In 2021 Callum Mills was one of the breakout players in the backline. For those that picked him early in the season, he was a catalytic reason you probably had a good start. Unfortunately, he is available only through the midfield this season, but that could be a blessing in disguise for fantasy football coaches.

PLAYER PROFILE

Name: Callum Mills
Age: 24
Club: Sydney Swans
Position: Midfield

2021 Highest Score: 
152 Vs Essendon (AFLFantasy)
154 Vs Brisbane (SuperCoach)

Career Highest Score: 
152 Vs Essendon | AFLFantasy (2021)
173 Vs Richmond | SuperCoach (2020)

2021 Average: 
110 (AFLFantasy)
112 (SuperCoach)

SuperCoach Price: $612,100
AFLFantasy Price: 
$922,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: 
$937,900

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WHY IS HE RELEVANT?

Back in February last year the Sydney Swans flagged the role change. After years of being played down back, Callum Mills was going to be released into the midfield. One of the most rewarding feelings in fantasy football is nailing a breakout player. And for Callum Mills, while he’s been a good defensive premium over the years for us, in 2021 he elevated his game to the top tier of scoring options.

He elevated his game in every sense of the word. Mills grew his possessions tally per game by nine taking him up to 27.5 and defensively he went from 3.3 to 5.3 tackles per game. By averages, he ranked 17th for effective disposals and 20th in the AFL for disposals and tackles. His midfield move translated into his personal best fantasy season across all formats of the game With Callum midfield eligible in 2022 only there’s little point contrasting him against the defenders of last year. However, when you see his numbers marked up against the midfielders he still more than holds his ground as a premium.

In AFLFantasy he scored thirteen tons from his eighteen matches. Of these thirteen tons, he showed his scoring ability to translate them into strong scores with eleven of these tons going 110+. Over the season his three top scores were 152, 142 & 133. Over the season he had just two scores under 90 all year. One was in round two an 85, the other was an injury affected 78 where he went down early in their third term. In that game, he was on pace for another 120+ performance. Ranking him against midfielders he’s tenth and had better seasons (by average) than Clayton Oliver, Sam Walsh, Marcus Bontempelli and Darcy Parish.

Over in SuperCoach, he had arguably an even stronger season, he averaged 112 and is currently ranked the 14th best midfielder in the game. Last season he posted fourteen scores of 100 or more including seven over 120 one of which was a season high of 154. A highlight in the season for owners would’ve been his 11 consecutive tons between rounds 6 -17 going at an average of 116.

His breakout had been flagged for years and in 2021 it finally happened, however, last seasons performance isn’t just an outlier, even as a defender Callum showed his scoring pedigree. During 2020 in SuperCoach he registered his first year averaging over 100 and scored eight tons including his personal best 173. While in AFLFantasy he averaged 74 and a125 and six additional scores over 80. Without proper context, it looks subpar, but with shorter quarters anything 80 was the traditional 100. By playing adjusted averages (multiplying the scores by 1.25) he averaged 92.5 Not bad from a guy playing as a backman for the majority of the season.

During the offseason, fellow Coaches Panelist Kane & I created a top fifty keeper league rankings for our patreon followers, if you’d like to view it you can click here to become a patreon. In that series, Kane & I discussed frequently the benefits of players who can build a fantasy score through multiple columns. The reason this is important is that if their primary scoring weapon dries up on any given matchup, you could find yourself getting a below average performance. When it comes to Mills he’s shown over multiple seasons he’s not possession dependant to score well. From his eighteen games last year, only in eight did he have 30 or more possessions. Additionally, in every game, he registered a minimum of a mark and a tackle. So whether the Swans have or are hunting the ball Callum is a scoring consideration.

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MY TAKE

Everything fell perfectly into place for Callum Mills owners in 2021. But with a focus towards 2022 and the loss of defensive eligibility, what can prospective owners attain from him? When looking for a potential room for improvement, one of the first places is a players score basement. They can get better if they can elevate their poor scores even without improving on the top end. However, one thing is for sure; Mills scoring basement cannot. Removing his injury impacted round 23 clash against the Suns, he had just one score beneath 84 all year across the formats.

Some might still be salty about Mills due to a season ending Achilles injury. However, in the offseason, the more significant issue for the club was getting his shoulder fixed moreso than further concerns with his Achilles. The head of Physiotherapy and Medical Services, Damian Raper, recently spoke on the club website about his recovery. It stated, “He is back in full training now and has fully recovered from his shoulder surgery. He is doing everything normally in the gym and back doing full-contact training well.

If Mills finds improvement, it’ll need to up his tackles or increase disposals. Last year he had just 44% of his games where he had 30 or more. Despite this, he still was ranked 20th in the AFL for disposals and tackles per game. So can he improve in these areas and as a midfielder? Especially given he’s only played one season as a pure midfielder. But to do it, he’s going to need to move into the elite midfielder category to do so.

My biggest hesitation isn’t actually about whether or not Mills can maintain scoring or even find levels of increase. Instead, one of my primary concerns is around his price point. He’s the tenth most expensive player in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and the eighteenth most in SuperCoach. Yet, I don’t believe he’s a captaincy option most weeks for all that salary cap space. If you spend this amount of cash outlay, he needs to be someone that most weeks you believe is a candidate to push his scoring over the 120 markers frequently and be a VC/C. 

Current owners and those looking for a unique premium midfielder may believe he can be, and that’s great. But based on his data from last year, I don’t have that statistical confidence. In 2021 he scored just four times in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam over 120 and seven in SuperCoach. From the conversion of 100’s into 120+ scores, he went at just 30% in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 50% in SuperCoach. It’s far from a poor conversion rate, but at this price range and with the low ownership numbers, he needs to be a captaincy option in your starting squad. Otherwise, you’re overpaying for a premium.

After playing fantasy footy formats for well over a decade, a common mistake people make in their teams is they focus more on their starting squads than they do on their upgrades. So, instead of just picking the best players, they outdo themselves by making sure they have uniques in starting teams. Getting the point of difference is fine, but you don’t come first because of your starting squad at the end of the day. Success in the salary cap formats of the game is based on the timing and execution of the correct trades. If you’re not convinced he’s a captaincy candidate most weeks and a top 3-4 midfielder for the season, you can safely target him as an upgrade.

When you go, unique premiums, especially in the starting squad. You need it to fire if it doesn’t. But then, you can be playing catch up all year. For example, as a Josh Kelly owner last year, as a unique, his slow first 5-6 weeks put me on the back foot. It forced me to trade even more aggressively than usual to get back into contention. While that play can work for you, the harder you go early in limited trades can often mean the greater injury luck you need later.

Using SuperCoach as an example, can you pick him over a Lachie Neale who’s around $70,000 cheaper and has multiple years of averaging over 120? I cannot. Don’t exaggerate uniqueness for the sake of obvious value or clear top tier performers in a line. I don’t see a world where barring injury, Mills doesn’t average between 105-110 across the formats, but for me, he’s an upgrade target.

DRAFT DECISION

With the wealth of top end forwards joining the game, we will see players like Mitch Duncan, Tim Taranto and possibly even Josh Dunkley all going inside the first two rounds. Throw in the apparent strong ruck options and top tier defenders, and as a result, there will still be some excellent midfielders on the board in the third round. If Callum Mills can back up his 2021 form into 2022, he’ll provide a strong investment return for coaches. I’ve got Mills ranked outside the top 10 midfielders across the formats. Therefore I’d be happy to grab him in the third round as an M2. I’d equally be happy to snag him as M1 in the third round if it’d meant that I’d landed a big fish ruck and forward with my first two picks.

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