The pre season is upon us! In the lead up to round one i'll be covering one player from each team that you may have otherwise not given a second thought to for your squad in 2017. Any fantasy coach can pick an established elite, but it's 'the other guys' that will inevitably decide your team's fate. Today we focus our fantasy thoughts on...
He's drawn comparisons to a fantasy favorite son in Joel Corey by astute commentators, but can the time trial king with more silk than a Shanghai back alley rise to the lofty standards Joel set in his prime? Taken at number two in the 2013 draft behind Tom Boyd, Kelly has quietly gone about his business as an outside midfielder for the Giants since his debut in 2014 with fantasy averages of 69,73 and most recently 89.8 in 2016.
You'll have to excuse Kelly's last five games of the year in 2016, it's not a true reflection of the year or player he is. Let's rewind a little further into last season between rounds 8-18, a 10 game streak where Kelly showed fantasy coaches that he's capable of consistency and some respectable fantasy scoring. Between those rounds he went 112,76,116,74,105,85,103,97,125 and 113 for a ten round average of 100.6. As a pure mid it was hard to take him seriously last season, you just couldn't see him producing the numbers to justify selection - it was a shame we couldn't get him as a forward. Never the less, it was a large spike in all categories for Kelly compared to his 2015 season, a 16.5 fantasy point increase and a 5.5 disposal gain underpinned what ultimately meant a bigger responsibility in the midfield.
The worrying point for Kelly when you glance over his stats from the last three seasons is his marks and tackles columns. There has been small gains, but not enough to make you think he has turned a corner yet to become elite. Can 2017 be different? Can Kelly become a more damaging inside mid to complement those statistical categories and launch himself above the magical 100 point average? It largely depends on his role, a natural runner with elite endurance (still holds the second best time at the combine for the 3km time trial with 9m 32s) it's hard to see him pushing out the likes of Ward, Shiel, Griffen and Coniglio for that inside role even if he has the capabilities to. He seems set for another year on the wings, especially now with Whitfield out for 6 months after his failed attempt to develop his ectomorphic frame in a legal manner.
Still, it will only take an extra 3-4 possessions and a small increase in his other statistical categories to bump his average up close to the 98-100 mark. Last season he averaged 23.6 possessions per game, a figure he could easily eclipse by the end of 2017. If I had to hazard an estimated guess he could be up around the 26.5 disposal average. With a 50:50 kick to handball ratio, you would be looking at an extra 6-7 fantasy points per game on average based on disposals alone. I just don't think that's enough to justify picking him in your starting midfield as he'll be at that awkward price and unless you are dead certain he can crack the ton, there are probably safer options.
Durability wise, he's as reliable as they come, while he missed games in 2014 and 2015 (36 from 46) - that was due to form rather than injury while he was finding his place in the team. He's played a total of 60 from a possible 70 games over his three year career and played out a full season last year with 24 games to his name. The plus factor here is that because of his role within the team, his style of play lends itself to less injuries in a similar style to Andrew Gaff over at West Coast. In fact, at this point in his career i would compare Josh Kelly closer to Gaff than the aforementioned Corey, though Kelly has an inside game about him as was evident during the TAC Cup that is yet to be unleashed. Will the Giants let him roam the inside in 2017 to balance his game style?
The Giants starting 22 is thick with midfielders, even true mids like Greene, Griffen, Hopper and the newly acquired Deledio from the Tigers don't spend all that much time in there aside from the odd chop out when the blue chips need a spell. I still get chills when I think about what Greene could do if left alone in the midfield for a whole game to ball hunt - but that's another story for another day. Back to Kelly, as mentioned he's destined for that wing role again in 2017 i'm afraid to say with Scully over on the other wing. Not that its such a bad thing, Gaff has made a name for himself as a super consistent wing fantasy scorer (especially in 2015) so there is no reason why in his fourth year potential break out season Josh Kelly can't emulate this.
The Giants will most certainly be up there again pushing for a top four spot, this is a huge bonus for a player like Kelly who has a tendency to play his best games in wins. Five of his six 100+ scores in 2016 came when the Giants won while he was relatively consistent still in their losses at an average of 87 points per game over their 7 losses.
Potential and natural progression going into his fourth year alone make Josh Kelly a viable option for fantasy coaches in 2017. I've got him pencilled in for a 98 average, provided he can continue his steady disposal increase again and get a crack at some inside midfield minutes he should give that figure a real nudge.
Can you find a spot for him in your midfield? Or are there better options out there...?