It’s a scorcher in most parts of the country today, so we finally managed to track down a few members of the panel to chat about the Bombers over a Furphy in air-conditioned comfort.
For each coach, we pitched a few categories to see who we’re all keeping an eye on this preseason – a player to lock in now, an expected breakout contender, the best cash cow, an interesting left-field option, and a sneaky name to file away for a value draft pick.
These are the Essendon players on each Panelist’s watchlist right now:
Jimmy: You’re paying top dollar for Devon Smith but I can’t see a world wherein he doesn’t retain status as a top 10 forward, even if he doesn’t quite average what he did again.
MJ: Injury is the only thing that will prevent Devon Smith from being a top 5 forward again. The only dilemma is he a better starting squad or upgrade target.
Rids: Zach Merrett got concussed early in the season in 2018 and took a few weeks to get back to his best. Then struggled with a tag. Still went 100+ and should improve on that in 2019.
Tim: Zach Merrett. Concussion and tags lowered his price last year but still avg’d near 110 from around R4+. Shiel also in now and other mids stepping up.
Fox: Zach Merrett. The effects of last years Round 1 concussion certainly undervalues this ball magnet.
Jimmy: Darcy Parish has more natural talent than most. Is this the season where he puts it all together on field?
MJ: 12 months ago one of the biggest preseason hyped players was Andrew McGrath, I think coaches went 12 months early and that 2019 we’ll see him push his average verging on 90 with some great midfield responsibilities likely.
Rids: Aaron Francis had an amazing game late in the season. Kid is ready to go massive. Keeper leagues take note.
Tim: Kyle Langford got told two years ago to go and turn himself into a big bodied mid, which he did. Started to get games on that basis last year and avg’d high 70s. Continuing to work on fitness and mid role so would expect a step up again. And oh yeah, he’s still listed as a forward.
Fox: Joseph Daniher. AA in 2017 and durable for 4 years prior to 2018, if the bodies right in 2019 expect a fair increase from last years output
The Cash Cow
MJ: While he may need injuries to get games I wouldn’t be shocked if Zac Clarke worked his way into the sides best 22. He’s mobile, can clunk a grab up forward and more than useful as a ruck.
Jimmy: Zac Clarke. I’m not sure he steps straight in as #1 ruck over Bellchambers but he will get games this year at some point. Load up when he does.
Rids: Joe Daniher. Jump on after he has played 2 games. Will only get better with games as well
Tim: Joe Daniher. If fit, speaks for himself.
Fox: Jordan Ridley is speculative, but if a defensive spot opens up, expect Rids to get a run of games to add to the 3 he got in 2018, adding to that Rids and Francis appear to have some good chemistry together
Jimmy: Dyson Heppell. Everyone is frothing about Merrett & Smith while Heppell is going quietly under the radar. A safe premium choice with no real downside at all.
MJ: The recruitment of Shiel should only further store strengthen the midfield unit and not diminish the midfield role of Kyle Langford. 3 tons in his final 7 games and a seasonal average of 80 is positive progress for a player that retains forward status.
Rids: Michael Hurley has had a few good years now. Will benefit with the team improving around him esp in SC.
Tim: Michael Hurley has been a premium in recent years, especially in SueprCoach.
Fox: Dylan Shiel or Andy McGrath might present as value
The Draft Smokey
Jimmy: Shaun McKernan has been a whipping boy over the journey but played some decent footy and scored 3 hundreds from 9 full games last year before getting injured. There are worse options in the final rounds when looking for a bench player with a loophole-worthy ceiling.
MJ: Joe Daniher will go way later than he should, an average of 85+ across the formats is a realistic expectation.
Rids: Dylan Shiel at m5/m6 could be a massive scoop in 2019
Tim: I still really like Kyle Langford for this category, too.
Fox: Aaron Francis settled in well after a turbulent year in 2017, reads the play well and could quite easily assume the Brendan Goddard role