Expert Panel: Who are the 2022 AFL Fantasy bargains to start with or monitor in pre-season?

Last week we assembled an expert panel to nominate some SuperCoach bargains as coaches consider their starting squads, so this week we’ve done the same for AFL Fantasy players.

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For clarity sake, the criteria was players priced below $500k, which plays a big role in plotting out your structure.

Honeyball‘s AFL Fantasy panel includes three 2021 top 1000 finishers in Philippe Isard, Aaron Olow and Ben Cunningham.

Philippe Isard

Wayne Milera ($378k DEF): Milera starts this year as almost a must have in my opinion. In 2019, he averaged about 75 in almost 20 games. At $378,000, Milera cost’s not much more than a premium rookie and I think he’s easily going to average 70 if fit.

James Sicily ($510k DEF): Slightly over $500k but looks essential. A former premium who can get back to his ways of old as long as the ACL that stopped him playing last season is behind him.  Sicily has averaged in the 90s before, so I think an 80 average is conservative. He can be slightly inconsistent, but I can see a quick early price rise, making him an ideal candidate for an early upgrade to a current premium.

Matt Rowell ($464k MID): He’s either your first locked in player or on your never again list. Burst onto the scene in his first few games like a ready-made premium. The downside to him, he hasn’t played much good footy in the few games he gets between injuries. He’s locked in my team and I’ll need some heavy warning signs during the pre-season before I take him out. Touk can’t do it all, and I expect Rowell to be his right hand man is he stays fit. Lock.

Nick Daicos ($284k MID): After a pretty poor showing from Collingwoods class of 2021, Daicos is primed to be locked into their side early. Premium priced rookie, but his scores from last years NAB league were premium scores. If I only had room for either Daicos or Horne-Francis, Daicos gets my pick.

Elijah Hollands ($190k M/F): Basement priced Mid/Fwd. Predicted to be the best of the basement rookies. If he’s selected in round one, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by not having him M8 or F6. Locked and loaded unless there’s a red dot for Round 1.

Cam Rayner ($396k FWD): A pre-season injury last year means he’s discounted for this season. He’s not a lock at his price, but Rayner is an explosive player who could possibly be seeing some more midfield time this season. Pre-season watch for me, but if he’s playing in the midfield he’ll be a bargain FWD early this year.

Aaron Olow @AaronOlow

Liam Henry ($317k FWD): Fremantle top 10 draft pick is likely to be pushed onto the wing this season. Should be averaging 70+, which is way above his current price.

Daniel Rioli: ($469k D/F): I like the Rioli shout. Dual position and finished the season for the Tigers on the half-back flank. Big opportunities for a player of his talent to take Bachar Houli’s role.

Finn Maginness ($311k M/F): I thought this was rogue but apparently not! Sam Mitchell loves this kid. Can play through the midfield but also as a defender where he excelled at Box Hill under Mitchell last season.

Ben Cunningham @SlyBaconAF

I’ve nominated a few for your F4-F5 and D4-D5 roles.

Cam Rayner ($396k FWD): Ex-number one draft pick Poised for a breakout season in 2021 with the promise of more midfield minutes, both Rayner and coaches hot on him were left upset when his ambitions were cut short in the AAMI Community Series match, in the form of a torn ACL. Prior to this, Rayner averaged 59, 45 and 68 (BCV adjusted) playing mostly as forward. Throughout this period, he only missed two of 61 home-and-away games, which is a testament to his durability.

Coming into 2022 priced at an average of 47 due to a 30% discount, Rayner presents a minimum of 12 points value based on what he’s produced in the past. According to all reports, Rayner is in the shape of his life, and this was reflected in their most recent scratch match, where he was seen to be “likely leading the possession count early on”, in a standout performance according to @DOMfay on Twitter. One of the biggest knocks on Rayner’s Fantasy game is his impact over accumulation style of play, which looks be a thing of the past if his pre-season form translates into the H&A season. Currently just shy of 25% ownership, Rayner is a relatively low-risk F4-F5 option, with guaranteed upside.

