MJ’s AFLFantasy Team Reveal: 3 Months Before Lockout

Join MJ as he unveils his AFLFantasy team three months before the lockout. Get early insights and expert picks to supercharge your fantasy football strategy for the upcoming season

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Nick Daicos defined seasons early in 2023. If you started him, you were flying; if you faded him, you played constant catch-up. I’ve got the feeling that he’ll define seasons again, but will it be for owners or non-owners? I will wait to throw out all my thoughts on Nick; there’s plenty of preseason to do that. But I’ve got him starting, pending a strong opening-round performance.

I was on the Hayden Young hype train in 2023 and got my tickets again for this season. A move into the midfield late in the year showed me he has a potential new and exciting gear. Additionally, the Dockers have one of the more exciting fixture/bye structures in the front half of the year. All aboard!

Kiddy Coleman had a stunning AFL finals series, but he was on my radar before that. Those performances merely confirmed that he’s primed to break out in 2024. The early bye isn’t ideal, but the prospects of his price point advancing quickly due to the opening round still make him a viable starting squad play.

The value keeps running at D4. Heath Chapman might not be a household name (yet), but he’s viewed incredibly highly inside Fremantle’s walls. He’s one of the players who could take the vacated wing role left by the departure of Liam Henry. Additionally, he could slide back into the defensive six of the Dockers and allow Hayden Young to become a midfield staple.

If Zac Williams can stay healthy throughout the preseason, watch the ownership percentage skyrocket. It is rare to find a player with a historical seasonal average of 90+ at such a low price point, but it’s exactly what we’ve got this year. The issue isn’t his scoring ability but rather his durability. Thankfully, his price point and likely high ownership should offset this. If he has an interruption-free preseason, then watch everyone jump on.

Rounding out the infield options in the backline is Dan Curtin. The departure of Tom Doedee to Brisbane opens up a spot for him to slide straight into the back six. I expect Josh Worrell, Max Michaelanney and Mitch Hinge to take a shared burden alongside Jordan Butts of the opposition’s tall forwards. That should allow Dan to use his intercept marking and elite kicking fully. As a Crows fan, he’s already got a round-one debut locked in.

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So often, we target value in the midfield, even at the top end. Still, in 2024, there’s a highly viable play to lock in a few topline Uber premiums and still not limit the cash generation, scoring potential or on-field performance.

For multiple seasons, Andrew Brayshaw and Rory Laird have shown they’re almost bulletproof with the basement of their scoring and have as strong a ceiling frequency as anyone in the game. With both players locked into my M1 & M2, I’ve locked away not just a weekly VC/C option but also two players I’m confident will be among the top five midfielders again in 2024.

Maybe It’s just confirmation bias, but to see Josh Kelly at under $900,000, I find it hard not to have him in v.1 of my team. He consistently finds a way to average 100+, and midway through 2023, he was going at a clip nearing 110. That’s an excellent upside if he can start this year like last year.

Jack Steele and Sam Walsh would be among the first to admit they had frustrating seasons. However, at under $900k, given both have enormous proven upsides, they’re very easy to lock away if they can show that the injuries are behind them. You can build a strong case that Jack could rebound to the top of the scoring tree in 2024 while Sam could finally fully deliver on his potential and crack the 110 seasonal average. One flag worth noting with Sam is his round-two bye. Can you afford to carry him through this best 18-round? Or are you better off targeting him entering round three? It’s an undoubted conversation piece for much of the preseason.

I stay on the hunt for value and open up the MID/FWD DPP link with Elijah Tsatas. The former first-round pick showed he can pump out scores north of 80 with limited midfield minutes with relative ease. At under $500,000, I’m very happy to keep him high on the preseason watchlist and, if required, pivot from him to the ‘cheap guy’ that will pop.

My midfield rounds out with two likely popular cash cows: Ryley Sanders and Colby McKercher. Both are unbelievably talented kids, and their respective teams want to get loads of game time this season. Don’t be shocked when heading into the first batch of DPP inclusions that we see both players pick up an additional position.

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During 2023, a ‘set & forget’ ruck structure of Rowan Marshall and Tim English was the clear winning starting squad strategy. Entering the 2024 season, there’s a compelling case to be made that they’ll again be the topline pair. While they might be the top two, I’m not sold. They will be clear & supreme, the best by a distance. It’s just one of the reasons why I’m very happy to chase obvious value in the ruck division this year.

Brodie Grundy will be one of the most popular selections this preseason, and understandably so. The former Magpie and Demon has a history of being a safe 100+ scoring ruckman when playing as the sole ruck. He’ll get this opportunity at the Swans, and returning to his 120+ averaging days might be beyond him; it won’t shock me to see him get within five points per game of the topline rucks this year.

At R2, I’ve stayed in the value thread and picked Tristan Xerri. His points per minute when playing in the ruck is excellent, and with Todd Goldstein out of the picture at Essendon, he’s got a clear pathway to holding down North Melbourne’s top ruck spot.

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Twelve months ago, AFLFantasy coaches were running deep for premium options; fast forward into this coming year, and I can see a world where coaches don’t start anyone who’s priced over $800,000 to start the year. It’s early days, but I’m not convinced going too heavy at the top end of forwards is the right play this season.

Nobody loves an injury, but the unfortunate news about Bailey Smith missing the 2024 season with an ACL gives me enough confidence to give Jackson Macrae the first crack at leading a more forward line. He’s got multiple years of averaging north of 110, and with at least one less competitor in line for midfield time at the Dogs, I can see a world where he’s one of a small number of options with a clear pathway to averaging 100+ of our existing forwards.

Taylor Adams is another player with a historical scoring pedigree with a triple-figure average and is coming in at insane value. At under $700k and with a move to Sydney for more midfield time as the catalyst of his trade, we can have confidence that when he’s playing, he should be able to push his scoring well beyond the 90 range. Durability has been a concern over his career, but he played 22 home and away games this year. That has got a count for something, right?

The Crows believe they’re ready to enter their finals race, and a key catalyst for the belief is around the human highlight reel, Josh Rachele. Over his first two seasons, he’s delivered multiple tons each season, has gone on runs averaging above 80, and has had some modest midfield minutes. Entering into his third season, the early word out of the Crows preseason is that Josh wants to elevate his midfield /forward split closer to 50/50. If the midfield push is legit, given the low threshold of forward premiums this year, he could well be the pick of the sub $700k forwards that become a bonafide premium.

At F4, I’ve gone left field; the Kangaroos have targeted Zac Fisher to add some extra speed and skill off halfback. Aaron Hall and Jack Ziebell’s retirements mean they’re a spot for him to play across halfback, a role he thrived in late last year at his former side, Carlton. He’s got 15-20 points per game of upside if he gets this role.

Speaking of getting a role, if Fin Macrae gets a crack inside the Magpies midfield next year, he might be the most selected cash cow entering 2024. Fin was a ball magnet at the junior level and has showcased a similar level of ball-winning pedigree in the VFL. If he can find a way into the Premiership Pies side, you should select him, but it’ll have to be on the field.

Lastly, on the field, I’ve got Harley Reid. He’s going to get plenty of games for the Eagles this year. And while we might get better prospects that score more, I’m happy to ‘pay up’ for Reid and then, if needed, drop down to a cheaper option.

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