The 2021 season was a disaster for the Suns and Jarrod Witts, with an ACL injury ending his season. Now entering a new year, and with a significant discount, is he primed to be a strong stepping stone option this year?

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Jarrod Witts
Age: 29
Club: Gold Coast Suns
Position: Ruck

2021 Highest Score: 
110 Vs North Melbourne (AFLFantasy)
115 Vs North Melbourne (SuperCoach)

Career Highest Score: 
154 Vs GWS Giants| AFLFantasy (2019)
152 Vs GWS Giants| SuperCoach (2019)

2021 Average: 
86.3 (AFLFantasy)
87.3 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $380,300
AFLFantasy Price: 
$572,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$588,900

Embed from Getty Images

WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

2021 was a disaster for the Gold Coast Suns, and it started in round three when against the Adelaide Crows, Jarrod Witts went down with a season end ACL knee injury. It was a cacophony of issues in the ruck for the Suns from that point on. Players like Chris Burgess and Caleb Graham were experimented with in the rucks. But to no surprise, it didn’t work. Thankfully, he’s on the mend for round one for the Suns, Jarrod and fantasy coaches, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Despite only playing 2 & 2/3 of a game last year, he did show some of his fantasy football abilities. In AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, he scored 83, 110 & was on track for another 90+ performance before going down with his ACL injury on 66 in the third term. He ended the season with an average of 86. While in SuperCoach, he scored 75, 115 & and the ACL affected 72 meant his average stagnated to an 87. In both of these formats, he’s been given a discount that will see him priced in the mid-high ’60s.

The appeal for those considering Witts as a starting squad option is more about what he can do at his price point as a proven performer. Since moving to the Suns in 2017, he’s averaged in SuperCoach 94, 88, 99 & 93 before last year. While in AFLFantasy/DreamTEam between 2017-2020, he averaged 92, 93, 104 + an adjusted average of 80 in 2020. Yes, he’s coming back off an ACL (and we’ll talk about it), but we are paying for someone at the price range of the mid ’60s across the formats, which has upwards of 30 ppg of value based on his best.

There’s a notion that you need to start set & forget rucks for success in salary cap formats. You don’t need to isolate rucks from other lines. The approach isn’t set & forget = success. Instead, success comes by identifying the value in all positions, making sure you have captaincy choices, and the best rookies are being played on the field. Without a doubt, starting Matt Flynn was a fantastic call at R2 last season. Yes, it provided pain points, but in the early rounds, he was a godsend. Jarrod certainly isn’t priced at the value of Flynn, but what he can provide is a clear and proven value. And for those struggling to be confident in locking down the best ruck pairing, Witts can offer a helpful stepping stone to clarity and success.

Embed from Getty Images

MY TAKE

Some players in the 50 Most Relevant, especially at this stage, have some big question marks about them. Some are about the fluid and uncertain role, but for Jarrod Witts, that isn’t the question mark. As the club’s skipper, he’s in the best 22 and cannot play any other position beyond ruck. If he’s fit, he’s playing as the ruckmen!

The first significant hesitation that comes in picking Witts is surrounding the return from his ACL. The club has been relatively quiet about his recovery, but internally they are confident he’ll get some practice games in ahead of round one. But how do key positions players and ruckmen generally fair after coming back from an ACL? Over the past decade, Max Gawn, Sam Draper, Ivan Soldo and  Sam Naismith have all done an ACL. The latter three are not fantasy footy premium rucks, while Gawn’s happened early in his career. So, whatever dip in data that was evident is partially limited due to their already low fantasy numbers. I could’ve included Tex Walker, Jon Patton or even Jeremy Howe in the research, but all are very different players to Witts and none play in the ruck. Therefore, in the past 5-6 seasons, the best player contrast is Nic Naitanui.

In 2016 before his first ACL injury, NicNat averaged 84.5 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 105.8 in SuperCoach. Upon his return in 2018, his average dipped four points per game in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and nine in SuperCoach. NicNat then did a second ACL that season and saw a further drop away in his three games played in 2019. That year he averages 72.3 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 93.6 in SuperCoach of minimal game time.

It’s far from complete science, and both rucks are very different to each other. But it does confirm the anecdotal notion that ‘talls’ coming off an ACL do regress in scoring the following season. As much of a concern for some as the possible scoring regression off an ACL is for some coaches, I have two other matters that have much greater potency.

Firstly, what is the percentage split of the ruck/forward time given to Mabior Chol? The former Tiger left Punt Road for regular AFL opportunities, and at the Suns, he’ll get it. Chol’s athleticism will help support both Witts in the ruck and Ben King up forward. But what’s the percentage of the split? The tighter the spit, the fewer midfield minutes for Witts and the likely drastic dip in scores. Is the split tighter over the first few rounds to build Jarrod into the season? Or will he be able to resume the high workload from the onset?

Second, and arguably the most significant, is how Jarrod Witts scores his points. He’s always been a heavy hitout dependant scorer. In AFLFantasy/DreamTeam in some seasons, it’s made up north of 40% of his scores. Between 2017-2019 as a Gold Coast player, he averaged 38, 39 & 45 hitouts. I’ve opted not to include 2020 data here, not suit a narrative. Instead, the shorter quarters meant all stats columns were slashed. In 2021 we saw the ruck game change. Last year only four ruckmen averaged over 30 hitouts a game. Brodie Grundy & Max Gawn with 32, Nic Naitanui with 31 & Paddy Ryder 30. This fall away in hitouts has multiple variables, but the takeaway for those considering Witts is that it’s a cap that could impact his scoring.

To rule him in or out of our fantasy sides at this point is silly. He needs to be on every coaches watchlist. At best, Witts could be the best value R2 for the season. He’s averaged 90+ multiple times across all formats. And if he did that again, it’d be a masterstroke for coaches. Equally, the inverse is that he starts slow and never really makes a significant dent in either the points on field or cash generation columns.

In the preseason and trial games, you need to watch:

– The RUC/FWD splits with Witts and Chol

– Does Witts have a monopoly on the CBA’s

– Is he moving freely and uninhibited

– Has stronger value options appeared in the ruck line at comparable/cheaper prices

The answers to these questions in the preseason will ultimately inform your decision to pass or start with him.

DRAFT DECISION

If you are in league with some coaches that drafts on name value, then Jarrod Witts probably will be the 6th or 7th ruck off the board and go inside the top 10 rounds. Madness, but I can see it happening as the annual ruck run panic sets. Depending on the league, he could be a super late pick up for those looking to select a ruck with one of their final picks. I don’t mind Witts in a draft, especially if it’s in the back third, and you can handcuff his selection by also drafting Mabior Chol.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Do you believe he is fantasy relevant?
Will you be starting with him?
Have your say at our Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram

WANT EARLY ACCESS?

Want access 24 hours early to the 50 Most Relevant podcasts? Join our Patreon and get ahead of the Crowd