In the Spotlight: Draft bolters and sliders

Peter-Wright

As we converge on the national draft in less than two weeks, In the Spotlight takes a look at the draftees whose names are set to be called out on November 27th.

In our first edition, we take a look at the bolters and sliders – those who have either shot up the draft order or are finding themselves drifting away from initial rankings. Last year, it was Jack Leslie who came from nowhere to be crowned a first-round selection, while Lewis Taylor fell through to the second round and ultimately claimed the 2014 NAB AFL Rising Star award. So who could be our next Jack Leslie or Lewis Taylor? Let’s find out!

BOLTERS

Jarrod Garlett

Position: Utility
Height: 177 cm, Weight: 72 kg, DOB: 18/08/1996
Club: South Fremantle
Projected draft range: 17-30
Plays like: Brad Hill

The Western Australian prodigy first caught the eye because of his famous surname, but he couldn’t be more different from the Garlett clan some of us have come to love and loathe. Nonetheless, Garlett put in a super impressive and consistent national championships which really put him onto the map, averaging 14.7 disposals from his three appearances.

The impressive small midfielder/forward has breakneck speed, terrific composure and an engine that is within the top echelon of this year’s draftees. Having a rare combination of endurance and speed means Garlett’s draft stocks are quickly rising, so much so that some draft experts believe he could be around the mark late in the first round.

Of Garlett’s exciting attributes, he can bust a game open with goals in quick succession or find the ball out on the wing, creating drive and hitting up an option going inside 50. He showed throughout the championships his impact off minimal preparation, quickly becoming an asset situated off half back.

An impressive run of form saw Garlett earn a senior debut for South Fremantle, and he closed out 2014 well with a polished combine appearance, netting second overall in the standing vertical jump (76 centimetres), equal-fifth in the beep test (15.2) and recording 25/30 in the clean hands test and 24/30 in the goal-kicking.

Best suitors: Essendon (17 & 20), Carlton (19), St Kilda (21 & 22), GWS (23 & 24), North Melbourne (25).

Nakia Cockatoo

Position: Midfielder
Height: 188 cm, Weight: 84 kg, DOB: 23/10/1996
Club: NT Thunder
Projected draft range: 17-30
Plays like: Daniel Wells

Nakia Cockatoo’s top-age year in the system looked destined as a write-off, since the AFL-AIS academy member underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, putting a line through the 2014 National Championships. For some, it meant he was out of sight, out of mind.

However, that game for the Allies against the AFL level two Academy on Grand Final day at the MCG proved otherwise, with Cockatoo winning best afield honours after gathering 20 disposals from the midfield, including two goals.

A prodigious talent from the Northern Territory, Cockatoo put in a performance with almost zero preparation that is still talked about in the lead up to the draft, which has ultimately proven to be the springboard that’s shot him into contention not just into the top 30, but potentially in the first round.

The Indigenous talent was a star performer at the draft combine, chalking up the number one score in both the kicking test (29/30) and repeat sprints (23.93 sec), while registering 2.90 seconds in the 20-metre sprint, 73 cm in the standing vertical jump and a whopping 89 cm in the running vertical jump.

Cockatoo’s athletic traits and excitement has a lot of fans at the draft table. His explosiveness means that when he wins the ball, he can accelerate away from a contest and stream forward to goal or create an opportunity for others.

Best suitors: Essendon (17 & 19), Carlton (19 & 28), St Kilda (21 & 22), GWS (23 & 24), North Melbourne (25), Western Bulldogs (26 & 27), Gold Coast (29), Collingwood (30).

Hugh Goddard

Position: Key forward/defender
Height: 196 cm, Weight: 93 kg, DOB: 24/08/1996
Club: Geelong Falcons
Projected draft range: 10-25
Plays like: Lachie Henderson

You could be forgiven for believing that Hugh Goddard’s season has been indifferent. The talented key position player was branded as a potent, damaging key forward in his bottom age year, but since a switch to defence, Goddard’s form fluctuated. It varied so much that he went from being talked about as a top-five option at the end of 2013, to bottom of the first round mid-year in 2014, to now being back within top-10 calculations.

