IN one of the most recognisable draft crops in some time, the 2018 AFL National Draft is heating up to be one of the most talked about in the lead-up with so many tall and small prospects who are already looking like genuine AFL stars. As with last year, on the first Monday of the month, we take a look at the top 20 prospects and where we see them throughout the season. Some will rise and drop depending on performances, while others will remain steady throughout. Keep in mind that the Power Rankings are an opinion-based ranking system, without taking into account AFL club finishing positions or needs – ie. not a Phantom Draft. It is purely measuring players on our opinion of their ability. Without further ado, here are our current top 20:
#1 Jack Lukosius
Key Position Forward/Defender (WWT Eagles/South Australia)
09/08/2000 | 196cm | 84kg
Lukosius starts the season as the consensus number one in the eyes of many – but as we have seen time and time again, the player number one on recruiters boards in May, is not necessary the number one pick come November – but at this stage Lukosius is well ahead of some of the others in this draft pool. He jumped on the scene as a 17-year-old for WWT Eagles in the SANFL Preliminary Final, booting four goals and clunking eight marks on his League debut. He has continued his form into this season, booting seven goals from five matches, including an 18-disposal, 11-mark and three-goal game against Glenelg. He also showed his versatility collecting 25 disposals, 14 marks and six inside 50s from centre-half back in a South Australia Under 18 trial match at the beginning of the year. For the AFL Academy he was utilised at both ends, looking most at home as a forward, finishing the match with 12 disposals and two goals. The thing that separates Lukosius from other talls is his foot skills, where you could argue he is one of the best kicks in the entire draft pool, hitting targets at ease off his right foot around the ground.
#2 Max King
Key Position Forward (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
07/07/2000 | 201cm | 86kg
The tall forward is one of the best tall prospects we have seen in recent years and is most certainly in the mix as a top five pick, despite the fact that King will not play another game this season. After booting a few goals in the opening quarter for Haileybury College at school football, King’s knee buckled from underneath him in the second quarter and he was stretchered off, with scans later confirming that the talented forward suffered a torn ACL. Nevertheless, King is a superb prospect who is outstanding in the air (thanks to a big wingspan) and a goalkicking option, having booted 8.5 against Oakleigh Chargers earlier in the TAC Cup last month. A real strength of King’s is his ability to collect the ball when it hits the ground, with a strong recovery helping the 201cm tall. While some say he could slip down the order due to injury, he won’t be falling outside the top 10, likely even the top five as such his ability.
#3 Sam Walsh
Outside Midfielder (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
02/07/2000 | 183cm | 74kg
The best midfielder in the 2018 AFL Draft pool has started the season exceptionally well at TAC Cup level, averaging 34 disposals and six tackles in four games. Walsh’s smarts help him around the ground and it is very hard to keep him quiet out of a game. Against the North Melbourne VFL team, Walsh had 22 disposals, nine marks and four clearances, working through the midfield and booting the opening goal of the game. His spread on the outside is good and he has shown his can win the footy in both contested and uncontested situations. Leads from the front and is probably the safest player in this draft pool for a club to draft.
#4 Ben King
Key Position Defender/Forward (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
07/07/2000 | 201cm | 85kg
The twin brother of Max King has started the season very well, used at both ends at all levels. While Ben is a natural key defender, he has shown at school level that he can be a valuable forward, booting 18 goals in the first two school games. Like brother Max, he is very mobile and has an outstanding leap. He recovers very well when the ball hits the ground and when he flies to mark or spoil the ball and it falls to the ground. Is the best tall defender in it and Ben competes exceptionally well. Reckon we might see him more as a forward as the season goes, could become a genuine ‘swingman’ if he isn’t already. After a good AFL Academy game, Ben King won the Melbourne Cricket Club’s President’s Medal as the best player.
#5 Izak Rankine
Small Forward/Balanced Midfielder (West Adelaide/South Australia)
23/04/2000 | 180cm | 76kg
Probably the most exciting prospect in the 2018 AFL Draft pool, Rankine can do some special things that majority of others cannot. He is a lively forward who can push into the midfield and win his own footy, with his agility a key trait. Rankine was so good in last year’s NAB AFL Under 17 All Stars match that they made him switch teams at half-time! He missed the opening few weeks through suspension, but has since returned back to SANFL League footy with West Adelaide, booting four goals from 12 disposals. At this stage he is more of a forward/midfielder than a pure midfielder – and it will be interesting to see how he goes throughout the year, working on his craft with more midfield time for the South Australian side in the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
#6 Nick Blakey
Key Position Forward (Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
27/02/2000 | 195cm | 80kg
Up until this time last week, Blakey had multiple options as the son of former North Melbourne and Brisbane player John. Blakey also fell into the Sydney Swans Academy, while he could have opted for the open draft. However – Blakey has made a decision to stick with the Sydney Swans Academy and the Swans are going to get a ‘goodie’. Blakey is a natural forward, with a good goal sense and marks well overhead. He glides around the ground and can play in defence if required, while there is midfield potential should some of his coaches see fit. Blakey has dominated in the AFL Under 18 Academy Series against some average opposition, but he booted an exceptional goal off a few steps in the AFL Academy match against North Melbourne’s VFL side. While injuries kept him out of a lot of football last year, expect Blakey to warrant an early bid inside the top 10 at this stage.
