This article is part of our DraftKings AFL series.
New to DraftKings, 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 out 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 get 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. North Melbourne (-9.5), o/u 139.5: With an implied score of 75-65, this match actually tops expected point output charts on Saturday's slate, and the defensive struggles of the Swans could create some opportunities for the Roos. This is also the one game being played indoors, at Marvel Stadium, while the other three matches do face some chance of rain and a slick pitch, so if you're looking for a tiebreaker between rostering a Sydney or North Melbourne player and someone else, that could be it.
St. Kilda vs. Collingwood (-14.5), o/u 123.5: The Magpies' stout defense comes into play here, as the Saints have the second-lowest implied score on the slate at 55 points despite a great showing last week. Whether a Collingwood squad that is clearly missing Adam Treloar and limped to 36 points last week in that draw against Richmond can hold up their end of the bargain is a question, though.
Carlton vs. Geelong (-27.5), o/u 132.5: The top Cats are likely to be popular picks given their implied score of 80, the highest on the slate, but as we saw in Round 2 with the Eagles, there's still too much uncertainty to bank on that heavily. The Blues are one of three teams still looking for their first win on the season, so depending on your perspective, they're either easy pickings or a desperate club who could surprise. Losing Nic Newman doesn't help their chances of turning things around.
West Coast vs. Brisbane (-2.5), o/u 135.5: The Eagles' embarrassing showing in Round 2's loss to the Suns gives them more than enough motivation for a rebound, and West Coast is still one of the teams who came into 2020 expected to be among the league's elite. The Lions' explosive offense from last season also re-appeared to some extent in last week's win over the Dockers, so while this game doesn't even have the highest projected combined score on the slate, there is definite shootout potential here.
Marc Pittonet, Blues ($5,200): Based on last week, a 12-13x target seems to be what you'll need to at least cash in tournaments, and none of the more expensive rucks jump out at me as strong options to return that kind of value. Pittonet, however, at least has a solid matchup on paper. Jonathon Ceglar was one of the few bright spots for the Hawks last week in their loss to the Cats, and GWS' Sam Jacobs struck for 28 hitouts and 80 points against Geelong in Round 1. Pittonet is getting his first chance to start regularly in the AFL after playing only seven senior games over four seasons for Hawthorn, and he held his own in his Carlton debut last week. His upside is still unclear, but at this salary, he doesn't need to be a superstar to be worthy of a roster spot.
Jordan de Goey, Magpies ($6,000): If any player is motivated to find redemption this week, it's de Goey. The 24-year-old managed only two behinds on four good-to-great scoring chances in the tie against Richmond, a baffling display from a player who'd piled up 82 goals over the prior two campaigns. As with any forward, you look to disposals for floor and goals for ceiling, and de Goey's kicks and handballs are actually running a little ahead of his pace from prior years once you account for the lost opportunities due to 16-minute quarters. He seems primed for a breakout, and this salary could well end up being the cheapest he'll be all season.
Lachie Neale, Lions ($8,100): Players carrying a salary of $8K or more are dangerous – if you're aiming for a value target of 12-13x they basically need to deliver at least 100 points to be worth their price tag – but Neale seems worth making an exception. He's had a blistering start to the campaign, but he's also facing an Eagles squad that's been lit up by the opposition's top attacking midfielder so far. Melbourne's Jack Viney erupted for 34 disposals and 132 points against them in Round 1, while 18-year-old Matthew Rowell's 26 disposals and 108 points led Gold Coast in last week's upset. Neale, who finished third in the AFL in disposals last season, is more talented than either of them, so while West Coast figures to put in a better effort than they did in Round 2, that likely won't be enough to slow down the Lions' linchpin.
Jack Billings, Saints ($7,500): Full disclosure – St. Kilda has been my team ever since Tony Lockett's heyday, so while I try not to let that color my writeups and recommendations when it comes to any Saints, it should at least be noted. Billings' career to date has been known more for injuries than scoring exploits, but he's exploded out of the gate in 2020 and is one of only two players to average at least two goals and 20 disposals through their first two games (Mitchell Duncan is the other). That could all come to a crashing halt against the Pies, but their defense isn't that good and I'm willing to ride this hot streak for at least one more week. The 24-year-old is healthy and could be coming into his own, and the Saints are positioning him to be one of the centerpieces of their attack.
Steele Sidebottom Magpies ($7,100): Aside from having the absolute best name in the entire league, Sidebottom is also a skilled player who dominated possession in the first half last week against Richmond before everything turned to mush. With another week under his belt to get closer to midseason fitness – both for himself and his teammates – and a less than formidable opponent across from him, the man who sounds like an old-timey warship should cruise to big numbers.
