These are my six most intriguing players from a single season draft league perspective, who have significant AFL Fantasy upside and could provide you with solid value in your draft – should they uphold their end of the bargain and play a few more minutes!
TOG = Time On Ground
66.8 AFL Fantasy
Andrew Brayshaw’s rookie season ended in shocking fashion.
Since ‘the punch’, the now 19-year-old has shown nothing but maturity and resilience and appears set to have a significant impact at Dockerland in his sophomore season.
Andrew Brayshaw averaged 66.8 AFL Fantasy points in just 66.5% time on ground in 2018.
The Dockers lost the 7th best contested possession winner in the league (Lachie Neale) this offseason as he jetted off to the Lions on a lucrative, long-term contract. The youngest Brayshaw brother should take on a crucial midfield role.
Brayshaw has upside in every statistical category.
When you put Brayshaw’s rookie season side-by-side with two of the past decade’s biggest sophomore jumps, his numbers sit smack bang between the two for both time on ground and fantasy production:
Jackson Macrae, 2013 Rookie Year: 7.7 kicks, 10.2 handballs, 6.5 contested, 11.8 uncontested, 2.7 marks, 1.5 stoppages, 2.7 tackles, 64.7%TOG, 63.5 AFL Fantasy.
Clayton Oliver, 2016 Rookie Year: 5.8 kicks, 13.4 handballs, 9.5 contested, 9.6 uncontested, 1.9 marks, 2.4 stoppages, 4.8 tackles, 67.6 %TOG, 68.9 AFL Fantasy.
Andrew Brayshaw, 2018 Rookie Year: 7.5 kicks, 8.5 handballs, 5.6 contested, 10.5 uncontested, 2.9 marks, 1.1 stoppages, 4.4 tackles, 66.5% TOG, 66.8 AFL Fantasy
While by no means am I suggesting Brayshaw is a similar player to either Macrae or Oliver, it’s fun to let the imagination run wild when you think what those numbers will be when Brayshaw gets a ten plus percent bump in game time this year.
Jackson Macrae 2014 Sophomore Year: 14.4 kicks, 12.4 handballs, 7.9 contested, 18.7 uncontested, 5.7 marks, 1.9 stoppages, 4.1 tackles, 80.1%TOG, 104.4 AFL Fantasy.
Clayton Oliver 2017 Sophomore Year: 8 kicks, 21.9 handballs, 15.6 contested, 14.7 uncontested, 3.1 marks, 4.1 stoppages, 6.9 tackles, 77%TOG, 101.6 AFL Fantasy.
Andrew Brayshaw 2019 Sophomore Year: ??
The best part in all this? Brayshaw is already an elite runner.
A strength coming into the draft of 2018, Brayshaw has shown his continued dominance on the track, coming second to Stefan Giro in the Dockers preseason time trial.
Get ready, because this #hype is real. Are you a Brayliever?
61.7 AFL Fantasy
Our hearts bump a thousand minutes per second whenever Jack Higgins gets in front of the microphone to give one of his refreshingly raw and energetic interviews.
More exciting, however, is Higgins on-field play. Cracking into a Tigers team fresh off a flag, the 19-year-old managed 18 games in his rookie season (plus 2 finals), helping his team to a top placed ladder finish during the regular season.
Higgins, who played primarily as a small forward in 2018, averaged 61.7 AFL Fantasy points in 71.4% time on ground.
This offseason, the Tigers lost a midfielder in Reece Conca, while gaining a forward in Tom Lynch.
Does this open the door for more midfield rotations for our favourite pocket rocket?
According to Fantasy Freako, Richmond won centre clearances 56% of the time when Jack Higgins attended a centre bounce – the top percentage of all players within the top 200 of centre bounce attendances.
Higgins was a beast at junior level in a forward-mid role, embracing stints in the guts and kicking bags up forward, taking out the highest honour in the TAC cup, while putting up monster fantasy numbers.
Jack Higgins has won the Morrish Medal as the TAC Cup's best player of the season. Well deserved after a great season for Oakleigh.
— Callum Twomey (@CalTwomey) September 3, 2017
Higgins averaged 120 AFL Fantasy points in the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships and 110 in the TAC Cup, capping off a historic junior career where he averaged elite for disposals, contested possessions and score involvements, while scoring over 100 Champion Data ranking points in 90.9% of his games played, per Champion Data.
The dream for single season drafts is if Higgins’ value as a mid exceeds his excellence as a small forward. Ideally, we will see the opposite of the Toby Greene positional trajectory, with Higgins eligable as a forward this season, but getting #moremidtime.
68.2 AFL Fantasy
How fun was James Worpel’s sudden rise from early season cameo appearances to Hawks cult hero late last year?