#7 Ian Hill
Small Forward (Perth/Western Australia)
09/02/2000 | 175cm | 76kg
Ian “Bobby” Hill is an exciting small forward is similar to Rankine in the way that he can make recruiters and fans go “wow” at certain moments. While at this stage, he’s far from the finished product – he has produced plenty of glimpses that suggest he’ll be a strong player for the future. He has superb speed and agility, while his goal sense is very good. So far in the WAFL Colts for Perth he has been very good, standing out averaging 21 disposals and booting six goals – but suffered delayed concussion from the last contest and will likely miss a few weeks of games. Hill is Western Australia’s best draft prospect and the second cousin of Fremantle pair Brad and Stephen Hill.
#8 Tarryn Thomas
Outside Midfielder (Tasmania/North Melbourne Academy/Allies)
25/03/2000 | 189cm | 73kg
Thomas is a really exciting player whose glimpses over the last few years suggest he is going to be a special player in the future. The Tasmanian falls into North Melbourne’s Next-Generation Academy and therefore the Kangaroos will have first dibs on Thomas who will likely command a first round bid. Thomas is an outside midfielder who has a good burst of speed and agility, using it well off his right foot. He can also push forward and hit the scoreboard, and has been one of the clear standouts in the Under 18 Academy Series so far this season.
#9 Jackson Hately
Inside Midfielder (Central District/South Australia)
21/10/2000 | 192cm | 80kg
Jackson Hately is one of the few pure inside midfielders in the top half of the rankings list. While he still has some size to put on, the 192cm midfielder is strong in the contest, where he can win the contested ball, tackle hard and win clearances. Hately can also hit the scoreboard when required. The Central District product has had a taste of SANFL League footy, recorded 21 disposals and seven tackles against Glenelg a few weeks ago. Hately was one of the big standouts for the AFL Academy in their match against the North Melbourne VFL side, where he had 17 disposals, eight tackles and kicked two goals.
#10 Bailey Williams
Key Position Forward/Ruckman (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
17/04/2000 | 198cm | 95kg
The red-haired Williams burst onto the scene last year with some eyecatching displays for the Dandenong Stingrays, while he was also able to represent the Vic Country Under 18 team as a bottom-ager, where he mostly played in the ruck. While Williams is a strong ruck, he is probably a better forward at the moment – in the mould of Gold Coast’s 2014 draftee Peter Wright. Williams has an outstanding leap and marks well overhead. He is a capable set shot for goal and booted a stunning bag of seven against the Western Jets in Round 4 of the 2018 TAC Cup.
#11 Bailey Smith
Inside Midfielder/Medium Defender (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
07/12/2000 | 184cm | 79kg
Bailey Smith had a great finish to the 2017 season which saw him elevated to the NAB AFL Academy Level Two group. Smith played mostly across half back last year, but did show his ball winning capabilities on the inside for Xavier College at school football and for the Dragons on occasions, including a huge 44 disposals (22 contested) at 72 per cent efficiency, 13 inside 50s, 10 clearances, six marks and four rebound 50s match against Western. The Dragons 2018 captain is a strong leader and has really transitioned into an inside ball winning midfielder, having collected 37 disposals (22 contested) in the opening match of the season this year. In his most recent outing for the Dragons against the Jets, Smith had 28 disposals, 11 clearances and booted two goals, where he used his quick and clean hands to effectiveness on the inside. The right footer is a capable target around the ground and runs very well.
#12 Connor Rozee
Outside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
22/01/2000 | 184cm | 72kg
Rozee is another of South Australia’s top draft prospects and in recent weeks has pushed into the SANFL League side for North Adelaide. The midfield has smarts around the ground, getting to the right positions and has shown his capabilities as a good runner. He rarely wastes a disposal and moves well in and around the stoppages. While he has spent some time playing as a half forward in recent times, he will likely end up as a pure midfield with his strong skill set. Rozee has made his SANFL League debut, booting two goals in both appearances in the last fortnight. Rozee played all four games as a bottom-ager for South Australia in the 2017 Under 18 Championships, averaging 14 disposals and seven tackles.
