This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
Stars abound in this week's selections, but if you were expecting them to come from Sydney, you may have been a little mistaken. Two players will get the chance to record their season debuts and often do so under favorable circumstances, but maybe none more so than rookie ruckman Jordan Sweet against the Suns. Think it's too risky to pick too many players from GWS? Make sure you at least pick one or both of Tim Taranto and Toby Greene, who were the only two players to stay above 100 fantasy points in Rounds 3 and 4, which featured a loss to Melbourne and a win over Collingwood, respectively. The Giants vs Swans will be doubly fun to watch as the 20th playing of the Sydney derby, as GWS has only been in existence since 2012 and rivalry games tend to be more even contests.
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.
Greater Western Sydney Giants (15th) vs Sydney Swans (3rd)
Gold Coast Suns (13th) vs Western Bulldogs (1st)
Essendon Bombers (12th) vs Brisbane Lions (16th)
Port Adelaide Power (5th) vs Carlton Blues (8th)
This Week's Picks:
Always remember to check your lineups! The initial team sheet will come out well in advance of the match, but teams only finalize their selection an hour before first bounce.
Eric Hipwood, Brisbane ($4,200): Hipwood enters Round 5 with a respectable eight goals and four behinds, in addition to recording 12.3 disposals per match. With Essendon conceding plenty of possession and goals to opposing forwards during both their massive win over Saint Kilda and a tight loss to Sydney, the odds don't look nearly as long for someone whose maxed out at 82 points in a single game through four rounds. With his positioning at full forward and a softer opponent than in Round 4 against Western, Hipwood may not be the only forward worth watching from the Lions. While this lineup nearly featured Carlton's Mitch McGovern at his low price of $4,000, he may have been too much of an unknown to gamble on after only scoring nine times in 12 matches last season. Possibly the best alternative to Hipwood could be Josh Bruce at $4,300, but his fantasy score plummeted almost 100 points between games against North Melbourne and Hipwood's Brisbane. To pick him, you would have to trust the Bulldogs to dominate against a Gold Coast team that's strongest in its defense.
Jeremy Finlayson, GWS ($4,300): Giant number one checks in as another full forward (one who's primarily positioned in the center of the inside 50 area) who made his debut in Round 4 against Collingwood. After kicking four majors against a team that is plenty talented but lost some of its best players early in the game, Finlayson will head into the derby against a Swans team that lost Dane Rampe to a broken finger for a month. While Jake Lloyd is plenty dangerous, his positioning on the flank of the defense may not be as much of a challenge for Finlayson to get his hands on the footy. His value is similarly low to Hipwood among the forwards available, but that's all the more reason to pick him if he can match or surpass his Round 4 efforts. While Jake Stringer may ordinarily fit in as an alternate forward, he's only been named as an interchange against Brisbane. Elsewhere, options abound at Port Adelaide, as Steven Motlop and Orazio Fantasia could exploit a weaker defense against Carlton.
Callum Mills, Sydney ($7,500): The favored side of the derby certainly needs some action and that's exactly where Mills can enter the fray. Firmly in the center of the field, Mills has recorded less than 25 disposals on just one occasion so far and topped 110 fantasy points in two different rounds. With midfielders still generating plenty of production for Collingwood against GWS in Round 4, Mills figures to have an even better shot of putting up big numbers against a team that's talented, but still short of Stephen Coniglio and Harry Perryman to contest an even game. The deepest midfields to pick from outside of Sydney will come from the Bulldogs and the Bombers, as Zach Merrett seems to like facing struggling teams and Adam Treolar would only cost $6,900. No matter which way you go, there are plenty of options this week in midfield so don't be afraid to spend up as that's where you'll find the most points to gain.
Tim Taranto, GWS ($6,500): Taranto joins as the second Giant and a much more reliable commodity than anyone named so far. Through four Rounds, he's topped 100 fantasy points on three occasions and should find himself firmly in the action during the derby against a tough opponent. Additionally, as mentioned above, he and Toby Greene were the only two from their team to stay above 100 points through a Round 3 loss and their Round 4 win over Collingwood. Since he's still managed to avoid the $7,000 threshold, facing Sydney shouldn't be too scary a proposition when picking Taranto. If these reasons don't sound enticing, consider Bailey Smith, who's only a little more expensive at $6,700 and has that favorable Gold Coast matchup. If not him, Andrew McGrath comes in at $6,300 and will hope to rebound after watching his stats decline against Port Adelaide, Saint Kilda and Sydney.
