Draft strategies for Premium Dream Team

Live drafts are some of the most enjoyable times you will have in fantasy sports. When you have a bunch of mates who are all gung-ho about their coaching skill pitted against each other and the clock in a test of your acumen and adaptability, it’s a lot of fun. However, not many people will have experienced this joy with AFL fantasy sports, so here’s the lowdown on what should be front of mind as you sit down to man the buttons.

First off, be mindful of positional requirements. This is the most important thing to get right. As I went into in my review post, Premium DT is using the same positional designations as the salary cap DT and SC competitions, which means an overabundance of midfielders, precious few rucks, and way too many back and forward slots to fill from a small pool.

Let’s crunch the numbers. Here’s a list of players in each position in groups of 10, with their combined averages from 2008, plus high and low numbers.

Rucks	Avg	High	Low
1-10	83.4	105.4	73.0
11-20	65.0	71.6	60.3
21-30	54.3	59.9	48.9
Backs	Avg	High	Low
1-10	89.2	101.9	82.1
11-20	80.3	82.1	77.7
21-30	76.7	77.3	76.1
31-40	72.0	74.0	70.6
41-50	68.4	70.6	65.4
51-60	63.9	65.4	61.9
61-70	59.6	61.6	58.1
71-80	56.5	57.5	55.5
81-90	53.9	55.4	52.3
Mids	Avg	High	Low
1-10	105.6	112.9	101.3
11-20	99.0	101.2	95.8
21-30	93.0	95.6	90.9
31-40	89.5	90.4	88.0
41-50	85.5	87.3	84.6
51-60	82.4	83.9	81.0
61-70	79.9	81.0	78.7
71-80	76.6	78.3	75.0
Fwds	Avg	High	Low
1-10	95.4	102.9	88.7
11-20	83.9	86.9	81.8
21-30	79.9	81.1	78.4
31-40	75.5	77.3	72.9
41-50	70.7	72.6	69.0
51-60	67.4	68.7	66.0
61-70	64.4	65.5	63.0
71-80	60.9	62.9	58.1
81-90	56.1	57.0	55.0

The way to use this table is to figure out which part of the draft you’re in, figure out what band of 10 players are available in each position, and concentrate on the positions with the greatest discrepancy in scores. Within these bands, if you see a player who is averaging (or you predict to average) many more points than the next available, he’s the one you should be targeting. For instance for the purposes of the first round of the draft, look at the difference between the high and low for each of the 1-10 slots. The difference is greatest for the rucks, which means that you have to concentrate on rucks first. Dean Cox should go #1 in every single Premium DT draft, or the bloke with the #1 pick isn’t serious – at 105 he’s averaging nine more than the second-ranked ruck. Jeff White should also be somewhere very high in the first round as well, as it’s another massive nine-point drop to the third ruck. After that things bunch up a bit, with Troy Simmonds and Aaron Sandilands hovering mid-80s, David Hille and Cameron Cloke about 80, and five others above 70. There are six rucks clumped in the mid-60s, which completes the list of the true first rucks in each AFL team. Then you get into the second rucks, and you would want to avoid them if possible.

So, in a serious draft, somewhere between two and four rucks would be the norm in the first round. The obvious next targets are the backs and forwards, but which to choose? My advice would be to concentrate on the backs, given the carnage that has gone on there this year. Heath Shaw and Chad Cornes are definite top 5 picks, given that Chad will most likely return by the start of the comp in round 10, and there is a 10-point gap between these two and Jake King. King and Nathan Bock should be your next targets at around 90 (Brent Guerra is also averaging 90-ish but has been poor lately). In the forwards, Matthew Richardson and Lance Franklin are the obvious targets, but there is not that much daylight between their averages and the rest of the top 10… particularly given that there are a good number of premium forwards who have underperformed in the first third of the year. I would throw Matthew Pavlich and Paul Chapman into that same tier and forget the rest of the top 10 for now.

As for the centres… why am I ignoring the highest-scoring position in the game? Ah, but it’s not just raw points that matter. Joel Corey, despite being the top scorer in DT this year, should not be the #1 Premium DT draft pick. He should not even be in the top five, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him drop out of the first round altogether. Private drafts are all about scarcity. There is no question that Corey plus his two Geelong engine room cohorts Gary Ablett jnr and Jimmy Bartel deserve to be somewhere in the first two or three rounds. However, there are just too many midfielders in this game. The other positions deserve more attention, particularly in the early rounds.

Of course, you have to be mindful of team structure. Even if the best available player in your draft at your draft position is a back four times in a row, that doesn’t mean you should select four backs to start with. Across the first five rounds you should ideally have one of each position plus another back or forward. Unlike most American leagues, there is not the opportunity for coaches to load up their bench with backups in a particular position – as happens a lot with running backs in NFL fantasy, for instance – so you won’t have to worry until late to get your second ruck if you miss the initial rush because you’ll get #20 at worst, even if you wait until your last pick to choose him.

One thing to keep very much in mind is that it’s a long draft process, but it’s very important to keep your concentration right to the end. My experience in AFL draft leagues is that the league is usually not won in the first five rounds, unlike most US leagues, because scoring potential is spread out over every position. In the NFL, running backs dominate the first two or three rounds of drafts because selecting the right one is usually the ticket to victory – I have seen NFL seasons where the team with the best RB usually wins the majority of leagues. That dynamic is not at play in the AFL, for better or worse, and that means that rounds 15-22 are probably where your team’s success or failure is going to be measured. Yes, it’s a bit of a crapshoot, especially with the complete lack of bench options in Premium Dream Team meaning that you are hostage to luck-based selection, suspension and injury disasters. I can also tell you from personal experience that when it all comes together and you’re crowned champion of your league, it’s the biggest adrenaline rush you can have in fantasy sports!