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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Sydney vs. Port Adelaide (-30.5), o/u 121.5 pts.: It could be all the Swans can do here just to avoid being routed. The implied score of 76-46 may not do this mismatch justice, as 16th place Sydney has been one of the lowest-scoring squads in the league (only Fremantle and winless Adelaide have managed fewer points per game) while Port Adelaide are in a battle with Geelong and Brisbane at the top of the ladder. The Power also welcome back a number of players from minor injuries, as if they needed additional reinforcement for this one, but affordable salaries on some of those returnees just makes a stack even more enticing.
Greater Western Sydney (-9.5) vs. Fremantle, o/u 112.5 pts.: While it's always tough to outright avoid a matchup on small slates like this, the Giants-Dockers clash seems like the one you'll want minimal exposure to. The two teams continue to spin their wheels in the bottom part of the ladder, and the Dockers have made a habit of dragging the opposition down to their level – only the Magpies have allowed fewer points per game, but Fremantle's woeful offense prevents them from exploiting that strength. Only one of the Dockers' last six games has even reached the century mark in combined points, so while DFS options may be limited here, the under could be a strong play on its own. GWS do get Matthew de Boer back from his hamstring injury for this one.
St. Kilda (-3.5) vs. Melbourne, o/u 125.5 pts.: The big story here is Max Gawn's return to the lineup for the Demons as they make a push for a spot in the top eight. The Saints are one of the teams they're chasing, having slipped to sixth after that tough loss to the Lions in Round 13, and the team's decided to inject some fresh legs into the lineup in response as Hunter Clark checks back into the starting 18. In addition to Gawn's return, Melbourne have made five other changes to its gameday lineup as the club takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to what's nearly a must-win match given how little time is left in the season. With both teams projected for over 60 points, there could be a lot of popular roster options from this clash.
Max Gawn, Demons ($9,000): Out since Round 9's loss to the Power due to a shoulder injury, Gawn returns to action as the only big-name ruck on the slate, and his salary reflects it – he's $2,300 more expensive than the next-priciest player at the position. It's tough to hit value when you chew up this much of the cap, but it's just as tough to ignore the kind of floor and ceiling Gawn offers, as he was on his way to topping 100 fantasy points for the fifth straight game when he got hurt. He's got the potential for 40 hitouts and 20 disposals, a combo he delivered five times in the prior two seasons, and the only real concern here is whether he's fully 100 percent in his first match back. The other selling point for Gawn, of course, is that none of the other ruck options stand out as particularly strong pivots.
Christian Petracca, Demons ($7,500): Petracca has been rock solid for a while now, and the 73 fantasy points he produced in Round 13 was actually the first time he'd dropped below 85 since Round 5. That floor alone justifies this price tag, as does his nine-game streak with at least 20 disposals, but the 24-year-old's ability to contribute on offense as well – 88 goals in 97 career AFL matches – should put him front and center if the clash with the Saints is the high-scoring affair it's projected to be.
Brad Ebert, Power ($6,100): Ebert returned from a concussion in Round 12 and immediately regained his early-season form, hanging a goal and 14 disposals on the Hawks. The veteran can contribute across the board when he's fit, and while a blowout over the Swans could cut into his time on the field, he can easily return value at this salary if everything's clicking.
Jack Steele, Saints ($8,000): The 24-year-old has been a huge part of the Saints' surprising success this year, matching last season's disposal pace despite having four fewer minutes a quarter to work with. Steele has produced at least 20 disposals in 10 straight matches, but it's his marks and tackles that have been putting him over the top – he racked up a massive 10 stops in the Round 13 loss to Brisbane, the sixth time in 2020 he's delivered double digits in those two categories combined. In what should be a hotly contested game, Steele should be in the middle of the action no matter which way it's flowing.
Andrew Brayshaw, Dockers ($7,200): The youngest of the third generation of footballing Brayshaws, Andrew has seen some wildly fluctuating numbers lately, delivering at least 26 disposals in three of the last five games but failing to top 17 in the other two. If the pattern holds, he's due for another dud, but his ceiling is awfully tempting at this salary. The 20-year-old could also be headed for some better luck on the attack – while his limiting role this year in Fremantle's system can't be discounted, it's still shocking that Brayshaw has yet to score a goal in 2020 and hasn't even recorded a behind since Round 1. For a player that managed seven of each in 22 games last season, that seems as much a product of bad luck as positioning.
Angus Brayshaw, Demons ($6,100): Let's toss Andrew's older brother into the mix as well. Angus has been on a roll, averaging better than 24 disposals over the last three games while also chipping in two goals, 10 tackles and 17 marks during that stretch – numbers that have led to him topping the century mark in fantasy points twice. If he stays on form, that makes him an absolute bargain at this salary, and there's nothing in the matchup against the Saints to suggest he's suddenly about to wilt.
