50 Most Relevant, Preseason 2021

#35 Most Relevant | Alex Witherden

A handful of seasons ago Alex Witherden was the ‘next big thing in fantasy football.’ However, over the past few seasons, he’s been in no man’s land. Now at the West Coast Eagles, will he reclaim his title?

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Alex Witherden
Age: 22
Club: West Coast Eagles
Position: Defender

2020 Highest Score: 
93 Vs Essendon (AFLFantasy)
170 Vs Essendon (SuperCoach)

Career Highest Score: 
138 Vs Adelaide | AFLFantasy (2018)
170 Vs Essendon | SuperCoach (2020)

2020 Average: 
77.8 (AFLFantasy) | 97.25 (Adjusted Average)
94.3 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $456,100
AFLFantasy Price: 
$654,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$646,800

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

After being clearly in the Lions best 22 since his debut in 2017, 2020 didn’t go to plan for Alex Witherden. A combination of three things prevented him from playing more than just 6 games.

Firstly, The recruitment of Grant Birchall, second another strong season from Daniel Rich and lastly Witherden’s increasing ability to make costly turnovers. However, when he did fore his way back into the Lions side (round 9-13) , he reminded us that he can score.

Across his six games, he finished the AFLFantasy/DreamTeam season averaging Avg 77.8 (adjusted 97) it included 3 scores of 89 or above. It might only be a small sample size of games but based on averages that have him ranked 5th in this game format.

While in SuperCoach he averaged 94.3 and that included him scoring 3 tons one of those was a career high 170. He didn’t play much across 2020, but from the games he did, he showcased why over many years he’s been heralded as a long term fantasy footy premium.

After making his debut in round 14 against the Giants in 2017, he didn’t miss a game playing nine games consecutively and scoring above 70 for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and averaged 88. While in SuperCoach he posted 2 tons and didn’t score below 69 and averaged 87.

Then the following season (2018) he continued where his debut year left off. He played 21 games, posted 5 AFLFantasy/DreamTeam scores over 100 of those triple-figure scores his lowest was 116, a ceiling that not too many premium defenders can match. For SuperCoach he averaged 83 across the season with six matches him posting a century, and 4 of those were above 110. These averages include an injury-affected score of 15 in AFLFantasy & 13 in SuperCoach.

Over his final ten full games, his AFLFantasy/DreamTeam average was 99.6 while in SuperCoach it was 93.6. 

2019 was a year of regression as some of the cracks in his game started to appear. In AFLFantasy and DreamTeam he averaged 75, posted three tons plus an additional 3 scores in the ’90s. Having seven scored beneath 70 really burned plenty of coaches.

It wasn’t much better in SuperCoach, an average of 72 that featured just one ton, it also had 6 scores between 90-99 and a further 6 scores below 60. 2019 was far from an ideal season. And after battling his way into and then consequently losing his spot, it didn’t look good for his long term fantasy relevance.

Thankfully a trade to West Coast will hopefully be the reinvigoration he needs to get back to being the top 10 defenders everyone believes he would be.

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MY TAKE

The trade of Alex Witherden to West Coast Eagles is a match made in heaven for fantasy football coaches. This is for a multitude of reasons.

Predominantly, it’s because the Eagles game style suits him perfectly. They love to maintain possession of the ball across the back flanks and wings with a kick/mark game style. Over the past 27 games of AFL, Alex has a kick to handball ratio of 4:1, making him the ideal player to sit into this style.

The other reason is the Eagles web defence can help safeguard against some of his defensives weaknesses. West Coast has some of the current greats at being able to swarm opposition forwards and turn any forward 50 entry into a battle.

Both of these things sound great in theory, but one core thing must happen for this to turn into him delivering premium fantasy scores. He’s got to force his way into the best 22.

The Eagles defensive unit is elite. Barrass, Shepherd, Cole, Duggan, Hurn, McGovern + Rotham and Nelson are among the most formidable and versatile units. He’s facing an uphill battle to crack through, but if he can, then he’ll provide us with one of the best scoring premium options available in our backlines.

You can’t just select Alex Witherden based on his historical scoring numbers or that he’s at a new side. I believe you need to see something from him in that Eagles preseason to select him in starting squad. That could be injuries to currently established talent—coaches reaffirming his safety in the lineup or overwhelming performances in the AAMI Community Series.

There are more ‘if’s’ involved that I normally like for a player at his price point, especially for one nearing an average of 100 points per game. I’ve got him firmly on the preseason watchlist. He’s certainly an upgrade target, and if he has a strong preseason, I might roll the dice and start with him.

DRAFT DECISION

Based on rankings by average he’s ranked 5th in AFLFantasy and 19th in SuperCoach. In SC, I couldn’t draft him at that point. I have more faith in the likes of Dane Rampe, Sam Docherty, Harris Andrews and Zac Williams who are ranked below him. That said, I think a D3 is the earliest I’d feel comfortable selecting him.

In AFLFantasy scoring formats, someone is going to draft based off last seasons averages. So I do see a world wherein some leagues he goes as someones D1. For me, anything higher than D3 feels too risky, but given that, I don’t think I’d end up owning him.

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