The surprises keep coming early on in the 50 Most Relevant, this time it’s possibly the best cheap R2 option available.
Name: Billy Longer
Club: St Kilda Saints
2018 Highest Score:
57 Vs Port Adelaide (AFLFantasy)
93 Vs Gold Coast (SuperCoach)
SuperCoach Price: $260,900
AFLFantasy Price: $484,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $285,800
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
I’ve written about hundreds of different players over the years for a variety of fantasy footy sites and publications and never in life did I predict I’d be writing about Billy Longer, and yet here we are. The thing is, Billy is a highly relevant fantasy footy option this year in all formats of the game.
When it comes to selecting a ruckman in any format you only want to seriously consider players who are clear top choice ruck options at their club and those who will largely do the bulk of the work during the match, the former #8 draft pick is exactly that at St Kilda. With the departure of Tom Hickey to West Coast Eagles, Longer now has a clear run at the top job. While the Saints aren’t short of big man coverage, none are realistic chances of knocking him off the perch just yet. Lewis Pearce is developing along OK, Sam Alabkis is a former US college basketballer and is still learning his craft and Rowan Marshall while capable as a relief ruck option is a better forward prospect much in the vain of Adelaide’s Josh Jenkins. In short, the #1 ruck role is a no contest, Billy’s got it in the bag!
Priced at under $300,000 in DreamTeam/SuperCoach he’s less than $50,000 more expensive than first-year player Sam Walsh. If we were to get an average from Walsh at 70 in the opening 6-8 games of the year, most fantasy coaches would probably accept that as a reasonable and that he’d have done his job both with points on field and cash generation. While Billy Longer isn’t a cash cow, he’s a stepping stone who based on his history when #1 ruck can score reasonably, added to this he gives you a look at the performances of other premium ruck options and finally makes you some cash.
If you look at his 2018 average you probably quickly rule out Billy, but sometimes you need to look back beyond the immediate to see the potential. During 2017, Longer won the #1 ruck mantle battle against now former teammate Tom Hickey, and during that season he averaged 78 across all formats. During his 17 games, that year for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam coaches he scored eight times over 80 including scores of 100, 103, 112 and 125. While for SuperCoach it was seven times going north of 80 including scores of 107,108, 111, 119 and 123. All it would take is a few of these higher scores in his opening few weeks for his cash generation to skyrocket and get you closer to another premium in your side and one step closer to a completed side.
Nailing the ruck combination in your side is crucial to fantasy footy success. I suppose you could say that for every line, but given the least amount of potential scoring variations with just the 2 possible avenues to generate points, it’s probably safe to say that the rucks can make or break your season. If by seasons end last year your ruck combination wasn’t Gawn & Grundy chances were a majority of the competition was outscoring you week in week out in that line. For example, if your combination was Max Gawn & Stefan Martin you would’ve been 285 points worse off in AFLFantasy and 314 points worse off in SuperCoach over the final 10 weeks of the year. That’s a lot of points to be losing ground on in just 2 positions.
By locking in your starting squad two premium ruck options you run the risk of missing out on some serious points if you get it wrong or in using a trade in having to switch premiums mid-season. When starting with a premium option, the only reason you want to be trading them is if an injury arises. You begin with a premium because you believe they’ll be a likely top averaging player in that line for the season and you plan to keep them for 23 rounds.
Here in lies the reasoning for considering Billy Longer at R2. It seems like a large portion of the fantasy footy community is likely to start with last seasons best ruckmen Brodie Grundy, and understandably so. However, with so many question marks over the job sharing possibilities of last years other best ruck option in Max Gawn due to the inclusion of Braydon Pruess during the trade period, a midprice ruck option at R2 makes sense. By selecting Longer as opposed to being ‘locked into’ a Set & Forget combination it gives you the chance to see the impact (if any) Pruess makes on Gawn’s scoring potential. Added to that, it gives you 5-8 weeks to see if another ruck is bubbling away as a genuine top 2 option.
Todd Goldstein, Sam Jacobs, Stefan Martin, Matthew Kreuzer and even Toby Nankervis all have a history of being high scoring rucks and none of them would be out of the question of delivering a high-quality season.
I can see massive upside in 2019 for coaches not going for a set and forget strategy. And the worst-case scenario if Longer fails to score well, which I’d classify as a sub 65 average, then he just becomes the first priority upgrade target.
At this stage of the preseason, I have Longer locked away in my DreamTeam and SuperCoach sides while I’ll likely go elsewhere given his AFLFantasy price. It’ll take something to seriously change this as my possible starting squad strategy as I think a set & forget ruck strategy at this stage in the preseason is a mistake.
Rucks are always interesting to rank in a draft, mainly because if a ruck rush happens earlier than expected even the most experienced of coaches can be tempted to get on the train and overvalue them with that round based selection. That said, In both keeper leagues or seasonal drafts you’ll be able to get Billy super late, in fact in many drafts (depending on league size) he may not even be drafted at all. I’d be nervous if you’re drafting a ruck so late that Billy is the one that ends up on your field, but as emergency cover, he’s more than adequate.
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