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:

The Lock:

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.

The Breakout

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

The Unique

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

So! Who makes the cut for you in each category? Have your say on Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram