This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
The Australian Football League offers a combination of basketball-like point totals and rugby-like physicality unlike just about anything else in the sports world. As it's brand new to DFS, everyone gets to start on a roughly level playing field in terms of knowing what kinds of players to target, what salaries may be strong values, etc. Those insights should come into focus as the season progresses, but for now, we'll offer our best guesses on how to assemble a winning roster.
DK's format features a starting lineup of nine players – one ruck, two forwards, two defenders and four midfielders – and a scoring system that rewards points on the board (+6 for a goal, +1 for a behind) as well as possession and defensive stats (+4 for a tackle, +3 for a kick, +3 for a mark, +2 for a handball, +1 for a free kick, +1 for a hitout). Conceding a free kick gets a player docked -3 points as well. If you have no idea what rucks, behinds, and marks are, this is a good place to start, although note that the length of each quarter has been reduced to 16 minutes from 20 for the 2020 season. Also, check out some of our other tools to help you compile a lineup.
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Brisbane (-32.5) vs. North Melbourne, o/u 114.5 pts.: Note that rain could be a factor in all three games on the slate, creating extra uncertainty and making any player with lower-body injury concerns – such as Charlie Cameron – riskier options. The Lions are by far the most attractive target Saturday, with their implied score of 74 being more than 20 points clear of even the favorite in the other two contests, so while the easy decision is to stack them, know that Brisbane's biggest stars, like Lachie Neale, are likely to be incredibly popular plays. The Roos are also technically at home for this one, but who knows what that's actually worth in this madcap season. To add even more volatility to this game, North Melbourne have made wholesale changes to its lineup, inserting six new players including one (Ed Vickers-Willis) seeing his first action since 2018. Given that the Roos sit second-last on the ladder and just officially lost Ben Cunnington for the rest of the season, the team has little to lose by mixing things up so drastically.
Collingwood (-3.5) vs. Melbourne, o/u 103.5 pts.: The Magpies come into this one having won two straight, but in the battle of the birds, downing the Crows (winless on the year) and Swans (16th on the ladder) didn't exactly represent a tough challenge. Collingwood will welcome captain Scott Pendlebury back into the starting lineup after he recovered from a quad strain, giving the side a needed boost as it looks to stay in the top eight. The Demons are one of the teams looking to steal their spot, and their 5-5 record is a bit unlucky given their positive point differential (plus-57 through 10 games, not far off the Pies' plus-88 through 11). They've made a few changes of their own, but all eyes will probably be on ruck Braydon Preuss as he makes his 2020 debut and gets the unenviable task of clashing with Brodie Grundy.
Carlton vs. Fremantle (-1.5), o/u 102.5 pts.: The Blues have lost three of their last four, the last two by a combined 53 points, as they slide further from contention for the finals. They've also now lost Marc Pittonet for a game or two with a finger injury. The Dockers aren't in any better shape on the ladder, although they may be headed in the opposite direction – Fremantle's won two straight, including that big Round 9 upset of Collingwood, and they get Michael Walters back for this contest. This will also mark a couple of milestone games for key Dockers, as Andrew Brayshaw plays in his 50th AFL game and Rory Lobb his 100th, which could give the whole side an emotional lift.
Brodie Grundy, Magpies ($8,700): I always loathe to recommend anyone at this kind of salary, as Grundy will need to top the century mark in fantasy points to return value. He's done that four times already this season though, and this matchup is just too juicy to ignore – with Max Gawn still sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Melbourne will send out 24-year-old Braydon Preuss, who last played in Round 15 of 2019, as its ruck. Preuss has had his moments, twice topping 40 hitouts in his 15 career AFL games, but on paper, this is a mismatch Grundy can dominate.
Michael Walters, Dockers ($7,300): Out of action due to a hamstring injury since Round 8's ugly loss to Geelong – a game in which he somehow racked up 100 fantasy points even though Fremantle only put 16 points on the board – Walters re-enters the lineup to try and give a young offense some needed polish. The 29-year-old booted 40 goals with 479 disposals last year, and the Dockers have been leaning on him just as heavily this season when he's been healthy. Walters also qualifies at both forward and midfield, providing roster flexibility if you're trying to squeeze in one more star.
Steele Sidebottom, Magpies ($7,600): There are four midfielders with higher salaries on this slate, including the Lions duo of Lachie Neale ($9,500) and Jarryd Lyons ($8,500), but Sidebottom offers similar upside at a discount. He's topped the century mark in fantasy points three times in six games, including his massive performance against St. Kilda back in Round 4 (31 disposals, six tackles, five marks and a goal), and he would probably have done it another couple of times if not for his month-long suspension for breaching the league's COVID-19 protocols. The Pies didn't need him earlier in the week against the Crows, so he'll be well-rested and ready to make his mark all over the pitch Saturday.
