1. Sam Weideman
Weideman is perhaps the second most established key forward in this draft. He has missed much of the year with an injury and he may not be ready to test at his peak for the combine either. When you are not playing, people almost seem to forget about you. Weideman is clearly one of the best marks in this draft class. He is strong and smart on the lead and in packs. His kicking for goal is an issue, but we haven’t been able to see his progress in that area.
2. Harley Balic
There’s a strange mindset that goes through draft watchers heads when someone excels as a bottom-ager. If they look to be a standout prospect at 17, you continually try to nitpick them as an 18 year-old. Balic certainly is no exception, which is why he is not getting talked about as much as his exposed form indicates he should. He showed as a bottom-ager that he could excel as a high half forward with class, like Sam Mayes. Then this year he moved into the midfield and showed that he could do it on the inside and outside. Watchers then began brandishing him as an almost “vanilla” prospect, when he may in fact have more tools than most midfielders in this class.
3. Darcy Tucker
Tucker sits in the same boat as Balic, in terms of being terrific 17-year olds with a lot of expectation. Indeed, Tucker has not had the year he would have liked, but he’s still the classy half back that we assumed he would be. He has had games where he’s found the ball over 40 times and then there’s been down games. Recruiters will have a tough time splitting Tucker, Ryley Bonner, Wayne Milera and Callum Ah Chee when looking to bring in class, but there’s no doubt Tucker still sits in that 10-15 range.
4. Kieran Collins
The last time we saw a key defender with the same skill set and size at this draft range was Daniel Talia. Collins is the victim of not being the ‘sexy pick’. He’s not that far off Jacob Weitering in terms of one on one defending. Collins is also a pretty decent intercept mark, but he will always get the number one forward in a shutdown role, so you don’t get to see that versatility. He has looked ‘passable’ as a forward in limited minutes, and he’s also growing as a rebounding defender.
5. Riley Bonner
A 191 cm rebounding defender with excellent footskills and great decision making ability almost always goes in the top 15 picks. As the 10-20 range of players is so even, it looks like someone has to make way. I do not think Bonner will go past that 16 – 18 range, as he could fit in at any club seamlessly in that Grant Birchall mould. He is a great complimentary player.
6. Luke Partington
After the year he has had, it has been his strength in the face of adversity that would impress recruiters the most. Partington has a bit of speed, and he’s usually a pretty good ball user. He does not excel in any particular area, but his ability to play in four or five different roles makes him arguably more valuable than a specialist type, depending on which recruiter is looking at him.
7. Nick O’Kearney
O’Kearney is the type of player where you know exactly what you’re going to get. He’s a terrific endurance runner and he’ll find the ball at any level of football. He’s not a ‘sexy’ pick as he does not have elite footskills and he does not hit the scoreboard often or take screamers. But Dan Hannebery was a very similar type player at the same stage of development. O’Kearney is one of the only players in this draft class where you are certain that if injuries don’t take a hold of him, he’ll play 150 AFL games.
8. James Parsons
Players who don’t have a ‘definite position’ often slip down draft boards. It is a difficult issue, as recruiters want to see versatility, but at the same time, they want to know exactly what a player is. Parsons has played on a wing, as a high half forward and an intercepting half back. It’s clear he’s got very nice foot skills, and he can hit the scoreboard when involved in general play. What has also emerged towards the end of the year is his ability to read the play and take intercept marks. His physicality also seemed like an issue early on, but he will back into a pack and just watch the ball. He doesn’t find enough of the ball to be a first round prospect, but aside from that, he is ticking all the boxes.that.
9. Kieran Lovell
As always, there’s a sub 180cm player that will just get disregarded again and again. Lewis Taylor, Touk Miller, Caleb Daniel and even Jade Gresham this year to an extent. Kieran Lovell is perhaps receiving the least love of any of these players, particularly as he is a Division 2 prospect. He wins his own footy, he has got terrific vision and he works harder than anyone else on the field. We saw towards the end of the championships that he could win games off his own boot. Lovell is sure to be one of the best value picks in this draft.
10. David Cunningham
Cunningham hasn’t had the year he would have liked. He has had some injury issues, and he’s had a few down games too. But he showed in the semi-finals that he has got some real talent. He is really quick, and a pretty good user of the ball too. More than anything, it’s his acceleration out of a stoppage that makes him lethal. That first two or three steps are really explosive. He will be one of the standouts at the combine, that is for sure.