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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Hawthorn vs. St. Kilda (-22.5), o/u 110.5 pts.: The Saints are struggling, having lost three of their last four matches and clinging to a spot in the top eight, but they're still big favorites here against a Hawks squad that's dropped five straight. On the other hand, Hawthorn must have hit rock bottom when they handed Adelaide its first win of the year in Round 15 in an embarrassing 83-48 rout, so they should be extremely motivated to put on a better showing in this one. Not surprisingly, Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson has made some sweeping changes to his lineup in this wake of that defeat, with Damon Greaves set to make his AFL debut as a sub. St. Kilda responds by bringing Jonathon Marsh back into the starting 18 in place of the injured Tim Membrey.
Essendon vs. Geelong (-20.5), o/u 116.5 pts.: The Bombers remain on the fringes of the finals picture in 11th place, two wins back of the Pies, Saints and Giants, but with just one win in their last seven matches, they don't exactly come into this one with a lot of momentum. That doesn't bode well in a tilt against a Cats squad that hasn't lost since Round 9. Geelong has the highest expected point total of the week at 69, just ahead of St. Kilda, and will be a very popular stacking option. The Cats will be missing Jack Steven, but otherwise their lineup is unchanged, and the Bombers have only made minor changes to their lineup. Note that while all three games on this slate could feature rain, this one has a lower chance of meaningful showers if you need a tiebreaker between similar roster options.
West Coast (-3.5) vs. Western, o/u 115.5 pts.: This game could have the biggest implications for the finals picture on the slate. The Eagles have surged after looking flat following the restart and now sit in fifth place, with a win here securing their spot, but the Bulldogs in 10th need every victory they can get to climb into the top eight. Western does welcome Zaine Cordy back from a chest injury, and they'll need him against a high-flying West Coast attack that gets Josh J. Kennedy, the two-time Coleman medalist and the team's all-time leading goal-scorer, back from a concussion. The Eagles will still be missing Luke Shuey, however.
Rhys Stanley, Cats ($5,500): With no top-flight options at ruck on this slate and a spread of only $2,200 between the most expensive player and the cheapest, your best approach may be to simply pick the one from whichever team you're stacking. From a pure points perspective, however, Stanley seems poised to provide the most bang for your buck. The veteran has reached double-digit disposals in every game but one this year, including a season-high 16 against the Bulldogs in his last outing, and he offers some goal-scoring potential (seven in seven games) in addition to his hitouts.
Devon Smith, Bombers ($5,800): Essendon could be headed for a blowout, but it's tough to ignore Smith at this salary given his current form and the flexibility of his M/F eligibility. He's delivered at least 20 disposals in three straight games while averaging just over 70 fantasy points in his last five, a pace that's come without benefit of any goals or behinds at all. Given that the 27-year-old has 126 goals in 150 career AFL games, including six in his first eight games this season, Smith could return excellent value if his drought ends Sunday.
Jackson Macrae, Bulldogs ($8,400): Macrae has one of the steadiest floors on the entire slate, as he's provided at least 26 disposals in nine straight matches and hit for fewer than 84 fantasy points only once in his last 10 (and that was still a 76-point effort). That doesn't mean he lacks ceiling, though; the 26-year-old has topped the century mark five times in his last seven outings, and with Western needing a win, he should be in the thick of the action once again. His tackling ability (averaging 4.2 a game this year after three straight seasons of better than five a game) could be key against the Eagles.
Jack Steele, Saints ($7,900): Steele continues to roll, delivering at least 25 disposals in three of his last four matches and at least 90 fantasy points in five of his last six. The Saints can't afford a let-down here, and the 24-year-old is just the man to keep his side focused and the St. Kilda offense flowing.
Cameron Guthrie, Cats ($7,500): Assuming Geelong controls this one from first whistle to last, Guthrie is likely to be a big part of their game plan. The veteran has twice hit for 30 disposals or more in a resurgent season – he's posting his best per-game average in the category since 2016 – and reached the century mark in fantasy points four times, giving him a ceiling that can match any of the more expensive midfield options on this slate.
