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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If the first two matches this week are any indication, Round 2 isn't going to feature a lot of goal scoring as players struggle to regain their usual fitness level after the layoff. Geelong looked great Friday, but the other three squads all failed to break 50 points and saw big second-half swoons as fatigue set in. Collingwood's performance in particular could be indicative of what to expect. They racked up four goals and 25 points in the first quarter as adrenaline carried them to an early lead, and then one goal and nine points the rest of the way, including a dreadful zero goals and three behinds in the entire second half. Had Jordan de Goey produced more than two meager behinds on his four good scoring chances... well, I'll leave that for irate Magpies fans to discuss. As such, the safest lineup construction might be to focus on defenders and midfielders who can pile up kicks, handballs and marks while potentially chipping in some scoring as well, as Tom Phillips did for Collingwood, rather than spending big on forwards like de Goey who could struggle to find their form and put the ball between the uprights.
Brisbane (-18.5) vs. Fremantle, o/u 132.5 points: Both teams suffered tough losses in Round 1, but that might be where the similarities end. The Brisbane Lions looked like one of the league's up-and-comers in 2019, finishing fifth in goals with 307 while also allowing plenty, but they only kept up the latter half of that formula in a 90-62 loss to Hawthorn in their 2020 opener. The Lions' strength is its midfield and the dynamic duo of Lachie Neale ($7,700) and Jarryd Lyons ($7,700), and while they both delivered big performances in Round 1, it was most of the rest of the roster that failed to show up against the Hawks. As for the Fremantle Dockers, they could be headed for their first wooden spoon since 2001 after losing eight of their last 10 to close out the last campaign and saw a fairly significant talent drain in the offseason. A narrow 63-57 loss to Essendon in their opener wasn't bad and their furious fourth-quarter comeback showed heart, but it wasn't like they kept things close against one of the AFL's powerhouses. Nathan Fyfe ($7,600) and Michael Walters ($7,000) are excellent players and they feature some youngsters who could take advantage of their new opportunities, but there's only so much they can do with this supporting cast.
Carlton vs. Melbourne (-9.5), o/u 140.5 points: While the over/under on this match makes it look like a rich source of DFS targets, it's due to both sides being perceived as weak defensively rather than their offensive prowess. The Melbourne Demons allowed the second-most goals in the league in 2019 with 297, while the Carlton Blues weren't far behind at 276. Both teams also finished in the bottom four in goal scoring, however, so whether either side can take advantage is an open question. Carlton did hang 81 points on Richmond in their opener (while also conceding 105), so they certainly did their part to meet that projected pace. Sam Docherty ($7,500), who missed all of 2019 due to knee surgery, is the most expensive defender on the slate for good reason, both due to his talent and how busy he's likely to be, while Patrick Cripps ($7,300) is the key man in the middle for the Blues. As for the Demons, while they sport the two most expensive players on the slate in ruck Max Gawn ($8,700) and young midfielder Clayton Oliver ($8,100), that seems as much a result of the expected fireworks here as their own capabilities. The team was a surprise contender in 2018 but fell back towards the bottom of the table last year, and their 78-51 loss to the Eagles in Round 1 didn't suggest the pendulum was about to swing back. There is significant potential upside in this matchup on both sides, but also plenty of risk.
Gold Coast vs. West Coast (-31.5), o/u 119.5 points: Although the circumstances make every game more unpredictable, this is likely to be the most lopsided match on the slate. The Gold Coast Suns had the worst defensive record in the AFL last year, and there's no reason to suspect they got any better in the offseason – the Suns got smacked 76-29 by Port Adelaide in their opener before the season was suspended. If you feel compelled to include a Gold Coast player in your lineup, young midfielders Brayden Fiorini ($6,200) and Matthew Rowell ($5,300) seem like the most reliable options. Meanwhile, the West Coast Eagles remain one of the AFL's elite clubs. The Eagles were fourth in goals last year (one of five teams that topped 300) and are coming off a solid 78-51 win over Melbourne in Round 1. As with any potential blowout in any sport, you have to weigh the possibility of a team's big names, such as the midfield duo of Andrew Gaff ($7,900) and Luke Shuey ($7,600), ruck Nick Naitanui ($5,800), or defender Shannon Hurn ($6,700), ceding opportunities to other players with little on the line, but West Coast should dominate the ball and create scoring chances up and down the roster, making them an enticing stacking option – nine different Eagles racked up at least seven marks in Round 1, and the Suns should have even less luck slowing them down.
