The AFL pre season draft was over before it even started and then the rookie draft was done and dusted an hour later! 50 players were picked up this year and placed onto an AFL club's rookie list for a second shot at senior footy in 2017.
There were the usual hard luck stories from both previously established AFL players and some youngsters that will have to work hard in the new year in state leagues to show their worth for a shot at it in 2017's draft. Some names that didn't get that second chance included grand final player and ex Swan Xavier Richards, West Coast defender Mitch Brown, ex Demon forward Chris Dawes, Mitch Clark, Courtney Dempsey and sadly ex Melbourne Demon captain Jack Grimes.
There is always a mature age fantasy gem to come out of this draft. You only have to look back to 2016 with Sydney's mature age player Tom Papley who came from the clouds as a plumber to play 20 games and a Grand Final in his first year averaging 62 fantasy points. Below I have analysed the fantasy relevant players (most are mature age) for coaches in 2017 and who you should be keeping an eye on for your teams...
Tendai Mzungu | GWS Giants
Previous Club: Fremantle Dockers
Mature Age: 30yrs
Was a mature age recruit when he stepped into the AFL system in 2011 from WAFL level. Had his best fantasy average season that year with 80, since then he went 75, 76, 77, 69 and most recently in 2016 he averaged 56 from only 5 matches. Fell out of favour with Freo coach Ross Lyon as so many others did. He provides a wise head among a young midfield group at GWS and that will be what he's there for. There is the chance though that he can step in for the suspended Lachie Whitfield as Mzungu us a wing position specialist. If so, he could be a handy pickup as your M7/8 to grab some quick cash as he will be priced well under what he can produce. Likes playing in a winning team and will reap benefits of playing alongside some of the AFL's elite midfielders if he gets an opportunity. Age is a factor.
Jake Barrett | Brisbane Lions
Previous Club: GWS Giants
Mature Age: 21yrs
The former Giant and NSW zone selected player who went at 97 in the 2013 AFL National draft has been picked up by a team that desperately needs some midfield grunt. Barrett was always on the cusp of selection in 2016 for the Giants, but in reality, that midfield was always going to be super hard to crack. His biggest strength is his attack on the ball and opposition player while his endurance is elite, running a 15.6 beep test back in the combine. Was best on ground for the Giants in the NEAFL grand final last year and averaged an impressive 114 fantasy points across the season. Now has his chance to get regular senior opportunity at the struggling Lions. Will come at a tempting price as well given he didn't play an AFL game in 2016. Seriously consider.
James Cousins | Hawthorn Hawks
Previous Club: Murray Bushrangers
Not a mature age player, but I really like the look of this kid and what he can offer. Yes it will be hard for him to crack into the ever strong Hawthorn midfield, but as an inside midfield in a team that needs to blood youth, he could get a sniff in 2017. Cousins is an accumulator of the pill, averaging 24 disposals, 5 tackles and 1 goal per game across the TAC Cup matches. This effort also put him in the TAC team of the season for 2016. At 185cm and 80kg he is ready made for the physicality of AFL games and just looking at his highlight reel you can bet if he gets his chance he'll fight tooth and nail to hold onto it. May not get a chance early, but keep an eye on this kid for later in the season as a downgrade option.
Alex Silvagni | Carlton Blues
Previous Club: Fremantle Dockers
Mature Age: 29yrs
Another recycled Docker that was a originally a late bloomer to the AFL scene in 2010 when he made his debut. Has never been a huge scorer in fantasy land and I can't see that changing at his new club in 2017. His highest average being 61 in 2011 when he played 9 games. Durability has also been a major issue for Silvagni with 15 games being his best return over his 7 year career to date (that was his debut year). If fit, he should find a sport in the Blues back six with Bolton looking to establish some routine back there after the off season departures. Never the less though, you shouldn't be considering Silvagni as an option, no matter how cheap he comes in at. Pass.
