What to do with Sam Docherty?

Tuesday afternoon, the bad news hit. Sam Docherty will miss the next 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. The result is a forced trade for owners, but which player comes into their side? Let’s take a look at some of the best prospects.

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It’s a potentially painful time for any fantasy coach when an injury forces your trading timelines and requires you to adapt your weekly plans. As frustrating as it can be, we must see every obstacle as an opportunity. With a player as highly owned as Doc, it creates incredible possibilities for you if you treat this situation right. Before looking at some specific players or scenarios, here is some broader advice that can help point you to the right trading avenue for you and your team. But don’t forget, with Carlton playing in the first game of the round you need to make your decisions before seeing any other side play or have the full Sunday teams revealed.

Look at the Big Picture

It’s going to happen. Too many coaches will panic this week. They’ll see the injury to Docherty, hear of the impending rest to Reuben Ginbey and question the scoring capacity of cows like Dary Wilmot, Lachie Cowan or Miller Bergman. As a result, they’ll make the most obvious sideways trade possible. The obvious is alright; it’s the right play in some situations, but great fantasy coaches don’t just accept the obvious. They look at all possibilities.

For example, do you have Harry Sheezel or Jack Ziebell in your forward line? In just days, both will be awarded DPP and get defender status (see who else I think gets it here.) Does their inclusion on your side as defenders next mean you can now look at moving Docherty onto a premium in another line? Whatever trade you make, think about something other than the side for one week. The impact of the trade will be felt for the rest of the year, so think about what your side looks like in the bigger story beyond just round five.

For example, you can build a case that Touk Miller, Josh Kelly and, depending on the format you play, even Noah Anderson, are all ripe for the picking. Does copping a lower cows defender score on the field like Cowan for the week (who remember he could get a scoring bump with no Doc) in combination with a Kelly make your team longer-term stronger than adding a defensive premium and a midfield cow? If it does, and structurally, you’ve got the cavalry coming into the backline, it might be worth a play.

Another illustration could be that your team still has some frustrating failed picks. That could be from dead cash cows like Charlie Constable and Campbell Chesser to Andrew McGrath and Hayden Young. The combined cash allocation could mean you’ve got the opportunity to think vertically and potentially laterally. Can this injury to Docherty create a combination approach where you can find yourself in a stronger overall position? I’ll look at some possible names later on.

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Know Yourself

How risk averse are you? How aggressive do you like to be with your trades? Knowing who you are and how you play the game will give insight into how you should approach this. For the more conservative coach, a simple sideways trade to the best defensive premium you can afford might be the right play for you. Other more adventurous coaches may force the needle and move Docherty onto a midprice player or go heavy on a uniquely owned option. Of course, neither approach is ‘wrong’ right now; only hindsight will confirm that. But you need to know who you are, how you play & the compounding moves you will or won’t make due to the trade with Docherty.

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The Obvious Move

Only so many premium defenders across the formats have had a strong first four weeks. You could narrow it down to two. Jordan Dawson and Nick Daicos. Both have been superb, and a move to either, if unowned, is warranted. With everything we’ve seen and know, both look destined to be among the top few defenders in 2023. Ideally, we’d all love to own both at some stage during the season and Doc to either is certainly a strong play. 

Already Own Them, but want a premium.

It might be format dependent, but in SuperCoach, Tom Stewart has shown for years he’s one of the safest 100+ defenders in the game. Just cast your mind back to his Gold Coast Suns match, where he went at 167, and you are reminded of his scoring pedigree. After dropping $31,200 last week and breakeven of 69, it’s a good time to jump on. He’s a play for DT/AF, but history shows that SC is certainly where he’s a premier pick.

James Sicily has had two bumper and two OK weeks to start the season. The challenge is that in a fortnight, he’ll arguably bottom out in the price. That said, if money isn’t a factor and you want to get the best premium defender you are missing, then James needs to be considered.

The Probables

What more does Dan Rioli need to do before the fantasy community starts to acknowledge him? He’s averaging 99 for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and 98.2 in SuperCoach. On the current trend, there’s every chance he’s a top-ten defender in 2023. Speaking of top defenders, Jack Sinclair was among the best defenders last year. While down approximately ten points per game from last year’s average, he’s still ranked ninth in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam and eleventh in SuperCoach for total points among all defenders this year.

Luke Ryan has started the season white hot, with only Nick Daicos as the only defender to score more than him this year. Historically, he’s been close to cracking the top-tier defenders but never quite made it. If the Dockers keep playing a heavy kick/mark game, then not only is he a great unique, but he’ll be the one that very quickly will get his price point to a range that’ll see him get away from many.

The Uniques

As good as Daicos and Dawson have been, they aren’t the only defenders that have started the season well. So if you want to separate from the pack and bring in something unique, you have options.

Mason Redman is averaging 102 in SuperCoach and 99 in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam. With just 2.2% ownership in AFLFantasy, 3% in SuperCoach & 1% in DreamTeam, he’s unique. So too, is Adam Saad. He’s averaging 115 in SuperCoach and is in just 5% of sides. That’s coming off the back of averaging over 100 last year. While for AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, Lachie Weller is currently averaging 95 in his last three and is priced well below that.

I’m never a huge fan of trading into someone at this stage of the season based solely on ownership percentage, but if you want a unique one, there are plenty of considerations.

The Combinations

Are you viewing this injury as an opportunity to maximise the cash he has left available and, with two trades, look to improve your team? This can be an opportunistic way to correct your structure or fix up some missed opportunities.

In the backline alone, we’ve got many options delivering considerably stronger points return than their price point. For example, all Trent Rivers, Darcy Macpherson, Jayden Hunt, Connor McKenna, Liam Stocker, and even the cow many missed in Max Michaelanney deliver above their price tag. Could a double-trade combination of names like this help your structure and put your team in better points-scoring and cash-generation space in the long run?

While I’ve listed a combination of defenders, the strategy needs to be looked at broader than that. For example, can you use the injury to get James WorpelJacob Hopper, or Finn Callaghan moved on if you no longer wish to employ their services? Take a moment to look at your team and see if there is a combination of moves that can help get it back to where you want it to be.