First-round draft pick fantasy value for 2009

Sometimes you can congratulate yourself for zigging when others are zagging when it comes to fantasy footy, be it though luck or good planning… or a bit of both. I was pretty happy with picking Bryce Gibbs and Xavier Ellis this year and enjoyed breakout years from both of them, Gibbs delivering particularly well in the second half of the season and Ellis also being very consistent despite his place in the side being threatened almost weekly. As seen in the last post, many coaches are already looking at these two as possible premiums for next year, but getting them at the point where they’re mid-price improvers is arguably more valuable from a fantasy standpoint. My reasoning for these decisions was partly due to my own policy of looking very closely at recent first round draft picks, because they often break the normal rules of draftee development.

AFL draftees and rookies normally follow a pretty standard progression. If they are judged by club officials as better than mere “project players”, they are usually given anywhere up to half a season’s worth of games in their first year, with the median at about six games, not only to test them out on the big stage but to give them confidence that they can compete at the top level. Their time on ground (TOG) is usually limited and their games all come in a clump, with the inevitable physical toll on a young body meaning that they are sent back to the magoos once they tire. In their second year, the average AFL player is given a much greater training load in the preseason, with a special emphasis on gaining muscle mass in the weights room. This typically has a deleterious effect on their short-term fitness as their light frame starts to bulk up. Second-year players often still spend a fair amount of time in the twos as they learn how to cope with having a mature body without succumbing to stress-related injuries – though those are often an unavoidable pitfall, such as the dreaded osteitis pubis. It is only by their third year that the non-elite player comes into his own as a fully-fledged AFL player, and their fantasy scores get somewhere near what their career average will be as they have a “breakout” year.

With first-round picks, however, this progression can be bypassed. #1 draft picks like Matthew Kreuzer are usually required for marketing purposes to front up for round 1 in the seniors, and for the vast majority of the season after that. Pure natural ability can even lead to some players playing all 25 games in a full season including finals, as Cyril Rioli just did (to my surprise). Even Rhys Palmer had a rest for a week during this year, but his workload was one of the biggest any recent rookie has had to endure. First-rounders can often cope better with the second-year blues because their bodies are more able to handle the bulk, often because they’ve already been carrying around a lot of muscle during their junior years. With this in mind, let’s look at recent first-round picks for value in 2009.

2007 draft
1. Matthew Kreuzer – Not much price value, will play CHF and struggle I think
2. Trent Cotchin – Underrated, could be 2009’s Gibbs-like breakout even at 68.5 avg
3. Chris Masten – No discount means at 69 avg he’s too highly priced unfortunately
4. Cale Morton – Same problem with 72.5 avg… too thin to cope with offseason weights
5. Jarrad Grant – Price is tasty, Dogs will play him, only question is if he’s good enough
6. David Myers – Risky at 60 avg… will depend on how much midfield TOG he gets
7. Rhys Palmer – Fully priced, Hasleby/Headland/Rich will sap his TOG
8. Lachie Henderson – Nice price but bench fodder with Brownshaw leaving no oxygen
9. Ben McEvoy – Could be your #4 ruck but does that position matter a jot?
10. Patrick Dangerfield – Popular in plan teams with good reason, should be solid
11. Patrick Veszpremi – ROK staying hurts him, but a safe bet as mid-price improver
12. Cyril Rioli – Fully priced now, can’t see a lot of improvement in him in 2009
13. Brad Ebert – Avg at 65 prices him out of the equation for mine despite his upside
14. Jack Grimes – Will be in a lot of teams… let’s hope he’s not the 2009 Albert Proud
15. Robbie Tarrant – Third shoulder reconstruction this year… will start from square 1
16. Matthew Lobbe – Beat Boak home in a sprint the other day… don’t believe the hype
17. Harry Taylor – Was only ever an SC player, and he’s fully priced there now
18. Alex Rance – Don’t see him in best 22s posted by Tiger fans… popularity is puzzling

2006 draft
1. Bryce Gibbs – Plenty of coaches backing him to jump all the way to premium
2. Scott Gumbleton – Uncertain how Dons forward structure will work with Lucas
3. Lachie Hansen – Preseason rumblings he wasn’t happy at North… not touching him
4. Matthew Leuenberger – Would be a brave coach to buy as #3/4 ruck at that price
5. Travis Boak – I’m biased as he’s a local boy but early reports are he’s going well
6. Mitch Thorp – Watch closely for him at FB replacing injured Croad in Round 1
7. Joel Selwood – My concern is that he’ll get more tags as time goes on, even with ABC
8. Ben Reid – Rocca, Cloke, Rusling and Reid in the one forward line? Hmm…
9. David Armitage – Price is ’08-Gibbs-like but he hasn’t got near the ability to step up
10. Nathan J. Brown – SC consideration only, and even there he hasn’t shown much
11. Andrejs Everitt – Good player but his ceiling is not high enough in Dogs’ structure
12. James Frawley – Another stopper suited only to SC but clangers kill his potential
13. Jack Riewoldt – If you think the Tigers improve in ’09, has to be a good year for Jack
14. James Sellar – Way down the pecking order behind Tippett, Gill, Walker, Hentschel
15. Daniel O’Keefe – Groin injury ruined ’08, needs to have a big preseason to figure
16. Mitchell Brown – Rated highly by Eagles staff as part of their spine, strong prospect
17. Shaun Hampson – Those who scouted him would have got burned this year
18. Leroy Jetta – 18 games at 43 suggests his ceiling is nowhere near DT-worthy

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