This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
Beginning this week, check here for potential picks in the Saturday Slate for DraftKing's AFL contests. Last season was the AFL's first in DK, so there's now a good base for what most players on the field can do each week and for what DFS players can look for when making their picks. If this is your first time checking out Aussie Rules Football, welcome to a sport that combines the physicality of rugby, the stamina of soccer players and the impressive verticality seen in the American code of football. To make sure you know exactly what each stat looks like in action, check out this helpful video.
On the pitch, there are 18 players fielded by each team with four interchange options that can rotate up to 75 times per match. In DK competitions, lineups are permitted just nine players: two forwards, four midfielders, two defenders and one ruck. To earn points, players can add to the score (+6 for a goal, +1 for a behind), keep the footy under control (+3 for a kick, +3 for a mark, +2 for a handball) or stop the other team from advancing (+4 for a tackle, +1 for a free kick, +1 for a hitout). On the other side, conceding a free kick is a deduction of three points.
It's worth noting that AFL fantasy is heavily weighted to those who can touch the footy the most times, which is why there are extra midfielders available as they are usually capable of scoring the most points without ever needing to enter the 50-meter line. And with that, here are some potential picks to give you an idea of who to watch out for on Saturday.
This Week's Picks:
Charlie Cameron, Lions ($5,300): After scoring the sixth-most goals in the AFL last season, Cameron sits at a reasonable price point against Sydney, which finished third-last in the ladder in 2020. While you could target someone at a higher price like teammate Dayne Zorko, he can fit better into any potential midfield thanks to his multi-position designation. No matter which way you go, this season-opening matchup pits Cameron against one of the league's worst teams from a season ago, and that could be a good place to start.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Bombers ($3,400): On the other end of the spectrum, McDonald-Tipungwuti may have more letters in his name than goals scored, but he comes in at a lower price point needed to balance out picking a bigger name first. If looking for two players with closer values to each other, check out Tom Papley, who comes in a few spots lower than Cameron in his salary but was red hot to begin 2020 and could have another fast start in 2021. Still, McDonald-Tipungwuti isn't the worst option to go after against a Hawthorn club that finished two spots bellow his Bombers in the ladder last season.
Zach Merrett, Bombers ($9,000): Coming in with the highest salary in the slate and a matchup with Hawthorn, why not take Merrett? Early in the season with a match against a relatively equal opponent, it could be a good time to take advantage when there's still plenty to figure out about where these teams stand. With his consistent numbers of 24.7 disposals and 4.1 marks per round last season, his value could come in a few notches higher with the games back to 20 minutes in length. If you're still uncomfortable going high on Merrett, guys like Christian Petracca and Sam Menegola also have solid matchups but have more pleasant values at $7,700 and $7,600, respectively.
Patrick Dangerfield, Cats ($7,900): Like Dayne Zorko, Dangerfield is a useful guy to have around because he can fit in at multiple positions. In this spot, Dangerfield slots nicely in at midfield after ranking in the top-10 for disposals last season and he'll get an early start against 2020's worst team in Adelaide. Other quality options include Nat Fyfe, who was consistent throughout last season and gets a decent matchup against Melbourne.
Caleb Serong, Dockers ($5,400): Where Nat Fyfe may lose value could be Serong's gain, as last season's AFL Rising Star could make the step up in year two of his young career. Though he didn't put up any seriously impressive performances for fantasy last season, Serong's quality was measured by consistency with 16.9 disposals and 4.1 tackles recorded per match over 14 starts. At similar value points, it could be worth picking up Isaac Smith or Zac Bailey, but that could be a little too focused on their matchups and hoping that enough touches are distributed from their team's best players on down to the rest of the squad.
Angus Brayshaw, Blue Demons ($5,300): Brayshaw's presence in this lineup is more a result of picking the highest salary in Zach Merrett, but this shouldn't discount a player who put up a capable 15.5 disposals and 2.7 marks per match in 2020. Much like Caleb Serong and a few others mentioned so far, there are some good early season matchups either capable of seeing high scoring numbers or high turnover rates, which be just as useful for someone like Brayshaw. He's not necessarily the first player to get his hands on the footy, but he'll still face a team that finished lower in the ladder than him in Round 1 against Freemantle.
Ben McEvoy, Hawks ($4,400): For defenders, trying to pick up big names isn't always a great idea, as there's only a few guys who will consistently put up numbers comparable with top fantasy scorers in the league. McEvoy isn't one of those guys, but an early-season tilt with Essendon shouldn't be too difficult for someone who recorded 8.8 disposals and 10.1 hitouts across 16 matches in 2020. If this doesn't work out, Jed Bews is one name who could be worth checking out for an even better matchup with his Cats beginning the season against Adelaide, who were ranked last in 2020.
Brennan Cox, Dockers ($4,300): Cox only played in 13 matches last season and averaged 11.4 disposals and 3.9 marks per start. Beginning in 2021, Cox could only be worth targeting because he'll face a Melbourne club with multiple weapons in midfield through Max Gawn, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver. So, even if no names flash out from the lower rungs of defenders still available with this lineup, look out for players who may still face a challenge without giving up too much ground, like Adam Francis against Hawthorn or Jake Lever against Freemantle.
Jonathon Ceglar, Hawks ($5,000): There's only one ruck left to pick, and that will be Ceglar for his opening match against Essendon. As the primary ruckman for the Hawks, the options left don't encourage much optimism. However, an easier game to begin the season should make Ceglar still worth something after he recorded 10.5 disposals and 21 hitouts per match in 2020. It may be worth moving things around to fit in a top ruck like Max Gawn or Reilly O'Brien for the consistent value, but spending up for midfielders with more goalscoring potential should yield the highest fantasy values in the long run.