Dayne Zorko, Lions ($7,400): If you don't want to pay top dollar for Neale and Lyons, pivoting to Zorko will still give you a midfielder who plays a key role for Brisbane without crushing your cap. Zorko's ability to contribute in a variety of ways is his secret weapon – he's recorded multiple marks and multiple tackles in five straight games, with anywhere from eight to 14 combined during that stretch, while never failing to deliver less than 17 disposals. The fact that he also has four goals and five behinds in those five games is just a bonus.
Jy Simpkin, Kangaroos ($6,600): Another player with M/F flexibility, Simpkin had a lull in his performance in July and early August but has rebounded with 45 disposals over the last two games. The 22-year-old has shown he can take his well-rounded game to another level this season, topping 90 fantasy points three times in four games between Rounds 3 and 6, and this salary gives him a tremendous value ceiling if he can get back to that form.
Alex Witherden, Lions ($7,100): Witherden didn't play in the first five games after the restart, but Daniel Rich's injury opened the door for the 21-year-old to rejoin the starting 18 and he's been an absolute beast on the back end since, piling up 68 disposals and 22 marks over the last three contests. This is a hefty chunk of your cap for a defender, but even if Brisbane runs away with the game, Witherden's young and rested legs aren't likely to be subbed off, and he's already proven he has the upside to return value at this salary.
Luke McDonald, Kangaroos ($6,100): On the other side of the pitch, McDonald has been on a roll of his own, topping 30 disposals twice in the last three games – a mark he'd reached only once in his prior six AFL campaigns – and averaging better than 25 over the last four. His emergence has come with a role change in the wake of Ben Cunnington's season-ending back woes, so there's little reason to think he'll regress back to the modest numbers he was posting right after the restart. McDonald's salary hasn't yet fully caught up to his new floor or ceiling, so take advantage while you can.
Tom De Koning, Blues ($3,000): While Brayden Preuss ($4,000) is also an option if you don't want to break the bank at ruck, his matchup against Grundy is very daunting. De Koning is also replacing an injured veteran in Marc Pittonet, but taking on the Fremantle duo of Rory Lobb and Sean Darcy is much less intimidating. The 21-year-old De Koning will only be playing in his fourth AFL game and first since 2018, so he could easily get steamrolled, but he recorded 11 disposals and five marks in his Round 22 debut two years ago and grabbed 11 hitouts last week, so the upside is there to return value, and then some, at this tiny salary.
Will Hoskin-Elliott, Magpies ($4,000): Hoskin-Elliott checks back into the starting lineup after missing the last two games nursing a knee injury. The 26-year-old was a huge part of the Magpies attack a couple years ago, posting 42 goals and 343 disposals in 2018, but he's had trouble making a consistent impact this season. He doesn't need to do much more than deliver disposals in the teens to return value at this salary though, and even in what has been a disappointing campaign he scored six goals in four games prior to getting hurt.
Lachlan Schultz, Dockers ($3,600): The 22-year-old has quietly been getting more involved in the offense in his second AFL season. Schultz has five goals and two behinds in the last five games while grabbing multiple marks in each, and while his disposal numbers have been disappointing (he has yet to match the 17 he delivered in his debut last year), he has the talent to start making more consistent contributions across the board. Walters' return could also help everyone around him in the lineup, Schultz included.
Zac Fisher, Blues ($4,700): Now in his fourth AFL season, Fisher – another M/F qualifier on DraftKings – erupted for four goals in Round 11 against the Eagles, not bad for a guy who only booted nine through 21 games in 2019. Chasing that fluke scoring isn't what makes him interesting this week, however. The 22-year-old produced strong disposal numbers last year, at one point reeling off 20 or more in five straight games – exceptional upside for a midfielder in this salary range. Fisher produced 17 disposals back in Round 1 but then couldn't get fit enough to play after the restart, first missing time due to an ankle injury and then dealing with a gastrointestinal issue. With last week's outburst proving he's now just about 100 percent, he could be ready to start delivering those kinds of numbers once again.
Bailey Scott, Kangaroos ($4,000): The fourth M/F eligible player in this column, Scott has been a steady performer over the last four rounds, posting between 50 and 67 fantasy points on the strength of at least six marks plus tackles in every game in addition to his relatively modest disposal numbers. The 20-year-old has shown flashes of a higher ceiling, however – much like Fremantle's Schultz above, Scott's career high for disposals came in his first-ever AFL game, when he delivered 21 of them in Round 1 of 2019 (coincidentally, they came against the Dockers). He then broke a bone in his foot about a month later and didn't return to action until Round 5 of this season. He's been inching closer to regaining his pre-injury form every week, and if you decide to assemble a contrarian stack built around a Roos upset or near-upset on their home turf, a big match from Scott would almost have to be part of the scenario.
Darcy Moore, Magpies ($4,500): Moore was another player who got a breather against the Crows in Round 11, so he should be raring to go for this one. Collingwood's back line has been looking for someone to step up since Jeremy Howe went down, and while Moore hasn't exactly answered that call, he has topped value at this salary three times in the last six games, including a massive 21-disposal, 80-fantasy point performance against Hawthorne in Round 6.