Swanny's our No. 1 pick

IT'S EVERY drafter's dream. The No. 1 pick. You can snap up any player you want and lock the best man in to your side right from the word go. The only question is, who is it?

If you take a look at the draft rankings from the Footy Prophet team, you'll see unanimous support for Gary Ablett as the No. 1 pick. This is no surprise. Ablett is a proven fantasy gun. He's averaged 110 or better five years running, longer than any other player, and lifted his average over 120 in 2012. ''You'd be mad to go past Gary with the No. 1 pick.'' That's what I said, two months ago, before I started work on our upcoming fantasy draft prospectus. Now, I've got to eat my words. If I score the No. 1 pick in a draft this year, the name I read out will be Dane Swan. And if you're in the same situation, you should be saying the same thing - here's why.

No.1: Swan's a better scorer

What you want in a fantasy draft is to get the maximum points for your pick. So, when you've got the first overall, it's hard to go past Swanny, who finished with a higher average than any other player in 2012. Many wonder if Swanny can keep it up. I don't know for sure that he'll manage 130+ again, but I would back him to be the best in the competition again in 2013. Swanny's got seven years of 100+ averages under his belt, and three years of 120+. He seems to defy the rules, most notably, the one about things that go up needing to come down.

The terrifying thing is that Swan might even take a step forward in 2013. He massively increased his average in the second half of 2012, with his after-the-bye average being a 16-point increase on his before-the-bye average. He finished the year with a run of 10 straight scores above 100.

In comparison, Ablett played second fiddle to Swan in terms of his 2012 average. He's got five years of 110+ scoring, but this is his first year at that ''ultra premium'' 120+ mark. I think Ablett can keep it up, but the fact that Swan is a proven performer at this level, with the capacity to go higher, gives him the edge.

No.2: He's more consistent

There's no worse feeling in a draft league than when your captain and star player goes missing on the field and only brings in 60 or 70 points for the week.

There is no avoiding it, but you can minimise it, and Swanny is the perfect choice for that. In 2013, every player in the league had at least four games where they failed to score above 100, which is generally the pass mark for a good captaincy selection. Every player, that is, except Swanny. In 18 games last year, he only scored below 100 once - and even then, managed 95. There's no doubt he stands head and shoulders above the rest.

By way of comparison, Ablett dipped below 100 on four occasions in 2012. Two were fairly respectable scores of 97 and 99, but the others were 89 and, at his lowest point, 61. In a draft league, a 61 from your captain can be the difference between a win or a loss.

No.3: He'll play more games (probably).

If you've taken a look at Ablett and Swanny yourself, you've probably seen one thing about their respective 2012 seasons that seemingly sets Ablett at a level above Swanny, and that's the number of games they played. Ablett managed 20, while Swanny could pull only 18.

Let's take a look at Swanny's absences. He missed two early with a hamstring, but he's got no lingering injury concerns. The others are more glaring. He sensationally missed two towards the end of the season with a club-imposed suspension, after breaking a pact the players had made about not drinking alcohol. What you've got to ask yourself is, will this be a feature of Swanny in the future? Taking a look at his record, Swan is practically a golden boy (in fantasy terms at least). Before 2012 he'd played 20+ games for six years running, and during that period, he had four straight years where he played every game in the season. I think Swanny's learnt his lesson and could easily play a full season in 2013, or at least get 20+ once again. By comparison, Ablett is a little less consistent with his games. He has dropped below 20 games twice in the past, and hasn't played a full season since 2007.

The verdict

Look, if you were getting a free car, and one was faster and less likely to break down, which one would you pick? The one that doesn't play for Collingwood, obviously, so I'll understand if you prefer Ablett to Swanny. He's as good a choice as any. That said, I think the numbers speak for themselves - if you want the No. 1 man with the No. 1 pick, Swanny is your guy.

One to consider …

There is one other option. It's one that very few will even consider. Matthew Boyd. He had the fourth best average in 2012, but was the only player in the top four to play every game and therefore finished the season with more points than anyone else in the league.

If you want the most points for your pick - not week to week, but as a season total - Boyd is as close as you can get to being a lock for every single game. He has consistently averaged around 115 for the year for three years.

People will call you mad if you take him at the first selection, and, OK, they're probably right. That said, insanity may pay great dividends, my friends!

Article supplied by footyprophet.com - football analysis and opinion with a fantasy focus.

This story Swanny's our No. 1 pick first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.