A hip injury early in the pre-season meant he was behind the eight-ball early, playing catch up with his fitness which interrupted his form and robbed him of consistency, particularly at the national championships.

But a rich vein of form in the back end of the year – including shutting down Darcy Moore in the first TAC Cup final and named as Geelong’s best finals player – has seen him rocket back towards the pointy end of the draft.

Goddard is blessed with height, athleticism, a strong overhead mark and a really nice, long penetrating kick that often finds targets. He’s quick on his feet, and when he isn’t kicking goals at one end, he’s stopping them at the other. Regarded highly for his leadership, work ethic and professionalism, Goddard won the Cameron Ling Medal in 2013 in the level one AFL-AIS Academy.

Best Suitors: GWS (6 & 7), Gold Coast (8), Geelong (10), Richmond (12), Fremantle (13), Adelaide (14).

Kyle Langford

Position: Utility
Height: 190 cm, Weight: 73 kg, DOB: 01/12/1996
Club: Northern Knights
Projected draft range: 5-30
Plays like: Marcus Bontempelli

Only hardcore draft fans would’ve known who Kyle Langford was coming into the 2014 season after only a few appearances in the TAC Cup in 2013. Unlike other bottom-age players who’ve been talked up as first round selections, Langford was anything but spoken about as a top-line prospect to look out for this year.

The tall defender/forward excels at both ends of the ground, with his agility, marking, endurance, tackling and clean hands prompting comparisons to his former Northern Knights teammate, Marcus Bontempelli. Langford’s first three games of the year returned 11 goals amongst an average of 18 disposals, eight marks and five tackles.

His bandwagon quickly started to fill after a consistent national championships, nullifying Tom Lamb in game one and playing as a third tall in defence where his marking game and ability to involve himself from half back to a wing was on full display. Soon after the championships, Langford was thrust into the midfield, which saw that bandwagon gather serious momentum.

He averaged 21 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and one goal which put him into round one talk, and now looms as a top 10 selection. Langford finished equal second in the kicking test at the combine (28/30) and recorded 8.36 seconds in the agility test.

Best suitors: Collingwood (5), GWS (6 & 7), Gold Coast (8 & 15), Geelong (10), Richmond (12), Fremantle (13), Adelaide (14), North Melbourne (16).

Special mentions: Oscar McDonald, Toby McLean, Alex Neal-Bullen, Reece McKenzie, Daniel McKenzie, Damien Cavka.

SLIDERS

Touk Miller

Position: Midfielder
Height: 177 cm, Weight: 80 kg, DOB: 22/02/1996
Club: Calder Cannons
Projected draft range: 20-40
Plays like: Dion Prestia

The pint-sized on-baller is the same off the field as he is on it. Bubbly, in-your-face, energetic and clean-cut, Touk Miller’s draft ranking is becoming harder and harder to place. Early in the piece, Miller was rated as a first round selection: however, he’s started to drift from those initial heights and now looks to land somewhere between picks 20-40.

Miller’s ferocity, ability to collect a high number of disposals, win the contested ball, kick goals and do so all at a high efficiency is what holds him in good stead. His leadership is also a part of his game that has also won plaudits, captaining both Vic Metro and Calder this season. But there are question marks on Miller’s game.

He is by no means fleet-footed, and while he has enough power in his legs to help him burst through congestion with his initial few steps, he hasn’t got sustained speed that makes him dangerous like other smalls. His height means that he could be overlooked for a similar type who is fractionally taller, and while it is unfair, it might be the difference in Miller becoming a second round pick or drifting out as far as into the third round.

Best suitors: St Kilda (22), Carlton (28), Gold Coast (29), Hawthorn (31), West Coast (32), Richmond (33), Fremantle (34), Adelaide (35), Melbourne (40).

Tom Lamb

Position: Forward/midfielder
Height: 192 cm, Weight: 83 kg, DOB: 19/10/1996
Club: Dandenong Stingrays
Projected draft range: 6-25
Plays like: Jared Brennan

Somebody asked me the other day if I thought Tom Lamb was a myth. I said he wasn’t. They then asked me if  I thought he was an enigma. I said he was.

