This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
The returns of key stars at GWS and Saint Kilda are the headliners to watch in this Saturday's key matches, but some impressive performances by the decimated Suns and the struggling Hawks open up more options in another five-game slate. The loss of the Western Bulldogs to open this weekend will also catch the attention of four teams in the top eight who could rise higher on the ladder like Brisbane and Geelong, or make up for lost points in their previous games, like Sydney and Adelaide.
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.
Gold Coast Suns (11th) vs Collingwood Magpies (17th)
Greater Western Sydney Giants vs Adelaide Crows (9th)
Hawthorn Hawks (15th) vs Saint Kilda Saints (16th)
Geelong Cats (4th) vs Sydney Swans 6th)
Port Adelaide Power (3rd) vs Brisbane Lions (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.
Riley Thilthorpe, Adelaide ($6,100): Thilthorpe's take-two could be one for the ages after scoring five times in Round 6 and securing a start at half-forward in Round 7. This may be a little risky with Lachie Whitfield returning in defense for GWS on the other side, but other guys like Alex Witherden and Errol Gulden have impressed early into their first AFL seasons after securing starting roles for their teams. For Thilthorpe to do the same, he'll need to be even better against a stronger opponent and need Taylor Walker to open up space for the rest of the squad. Alternatively, Steele Sidebottom comes in at $6,600 for the struggling Magpies despite scoring 130 fantasy points last week and would be a proven asset where Thilthorpe is not. To make him fit, there are other options around our next pick which could provide a more reliable lineup.
Jacob Koschitzke, Hawthorn ($4,500): Scoring five against Adelaide is no joke and that's exactly what Koschitzke did during one of his best performances of the season and career in the Round 6 win over the Crows. Matching that effort will be no mean feat, but it wouldn't be too much work to achieve higher possession numbers against a Saint Kilda club that's been beaten in the center circle without many of their best players. There also just aren't many players on Hawthorn capable of reaching the upper echelon of fantasy production, so looking for a goalscorer as they turn around their season should at provide some value where their midfield may be bypassed. To adapt this lineup for Steele Sidebottom as suggested above, Todd Marshall is an option worth considering at $4,000, as he's scored all six of his goals this season on the road and next travels to Brisbane.
Lachie Weller, Gold Coast ($6,400): There aren't many Lachie's in the AFL that struggle to put up decent fantasy points and Weller certainly fits into the category of quality players with at least one goal in five matches and at least six disposals in all six matches so far. When facing Collingwood, there aren't many better times to catch the Magpies off guard as they continued their free-fall to 17th place following the Anzac Day drubbing at the hands of Essendon. Though the Bombers have more weapons at their disposal in the midfield than Weller, the Suns feature a roster that has more than enough depth to take down a strong but struggling opponent. For similar value on the other side of this matchup, Scott Pendlebury comes in at the same cost and actually ranks above Steele Sidebottom in average fantasy points per game at $200 less in this week's salary numbers. Otherwise, a wealth of Saint Kilda midfielders will feature in the coming picks and you can't really go wrong with anyone in their matchup against Hawthorn.
Brad Crouch, Saint Kilda ($6,000): Crouch has spent the early part of the season struggling to live up to expectations, but it's not entirely his fault due to injuries, absences and poor play that have plagued the Saints through six rounds. By Saturday's game, more optimism is to be had for this team thanks to the impending return of Paddy Ryder, which should provide a big boost to Crouch's ability to maintain possession with consistency. When looking at other options to consider outside of Crouch, there isn't a great deal of guaranteed production, so it's worth looking for guys who will be firmly in the middle of the action. That would suggest someone like Lachlan Sholl who's played his best at home this season or Sam Menegola for the resurgent Cats. Depending on who you take from there as well, the issues with Crouch's consistency can be negated through someone like Scott Pendlebury or Josh Kelly.
Bradley Hill, Saint Kilda ($5,200): Much like Crouch, Hill enters this week with plenty of inconsistency but also the chance to dominate if the ruck partnership of Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall is able to control a hungry Hawthorn club. What makes Hill an interesting player to watch is that his two best performances this season have come against two flag contenders in Melbourne and West Coast. That's not what he'll be facing against the Hawks, but it really does seem like the veteran ruck partnership and a renewed focus on moving the ball in the midfield is all that it could take to push Hill and the Saints back up the ladder. The aforementioned Lachlan Sholl is a solid replacement option for Hill, though Deven Robertson has put up a respectable 70.3 fantasy points per game despite typically starting as an interchange.
Callan Ward, GWS ($4,700): Ward's name has appeared in this article in past weeks, but it had as much to do with his high level of production as his lower price tag. This time around, he's coming off a week with only 56 points in the Round 6 loss to the Western Bulldogs and next faces a strong Adelaide club looking for their own bounce-back result. With that in mind, it's more important to consider that Ward has put up as many as 37 disposals in a single game and that Adelaide could barely get their hands on the footy by the end of their loss to Hawthorn last week. A different option capable of putting up a solid performance is Sam Powell-Pepper, who will be making his season debut as a follower in the midfield against a Brisbane team without Lachie Neale.
Lachie Whitfield, GWS ($7,200): Despite the high price tag for a debutant, Whitfield is already listed in the center for Saturday's game against Adelaide while making his return from a liver injury. When coming off a season in which he recorded 22.9 disposals per match when the games were actually shorter, Whitfield has the kind of numbers that should have no problem translating to a longer season with longer games. Whether or not he can live up to his cost and expectations is something we will find out against the Crows, who will certainly challenge him through Taylor Walker and Rory Laird. When looking for cheaper alternates to Whitfield still capable of contributing in a big way, check out players from Port Adelaide like Dan Houston (over 90 points in all but one full appearance) or Darcy Byrne-Jones (120 in Round 6 win over St Kilda).
Marcus Adams, Brisbane ($3,900): Adams is the textbook case of fitting the salary when bigger names exact higher price tags, but his season high of 80 fantasy points from 17 disposals and seven marks against Essendon should set him up favorably to face Port Adelaide. What also becomes difficult is making sure that who you pick is actually starting, and that leaves us with guys like Lewis Melican and Jed Bews, who haven't exactly lit up the scoreboard this season. However, Hamish Hartlett only costs $200 more than Adams and has also put up at least 80 fantasy points in a single game.
Paddy Ryder, Saint Kilda ($6,000): For the low price of 6 grand, Paddy returns to the Saints after missing the first six weeks for personal reasons. There can't be much better news for either the player or his club, as a team in need of help in the midfield will get its talented ruck duo of Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall for a game against a Hawthorn team that's not that strong in its own right despite a recent win over Adelaide. When considering Ryder's stats of 8 disposals and 20.9 hitouts per game last season, those numbers don't exactly jump off the page. However, some of the other injuries in the midfield could see Ryder also do more work in possession over the next few weeks. An always reliable option at ruck is Scott Lycett, who ranks 10th in hitouts per game but seventh in fantasy points. That's the benefit of his high disposal numbers in comparison to some rucks, and will be the same stat to watch in Ryder's return to the field.