Draft positional breakdown: Halfbacks

The SC Spy ranks the top tiers of halfbacks and provides the best strategy for the vital position come Draft day.

Draft Breakdown Pre Season

Below is my early list of the top 10 halfbacks heading into the 2020 Draft season.

The position is split into two obvious tiers. Tier 1 being the big four and tier 2 being a much larger collection of guys.

See below for a critical breakdown of each key player and full strategy analysis for halfback selection come Draft day.

The rankings will be based on a mixture of value as well as overall ability.

*Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a key on all SuperCoach relevant abbreviations and an explanation of tiers in Draft.

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1. NATHAN CLEARY  

The clear number one HFB for mine heading into the 2020 season is Nathan Cleary.

The departure of Jimmy Maloney to the other side of the world is massive for Cleary who will see more touches in play and take over the majority of the last tackle duties.

This will likely lead to more runs (and therefore offloads and tackle busts), try & linebreak assist opportunities and importantly repeat sets which Cleary is particularly good at when allowed the chance.

Without Maloney in 2019 Cleary notched up scores of 63 & 139 (The latter against Cronulla, nonetheless with 3x forced drop outs).

In 2018 he again played two games without Maloney for an average of 70PPG and critically those two games accounted for four of his six forced drop outs for the entire season.

Essentially he scores go way up without Jimmy on this stat alone. Additionally, his ability to offload is top class.

There are games when Cleary will kick three from three, offload three times and make 16 tackles which accounts for 40 SC points before you even begin counting the rest.

Oh yeah, and he scored 186 in the last round of last season so there is just a little of late season form to work with there.

Consensus – Clear number 1 halfback, so take him high. He is great with Maloney but should be even better now.

2 & 3. DALY CHERRY-EVANS AND MITCH MOSES

This pair are very hard to split having both averaged 62PPG last year.

There are two ways to look at it. Cherry-Evans has consistently been among the top halves from a SuperCoach perspective so you can safely lock him in and reap the benefits.

Whereas Moses has a stack of upside but is more of a risk. The reason I say this is because he has had periods of dominance in the past mixed in with some absolute stinkers.

But last year he really came of age and also owns the goal-kicking duties which is important, especially if the Eels can continue to improve and score more points.

I have no major preference. If you prefer the safe option lock in Cherry or if you prefer a bit more of a rollercoaster combined with risk but a heap of upside, then go with Mitch as your man and enjoy the ride. I honestly wouldn’t care who I landed if given the option.

Consensus – It may be wise to check which week your Draft finals fall on (different week for different league settings) and let each players opposition decide for you. That’s what I will do.

4. SHAUN JOHNSON

Read this carefully. SJ has always been an absolute SuperCoach gun. His average over the past five years of: 63, 64, 72, 69 and 71 make him seem like a sure bet.

The issue is twofold. Firstly he has only ever played more than 18 games once in those five years (he played 18 and 17 games every year outside of 2016).

That’s consistently around eight or nine games missed which is costly in Draft as you can’t afford to sell him unlike in Classic mode.

That’s eight or nine games relying on a backup half. Perhaps locking in a semi solid low-end half late in the Draft who will average 40-45 or there abouts as your first bench spot is the best approach here if you want to punt on SJ.

The second issue I have is that his speed is starting to take a hit in the last couple of years and continuous injuries have not helped my man here.

That doesn’t bode well for his scores as his runs, tackle breaks and tries all fall away as he looks to pass and kick more as he gets older (think the reinvention of Benji).

As you can see above his scores have tailed off from the 70s to lower-mid 60s the last two years.

Okay, so where do we land with SJ?

He may well end up the second best averaging half as long as he can hold the goal-kicking duties year-round (I think he will), but there is a huge risk on the amount of games played and whether his older body can produce the scores we need for a top end half.

I’d prefer to take Cherry/Moses or wait until later in the Draft to lock in one of the solid contributors to follow.

In saying all of this, feel free to take the punt if you’re that way inclined. It could be a title winning move if he can stay healthy.

Especially given he averaged 80+ to finish last season after getting benched late in a game last year. (Caveat – SJ is basically in my top three favourite players of all time, so if I’m wary you probably should be too.)

Consensus – If you want to punt on him do it in Classic, but I’d advise avoiding in Draft.

5. BEN HUNT

Another mainstay here. Hunt is quite versatile in real life when it comes to positions but regardless you have a SuperCoach scorer at your disposal.

In my opinion Ben Hunt is one of the most talented little fellas in the competition, with a killer running game who occasionally can make a poor decision at a critical time.

But that doesn’t matter for us (unless you’re a Saints fan) as all we want is SuperCoach points and Benny provides that in spades.

With previous year averages of 59, 51, 58, 56 & 64 he is a good bet anywhere in the 5-10 range when it comes to halfbacks.

6. BRODIE CROFT

At a new club and being given more control of the side Croft has major upside.

There have been multiples games in the past two years where Croft has delivered big numbers. Importantly these were without a dominant halves partner.

In 2019 Cam Munster missed Rounds 16, 18 & 25. In these games Croft averaged 77.3!

In the previous seasons in two games without Munster he averaged 89.5PPG. It’s a small sample but it’s very impressive.

On the fast track of Suncorp every two weeks and with a serious running game Croft could be the pick of the second tier come season’s end!

The downside is that he averaged 45PPG the last two seasons. The decision you have to make is how much this will differ with the change of scenery and new line-up.

