As we draw ever closer to the new season, I have asked a number of seasoned professionals to rank (in their opinion) the top 5 players in each position. I asked them to take the players price into consideration but as always, points are king. I'll analyse each position separately and next up is the minefield of the Second Row.
Note: For any non-vote, I have assigned a value of 6 which will place more value on receiving a vote than missing out altogether.
1. Jack de Belin, $561,000
With Corey Parker and Paul Gallen both slipping in the last year or two, someone needed to step up and take the 2RF position by the horns. That someone was JdB. Finishing with a season average just under 60, de Belin is pricey but with the news that Jai Field will find himself on the bench to start the season, there is one less player to take minutes off 'Topknot'. One of very few set and forget options in the back row for 2017.
2. Simon Mannering, $550,000
Since moving to lock, Mannering has gone from fantasy strength to fantasy strength. One of the top 5 tacklers in the game, Mannering is a pick and stick player and occasionally a decent captaincy option. The only possible downside is if he gets moved onto an edge with Thompson and Hoffman fighting to be fit for round one. This would however increase his chances of scoring tries which always bump his scores up nicely.
3. Sam Burgess, $523,000
After taking a year off to try and win the Rugby Union World Cup (and failing spectacularly), Burgess returned to the NRL and set about resurrecting the Rabbitohs fortune. Unsurprisingly, Union seemed to temper his attacking flair and his tackle break and offload numbers dropped from his last run in cardinal and myrtle. The Rabbitohs have good byes and Burgess is obviously no chance of playing Oranges so he will be a popular selection but I can't see him getting above a 55 average.
4. Paul Gallen, $538,000
With Gallen retiring from representative duties at the end of the Origin series last year, many will be hoping he can get through a full season for the Sharks and return to fantasy prominence. He's only played in 43 games out of a possible 72 in the last 3 seasons. If he can stay fit, he should be a great option once again but at the moment I'm not willing to trust him.
5. Trent Merrin, $530,000
Merrin started last season with a bit of a splutter, averaging under 50 for the first 5 rounds of the season (and missing the round 3 match altogether). After a lot of coaches traded him out, Merrin hit back immediately with a score of 83 in round 6 and an average of 58.5 for the rest of the season. There are reports he is still nursing a calf injury and could be eased into his work but I feel Merrin is another valid set and forget choice.
6. Mitchell Barnett, $460,000
Barnett made a mark at the end of the 2016 season and finished with an average of 50 from 9 games. He is a workhorse and looks set to get the lock position at the Knights over Jamie Buhrer. The problem with Barnett is he plays for the Knights and could quite easily find himself on the bench or out of the side altogether if he has a bad game.
7. Elijah Taylor, $399,000
Please don't do this to yourself. Taylor is a tackle machine and that is it. He doesn't break tackles and drops the ball more often than not when attempting to offload. The only way I see Taylor being a good pick is if he is locked in for 80 minutes every game.
8. Jamie Buhrer, $473,000
Buhrer will likely line up on the edge in the Knights pack and surprisingly it may not hurt his fantasy output. He has a history of delivering similar scores no matter where he plays. The big question surrounding him is the minute split in the Knights back row. If he can get 70+ minutes he should be slightly undervalued but there is every chance that Nathan Brown gives him less.
9. Jake Trbojevic, $492,000
'Jurbo' was a good pick up last year, a move to lock giving him DPP and an increase in minutes and scores. However I can't see his role changing from last season to this and he doesn't average quite enough to achieve gun status. If he can get his PPM back to 2015 levels (0.74 to 0.83) he might be worth a pick but he's definitely not one I'm targeting at the moment.
10. Matt Gillett, $453,000
A typical edge back rower, Gillett can't quite seem to reach the consistency levels required to make him a gun second rower. Capable of scoring two tries and busting out 80 but also capable of plodding along to a 20 in 80 minutes (rd 26 last year), I wouldn't bother getting him in your team.
11. Bryce Cartwright, $492,000
Cartwright is a great prospect but he averaged more in the halves than in the second row, which is where he should be situated for the majority of the season. There is not a lot of downside to this selection but the upside probably wont be too monumental. Also look out for the Oranges period as he could be selected this year.
12. Elliot Whitehead, $483,000
Whitehead burst on the scene last year as a value buy and performed very admirably on the Raiders right edge alongside Leilua and Rapana. While I would imagine he should continue to do well this season, he doesn't have the value that he did last year and his upside is quite limited if Blake Austin continues to refuse to pass it wider.