That in a nutshell basically describes Lamb, who for all his frustrating inconsistencies is a player whose terrific footballing characteristics and endurance makes him one of the most hottest and unstoppable prospects available in this year’s draft.

His worst, however, is his deafening body language. It looks worse than it is, but it’s his laziness within his defensive efforts, his occasional lack of intensity and urgency that has brought about his perceived poor attitude.

As a forward, Lamb can take big contested marks, kick goals from all over the park and is great from acute angles with a set shot technique that is almost flawless. He looks at his most damaging when played on a wing or off a flank, where he can utilise his strong frame, big engine and a willingness to apply scoreboard pressure.

He loves to hit the ball at pace and is dangerous when he plays his natural attacking game. He put his name back up in lights off the back of a disappointing carnival and season, finishing with a sub-10 minute three-kilometre time trial and a 15.7 beep test at the combine.

Best suitors: Essendon (17 & 20), Carlton (19 & 28), St Kilda (21 & 22), North Melbourne (25), Western Bulldogs (26 & 27), Gold Coast (29), Collingwood (30), Hawthorn (31), Richmond (33)

Peter Wright

Position: Key forward/ruckman
Height: 203 cm, Weight: 102 kg, DOB: 08/09/1996
Club: Calder Cannons
Projected draft range: Top five
Plays like: Kurt Tippett

There are rumblings that Peter Wright could become the Brodie Grundy story of 2014 and slide right down the draft order, and while it may not be the same dramatic fall, in principle it couldn’t be more bang on the money.

The issue with Wright’s standing in this draft is that clubs are conflicted as to what they believe his best position will be five years from now. Some clubs believe he’s a dominant ruckman who can have an impact up forward – that theory would mean he tumbles well down the order, as traditionally ruckmen aren’t taken high in the draft.

But Wright believes he’s a centre half forward who can rotate through the ruck, which then puts him back at the pointy end of the draft and within top five calculations. What you get with Wright is two great players in one: a monster ruckman who reads the ball in flight well, and slams the ball down the throat of his on-ballers.

The second player is a potent, mobile forward who gets serious separation on his opponent through his leading patterns and speed, is terrific at ground level and gets rare depth and accuracy in front of goal, comfortable slotting them from beyond the 50-metre arc. He’s gone from being a possible candidate to drop out of the top-five to now being one that could fall beyond the top 10 and even push to the early teens.

Best suitors: Melbourne (2 & 3), GWS (4, 6 & 7), Collingwood (5), Geelong (10), Richmond (12), Fremantle (13), Adelaide (14), North Melbourne (16).

Clem Smith

Position: Small utility
Height: 177 cm, Weight: 74 kg, DOB: 03/02/1996
Club: Perth
Projected draft range: 25-50
Plays like: Byron Pickett

It’s a long fall from being touted as a top-five pick after a scintillating national championships as a bottom-age player in 2013, averaging 17 disposals (8.2 contested) from six appearances. While he’s not the most polished kick in this year’s draft, Clem Smith is as exciting and electric as they come, despite somewhat falling down the order after an average national championships in 2014.

Despite his small stature, Smith plays a range of roles and backs his speed to offer line-breaking runs through the midfield, off half back or across half-forward. Smith’s downfalls are well-documented. He averaged the highest amount of clangers per game (5.5) at the championships, and has a habit of trying to kick the air out of the ball.

He does lack composure and is a victim of attempting too much with the ball which needs to be refined. His use of the ball hovered around 61 per cent during the championships, and at senior level in the WAFL it’s been much of the same.

But there is plenty of upside: he more than held his own against men in the WAFL, averaging 17 disposals per game, and he is a ferocious tackler who defensively speaking works really hard. He finished first overall at the draft combine in the agility test, running 8.09 seconds.

Special mentions: Connor Blakely, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Jackson Nelson, Daniel Capiron, Jaden McGrath, Matthew Hammelmann.

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