Port Adelaide (-13.5) vs. Adelaide, o/u 125.5 points: An infusion of young talent over the last two years, intended to eventually replace a core that has led them to little recent success, has made Port Adelaide an exciting but inconsistent squad, and they finished 2019 closer to the bottom than the top in both goals for and goals against. If the kids take a leap in their development, though, they could surprise this season. The Power did stomp the Suns 76-29 in Round 1, but that was the Suns. Veteran forward/midfielder Robert Gray ($6,100) leads the charge, while the back line is anchored by young stalwarts Dan Houston ($7,000) and Darcy Byrne-Jones ($6,300). As for their South Australian rivals, Adelaide were among the AFL's top squads as recently as 2017, but it's been two years of mediocrity since. The result of that slide was a big offseason housecleaning and a full commitment to a youth movement. A narrow 74-71 loss to Sydney in Round 1 wasn't the best start to the project, but it did offer some hope. Up-and-coming ruck Reilly O'Brien ($7,400) and steady defender Rory Laird ($6,600) will try to keep the Crows afloat until the kids are ready to step up.
Rory Lobb, Dockers ($6,200): While DK does feature some players listed as both midfielders and forwards, they don't seem to offer the same flexibility when it comes to players like Lobb, who fill a tweener forward/ruck role. The 27-year-old scored two goals with seven marks in Fremantle's opener but also chipped in nine hitouts, and having two streams of potential production could give him a leg up on the other rucks in his salary range. He was the highest scorer at his position in Round 1 by a fair margin but checks in seventh on the salary scale this week, and his matchup isn't a daunting one.
Liam Ryan, Eagles ($4,500): The 23-year-old came out of the gates firing in Round 1, leading the Eagles with three goals and three behinds against Melbourne, but he's still only the fifth-priciest forward on his own squad. Ryan is a dynamic young player who has yet to come into his own on a loaded West Coast roster – he scored only 30 goals in 24 games last season – but that performance in the opener could well have been a sign he's ready to take over from veteran Josh J. Kennedy as the team's biggest threat up front.
Charlie Dixon, Power ($3,900): After missing the opener with an adductor strain, Dixon draws back in for Port Adelaide in Round 2 after using the shutdown to get fit. Staying healthy has been a challenge in recent years, but when he's on form he's been very productive, with 2017's 49 goals and 149 marks being his career best to date. Dixon gives the Power a big target up front, and his bargain salary given him significant value potential.
Ed Langdon, Demons ($6,500): The former Fremantle player had an impressive Melbourne debut in Round 1 that included a team-high 23 kicks, and Langdon looks like he'll be an important player in a rebuilt Demons midfield. He never produced big numbers for the Dockers, but he's still only 24 years old and had the potential to take his career to a new level in new surroundings.
Karl Amon, Power ($6,300): The 24-year-old took a big step forward in 2019 and then delivered a strong performance in Port Adelaide's opener this year. His role off the wing makes him an important link-up option in the Power attack, and after posting a career-high 188 kicks in 17 games last season, he racked up 15 against the Suns before the shutdown, and his chances at the uprights have started to become more consistent as well.
Harley Bennell, Demons ($4,000): Who doesn't love a good redemption story? Once a promising player with Gold Coast, off-field issues saw him peddled off to Fremantle in 2015, and he managed to play only two games in four years due to reoccurring calf injuries before being cut loose. Bennell was given one more chance by Melbourne, and the Demons have declared him fit and ready to make his debut for them this weekend. Still only 27 years old, it's impossible to know how much he has left in the tank or even how much of the field he'll see Saturday, but it's not often you find someone with his upside in this salary range.
Callum Ah Chee, Lions ($3,100): If you're hunting for a player near minimum salary for your roster, Ah Chee could be just what you need to squeeze in that last star. After spending four seasons with Gold Coast, who aren't exactly known as exceptional talent evaluators, the 22-year-old was flipped to Brisbane this offseason and will make his Lions debut this weekend. He scored 21 goals in 30 games for the Suns as a teenager over his first two campaigns but then got shifted back into a more defensive role and barely saw the field in 2019. At this price, he doesn't need to do much more than supply some steady possession numbers to deliver value, but it is possible Brisbane gives him a chance to attack a little more often than his former club did.
Charlie Ballard, Suns ($4,200): After missing Round 1 with a shoulder injury, the 20-year-old Ballard is fit and ready to resume his duties on the back end for Gold Coast. Taking a defender in this sort of matchup offers high risk but high reward, as while the majority of play is likely to be at the Suns' end of the pitch, that doesn't mean they'll have much possession of the ball. Ballard kept his head above water as a teenager under difficult circumstances last season, though, piling up over 200 kicks and 100 marks, and if West Coast's play is as sloppy as some other squads so far coming off that long layoff, he's the kind of player who could capitalize.
Tom Doedee, Crows ($4,000): The promising young defender tore his ACL in Round 1 of 2019 and has been sidelined ever since, but Doedee is now healthy and ready to rejoin the lineup. The 22-year-old had an excellent effort against Port Adelaide as a rookie in 2018, including scoring one of his two career goals, and nothing makes you a fan favorite quicker than stepping up in rivalry games. In what could be the tightest matchup of the weekend, there should be plenty of opportunities for players to shine on the back end, and Doedee will be looking to make up for lost time.