This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
A condensed five-game slate could have major implications at each end of the table, and there's even a primetime contest between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs snuck in at the end. From a fantasy perspective, this makes things both easier with more options but harder if still none are worth the pick. However, the focus of this week will be on the two Melbourne clubs in first and last place, as both have plenty of value and talent at their disposal. Additionally, keep an eye out for the QClash between Brisbane and Gold Coast, as these two rivals could create a fun matchup to follow.
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, 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.
North Melbourne Kangaroos (18th) vs Carlton Blues (13th)
Gold Coast Suns (14th) vs Brisbane Lions (5th)
St Kilda Saint (11th) vs West Coast Eagles (7th)
Western Bulldogs (2nd) vs Melbourne Blues (1st)
Hawthorn Hawks (17th) vs Adelaide Crows (16th)
This Week's Picks:
Always remember to check your lineups! The initial team sheet will come out well in advance of the match, but teams only finalize their selection an hour before first bounce.
Nick Larkey, North Melbourne ($4,400): This week's value team is firmly reliant on North Melbourne's renewed ability to both compete and win games with some regularity. That kicks things off with Larkey, who has scored 12 goals and six behinds in his last five games. While he's only scored above 80 fantasy points on one occasion in that stretch of games, his consistency in front of goal is exceptional and can help him yield bigger numbers with just a few more disposals. Two other options still within range are Luke Breust, who scored three goals in his last game against Melbourne and Aaron Naughton, who featured in this lineup last week but remains cheaper after a poor performance against Gold Coast. With five games to pick from this week, there are plenty of different direction to go, just be careful not to spend too much on a forward when three of the top five teams in the ladder are available in this slate.
Liam Ryan, West Coast ($4,100): Much like Aaron Naughton last week, Ryan is cheap but can have major payoff after logging 106 fantasy points on three goals and four behinds in Round 18 against Adelaide. Though Ryan otherwise barely scores 40 points on average, the price can make it worthwhile if enough of the midfield pays off and if Ryan surpasses his average. With Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay out this week as the top goalscorer in the AFL, Eddie Betts could be a worthwhile selection to fill out the forward line.
Ben Cunnington, North Melbourne ($7,700): There are still more midfielders within reach, but Cunnington's recent performances make him worth following on price alone. He skipped Round 18 while managed, but comes back for a reasonable matchup with Carlton and carries a streak of five straight games with over 100 fantasy points scored. It also remains possible to select Jed Anderson, though his risk is quite high as he returns from a long-term ankle injury and he's listed as an interchange in the initial lineup. With this in mind, take advantage of Cunnington before his price rises any higher and before the 'Roos swing too far towards winning each week or losing once again.
Jack Viney, Melbourne ($6,600): Among midfielders in the $6,000 tier, Viney comes in off one of the better games of his season with 121 fantasy points scored against Hawthorn. Seeing as the last time he scored over 100 points, it occurred in two straight games before dropping in production. With a spot as a follower next to Max Gawn and Clayton Oliver, he could easily put up a big game in the feature contest of Round 19 between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. When considering other options for this spot, Hugh McCluggage pops up as he's scored over 100 in two straight games over the last two weeks, instead of two months ago like Viney. Additionally, Paul Seedsman's price continues to remain accessible despite routinely competing with Ben Keays for the title of most-productive Crow.
Tarryn Thomas, North Melbourne ($6,400): One of the properly cost-effective highlight this week will be to see what Thomas can do against Carlton. He's upped his scoring from 86 to 88 to 126 fantasy points over his past three games and he's done so against fairly tough competition. With a slightly softer matchup with the Blues, there shouldn't be much to suggest that Thomas can't match what he's done so far. Someone with similarly solid form is Lachie Hunter, who put up 27 disposals in his last game against Gold Coast and is only $100 more than Thomas. Otherwise, consider one of Sebastian Ross or Jack Billings, as they both have put up big numbers but aren't as consistent.
Jeremy Sharp, Gold Coast ($4,900): With good positioning and a massively impressive performance in Round 18 against the Western Bulldogs, Sharp is exactly what to look for in a low-risk, high-reward pickup in a final midfield spot. He doesn't break the bank despite scoring over 120 points in his last game, and he's listed as a center in the initial lineup against Brisbane, so he's getting set up for success once again. Whether or not this all comes to fruition for Sharp is something to figure out this weekend, but he's certainly worth the attention when most midfielders under $5,000 are listed in the interchange. To improve the chances of recording good numbers out of this spot, it may come at a greater cost, as that's where Tom Phillips of Hawthorn and Noah Anderson of Gold Coast sit in the mid $5,000 range.
Blake Hardwick, Hawthorn ($5,300): While some of Hawthorn's players have been worth fantasy attention all season long, it's the rest that are starting to pick up the slack in needed areas. This is where Hardwick can help out, as he's scored at least 86 points in two of his last three games and returns after skipping one game due to hamstring tightness. When looking at how this lineup shapes up so far, picking Hardwick as a more-expensive player than the last midfielder in Jeremy Sharp may raise some eyebrows, but Sharp's potential output allows for some flexibility and this lets us pick a defender with more reliable output. Another option with consistency to give is Adam Saad, who's only scored over 80 points in one of his last four games but hasn't scored less than 60 points in nine games.
Denver Grainger-Barras, Hawthorn ($2,400): Sometimes, it's all about giving the kids their chance, and Grainger-Barras should keep earning attention as he adjusts to playing at the AFL level. Already through three professional games, his output has increased from 28 to 50 fantasy points scored. As long as he remains on track, there's certainly room for more improvement by the time the season ends and especially against an Adelaide club that seldom plays to their full abilities. Given how cheap Grainger-Barras is, picking anyone else would mean there would have to be different players selected, and this would likely impact the forwards or the ruck, unless a high-priced midfielder is desired. In which case, finding guys like Grainger-Barras are helpful to picking who may lead the entire league in production for this round.
Max Gawn, Melbourne ($7,800): Where the rest of the lineup may lag behind, it's hard to go wrong with Gawn as the top-scoring ruck in the league. Interestingly, he's only topped 100 fantasy points in one of his last four games, but never scored less than 95 in that span. That should protect against any unseemly numbers, even if he doesn't take advantage of the fact that his opponent in the Western Bulldogs have seldom featured a healthy ruck depth chart this season. If you're after proper value, the all-time hitouts leader in AFL history in Todd Goldstein takes the cake, as he's done slightly worse than Gawn with his last game clocking in at 88 points scored but having over 100 points to his name twice in the last month.