#13 Curtis Taylor
Medium Forward/Inside Midfielder (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
06/04/2000 | 186cm | 79kg
While at #12, Taylor might be earlier than many others have him – it is based on the potential that the Calder Cannons product has. Taylor has plenty of X-Factor, which he showed in past years at school football for PEGS, playing alongside top draftees Cameron Rayner and Daniel Venables. Taylor at this stage is far more comfortable across half forward than as an inside midfielder, but has plenty of opportunities across the year to improve his midfield calibre. He has a good skill set and can mark well overhead. So far this season, Taylor is averaging just under 20 disposals at about a 50 per cent contested possession rate, having kicked nine goals in four outings.
#14 Ned McHenry
Balanced Midfielder (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
13/07/2000 | 176cm | 71kg
McHenry’s super 2017 season saw him elevated to the National AFL Under 18 Academy Level Two squad and is a player that gives his all in every game. Despite his light frame, McHenry starts at the centre bounces and can win the contested football. The Falcons midfielder is a great character and you really need to check out his work on the Geelong Falcons Facebook page and watch the ‘Ned’s Falcons files’ videos. McHenry impressed in the National AFL Under 18 Championships for Vic Country last year as a bottom-ager, averaging 18 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency and laying 5.5 tackles.
#15 Riley Bowman
Ruckman/Key Position Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
25/02/2000 | 198cm | 82kg
There is a little bit of Tim English in the way Riley Bowman moves around the ground. The athletic ruckman has a decent leap on him, he is also a good user of the footy by foot. While Bowman is very raw and will need developing by any club that takes him, he has shown enough this year to suggest he needs to be tracked closely during the season. He worked hard in the ruck for the AFL Academy against the bigger North Melbourne opponents, at times going up against big Brayden Preuss. Bowman is averaging 16 hitouts in the TAC Cup this season.
#16 Mitch Riordan
Inside Midfielder (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
25/01/2000 | 186cm | 79kg
Riordan is a player who flies under the radar a little bit, but continues to improve. While his numbers aren’t as big as some of the other Stingrays players, their game plan very rarely sees any player get above 25 disposals, with a team input seeing an even performance across the board. Riordan is strong in the contest and is a decent ball user off his right foot. He wins the contested ball and is a good tackler, working hard to win the ball back. Riordan is averaging 16 disposals and three tackles in the TAC Cup this season, but he will spend the month leading up to the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships at school level for reigning APS Premiers Haileybury College.
#17 Liam Stocker
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
23/01/2000 | 183cm | 83kg
Stocker is a player who could definitely find himself as a first round prospect by November. Stocker is a strong midfielder who wins the football on the inside and spreads well from the stoppages. His clearance work is very good, while he can play on the outside where he can use the ball very well off either his right or left foot. Stocker will have the entire season at TAC Cup level, having finished school at Haileybury College in 2017. So far in this TAC Cup season, Stocker is averaging 18 disposals (more than 50 per cent contested), six tackles and four clearances per game.
#18 Jye Caldwell
Balanced Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
28/09/2000 | 184cm | 78kg
Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Grammar product Jye Caldwell is a good midfielder who has some strong tricks. Injury forced him off the ground early in the AFL Academy match against the North Melbourne VFL team, but he has returned to football and is one who showed some tricks in the Under 18 Championships last year for Vic Country, averaging 18 disposals. Caldwell tackles well and can win the both the contested and uncontested ball.
#19 Riley Collier-Dawkins
Inside Midfielder (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
03/02/2000 | 193cm | 88kg
Based on potential – Collier-Dawkins could well be a first round prospect come later in the season. He does still have some work to go to reach this, but the signs early in the season are very good. Collier-Dawkins was very good in the #57 last year as a bottom-ager for the Oakleigh Chargers winning the ball as a hybrid midfield, and ‘RCD’ has had a big growth spurt over recent years, seeing him jump to 193cm (and growing!). Collier-Dawkins looks most at home as an inside midfielder – using his clean and quick hands to effectiveness, but has played on the outside at times this year, including the Vic Metro trial game where he recored 13 disposals and four marks. One to watch for his improvement throughout the National AFL Under 18 Championships.
#20 Joseph Ayton-Delaney
Outside Midfielder/Medium Defender (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
25/03/2000 | 179cm | 68kg
Ayton-Delaney is a bit of a smokey for the top 30 in the draft and is definitely a name to watch out for throughout the year. In his flashy red boots, Ayton-Delaney rebounds the ball well at speed from half back and has shown he can play further up the ground on the wing or through the inside. He links up well and breaks the lines, using it well by foot – against the Stingrays in Round five he had 25 disposals, hardly missing a target. He is a player with plenty of potential and it will be interesting to see where he ends up at the pointy end of the season.
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