Hunter Clark, Saints ($5,800): The 21-year-old emerged as a pillar on the back end for the Saints last season and he's maintained that level of play in 2020, supplying at least 16 marks in seven straight games and at least three marks in five of the last six. Clark also got a breather in Round 13 (a decision coach Brett Ratten may have regretted given the final result) so he should be flying around the field in this one, and he could need to step up even more than he has been with the struggling Jake Carlisle dropped from the lineup.
Shane Mumford, Giants ($4,500): It's probably go big or go home with Gawn given the shape of this slate, but if you decide to save some cap space at ruck instead, you might as well go right down to the bottom of the salary scale. At 34 years old, Mumford doesn't offer much more than his size – he's reached double-digit disposals only once in six games this season – but he can still rack up hitouts, collecting 54 over his last two appearances. The Dockers' ruck duo of Rory Lobb and Sean Darcy isn't terribly threatening, so Mumford has some appeal as essentially a punt play – his hitouts give him a reasonable floor and a chance to reach value, but there's little ceiling here.
Todd Marshall, Power ($4,700): If there's been a pattern to the misses among my Value Play recommendations, it's that I tend to jump on players returning from injury a week too early rather than giving them a match to get their legs back under them. Of course, being sidelined is what drags down their salaries, so here I am going back to the well. Marshall had been on an impressive goal-scoring binge before injuring his thumb in Round 8, splitting the uprights nine times in those eight games, but that's been the story of his brief career to date – he's only found his way into the lineup for 28 games in the AFL, but he has 31 goals (and 20 behinds). The 21-year-old has the height and athleticism to be a force inside the 50 when he gets a chance, and if he's close to 100 percent he could simply be too much for an overmatched Swans defense to handle. Even if Marshall has his minutes capped in his first game back, he may not need much time on the field to grab a few marks, boot a couple of goals and reach value.
Robert Gray, Power ($5,100): For whatever reason, every time I see Robbie Gray's name, my brain subs it in for Johnnie Ray's in the lyrics to Come On Eileen. There's been nothing poor about the Port Adelaide legend's play lately though, even at 32 years old. While his streak of six consecutive seasons with at least 400 disposals and 20 goals will likely get snapped, that's mainly due to his sluggish start to the campaign in the former category – Gray has 11 goals in 13 games so far in 2020, including six in the last four contests. That stretch also includes two efforts with 20-plus disposals, so he could be rounding into form just in time for the stretch run. With those early-season numbers still suppressing his salary, Gray stands out as a potentially strong bargain.
Liam Henry, Dockers ($3,300): The ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft made his AFL debut last week and had a decent if uneven performance, grabbing six marks but only delivering nine disposals. I didn't recommend Henry in last week's piece because Fremantle listed him as coming off the bench, but he officially joins the starting 18 for the tilt against GWS and he still returned value in Round 13 at this salary despite the uncertainty with his role, so he carries a lot more appeal this time around. Also, Friday is Henry's birthday, so expect the Dockers to try and get him his first career goal to celebrate.
Justin McInerney, Swans ($3,300): The 19-year-old hasn't been able to get into the lineup since Round 5, but he's shown enough in scratch matches lately to rejoin the Sydney starting 18. This salary is very low given his consistent production when he has played – McInerney has double-digit disposals in all four of his games and has averaged at least two marks and two tackles, giving him a seemingly safer floor than you might expect from someone in this price range. Considering his AFL career is only five games old, we also don't really know what his ceiling might be yet, either. In a match that's expected to be a blowout, McInerney could get plenty of valuable minutes and experience, and thus more opportunities for production. If you're trying to fit Max Gawn under your cap, slotting in a couple of dirt-cheap midfielders like McInerney and Henry could be crucial.
Jackson Thurlow, Swans ($4,400): If you look purely at his current form, this salary makes no sense. Thurlow made his season debut in Round 10 after recovering from a calf injury and promptly erupted for two goals and 80 fantasy points, then followed it up with a goal and 82 points in his next match. Given that the 26-year-old only had 11 goals in 55 career games coming into 2020, he obviously wasn't going to keep up that pace, and predictably he failed to score last week against the Dockers. Thurlow did deliver at least 15 disposals for the third straight game though, and his four combined marks and tackles was his lowest total in the three contests. That's a strong floor. It can be tough for defenders to make an impact during games in which their team loses badly, but his solid effort in Round 13 came when the Swans were downed by 31. If the play is in Sydney's end most of the night, look for Thurlow to get his hands on the ball one way or another.
Trent Rivers, Demons ($3,400): Rivers checks back into the starting 18 as part of the sweeping changes made to Melbourne's lineup. The 19-year-old hasn't suited up since the big Round 11 win over the Roos but has had a solid start to his AFL career, recording at least 12 disposals in three of his first four matches and grabbing six marks in his last game. In what could be a back-and-forth affair, Rivers should get plenty of opportunities to try and stymie pressure from the Saints.