and comps reasonably similar to a young Stef Martin and even Brodie Grundy as a player who builds his score via possessions and tackles, not relying solely on hitouts. If he can improve the hitouts (hopefully with some strength training in the preseason) then the scores can improve even more, although given his height I would assume he’ll never be a top 5 hitout type guy.
‘Big Boy’ was a really solid option for late round drafters last year, bouncing back to finish as the 5th highest scoring ruck in both DT and SC formats. We know that the Hawks have historically liked the two ruck system, which kept McEvoy from reaching the high fantasy scores from his St Kilda days, but with Ceglar injured, McEvoy had more ruck time and the scores followed. We know Ceglar looks like returning, so we’ll have to see what Hawthorn want to do in regards to their setup, but McEvoy again looks like a decent option to not let you down, even if he doesn’t come with the highest of ceilings. One of the nice things about drafting McEvoy is you’ll know fairly early on whether he’ll be flying solo and can adjust accordingly.
Basically the anti-Nankervis, Billy Longer is a ruckman who’s winning the taps and not much else. Well, that’s sort of a lie, as he did manage to lay 4 tackles a match to go along with his 38 hitouts a match, which was good enough to be the 3rd highest average for hitouts per game. When you combine those two stats, that’s 54 DT points and a great start towards getting a ton, but old mate Longer isn’t one for getting the pill, averaging just one kick a match in 2017! When he had at least 10 disposals in a match he never scored under 98 SC and he did improve in this area over the season, averaging over 10 disposals over the last 7 matches he played. The other note is that the Saints didn’t do much in the ruck stocks over the off-season, and I think we remember Tom Hickey going full Tom Hickey so the role should be Longer’s to lose. There is also a chance that he might just be taking time to hit his straps, as rucks often do. We forget he is a former top ten draft pick, and not everyone develops as quickly as a Brodie Grundy. Not even the great Aaron Sandilands was a gun ruck until his 7th season, which is what Longer is heading into. If you can get behind continued improvement on his 78 average from last year, Longer could be just the (lottery) ticket. Has the benefit of matching up against Brisbane and Stef Martin in round one, who is pretty generous at letting opposition rucks win the hitouts.
I was umming and ahhing over whether to include Witts on this list, given he broke out last year, but after chatting with my colleagues, I don’t feel so dirty about it as it’s likely there’s seven rucks drafted in front of Witts. With averages of 92 DT and 94 SC, Witts was a super late pick up and a super value on top of it, and there’s every reason that can continue in 2018 with possible improvement. A great score build via disposals, tackles and hitouts, Witts may even get better with the departure of Gary Ablett. ‘How?’, I hear you all asking. Well, Witts was actually one of the better tackling and clearance ruckman in the league. Gary Ablett was a clearance beast. If those hitouts aren’t being scooped up, Witts is more than capable of finding the pill at ground level and finding an extra disposal or 2. Only just coming into his prime, it’s hard to see anything holding him back from continuing on his good form, unless new coach Stewie Dew wants to mess with the mix of his big man division. I find this hard to believe given Witts’ form and the fact Nicholls has had all the opportunity in the world before, but remember – we know less than we think we do and being wrong on this one wouldn’t be a shocker.
One of the hardest things for list managers/GMs in sporting organisations is dealing with club legends who are old and just won’t piss off and retire to let the young gun shine. We know Sandilands has Sean Darcy breathing down his neck. We know he can’t stay fit. But we also know he scores well when he does play. I expect Sandilands to play in tandem with Darcy and Sandilands to rest forward to some reasonable effect when not rucking. What the split looks like is hard to tell, so try monitor that. A much better SuperCoach pick than DT, Sandilands will be going as late as ever and with good cause. Just know that if/when he gets injured, there’ll be a fair old race to pick up Sean Darcy off the waiver wire. If you have deep benches, you may consider handcuffing Sandilands with Darcy, though that move can be a waste depending on league size.