Callan Ward, GWS ($5,000): The final Giant of the day, Ward broke out in Round 4 against Collingwood with 37 disposals and six marks despite also injuring his hand. What makes someone like Ward more enticing is that it doesn't even take much of a regression to still keep him in a favorable spot against the Swans. With Tim Taranto and Toby Greene sure to attract plenty of attention, Ward should have plenty of chances to swoop in and maintain his own performance, even if the scoreline suggests otherwise. Others who could fin in this spot are Chad Warner ($4,800) or Lachie Ash ($4,400), who's scored 91 and 122 fantasy points over the last two rounds, respectively.
Jackson Macrae, Western ($8,600): Saving the best for last? burying the headliner? Either way, Macrae deserves plenty of attention for his reliable dominance of the league's top midfield. While his overall production hasn't wavered much between 103 and 135 fantasy points through four matches, Macrae should benefit plenty on his own from facing a shorthanded Gold Coast midfield that has lost in each of the last two weeks. Other seriously useful picks could come from Josh Dunkley, who has stayed above 108 fantasy points in every round and is even cheaper than Macrae as he'll face the defense of the Suns, which is plenty productive for fantasy when always on the losing end. Where one Sun could shine in a tough matchup is Lachie Weller, who has scored in all four rounds this season and logged over 100 fantasy points in Rounds 2 and 4.
Lewis Melican, Sydney ($3,600): Melican will be our first debutant of the week as he fills in for the injured Dane Rampe at Full-back. Though his production was meager in 2020 with only nine games played, Rampe was still a consistent option for the Swans and Melican will have to fill that void as a starter against a confident Giants group. This gives us the chance to see what both Melican and Finlayson can do, as a high-scoring game would allow each plenty of chances to make their presence felt. The only risk with picking Melican is that Jake Lloyd tends to dominate defensive possession, so he may be required to get rid of the footy as soon as he gets it or isn't preferred on key marks. Still, his value is more than cheap enough to take some risks and fill out the midfield. Another low-value defender that could fit into this spot is Jayden Laverde, who has scored no more than 60 points in a game this season.
Jordan Ridley, Essendon ($7,600): While the scoring potential for defenders is never as high, picking two different debutants and and another who's played just once gives room for a guy like Ridley to be selected. When you add in a game against an out-of-sorts Brisbane club and the second-most valuable defender in DK, there's even more to like about Ridley. To add one more bonus, Ridley has scored no fewer than 90 fantasy points in a week but is still only the second-most expensive defender in this slate behind Jake Lloyd. Perhaps the only other defender who could compare and warrants regular attention is Jack Bowes, who will certainly get plenty of the ball if Western keep bypassing the midfield and be able to build on his league-best fantasy numbers for a defender. Because Bowes has a lower value against a tougher opponent, make sure to balance out your expectations elsewhere if you pick based on past production each week.
Jordon Sweet, Western ($2,600): The Bulldogs will be hoping for a Sweet debut as this rookie makes his first appearance of the season in the ruck spot usually occupied by Stefan Martin. With Martin out injured, it may not always be the wisest to go for his immediate backup in a crowded midfield. However, Sweet was directly named to the same position as Martin and will face a Suns club that gave up a whopping 56 hitouts to Carlton's Marc Pittonet in Round 4. Because Sweet will get the benefit of a dominant midfield around him, he'll hope for a favorable debut that helps keep him on the senior roster. Because his value is so low, this lineup is able to reach higher in midfield and defense, so any other ruckman could result in major squeezes in other positions. If you've gotten this far and still don't like Sweet, it may be wisest to consider Scott Lycett. Though he's the most valuable ruck on the slate, he has the benefit of being the only ruck to play for the Power as Peter Ladhams was omitted. With all this in mind, going high or low in this position can't hurt at all.