Have Essendon made the Wright move?

Regardless of prior pedigree, when a player is clearly left out of a club’s plans, not being selected in an entire season, it’s really difficult to expect much in exchange if they are then traded.

Especially when the club in question has a committed contract to manage within the salary cap.

Such is the situation of pick eight in the 2014 Draft, Peter Wright, a very tall key forward who has been left comprehensively behind by the Suns.

The Gold Coast have struggled to fit all of Ben King, Jack Lukosius, Sam Day and Josh Corbett into a single forward line, let alone also finding space for Wright.

The flexible and supremely talented Lukosius has had a productive period bounding out of the backline but Wright isn’t that kind of player.

He’s also not a noted ruck, despite his height, and with Witts capable of shouldering a solo load they don’t need much of a second option there anyway.

Wright does one thing relatively well – mark the ball inside 50. He’s alright – not great – on the lead and in contested marking situations. He’s also a decent kick at goal, hitting a decent number of shots from everywhere according to Stats Insider’s shot charting data.

But as a secondary tall target, Wright’s defensive effort (tackles inside 50), ability to get ground balls and ruckwork isn’t great. That suggests his potential may be best unlocked as the primary focal point of an attack, with a cast of forwards with good defensive instincts around him.

Unfortunately, Wright’s contested one on one win rate sits at about 26% – a bit below league average, and a little way from what you would out of a forward being targeted regularly. Young forwards sometimes take a while to develop, and perhaps Wright has been honing his craft away from the spotlight in the past two seasons.

For Essendon, the hope will be is that he has developed a key skill away from the spotlight, or that he has returned to his very early trajectory. A change of environment has occasionally done wonders for players.

Wright was signed at Gold Coast until 2022, which means they will likely gain a lot in terms of cap space by offloading a player they clearly no longer want to play.

In that sense, they are making room for the Atkins and Markov moves by offloading a player who is outside of their best 22 mix at the moment.

Essendon, unlike the Suns, have a clear need for tall marking options with recent departures, and have snagged Wright at the bottom of the market.

This is a fair gamble on a player at the absolute bottom of his previous value. Wright has kicked goals at AFL level and was likely being paid by the Suns on this upside. A look at the HPN Salary Prediction Tool pegs Wright’s optimistic valuation reasonably highly based on his better years.

The future fourth round selection heading to Gold Coast has a low projected yield even if Essendon commit to a rebuild, but the sheer lack of senior output by Wright in recent years leaves him projecting even lower than that.

Could the Suns have held out for a bit more? Maybe, but cap dumps of unwanted players mean a club just can’t expect much in return. With ongoing draft and academy concessions in place, and a slew of successful-looking recent draft selections, there’s also probably no club placing less value on draft picks than Gold Coast right now.

Verdict: Fair trade due to Wright’s minimal projected value at Gold Coast.

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.

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