Shannon Hurn, Eagles ($7,000): Lewis Jetta is over a thousand dollars cheaper if you're looking for some savings, but I think it's worth paying up for Hurn if you want a West Coast defender. The veteran stalwart of the Eagles' back line usually does a much better job of using his height to secure marks than he did last week, as his nine in Round 1 against Melbourne attest. When the team's attack is humming, it's because Hurn is claiming the ball and getting it up to the midfield, and the 32-year-old should be able to bounce back in this matchup.
Jeremy Howe, Magpies ($6,800): As with the rest of the Collingwood roster, Howe had a lackluster showing in Round 2, but the 29-year-old typically does a strong job cleaning up in front of his goal, averaging better than seven marks a game over the last four seasons for the Pies. Against a St. Kilda squad that lacks big, dominant anchors for its attack, at least until teenage rookie Max King is fully mature, Howe should be able to take care of business.
Archie Smith, Lions ($2,500): Stefan Martin is out for Brisbane with a knee injury, allowing the 23-year-old Smith to draw into the starting lineup. Oscar McInerney will likely be the Lions' primary ruck, but at minimum salary, Smith doesn't have to do much more than show up to return value, and he demonstrated last season in Round 10 against Hawthorn (23 hitouts, 11 disposals) that he's capable of solid numbers when given the chance. If West Coast's malaise from last week lingers, that just ups the ceiling for all Brisbane players as well.
Jaidyn Stephenson, Magpies ($5,000): Stephenson is ready to make his 2020 debut after being held out of the lineup for the first two rounds, and it's no surprise coach Nathan Buckley can suddenly find room for a 20-year-old who scored 62 goals in his first 40 AFL games given how the Collingwood offense has looked to begin the year. Stephenson isn't necessarily the most consistent player, which is understandable given his age, but the Pies need him to step up here, and he's got plenty of upside at this salary.
Tarryn Thomas, Kangaroos ($3,800): Now in his second AFL season after being North Melbourne's top pick in the 2018 draft, the 20-year-old Thomas has gotten off to a sluggish start, but he averaged 12 disposals per game as a rookie and his salary this week makes him intriguing. The matchup against Sydney is a good one for him, although a better one for someone like Jared Polec (see below), and Thomas showed flashes of what he can do in 2019 after another slow start, piling up 55 disposals over a three-game span in Rounds 4-6.
Jared Polec, Kangaroos ($6,400): While the listed positions on DK are fairly simple, in truth there's a lot more specialization on the pitch, as can be seen on our Lineups page. The Swans have struggled to contain opposition centres to begin the season, with the Bombers' Zach Merrett (29 disposals and 108 total fantasy points) doing significant damage last week. Polek is priced only $100 more than young teammate Jy Simpkin, but the 27-year-old veteran is the more reliable option at that spot and is coming off an impressive first campaign with North Melbourne in 2019 during which he topped 500 disposals through 22 games. Polec's had a solid start to 2020 as well, and he would merely need to equal his performance through the first two rounds to return value, but the matchup here gives him real upside.
Will Setterfield, Blues ($5,100): Carlton's poor start puts pressure on coach David Teague, especially since Teague has been leaning heavily on his more veteran players since taking the reins last year. If he can't win with older players, sooner or later it's going to be time to give the younger ones a chance. Setterfield has arguably been one of the youngsters hardest hit by the change in philosophy, and his lackluster start to 2020 was a reflection of those lost minutes and opportunities. The 22-year-old put forth a better effort in Round 2 though, and if the Blues are forced to play catch-up in this one, Setterfield may have to lead the comeback charge.
Jack Steven, Cats ($5,000): Brandan Parfitt came up with a hamstring injury late this week, opening the door for Steven to make his Geelong debut. The long-time St. Kilda player posted four straight seasons with 500 or more disposals before a rough 2019 off the pitch limited his availability, and his tenure with his new club got off to a bizarre start when he was hospitalized last month after apparently being stabbed. The Cats are inserting him right into the starting 18, though, which is as good a sign as any that he's fit, and if Steven comes anywhere close to regaining his prior form he'll be a bargain. A match against a Blues squad that's struggled out of the gate doesn't hurt, either.
Robbie Fox, Swans ($3,300): Fox was held out of the first two games of the season, but the versatile player draws into the lineup due to Kaiden Brand's groin injury. Fox doesn't offer tremendous upside, but he can easily return value at this salary – over a four-week stretch at the end of last year when he got a chance to play regularly, he averaged about 15 disposals, four marks and three tackles a game.
Editor's UPDATE: Monday, June 22. Steele!!!