Tom Stewart, Cats ($6,500): To put it simply, Stewart is too cheap for his current form. The fourth-year defender has produced at least 20 disposals and 84 fantasy points in four of his last five matches, and even if the field is tilted heavily in Geelong's favor, that doesn't mean the defender can't still get his numbers – he reached that 20/84 floor in Round 13's 28-point drubbing of the Crows, and the Bombers should put up a little more of a fight.
Liam Duggan, Eagles ($6,000): The 23-year-old is having the finest season of his career, supplying double-digit disposals in every game and averaging better than six marks a match, a career-high pace despite the shorter quarters. Duggan has failed to return value at this salary just once in the last five games, and in what figures to be a back-and-forth affair against the Bulldogs, there should be plenty of action for him to get in on.
Patrick Ryder, Saints ($4,900): Rowan Marshall remains the top option at ruck for the Saints, but that just means Ryder can get overlooked. The veteran has delivered at least 15 hitouts in each of his games since the restart while reaching double-digit disposals twice. Truth be told, there isn't a particularly good value option at ruck on this slate, but Ryder has a decent floor and some upside if this game turns into a rout and he can get in on the scoring action.
Liam Ryan, Eagles ($4,700): While Josh Kennedy's return to the lineup will be the focus of attention, Ryan has been producing Kennedy-like scoring numbers of his own lately, potting three or more goals in three of his last five matches. In fact, Ryan and Kennedy each booted home three in Round 12 against Hawthorn, so this isn't an either-or situation with both of them in action. Ryan's floor is risky, as his production is so goal-dependant – he failed to top 20 fantasy points in the two games among those last five in which he didn't score, giving him a massive spread of 16 to 94 DKPts during that stretch – but if the Eagles go off, the 23-year-old should erupt too.
Dylan Moore, Hawks ($2,800): The 19-year-old appeared in seven games last season but will make his 2020 debut in this one. Moore showed flashes of his talent last year, posting 14 disposals and 10 marks in a win over the Giants and reaching double-digit disposals five times, so his upside is significant and a bargain salary. Even if Hawthorn get steamrolled, Moore should be able to do enough to at least reach value.
Josh J. Kennedy, Eagles ($4,500): Even at 33 years old, Kennedy remains a goal-scoring machine. He recorded multiple goals in five straight matches earlier this season, and after missing the Round 15 game against the Bombers he should be itching to boot home a few in this one. As with any player whose value comes primarily from goals there's more variance in his fantasy points than you might like, but when he's on the pitch Kennedy's the favorite target of the Eagles midfield, giving him a solid floor in marks – prior to the game against Richmond in which he got hurt, he's piled up at least three marks in nine straight games.
Lachie Fogarty, Cats ($4,200): The 21-year-old draws back into the starting 18 with Steven sidelined, and Fogarty has the talent to make good on his opportunity. He's only played in four games this season but topped 60 fantasy points in three of them, with the highlight being a career-high 23 disposals back in Round 10 against the Roos. If Geelong pulls away in this one, it wouldn't be surprising to see the youngster take on a lead role in the second half and rack up similar numbers.
Tom Scully, Hawks ($3,700): Scully is another player that seems underpriced, but the matchup likely plays a large part in the apparent discount. The veteran has delivered double-digit disposals in every game he's played this season, and he's come through with at least 49 fantasy points in three straight matches, posting a season-high 61 in that loss to the Crows. If you need a bargain midfielder for your roster, a solid floor and some upside is all you can ask for.
Sam Frost, Hawks ($3,100): In his first season for the Hawks, the 26-year-old has been relatively steady on the back end. Frost's height and ability to disrupt forays into the 50 could be crucial if Hawthorn are going to keep this one close, and he has games of nine and eight marks already this season, although he has yet to top 15 disposals, a figure he surpassed seven times in 22 games for Melbourne last year. He'd reached at least 45 fantasy points in three of his last five matches before getting rested for that flop against Adelaide, so he should be raring to go for this one.