Tim Smith | Melbourne Demons
Previous Club: Casey Scorpions
Mature Age: 25yrs
Two things I like about this bloke, his nickname is 'the bull' and he is a plumber by trade (see Tom Papley in the intro). The way Melbourne are talking Smith up, i've got a good feeling he is going to feature early in the season, perhaps even round one! A high flyer that can crash packs, he will be the perfect combo for Hogan and relieve some pressure on the young key forward. Played in last year's VFL grand final and had 16 disposals, 6 marks and 3 goals in that game so he can get up the ground and take a mark as well as clunking them in the 50. Also kicked 28 goals for the season. He'll be up and down fantasy scoring wise, but will offer a quick cash grab if he gets named round one. I like the look of him.
Declan Keilty | Melbourne Demons
Previous Club: Casey Scorpions
Mature Age: 21yrs
Was overlooked in the 2013 AFL National Draft and went back to work on his game with the Scorpions in the VFL. Keilty is a tall forward option that can play in defense as well, but is does his best work when on the lead when he can use his supreme athletic attributes. Keilty looks a likely type and will add flexibility to the demons tall stocks, but i'm not sure how he can fit into a Melbourne outfit now brimming with tall options. Seems to me they have him there for depth purposes and even the aforementioned Smith would be well ahead of him in the pecking order to get a game early on. As a key forward, he will need some development and will only get a chance if injury occurs i would think. It's a pass for me.
Shaun Edwards | Sydney Swans
Previous Club: Essendon Bombers
Mature Age: 22yrs
The ex Bomber has shown glimpses of his potential over his first 24 senior games in four years first of all at the Giants and then at Essendon. Now at the Swans, Longmire is looking to put the flexible forward to use as an instant replacement for the outed Xavier Richards. Super athletic and lightning quick for a player his size, Edwards could very well play a high half forward role moving up the ground and taking those +6's that fantasy coach enjoy. He hasn't exactly set the fantasy scene alight over his four year career, with a highest season average of 56 across three games in 2016. Prior to that, he 47, 41 and 49 averages with a top single game score of 88 in 2015 v the Giants where he had 16 disposals, 5 marks, 5 tackles and a goal. At 22 years old, he still has plenty to offer and we all know what Longmire can do to players coming from other clubs into the Swan's system. Hopefully Horse can work his new recruit magic with Edwards, give him a chance and take his game to the level which reflects his potential. A watch and wait.
Thomas Gorter | West Coast Eagles
Previous Club: East Perth
Mature Age: 20yrs
Kojonup born Gorter has had a meteoric rise over the last few years and played 11 senior games for WAFL team East Perth this year and 12 reserves matches. West Coast needs tall defenders at the moment after delisting Mitch Brown and that's what they have gone for here in the 191cm defender. Across his 11 senior games in 2016 for East Perth, Gorter averaged 16 disposals (12 kicks, 4 handpasses), 5.7 marks and 1.82 tackles per game - which is respectable for the role he played in that time. The Eagles back six is solid at the moment, you have McGovern and Schofield holding down the key spots, with Hurn, Sheppard, Butler and up-comer Tom Barrass filling the other spots. Though after that, they are light on talls/mid sized defenders and if injury does occur and Gorter's form warrants, he could find himself with an opportunity. At the moment however, I only see him as a depth player, but as Barrass showed last year - it only takes one game to establish a reputation. Won't be a high fantasy scorer, but could provide a pulse on your bench for later in the year as a downgrade option.
Brett Eddy | Port Adelaide Power
Previous Club: South Adelaide
Mature Age: 27yrs
The SANFL goal kicking machine has finally got his chance after another fine season playing up forward in 2016 for South Adelaide. He was the SANFL's leading goal kicker for the year as well, amassing 74 goals which landed him a spot in the SANFL team of the year. Across the year he averaged 12 disposals, 4 goals and 76 fantasy points as a key forward. He doesn't get a lot of the footy which is normal for a key position player and may hurt his fantasy scoring potential, but will be basement priced and could therefore provide coaches with a solid 50-55 average if he gets his chance in the ones. Dixon is holding down the FF spot at Port for the moment, with Westhoff pinch hitting when needed around the big sticks. With the departure of Schultz and Butcher, Port may be looking at giving Eddy his chance to play second fiddle in their forward six to help out Dixon. He can play across half forward as well which helps his case as Port really don't have a permanent CHF - perhaps only Ryder if they go down that path instead of rucking him. An interesting proposition for fantasy coaches if named round one, could provide some security. I'll watch list him for now.