Will Brodie ($387k M/F): A name hot on the lips of all Fantasy coaches this pre-season, and rightly so. Coming in priced at an average of 46 due to an 18% discount, he’s a bargain option in our forward lines if he can lock down a fantasy friendly role at his new club in Fremantle. After managing just 24 H&A games over a five-year stint with Gold Coast, his biggest knock on his Fantasy game wasn’t his scoring ability, but in-fact his shaky JS. With the departure of Adam Cerra in the off-season, and David Mundy racing against the clock to get himself fit for R1, there’s midfield minutes up for grabs.

In 2019, Brodie averaged 88 over an 8 game stretch, and I believe he can produce a similar output in 2022 if all the stars align. According to reports from Freo on Twitter, Brodie “impressed for White (team) with clean hands in the midfield and in his ability to impact the scoreboard with two goals”. He’ll likely spend some time forward, but if the MID/FWD split is favourable in the AAMI Community Series game, he’ll be popular F4-F5 option amongst coaches.

Finn Maginness ($311k M/F): Coming in just marginally more expensive than our top tier rookies, Maginness is a player sliding under the radar of coaches. Relatively unsighted at AFL level since being drafted, Maginness has managed just three games in the past two seasons for scores of 49 (BCV adjusted), 4 (medical-sub) and 52.

On paper, it’s hard to imagine a world where he leapfrogs the likes of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel in the inside-midfield pecking order, but according to reports coming out of Hawthorn, he’s been a standout this pre-season, elevating his game to the next level. With the appointment of new coach Sam Mitchell in the off-season, the likes of Jai Newcombe, Josh Ward and Maginness could see opportunities early in the season. If he’s named R1, he could be an alternative to popular F5 rookie Josh Rachele (23% ownership).

Daniel Rioli: ($469k D/F): Another left-field option which has me intrigued is Rioli. Priced at 56, he averaged 71 in the final seven games of 2021, off the back of a positional change to half back in R17. A good indication that a breakout is on the horizon, is a players last five-game sample size, where he averaged 78 (+22 points on what his priced at). With Houli retiring at the conclusion of 2021, there’s a spot at HB for the taking. I believe Rioli will get first crack, and with a full pre-season training in his new role under his belt, he could elevate his average above 80 points (enough upside to justify picking him). With all this being said, it’s his DEF/FWD status that has me most excited.

Being able to swing a player between defence and forward is invaluable, not only due to your sides increased cover, but also because of the increased options when it comes to trading them. Could Rioli be the Nick Hind of last season? If you think so, then you can do a lot worse than him at D4/F4.

Wayne Milera ($378k DEF): For the last two seasons, AFL fans have been robbed of seeing a promising young talent in Milera take to the field. The last time we saw Milera was in R2 2020. Subsequently, he comes in priced at a discounted average of 45. Between 2018 and 2019, he averaged 75 and 77 respectfully, which is about what I have his average capped at this season if he manages to get through unscathed. Despite the pick being safe as houses due to his high ownership of 42%, I’m not opposed to starting the likes of Campbell Chesser and Josh Sinn over him if they’re named.

Whilst his job security is strong, there’s every chance the Crows rest him for a week here and there, with in-game management also a probability (not to mention the dreaded vest). His ceiling isn’t enough to hurt you if you choose to fade him, which is what I’ll likely do in the hope that he gets rested early, and I can get a leg up on the competition.

Noah Answerth ($325k DEF): Another player with low ownership that tickles my fancy is Answerth. Coming in at a discounted price of 39, Answerth is a value option to fill a D4-D5 position in your side. With veteran defender Grant Birchall retiring at the conclusion of last season, a spots opened up at HB. Highly-rated youngster Answerth is looming as the player that might plug that hole. In their most recent match sim Answerth was spotted getting “plenty of it off half-back”. Averaging 55 and 56 (BCV adjusted) in 2018 and 2019 over 26 H&A games, I can see him building on that in 2022 if he’s given an extended crack at AFL level.

If you’re planning on starting both Sinn and Chesser like I am, you’ll need an escape goat if one of them isn’t named R1, without completely throwing away your structure. Unfortunately (pending an early debut announcement), coaches with Chesser sitting at D6 will have a nervous wait on their hands, with Sunday teams not being announced until Saturday night. Luckily for us, Brisbane play Saturday night, so we’ll know the Sunday teams prior to the Saturday night partial lockout. Have a plan in place to get Chesser up to either a Milera or Answerth type if in-fact he isn’t named. Alternatively, if like me you aren’t sold on Milera, you could start him alongside Sinn and Chesser (if both are named).

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