7. JAHROME HUGHES

I love Hughes as a player. The assumption is that he will play in the halves for Melbourne alongside Munster. If so then he is a very reasonable SuperCoach scorer.

The last two years he has averaged 56 & 51PPG and will look to improve on that in 2020.

Four games in the halves last year yielded an average of 71PPG although one was a big ton against the Gold Coast.

The risk is if Melbourne play poorly for a period (this seems unlikely under the Bellamy/Smith regime) that a reshuffle could happen and Hughes be dropped.

That’s a big maybe but I’m just flagging it as there are rumours that Smith could even shift to halfback at some stage to allow Brandon Smith a crack at starting number 9.

That’s why I have him eighth on the list behind guys like Hunt and Croft. He may fly under the radar though so be ready to swoop.

8. LUKE BROOKS

A very safe selection once the big guns are off the board considering he is the undisputed half of the Tigers squad.

He appears to be improving his footy each year and his average of 58PPG in 2019 is nothing to be scoffed at.

As mentioned already it is critical in Draft to get players that play as many games as possible. Luke Brooks fits that mould.  (This is less important in the later rounds when you can take more of a punt on a player with upside and cut them for a similar player on the wire if necessary).

The downside is that Brooks averaged under 50PPG in every year previous. Will his surge continue?

9. KYLE FLANAGAN

Goal-kicking and slotting into a star-studded Roosters team reads very well for Kyle Flanagan. Looking at last year Flanagan averaged just a touch under 55PPG in seven starting matches.

Add in further goal-kicking duties and the star cast of teammates at his disposal and that average could potentially jump quite a lot.

Let’s take a punt and say he will average low-to-mid 60s. I would be looking to take him above everyone to follow in this list purely due to his upside and the fact that he now plays for Easts.

Caveat – He is only kicking at 61% in his short career but his record in lower grades and juniors is quite good and the hope would be that he will start to knock them over consistently and ensure he keeps the duties.

UPDATE:

Flanagan has lost the goal-kicking duties following the World Club Challenge. Therefore he comes with much more risk and my prediction of a possible average in the 60s could drop to around 50 best case if he doesn’t kick or doesn’t kick often. This being the case I am knocking Flanagan back to 10th on my list as it stands.

AVOID – ADAM REYNOLDS

Simply too risky in Draft. He unfortunately missed games and has gone off early a bit in the past. Although the last three years Reynolds has played a majority of matches so perhaps the glass body is a bit of a myth?

Even so, he is also at risk of giving up the kicking duties to Latrell to rest the body a little more. Whilst this may not happen, all in all there are too many guys who will average a similar amount to Reynolds. Unless you can nab him in the latter rounds, stay away is my tip.

BOUNCE BACK YEAR – MICHAEL MORGAN

I can’t not write about Michael Morgan. Before his injury affected 2018 Morgan averaged 59PPG in three straight years.

If you are that way inclined you could take a flyer on him to get back to career best form and realistically average higher than any of the second tier guys.

Obviously the bounce back may not happen but even last year’s average of 51PPM is okay if you aren’t taking him up with the big guns.

OTHERS

Chad Townsend / Mitch Pearce / Dylan Brown / George Williams / Jarome Luai and others are all decent halves to take. You are not limited in options for this position if you stack the rest of your squad first.

THE TAKE AWAY

The important take away from all of this is that if you miss out one of the top tier guys don’t panic and feel as though you have to immediately take a halfback just to fill the position.

There are so many guys who will likely average in the 50-60PPG range that you can grab later in the Draft and allow yourself to stock up on other key positions earlier.

My tip is to write down the names of halfbacks you want and put a line through them as they come off the board.

Once you get near the last couple of names on the list it’s time to swoop and lock one into your side before you get stuck with someone who contributes very little.

This is not likely to occur until late in the Draft however depending on your league settings, so when it comes to halfbacks there is no need to panic.

The only pressure will be to get one of the top 3-4 guys. Once they are gone perhaps look to stack other positions first.

WHAT ARE TIERS IN SUPERCOACH DRAFT?

When referencing a tier of players this simply means a grouping of players of a particular SuperCoach ability.

The top tier is the elite. The second tier are those players who are not projected to be quite as good as the top tier. Whilst, the third or fourth tiers are getting to those players of less and less value.

The standard of players in each tier will differ depending on each position. Some positions may have some lower tier players who could contribute whilst other positions may be void of options once you get to the third or fourth tier. Each article will make this clear.

Scenario – The top tier is a group of players considered to be the best. For Halfbacks the top tier is projected to be Cleary, Cherry-Evans, Mitch Moses and Shaun Johnson.

The second tier are players like Ben Hunt, Luke Brooks, Jahrome Hughes etc. who are valuable but simply are not as good as the top tier guys, whilst a lower tier player may be someone like Ryley Jacks who has limited value due to not generally being a starting player.

SUPERCOACH TERMINOLOGY KEY

MPG = Minutes per game

PPG = Points per game

PPM = Points per minute

BPG = Base per game (point accrued in tackles + runs + missed tackles)

POD = Point of difference

One Response to “Draft positional breakdown: Halfbacks”

  1. shaunxuefengwang

    do you have any thoughts on Ashley Taylor? Seems to be bottom price for a massive 50 avg half back. With the new rule changes on tackling in the air, his chip kicks might yield more tries.

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