Knightmare's 10 most underrated AFL draft prospects

This year's national draft is one of the most open and mysterious for many years, meaning plenty of questions remain unanswered ahead of Friday night's event in Sydney.

All year, ESPN AFL draft expert Christopher Doerre - aka Knightmare - has attended live games, pored through match vision, analysed the stats and talked to industry sources to ensure he can offer the most insightful analysis.

ESPN.com.au's draft coverage will ramp up through the week, with Doerre to host a live Q&A on Thursday evening and then reveal his final, full phantom draft on Friday.

Anyone attending an Under-18 or state league game can recognise who the top-end talents are, but figuring out who will be available late in the draft, or even be picked up as a rookie, is also crucial for all clubs.

The following 10 players have shown enough to suggest they could be the biggest steals of the draft.

Bailey Banfield
Position: Inside midfielder
Expected draft range: Late to undrafted
Why he can make it: The overage midfielder has been one of the shining lights in the WAFL this season, gathering 484 disposals and 112 tackles from 20 League matches. Banfield, 188cm, 87kg, is a ready-to-go stoppage specialist who can push for senior selection from season one.

Hamish Brayshaw
Position: Inside midfielder/General forward
Expected draft range: Late to undrafted
Why he can make it: Backing up his strong 2016 season, overage midfielder Hamish Brayshaw has split his time between the VFL and the TAC Cup where he averaged 15.1 disposals and 24.6 disposals per game in the respective competitions. Brayshaw is effective not only as a midfielder but also as a forward, kicking 16 goals from his 11 TAC Cup games. Like Banfield, the 187cm, 88kg beast is a ready-to-go prospect who can compete for game time in his maiden season.

Jordan Butts
Position: Key defence
Expected draft range: 35 to undrafted
Why he can make it: Averaging a TAC Cup-high 7.5 marks per game, Butts is arguably the most underrated key position player in this year's draft. The 196cm, 82kg, defender is the youngest in the draft pool but has proven to be an intercept marking extraordinaire down back, with his strong overhead grabs and early reading of the ball in flight his great strengths.

Callum Coleman-Jones
Position: Ruck/Key forward
Expected draft range: 25 to rookie
Why he can make it: Part of the Under-18 All-Australian team after a strong Championships, Coleman-Jones as a ruckman finds a lot of the football, including a performance where he secured 28 disposals. At 201cm, 98kg, he is just as effective up forward and is arguably this year's most commanding contested mark, taking 10 contested marks as an under-ager through the 2016 Under-18 Championships.

Brayden Crossley
Position: Ruck
Expected draft range: 40 to late
Why he can make it: Possessing arguably one of the greatest upsides in this draft, the 198cm, 105kg ruckman is a man mountain with an insatiable appetite for the contest. His follow-up work from the ruck is as good as anyone and his 20.4 hit-outs, 10.9 disposals and 1.3 goals per game in the NEAFL speak to how advanced Crossley's game already is.

Cassidy Parish
Position: Inside midfielder
Expected draft range: Late to undrafted
Why he can make it: Averaging 20.7 disposals through the Under-18 Championships and 27.8 disposals and seven clearances through the TAC Cup, Parish is the premier contested ball-winner and clearance winner in the junior ranks. The 190cm, 84kg midfielder is a genuine first possession winner who is one-touch at ground level and possesses a ready-to-go game.

Ben Paton
Position: General defender
Expected draft range: 30 to rookie
Why he can make it: Over-age half-back flanker Paton is arguably, by position, the highest performing player this year, averaging 23.7 disposals and 4.8 marks per game through the TAC Cup and 18.8 disposals and 4.3 marks through the Under-18 Championships. He is a well rounded, ready-to-go player with pace (2.95 second 20m sprint), clean skills, a reliable and penetrating kick and ball-winning capabilities.

Liam Ryan
Position: General forward
Expected draft range: 25 to undrafted
Why he can make it: With four of five nominations for the WAFL Mark of the Year and having kicked 73 goals from 23 games, 21-year-old medium forward Ryan is arguably the most exciting footballer outside the AFL. His lack of endurance led to him getting overlooked in the 2016 draft but Ryan has worked on his fitness and as a result is far better prepared for an AFL opportunity.

Charlie Thompson
Position: Inside midfield/General forward
Expected draft range: Rookie to undrafted
Why he can make it: One of this year's premier TAC Cup performers, Thompson averaged 25.5 disposals and 1.4 goals per game, playing primarily on a half-forward flank and pushing through the midfield. Beyond the numbers, Thompson is football smart and plays the match day role of on-field coach, directing and instructing his teammates throughout the game. His work rate is arguably of a best-in-draft standard, often working the length of the field to provide his teammates an option coming forward.

James Worpel
Position: Inside midfield
Expected draft range: 35 to rookie
Why he can make it: One of the TAC Cup's most ready-to-go players, James Worpel averaged 19.8 disposals, 8.3 tackles and four clearances during the Under-18 Championships. The 185cm, 86kg midfielder has an AFL-ready body and is ready to play as a stoppage specialist who thrives on the contested elements of the game.