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Premium picks not worth the premium? How the top 10 picks are now un-selectable in Dream Team

Damian looks at how high draft picks cost us more for AFL Dream Team and which of the draftees you are better to look at.

In preparation for this year’s Dreamteam, I have been looking back at the old preseason guides and Prospectuses when I was struck by what Mr Fantasy stated in the 2008 NAB Cup Guide – sticking to high draft picks was one of his top ten keys to winning Dream Team. In his mock team that year, he selected 6 of the top ten picks.

Which got me thinking how times have changed, as I put together the early draft of my 2012 team, I am struggling to fit 1 of the top ten picks in my side. A quick review of the My Team 2012 section on DT Talk shows that most teams only have one or two tops – Tyson, Coniglio and, maybe, Wingard.

Shouldn’t we all be picking more premium draft picks this year?  With 13 of the last two years top 10 picks at Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, they are basically guaranteed selection and game time and thus should score points. But nobody is picking these guys.

So how come premium picks, players the football industry nominated as the best rookies, aren’t making the grade in most Dream Teams?

Simply – cash money. In times where the real-life economy highlights every day the value of a dollar, Dream Team owners have recognised that these premium picks aren’t worth the extra premium.

Have the makers of the game, in developing this year’s prices, priced the premium rookies out of Dream Team in 2012?

To evaluate this hypothesis, let’s review the evolution of the top picks’ and rookies’ relative starting prices:

2008

Total salary cap was $7,431,000
1st pick: Matthew Kruezer – Carlton, his starting salary $123,500.
Proportion of Kruezer’s salary against the cap:  1.66%
Average for the season: 54.3 in 20 games.
Cheapest salary: $72,500. % of salary cap: 0.98%
Best rookie was Rhys Palmer, pick 7, starting price was $99,500. Average was 87.55 ppg.

2009

Total salary cap was $7,706,000
1st pick: Jack Watts – Melbourne, his starting salary $150,600
Proportion of Watts’s salary against the cap:  1.95%
Average for the season: 33 per game in 3 games
Cheapest salary: $86,600. % of salary cap: 1.12%
Best rookie was Daniel Rich, pick 6, starting price was $126,600. Average was 77.18 ppg.

2010

Total salary cap was $7,962,500
1st pick: Tom Scully – Melbourne, his starting salary $157,500
Proportion of Scully’s salary against the cap:  1.98%
Average for the season: 79.1 per game in 21 games.
Cheapest salary: $89,500. % of salary cap: 1.12%
Best rookie was Tom Scully.

2011

Total salary cap was $8,225,000
1st pick: David Swallow – Gold Coast Suns, his starting salary $160,500.
Proportion of Swallow’s salary against the cap: 1.95% of salary cap.
Average for the season: 76.29 per game in 21 games.
Cheapest salary: $80,800. % of salary cap: 0.98%
Best rookie: Dyson Heppell, pick 8, starting price was $132,500. Averaged 84.09 ppg.

2012

Total salary cap is $8,780,000
1st pick: Jon Patton – Greater Western Sydney, his starting salary $179,700.
Proportion of Patton’s salary against the cap: 2.05% of salary cap.
Cheapest salary: $85,800. % of salary cap: 0.98%

What do the figures show us?

  • The overall salary cap has risen $1,349,000 over the past 5 years – an increase of 18.1%.
  • The salaries of the cheapest players, rookie listed players, have increased slightly by $13,300 over the past 5 years but most importantly the relative cap position of each rookie, 0.98%, has stayed the same.
  • The starting salary of the number 1 pick has increased $56,200, or 45.5% over the same time.
  • The cap figure for the number 1 pick, the inflation adjusted cost of selecting the number 1 pick has increased to 2.05% of your salary cap in 2012 compared to just 1.66% in 2008. An increase of 19.1% or broadly in line with the overall salary cap increase.
  • Patton is 4.9% more expensive, on a salary cap proportion, to select than David Swallow last year.
  • The difference in price between the top pick and the cheapest rookie listed player has increased from $51,000 in 2008 to $79,700 in 2011 before topping out at $93,900 in 2012.
  • In 2012, based on prices, the game rates Patton twice as valuable as rookie listed players.

