2022 AFL Draft | Early Cash Cow Watchlist

With the completion of the 2022 AFL draft, fantasy football coaches have taken a giant step closer to the start of the upcoming fantasy football season. Within the next fortnight, the prices and positions for SuperCoach, AFLFantasy & DreamTeam are expected to be announced. So in preparation for the upcoming season, here’s an early cash cow watchlist of players just drafted into the AFL.

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Will Ashcroft

If you’ve spent any time monitoring this crop of cash cows, then you know about Will Ashcroft. He averaged 35 touches in the NAB league from his 14 games and was awarded the Larke Medal for the best player during the Under-18 Championships. Throw in that already at the VFL level; he’s dominated multiple games he looks set to be one of the most popular picks of the year.

Will’s ball-winning power is comparable to the junior numbers of Nick Daicos; he will certainly be a popular pick even with the Lions already stacked for talent in the midfield. He’ll get plenty of games in 2023. Barring an abundance of basement price cows appearing, he does appear to be worth ‘paying up’ to own.

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George Wardlaw

Draft expert Cal Twomey has stated across multiple media platforms that had George Wardlaw not had his season ruined by injuries; he would’ve been spoken about just as highly as Ashcroft. Seen by many as the inside midfield ‘bull’ of this draft crop, Wardlaw should form a dynamic clearance pairing with Luke Davies-Uniacke. He averaged 21 disposals from his three NAB league games and will be a popular early selection in keeper leagues from this crop.

George will get plenty of game time early as the Roos continue the rebuild, but given the number of young midfield mouths to feed, he might not ‘pop’ as a big fantasy scorer early in his career. Where you land on the philosophy of ‘paying up for job security’ might determine how eager you are to lock him away in salary cap formats.

Lachie Cowan

The Blues traded away some of their 2023 draft capital to secure Tasmanian Lachie Cowan. Offensively and defensively, he’s a strong rebounding defensive option with a magnificent long boot on him. Cracking into the Blues back six is the challenge in front of him, but if he does, he has some fantasy pedigree that’ll make him worth seriously considering. In the under-18 championships, he averaged 22 touches, 4 tackles and 3 marks. One thing is certain when he does play, his flashy boots & flowing mullet will make him easy to spot on the field.

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Aaron Cadman

The Giants get their man at pick one in Aaron Cadman. In time he looks like an exciting prospect for GWS, with his powerful contested marking and elite work rate a scary proposition. Of course, he’ll be given the adequate time that key position players typically require to develop fully, but I’m sure the club will be keen to give him plenty of games in 2023.

Given his draft position, he’ll be the game’s most expensive ‘cash cow’. This, combined with the fact that historically key position players often need help to be regular fantasy scorers early in their career, makes him not someone I’m desperate to own next year.

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Elijah Tsatas

Heading into the draft, there was plenty of speculation about what the Bombers do at this pick. However, the club ended up selecting the most complete midfielder available in the open pool of the draft. Elijah Tsatas has a brilliant burst of speed and is equally damaging on the inside as a clearance winner, as he is a link-up play across the wings.

Many Essendon fans had been hoping that the club would select a tall inside midfielder, but with Tsatas, his well-rounded skills and speed will be a significant point of difference to the current midfield core. From his six NAB league games this season, he averaged 34 disposals and seven makes.

Rightfully so, the Bombers will be eager to give him plenty of game time. However, I suspect he’ll likely start across the flanks and the wings with limited time at centre bounces.

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Mattaes Phillipou

 The arrival of Mattaes Phillipou should be exciting for Saints fans and us within the fantasy football community. Mattaes is a powerful & dynamic footballer. His ability to bust open the game with his combination of strong clearance work, goal-kicking and aerial athleticism is elite. It makes me reminisce on how Patrick Dangerfield, Nat Fyfe and even Marcus Bontempelli played back in their draft seasons.

From his eight SANFL under-18 matches, he averaged a healthy 28 disposals, 6.6 marks, five tackles and 1.5 goals per game. He’ll add an immediate point of difference at St Kilda in both their forward and midfield lines.

I suspect he’ll spend more time forward the football than as a pure midfielder during the 2023 season, but regardless he’s going to be a prominent cow to consider this year.

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Cam McKenzie

Cam McKenzie is a well-rounded midfielder. He has clean hands and makes high-quality decisions with the ball when under pressure. Cam consistently finds ways to win the footy when it’s in dispute—averaging 24 disposals, three marks and three tackles in the NAB League for Sandringham Dragons and Vic Metro in the national championships. He put together one of the most consistent seasons of this draft crop.

Over time, he’ll be a significant piece of the Hawthorn midfield. His skillets will sit nicely alongside Connor MacDonald, Josh Ward Jai Newcombe. However, don’t be surprised when he gets some game time in his first few seasons across the Hawks halfback line. In previous years he spent plenty of time back there. However, given the clubs full commitment to a rebuild, he should get some good minutes in 2023.

Jakob Ryan

South Australian Jakob Ryan is one of the top defensive prospects from this draft crop. The intercepting defender reads the ball beautifully in the air and then distributes the ball with consistent precision. With him landing at Collingwood at night two of the draft, he’s viewed by many externally as a possible long-term replacement for Jeremy Howe, who turns 33 during the 2023 season.

At the national Championships for SA, Ryan averaged 20 disposals, 4.5 marks and a couple of tackles per game. But in the SANFL Under 18 competition, his dominance was fully on display. He averaged 28 disposals, seven marks and four rebounds in eight matches.