It was moments like these that had Hawks fans embracing the ‘Worpedo’ with open arms:
The 19-year-old with the caterpillar moustache quickly became a fan-favourite with his uncanny ability to pop-up in big games and embrace the moment:
Worpel’s late season production was already high on the fantasy communities’ radar, averaging 87.5 AFL Fantasy points in his final 4 games of the season. His stock took another rise when the positional changes announced he would be a MID/FWD for season 2019.
Then, the bombshell.
The reigning Brownlow medallist would likely miss the entire 2019 AFL season.
Tom Mitchell, who’ll still probably average a ton from the sidelines this season, leaves a gaping whole in the Hawks midfield who now desperately need a player to fill the 35.3 disposals a game void.
New Hawk Chad Chinguard (I know, but have you seen his chin?), Liam Shiels, and a seemingly healthy Jaeger O’Meara will carry some of the load, as will Shaun Burgoyne, whose grandchildren may be drafted before he’s out of the league.
While all these names will be crucial, it’s James Worpel who will be tasked with stepping into a major role in the Hawks engine room. Upon returning to the side in round 18 last year, Worpel ranked 3rd at the club for disposals behind Shiel and Mitchell, per Fantasy Freako.
If you weren’t thinking of drafting James Worpel this year, maybe this video will convince you to, at the very least, pick him up with that final “ma boy” slot in your roster:
"He's been drafted to Hawthorn. There's a big kick competition on. About $2000 worth of prizemoney. He's a listed AFL player and he's swooped in!"
— RSN Breakfast Club (@RSNBreakfast) July 31, 2018
75.5 AFL Fantasy
Brayden Sier took over Dayne Swan’s legendary number 36 jumper at the Pies for a reason.
Sier’s ball magnetism is reminiscent of the OG Pig, Swan. The rookie exploded out of nowhere last season to have an immediate impact on a team that made it to the Grand Final in 2018.
A towering midfielder at 191cm, the man known as Bear picked up 19 disposals and 6 tackles on debut in Round 15 last season, notching 82 AFL Fantasy points in just 69% time on ground (albeit against the Suns).
Sier refused to relinquish his spot in the senior side following his debut, missing only one game due to leg soreness in round 19 before being selected for round 20.
Across 8 regular season games in 2018, Sier averaged 75.5 AFL Fantasy points in 65.8% TOG.
The first-year pie showed he could do it on the big stage as well, notching 21 disposals, 4 tackles and 64 AFL Fantasy points in a meagre 55% TOG in the Grand Final (21 disposals…in just over half a game…in the Grand Final!).Embed from Getty Images
With the arrival of Beams at the Pies this offseason, some drafters are wary of predicting a potential BEARakeout, if you will.
However, the 21-year-old stated in a recent interview with Ben Collins of AFL.com.au that he is “pretty confident” he can maintain his place in the Pies engine room in 2019.
Drafters who don’t select Brayden Sier early in their keeper drafts, or don’t spend that late flyer pick on him in their single season drafts, could be facing The Revenant level retribution from Bear:
82.7 AFL Fantasy
Will 2019 see Tom Rockliff return to his former reputation as a Traders inducted Pig?
Rockliff managed 82.7 AFL Fantasy points last season in 71.2% TOG.
But I refuse to believe that this little piggy has become bacon.
Tom Rockliff had his lowest time on ground since the 2009 season, where he only played 3 games as a raw 19-year-old. Well before he had established himself as the stat-stuffing midfielder we’ve grown to know and love.
There are concerns in hoping for a major time on ground bump in season 2019, including Rockliff’s age (29), role and recent injury history.
After spending over 80% TOG from 2011-2014, including his career-defining 2014 season where he averaged 134.8 AFL Fantasy points in a career-high 84.1% time on ground. Rocky has managed just one season (2017) over that figure since – albeit during an injury affected one.
After moving to Port Adelaide in preparation for the 2018 season, fantasy coaches wondered whether the Pig would find his snout again.
But alas, a series of niggling injuries, including a calf complaint, as well as a strange midfield mix, limited Rockliff’s first season at the ‘Pear’, before season-ending shoulder surgery finally put it to an end.
If there’s one thing drafters can pray for to the fantasy gods, aside from healthy Rocky shoulders, it’s that Ken Hinkley can figure out what to do with him.
For Rockliff to regain the form that made him one of the best clearance machines in the competition, he’ll need to spend the lion’s share of time in the guts.
In his final season at the Lions in 2017 – note this is only 2017 – Rocky was in true Pig form to start the season. Prior to dislocating his shoulder in round 8, the then Brisbane skipper was averaging 129.3 AFL Fantasy points over those first 8 games.
