This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
Round 1 is now in the books, and we saw impressive performances by Adelaide, St Kilda and Sydney - two of which were more known for their individual stars than for winning games last season. With new teams in good form and another blow to Matthew Rowell, our options will certainly change in this week's slate and swing towards Gold Coast's potential for a Round 2 turnaround. If this is your first time checking out Aussie Rules Football, welcome to a sport that combines the physicality of rugby, the stamina of soccer players and the impressive verticality seen in the American code of football. To make sure you know exactly what each stat looks like, check out this helpful video.
On the pitch, there are 18 players fielded by each team with four interchange options that can rotate up to 75 times per match. In DK competitions, lineups are permitted just nine players: two forwards, four midfielders, two defenders and one ruck. To earn points, players can add to the score (+6 for a goal, +1 for a behind), keep the footy under control (+3 for a kick, +3 for a mark, +2 for a handball) or stop the other team from advancing (+4 for a tackle, +1 for a free kick, +1 for a hitout). On the other side, conceding a free kick is a deduction of three points.
It's worth noting that AFL fantasy is heavily weighted to those who can touch the footy the most times, which is why there are extra midfielders available as they are usually capable of scoring the most points without ever needing to enter the 50-meter line. And with that, here are some potential picks to give you an idea of who to watch out for on Saturday.
Adelaide Crows (7th) vs Sydney Swans (4th)
Essendon Bombers (12th) vs Port Adelaide Power (1st)
Melbourne Demons (3rd) vs St Kilda Saints (8th)
North Melbourne Kangaroos (18th) vs Gold Coast Suns (17th)
This Week's Picks:
Ben Ainsworth, Gold Coast ($5,400): Due to the unfortunate PCL injury that will keep Matthew Rowell out for at least half of the season, Ainsworth has been called up to take his place in the lineup. Though he missed Round 1 with his own injury issue, it doesn't appear to be serious enough to limit his play on the field. When considering Ainsworth, his stats from last season may not be too favorable with 12 goals scored and 70 marks made in 16 matches. However, his marks and 14.2 disposals per match are solid numbers for a forward. Combined with a matchup against another team low on the ladder in North Melbourne, Ainsworth will have the responsibility and opponent to make the most of his opportunity.
Jaidyn Stephenson, North Melbourne ($4,400): Someone with more untapped potential than Ben Ainsworth may be Stephenson, who put up his best performance of the last two seasons with 33 disposals and seven tackles during his Round 1 loss to Port Adelaide. By the same token that Ben Ainsworth has a favorable matchup, Gold Coast was equally poor at maintaining possession in their Round 1 loss, so Stephenson could be a worth selection if he can maintain his form. Other options from around the league worth considering are guys like Tim Membrey and Tom McDonald, who scored five majors and two behinds collectively and will face off in Round 2.
Rory Laird, Adelaide ($8,300): The next two picks are purely based off an impressive Round 1 showing in which Laird put up 27 disposals, seven marks and six tackles while topping Geelong, who were only just in the Grand Final last October. Going against another team that started hot in Sydney, Laird is hard to bet against, even if the matchup doesn't look good on paper. That being said, both teams are still unproven if they can play this well for an entire season. Before either team gets the chance to do that, Laird looks primed for another quality match as a top-tier fantasy option
Lachlan Sholl, Adelaide ($4,300): As the balance piece to selecting Rory Laird, Sholl is another Crow worth watching after logging 23 disposals and making nine marks in Round 1. If he's anywhere near 20 disposals and six marks against Sydney, then there should still be considerable gains from picking two guys in a quality midfield bunch. If confidence is low in Sholl, there are a number of options from Port Adelaide like Willem Drew, Robert Gray and Karl Amon, who would all provide reliable value but also compete with each other for production in a loaded team.
David Swallow, Gold Coast ($6,700): Moving on from this week's resident Crows, another midfielder with a bird name pops up in Swallow. After logging 107 fantasy points in a Round 1 loss to West Coast, Swallow could face a better matchup against North Melbourne, a team that had their own fantasy studs in Round 1 but was wiped clean by Port Adelaide. Sometimes, games between two evenly-matched teams don't always make for great fantasy numbers. However, Swallow scored one major and one behind to open the season, and there could be even more space to exploit by a team full of promising attackers. Another player from the Suns who has proven what he can do is Jack Lukosius, who made a whopping 11 marks in Round 1 and has yet to see his price rise substantially.
Jye Caldwell, Essendon ($5,000): The Essendon midfield seems to be full of quality options and Caldwell was no exception after making nine tackles and collecting 22 disposals in a Round 1 loss to Hawthorn by one point. Though this week's matchup looks bad between the two teams, our earlier pick in Jaidyn Stephenson amassed 128 points in his lopsided loss to Port Adelaide. With this in mind, there should still be plenty of work for Caldwell to do, and a tough game against the Power offers a good chance to see what he's really capable of. Other players that head into Round 2 in form are two of Caldwell's teammates in Zach Merrett and Andrew McGrath, though their price points are a little more prohibitive.
Dane Rampe, Sydney ($5,100): Though he only collected 78 fantasy points in Round 1, Rampe put up a solid performance for this price point with 22 disposals and five marks during the win over Brisbane. Heading into Round 2, he'll face a team in even better form after Adelaide put up 103 on Geelong, and that should at least give Rampe the chance to match or better his performance, and that's all you really need when aiming for pricier options in the midfield. Additionally, it's rare to find too many defenders who can put up high-quality fantasy numbers with consistency, though Nick Hind logged 100 points in Round 1 and only sits $100 higher than Rampe ahead of this week's slate.
Oleg Markov, Gold Coast ($5,000): In another moment of riding the hot hand, Markov was the rare defender to top 100 points in Round 1 during the loss to West Coast Eagles. While it certainly helps that Markov made 14 marks in that match, putting up that kind of performance isn't usually a fluke, and even a big drop-off in production would still yield a quality result. If this week's opponent in North Melbourne represent anywhere near as tough a challenge as the Eagles, then Markov should have a chance to solidify his status as a reliable player.
Scott Lycett, Port Adelaide ($5,800): By taking two mid-tier defenders with decent potential, there's more room to adapt at ruck, and that's where Lycett comes into the picture. Even though Lycett splits the hitout duties with Peter Ladhams, Lycett was still able to score one goal and make five tackles during the win over North Melbourne. With another matchup between two teams at opposite ends of the ladder, Lycett could prove to be the difference maker against an Essendon team with more weapons in midfield. Throughout the season, it may just be worth picking up a high-priced ruck instead of a midfielder, just to have a chance at earning some value out of the position with the fewest options in a given slate each week. That mindset would see either Max Gawn, Reilly O'Brien or Todd Goldstein take up the same value tier as Rory Laird or David Swallow, though any of the three may not have the same potential to top 100 points with consistency.