For him to be a regular at the AFL level, he’ll need to add some size to his frame, so barring some injuries creating an opportunity, he might be someone that gets some opportunities as the year rolls on.

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Elijah Hewett

The ultimate key to success for our cash cows is consistency in playing games. It’s more important than having a player with high-scoring capabilities. After all, you can’t make any money if you’re not playing. I remind you of that because while Elijah Hewett isn’t yet among the most prolific of ball-winners, he should be given significant games as the Eagles look to rebuild.

For Western Australia, he averaged 19 disposals, three marks & 4.5 tackles per game. Hewett’s modelled himself on the games of Christian Petracca and Dustin Martin, as he’s a powerful and explosive MID/FWD. 2022 was an inconsistent year, but the possible upside of Hewett should be enough to make fantasy coaches monitor his preseason with significant interest.

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Harry Sheezel

One of my personal favourites of this draft crop is Harry Sheezel. Finally, North Melbourne has landed itself a ripping footballer. I once heard an AFL recruiter contrast him as similar to that of Steve Johnson and Josh Rachele. Harry’s a smart and crafty forward who reads the ball’s path beautifully in the air and on the ground. Once he’s near the footy, he has the marking power and the evasive skills to create 50 goals for his team forward.

During the national championships, he averaged 14.5 disposals, 3.3 marks, 2.5 tackles and two goals per game. As a fantasy prospect in 2023, plenty will be tempted by him, given his forward status and the likelihood of job security on the Kangaroos side. But for me, I’m slightly cool with selecting him. Not because he lacks skills, far from it. Rather it’s that he’s had limited midfield exposure. Even at the junior level, he had minimal time through the middle. Given North’s struggle with getting, let alone retaining, the ball inside forward 50, I’ll likely look elsewhere if I can.

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Bailey Humphrey

Using the draft selection which the Suns collected for the departing Izak Rankine, they were thrilled to add Bailey Humphrey to their list on draft night. The Gippsland Power project is a powerful contest winner and has shown at all levels of football the ability to be a game-changer through the midfield and forward lines.

Bailey isn’t the typical inside bull that can win you the first touch at a stoppage or clearance. He has those traits, but he’s not limited to just that. He has explosive speed, a booming kick, and exceptionally strong overhead.

He’ll add an immediate point of difference to the Suns midfield. He’ll compliment the skills of Noah Anderson, the grunt work of Matt Rowell and the workrate of Touk Miller beautifully. While also becomes a marking option when rolling forward.

From his eleven games in the NAB League this season, he averaged 19.8 disposals, 5.7 marks and. 4.6 tackles and almost two goals a game. He’s a fantastic option in keeper leagues and one to seriously consider this preseason for your salary cap sides.

Billy Dowling

A prospect that should catch the eye of fantasy coaches is the addition of Billy Dowling to the Adelaide Crows. That’s because he combines high disposal numbers and a likely lower price point. After all, he is a third-round draft selection.

Billy’s a tall goal-kicking midfielder who’s strong at winning his footy and linking up with his teammates on the outside. At the SANFL level this season, he averaged 31 disposals, seven marks, five tackles, five clearances and six inside ’50s. His best match was against Glenelg, where he kicked four gaols and achieved a monster 44 disposal game.

He does offer something different to the Crows current midfield, so monitor his preseason with interest.

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Jhye Clark

Since September, nothing has gone wrong for the Cats on and off the field! They’ve won a premiership, added three former first-round selections in the trade period, plus snagged local talent Jhye Clark in the draft. However, watching how he played for Vic Country & Geelong Falcons, it becomes clear why many compared him to Joel Selwood.

Clark shows no fear at the contest. He’s a beast of a ball-winner who also puts in the hard work defensively to win back the footy for his team. From his nine games in the NAB league for the Falcons, he averaged 25 disposals plus five tackles and marks per game. While at the under-18 national championships for Vic Country, he averaged 22 touches, seven marks and five tackles.

There is no question about his fantasy football pedigree; the challenge is breaking into the premiership side. Alongside Jhye trying to push into the side are players like Max Holmes, Sam Menegola, Jack Bowes & Tanner Bruhn, who missed out on tasting premiership success with the club. So he should get some games, but how early and how many may depend on many variables.

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Edward Allan

In the eyes of many draft watchers, Ed Allan was the slider from the first night of the AFL draft. However, the now Collingwood midfielder is a prospect with plenty of upsides. His strengths include his acceleration, versatility and skills on both sides of his body. In the WAFL Colts, he averaged 25 touches, six marks and almost four tackles a game.

His best has been when he’s playing across the wing, where he uses his acceleration and endurance. But he’s shown he’s more capable of winning the ball on the inside of the contest. The challenge for fantasy coaches considering him is that Collingwood is looking to get some midfield minutes into Nick Daicos alongside Fin Macrae & Reef McInness, pushing for opportunities in the VFL. So monitor his pre-season because if he can leap past a few others, he’ll be a genuine good cash cow.

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Jaspa Fletcher

All of the attention has gone to Will Ashcroft, but the Lions other father/son selection in Jaspa Flecther is no scrub. If you were to sum up, his football ability in one word, it would be class. Fletcher is a silky smooth mover whose skills will beautifully compliment the already stacked Brisbane side. In the 2022 NAB league, he averaged eighteen disposals, seven marks, three tackles and over a goal per game. He might not have the volume of possessions in contrast to others from this draft crop, but he’s one of the most damaging users.

It wouldn’t shock me to see him snag some games next year, but the Lions midfield and forward lines are already stacked before even considering giving Jaspa.