After returning in round 12, the clearly wounded Pig averaged 85.5 for the final 12 games.
I expect Rocky’s second season at Alberton will be a marked improvement from the first. Don’t expect the Pig of old, but should he get a chance to feed at the trough, this little piggy will be just swine.
76.1 AFL Fantasy
If Nic Newman goes ham this year, we need someone out there to edit Horse Longmire’s head onto Jerry’s.
From the outside looking in, it felt like Newman never got the chance he deserved in a Sydney side that was by no means setting the league alight last season.
A mature-aged rookie in 2017, Newman was in and out of the side early in his debut season. However, he managed to establish himself in the senior side playing a total of 18 games, including every game after the Swans round 11 bye and both the Swans finals matches.
But 2018 saw Nic in the dog house.
After playing round 1, Newman was relegated to the NEAFL and was seemingly stuck there regardless of his form in the two’s. He played only 3 games at AFL level prior to round 17, playing 9 games in the NEAFL during that time.
At NEAFL level he went bonkers, averaging 133.6 AFL Fantasy points. This included a 33-kick, 7-handball, 10-mark, 8-tackle display in round 6, on his way to 171 AFL Fantasy points.
Horse was forced to revert to utilising Newman following a shoulder injury to Jarred McVeigh in round 16. Newman was then permitted to play all remaining games for the Swans, including finals from round 17.
Nic Newman averaged 76.1 AFL Fantasy points in 73.1% TOG across 10 games in 2018.
Finding his way to Carlton for season 2019, at 26-years-old, Newman becomes a veteran presence in one of the youngest teams in the AFL.
Newman has an opportunity to become a top 10 defender should he find the right role at the Blues and get the time on ground bump necessary to make an immediate impact.
The #Hype might make him a risky pick-up in the early round you’ll need to snap him up, but if all goes well, Newman might be the second player to prove Horse wrong for letting them stew in the two’s.
WARNING: Graphic clip
Here are some more players who just missed the cut for “most intriguing”. I expect a rise in production from them (and potential draft value), should their TOG get a bump:
AFL Fantasy: 63
“The Hyphen” moves across from Geelong to the Gold Coast, with hopes of playing more senior footy. Stuck in the VFL for much of his career behind the stacked Cats midfield, this could finally be the chance the 26-year-old needs to show his fantasy scoring chops. The issue here would be how heavily the Suns lean toward the youth movement and if the value of getting games into the young core early outweighs Horlin-Smith’s potential contribution to winning football.
AFL Fantasy: 58.1
How many midfielders can one team have? It seems the Saints are overloaded at the position, despite their stanky performance last year. Ross, Steven, Steele, Hanneberry, Acres, Dunstan (what even happened there?), Armitage, Billings (get him in there), and with talk of Gresham moving in there too (Zorko-light anyone?) – it might mean the likes of Hunter Clarke, Ed Phillips and Nick Coffield learning their craft in other areas of the ground before making the move inside. The fact is, Clarke might already be ahead of the pecking order of anyone not named Jack or Seb.
AFL Fantasy: 62.4
You might have noticed I missed out anyone named Dan in that last section. I’m cagey on Hannebery this season. Dan-Han is coming off his lowest fantasy scoring season since his rookie year. While there is serious hope in the soon-to-be 28-year-old bouncing back, there are question marks surrounding health and form. I need to see him at his best in the JLT prior to giving him the respect he may very well deserve, but until I see it – last year is a taint in his otherwise impeccable résumé.
AFL Fantasy: 55.5
A solid, if slightly underwhelming debut season, Dow showed patches of brilliance with his composure under pressure and silky skills. With all the talk of Patrick Cripps (rightfully so), Nic Newman, Charlie Curnow, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Zac Fisher (sure noone’s talking but I’m showing some love) and even Sam Walsh – Dow comes in somewhat under the radar, with a nice FWD/MID attached to his name.
AFL Fantasy: 71.7
Hall is somehow still an underrated player. Stuck at the woeful Suns his whole career thus far, the 28-year-old may finally be able to show what he can do on a team on the rise. Hall averaged 105.2 and 98.2 AFL Fantasy points in 2016 and 2017 respectively. North’s midfield mix and fantasy unfriendly game style is a slight concern, but Hall not being as intriguing to me is actually a compliment. I expect this is an easy case of add minutes and the points will come.
AFL Fantasy: 70.9
Another North player with question marks. Tyson hits his 3rd club at just 25 years old. With limited opportunity last year in the Demons engine room, Tyson will be hoping to spend big minutes inside at the Roos. With plenty of ups and downs in his career already, if Tyson recaptures his best form, which saw him average 92.9 in 2016, he could be a valuable midfield slider.