After a brief stint in the nations capital, Ryan James moves to Queensland along with Kurt Capewell to inject some much needed leadership into the Brisbane forward pack. James is on the wrong side of 30 and nearing the end of his career, but Fantasy coaches may still be able to get one last ride out of the big fella in 2022.
James has been heavily impacted by injuries in recent years, and was hurt by the depth of middles in Canberra, but has a real opportunity for meaningful minutes in 2022, particularly with Tom Flegler suspended in the opening rounds. We would expect James to partner Haas and Carrigan in the starting middle forwards for the Broncos, obviously playing the least minutes of the three, but we would expect a floor of around 40 minutes without Flegler there, and we back the talent of James to hold that role of 40-45 minutes.
James has 10 career games in the middle forward rotation playing between 35 and 50 minutes, and it is a promising sample of games as he averages 49.6 points in 44.3 minutes at a ridiculous 1.12ppm. James has 6 tries in that sample, which is likely unsustainable, but we do know that James has a nose for the line so we can’t just ignore his try scoring. Even without the tries though, the base is very strong, at 0.86ppm just in base stats.
I suspect a lot of this is that James is used to playing big minutes and is quite fit, so when he knows he is playing reduced minutes he can devote all of his energy to his work without conserving too much. This is illustrated in his 50+ minute games, where his PPM drops to 0.81 and a base of 0.78. You will notice the gap here is much smaller than the above sample, due to the high rate of try scoring and attacking stats. Interestingly, in the smaller sample, James averages almost 50% additional tackle busts despite playing over 20 less minutes. His run metres are virtually identical between the samples, with the only real difference in base being the much higher tackle count in the longer games (+13 tackles).
All of this said, it doesn’t matter what James did in the past, it matters what he is going to do this year. If we extend the sample size to 55 minute max, we get a nice 19 game sample which averages out at about 48 minutes with a 37% try scoring rate, a much more attainable number for James. We do need to factor the “turn over tackles” into this, which are only tracked for 5 of the 19 game sample. This would adjust his average up to 45 points in 48.4 minutes which gives us a PPM of 0.93.
Looking forward, depending on bench composition I think 45 minutes with no Flegler seems about right, reducing to 40 with Flegler back and then boosted through the Origin period with Haas and (most likely) Carrigan on rep duties.
So, basically, we can more than likely expect some low 40s from James through the first 3 weeks while Flegler is suspended, and then more than likely high 30s for the following 8 or 9 weeks through to the Origin period. The Broncos miss the first bye week which is disappointing, and it isn’t quite the solid 10 points of value we are looking for.
That said, it is entirely possible that James repeats something similar to last year, where his 5 game sample turned in a 47.2 average in 42.6 minutes, although that is probably in the “unlikely” basket. Of course if he isn’t named to start week 1, we may need to adjust those expectations, but there is also no reason James can’t average 40 minutes off the bench either. Definitely one to keep an eye on in the trials and on TLT.