The new chief playmaker in Belmore with a premiership ring on his finger and out from under the shadow of Cleary’s chin. Already a popular fantasy centre in 2021 with a stellar try scoring rate, Burto is one that hasn’t slipped under anyone’s radar with his ownership sitting just shy of 39% currently. Is that high ownership justified or is it too low? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, we can’t go any further without talking about Burton’s 80% try scoring rate from his 6 appearances in the halves last year. There’s no doubt moving from the premiers to the wooden spooners (though we have them improving) is likely going to see some regression to a more sustainable number, but you also can’t take away from the fact that Burton is an attacking half capable of beating defenders on his own as we saw time and time again last year. We’re projecting him for a 30% (though certainly possible he exceeds this) try scoring rate which is similar to other attacking halves in middle of the pack teams such as Jack Wighton or Ben Hunt.
Another strike in the negative column for Burton is the reduction in kick metres and tackle busts for a dominant running half who will control the majority of kicking duties. I’m expecting Burton to take roughly 70% of the kick metre split with Averillo (similar split when partnering Luai) with about 2 to 3 tackle busts per game. The rebalanced scoring here coupled with a 50% reduction in try scoring will result in about a 13 point reduction on his 6 game 60 point 2021 halves average (calculated under new scoring). The positive news however, is the addition of goal kicking will offset about 6 points lost here and likely keep him in a 50s average.
We’ve projected an expected range of outcomes from 48.3 to a 54.3 average. With a 48 break even to start the year there’s not much value here in terms of expected avereage v break even but the value in Burton comes from his dual position centre status. I think there’s little doubt that with the reduction in scoring for true tackle busting centres, Burton will be an elite keeper centre with centre turned forward dual position players Aitken and Bird seemingly the only challengers for top status at this stage. I believe it’s also important to note the Dogs face an absolute murderer’s row from round 3 to 8 facing Manly, Melbourne, Penrith, Souths and the Roosters over that span. Burton can certainly over come that with his solid base as we saw him put up a 38 and 60 (new scoring) against Melbourne last year but it may limit his early season ceiling.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Burton will be a keeper centre come season’s end so if you want the peace of mind with a high floor, high ceiling centre with strong job security (half the battle with centres as last year proved) then I certainly won’t talk you out of Burton. In fact, he was one of my players picked in my team and it’s only as I’ve done my projections and written this piece where my second thoughts have begun. Burto will likely be one I’m contemplating until the opening kickoff and I’ll be struggling with serious FOMO should his attacking play defy my projections and expected regression.