So why are the premium picks so relatively expensive?

  1. Expansion teams will play rookies more.
  2. The increasing salary cap and point scoring dictate it.
  3. The guys behind the game are trying to make Dreamteam harder.

I think it’s a mixture of all three.

Before looking at the potential impact of the premium 2012 players, lets quickly review the performance of the top ten picks from the 2011 Draft which shows the risk of picking premium rookies.

Heppell and Swallow were the standouts. Heppell played above all preseason expectations and you could argue, given his DPP status, that he was one of the most valuable players last season. Swallow faced a mission impossible in 2011. He was considered the most AFL ready rookie ever; he had already done two pre-seasons before his debut and he was the third best midfielder in his side. Many selected Swallow and figured he could average above 80. So his 76.29 average, which was nearly identical to Scully and Rich averages in their debut seasons, could be considered a disappointment from a keeper/cash cow perspective.

Caddy and Polec were injured and played 5 games between them. Day and Gorringe are developing key position players that never translate well to Dream Team. Bennell, Gaff and Prestia average between 63 and 67 but only played between 14 and 17 games, with each copping multiple vests. Conca only went up value only 26% over the course of season.

The best value selections in 2011 came from draft picks outside the top ten (Isaac Smith, Darling, Puopolo and Duigan) and rookie lists (Ed Curnow, Tendai Mzungu, Cameron Richardson, Danny Stanley and Nick Lower).

Based on 2011, top ten picks are just as risky as all other rookies despite expansion teams playing more rookies than ever before. So what can we expect in 2012 from the top ten picks from the last draft?

  • Jonathon Patton – Greater Western Sydney. He is recovering from recent knee surgery performed in Sweden and won’t play until May. With Patton missing at least 6 games, he would need to score at keeper level, 85/90, to be worth picking. Given the scoreboard impact of the Suns last year, this is exceedingly unlikely.
  • Stephen Coniglio and Dom Tyson both Greater Western Sydney and Chad Wingard – Port Adelaide are the most game ready players of the top ten. All will play in the midfield, rotating across half forward this year which will hopefully add some points from goalkicking. To pick one of these guys from a cash cow perspective, they well have to average over 80. History shows us that one of these three will likely do this and win the Rising Star.
  • Matt Buntine – Greater Western Sydney is an expensive defensive option.
  • Billy Longer – Brisbane Lions and Adam Tomlinson – Greater Western Sydney are key positions prospects that will take longer to develop.
  • Will Hoskin-Elliot, Nick Haynes and Liam Sumner, all Greater Western Sydney will play in 2012 but the likelihood of them averaging above 75 seem limited.

To demonstrate that this year’s top ten picks are unpickable for Dream Team, let’s look at the merits of selecting Dom Tyson vs Dylan Shiel.

  • Tyson costs $170,700 vs Shiel at $104,200.
  • Both are expected to average 70/75 in 2012.
  • By picking Shiel over Tyson owners will initially save $66,500.
  • If they both rise to the same price level of around $280,000, Shiel owners will make another $66,500.

Simply by picking Shiel over Tyson, Dream Team owners will have an additional $133,000 cash to spend. This equates to 1.51% of their initial salary cap.

So where to look for rookie selections?

Draft picks outside the top 10 such as Kavanagh, Docherty, Brendan Ellis and Clay Smith.

Father/Son selection – Tom Mitchell.

Mature Aged Rookies – Stephenson, Morris, Clifton, Saad, Giles and Rowe.

Rookie listed players – Pfeiffer, James Magnar, Sam Gibson and Kyal Horsely.

GWS Pre listed 17’s from last year – Miles, Shiel, Treloar and Hampton.

Previously overlooked players – Zorko and Luke Brown.

Look for more review of these guys in the Chooks Rooks section closer to the season.

As we evaluate all the rookies during the NAB Cup, you have to weigh up whether it’s worth spending your scarce cash paying the premium on safer high picks or taking potential risks on cheaper players.

Right now for me, with the first pick in this year’s draft, I’m taking the extra $133,000 and Dylan Shiel.

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