We have saved our biggest in focus for last, with new Eels captain Junior Paulo coming under the microscope as a POD option at only 4.3%. Paulo has moved into the elite middle forwards in the NRL since his departure from the Raiders, but had some regression from his stellar 2020 season statistically. So what do we expect for 2022?
To get the obvious out of the way, Paulo is a large human being. The fact that he is playing 50-55 minutes per game is a testament to the training ability of the NRL conditioning staff, and Junior himself. In 2020, Paulo hit his peak in terms of Fantasy output vs minutes played, pumping out 54 minutes at 0.97ppm (his previous best being 0.84ppm) before coming back to 0.86ppm in 2021.
Personally, I think Paulo broke out in 2020 in terms of his ability to play big minutes well, and the speed of the game was just too much for him in 2021 to keep the work rate up. The change in points was basically 30 metres per game, 1 tackle bust and half a demerit, all of which can be explained by fatigue.
When we look at his 2020 season, we can see there was nothing unrealistic about his output. 26 tackles and 155 metres in 54 minutes for a player of that calibre is expected. Where Paulo makes his hay is the 2.3 offloads per game going to hand, which is huge. Add in the odd T/O tackle, and a few extra minutes thanks to the captaincy and the likely presence of a Utility on the bench, and a realistic outcome for Paulo is a 55 average.
Paulo starts at $569K with a BE of 46, and is a realistic chance of being priced in the very high $600s by the time he is called up for Origin duties. From there, it is a comfortable step up to a Tohu Harris who should be 3-4 weeks returned from his ACL injury and primed for purchase as a straight swap for Paulo, if you have the trades that is! I see equal or greater upside with Paulo than guys like Jason Taumalolo, Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake who will cost you a lot more. He feels like the best option in his price bracket that feature Arrow, Stefano, Welch, and Tapine, and he has been locked into my side for a week now.
To check out his stats, visit https://app.rugbyleaguefantasypro.com/fantasy/gamelog.