The Bombers are an interesting side. On paper they have a decent list and while injury to key players has held them back at times it's safe to say they have delivered year upon year underwhelming seasons. From a Fantasy perspective Essendon seem to have some prime targets with fresh faces being added to the club along with recent injury news making some selections more viable.
The Big Boys
While the Bombers don’t have to much relevance this year you can’t deny that they arguably have one of the most relevant players in Zach Merrett ($884 000 MID). Merrett is an absolute beast having posted an average of 115+ 3 times in his career now. CBA’s like any player will hold the key to whether you start with Merrett or not. While he is arguably fully priced, he presents as a unique option and one you can captain. If we look closer into Merrett’s CBA numbers from last year, he attended on average 42% in the first 12 rounds for an adjusted average of 106. From round 12 onwards Merrett was able to attend on average 80% of CBA’s resulting in a boost in average up to an adjusted 132 over this period. It is import to consider that 3 of those games Andrew McGrath was out injured and therefore poses as a potential reason to why Merrett saw inflated CBA’s over this period. I think Merrett is a must have at some point this year whether that be at the start or later in the season, I have hopes that Merrett can be the highest scoring midfielder in 2021. If Merrett shows high CBA numbers similar to the back end of last season in the AAMI series I think starting him with unique ownership isn’t a bad play.
Shaping up to be one of the value picks of the pre-season after having a luckless year in 2020 Dyson Heppell ($566 000 MID) comes into this year priced at 74. Having posted a low average of 94 in the 6 seasons prior Heppell shapes up to be 20 points under-priced. My concern is that he has had an interrupted pre-season due to his foot injury that plagued him all of last season and while there is certainly value in Heppell there is no certainty that he will even be there come round 1. Based off this I think Heppell is one to avoid for now but definitely look for when he does play as he’s simply too cheap. If Heppell plays in the AAMI series and looks in good order my stance on this could backflip and he well and truly could be in my side come Rd 1.
Future star with a heap of potential is Sam Draper ($454 000 RUC). Making his long-anticipated debut after multiple injury riddled years Draper managed to average an adjusted 63 from his 8 games. There is no doubt that Draper will be the number 1 ruck at Essendon for many years to come and while he looked a little green at AFL level those 8 games will hold him in good stead to see solid improvement in 2021. Priced at 59 an average in the ballpark of 75-80 is realistic for Draper this season and could provide a replacement option for Preuss at a similar price. A long injury history paired with the fact Essendon will look to manage him at times potentially causes an issue at some point and it is a big jump from him to a premium. Just something to consider if you’re willing to take the punt.
Players For The Watch List
Top of the watchlist and full of hype is recently traded Jye Caldwell ($503 000 MID/FWD). After looking for midfield opportunity Jye completed a move from GWS in the offseason. Essendon are a team which don’t have an overly deep midfield and therefore we should see Caldwell receive opportunities through the middle this year. There is no doubt Caldwell has the potential to be a great footballer, the issue I have is that he has never really shown he has what it takes to be an elite scorer in fantasy at both junior and second league level. Priced at 66 and the fact he has forward status eliminates a lot of the risk with picking Jye and if his CBA numbers are good in the AAMI game I think it’s worth starting with him.
Kyle Langford ($655 000 MID/FWD) and Darcy Parish ($625 000 MID) while expensive priced at 85 and 82 both could potentially see improvement in 2021. With a new coach essentially in charge we could see some changes to the midfield group and I for one expect we might see Dylan Shiel ($780 000MID) spend more time outside leaving room for one of these types to take on a more fulltime mid role. I expect this will likely be Parish and while he has burnt coaches in the past, maybe this year is the year he puts it all together. Risky at the price and realistically both need to score close to that 100 mark to be worth considering.
Players To Avoid
David Zaharakis ($524 000 FWD) priced at 68 could present some form of value. 2020 saw David regress his average a further 10 points from his posted average of 79 in 2019. The 3 years prior David’s averages consisted of 97, 100, 94 demonstrating that he definitely has some sort of fantasy ability about him. This issue with Zaharakis is that he is coming on 31 years of age and I just can’t see a fantasy relevant role for him in 2021. With Parish, Langford, Caldwell and other younger players on the list you would think the development of them would take priority and therefore see David spending almost all of the season in a forward role. Priced at 68, he is the cheapest he’s been since his debut season of 64 over 10 years ago and therefore I am interested in seeing how Essendon will use him this season. Although, I’m not expecting anything after a delayed start to pre-season, all signs point to Zaharakis being well and truly past it.
Rookies To Look Out For
It's looking very likely at this stage that we see Harry Jones ($170 000 FWD) play from Rd 1. While being a key position player with limited scoring potential he does seem to have decent job security with Essendon's depleted forward stocks at the minute. In a season where it's looking like we'll have a rolling lockout each game job security with rookies is going to be as important as ever. For that reason he may be a smart choice for a bench spot in your forward line. Nikolas Cox ($256 000 DEF/FWD), Archie Perkins ($254 000 MID/FWD) and Zach Reid ($252 000 DEF) could all receive opportunities early but from a fantasy scoring potential the only real relevant one due to the inflated price tag is Archie. Ned Cahill ($189 000 FWD) is also in the mix and at a much more affordable price.