Knightmare's AFL draft winners and losers

This year's national draft was one of the most open and mysterious for many years.

ESPN AFL draft expert Christopher Doerre - aka Knightmare - who has attended live games, pored through match vision, analysed the stats and talked to industry sources, takes a look at how each club fared.

In the end, the draft that was billed as one of the most difficult to predict went reasonably as expected with all of the top-end talent snapped up early. However, what made this draft so fascinating was the unpredictability of the risers and sliders.

Some of this years notable risers include Matthew Ling (Sydney - pick 14), Wil Powell (Gold Coast - pick 19), Will Walker (North Melbourne - pick 23), Tom De Koning (Carlton - pick 30) and Brayden Ainsworth (West Coast - pick 32). The trend with each of these prospects is their relative speed by position, with AFL clubs paying premiums to secure footballers with pace.

In recent years, it has been the sliding of several well performed midfielders that has been notable. This year, it has been the drops of several noteworthy talls with Toby Wooller (pick 41), Charlie Ballard (pick 42), Connor Ballenden (pick 43) and Sam Hayes (pick 47) among the more interesting sliders with Brayden Crossley (pick 52) not attracting any bids.


Secured father son selection Patrick Naish after pick 25 while picking players who filled their list needs and provide strong draft value. Jack Higgins is round one ready as a forward or midfielder and Noah Balta possesses the scope to be as good as any key position player in this draft.
Grade: A+

Improved their midfield and front half with a focus on value. Charlie Constable and Gryan Miers may be two of the draft day steals at picks 36 and 57. Lachlan Fogarty and Tim Kelly at picks 22 and 24 were also astute selections, with the pair good enough to push for games up forward and through the midfield respectively in 2018.
Grade: A+

Drafted effectively, securing players who fill list needs while also picking three players who represent strong value at their respective draft positions. The selections of James Worpel and Dylan Moore at 45 and 67 respectively are particularly outstanding value choices. Worpel is a round one ready-to-go midfielder and Moore is a ready-to-go, direct replacement Billy Hartung who also can play from season one.
Grade: A+

Melbourne drafted effectively securing players who add something they lack while also drafting players who represent strong value. Harry Petty as a key defender at 37 represents strong value, as South Australia's Under-18 MVP. Bayley Fritsch and Oskar Baker also are solid value choices as a dangerous goal kicking forward and outside line-breaker respectively.
Grade: A

Darcy Fogarty and Andrew McPherson both represent strong value, each sliding further than expected due to injury riddled seasons. Fogarty has the scope to be the best in the draft while McPherson is a developable half-back flanker.
Grade: A

Concensus top choice Cameron Rayner landed pick one as expected. Brisbane supported him with two explosive midfielders at picks 15 and 18 with Zac Bailey and Brandon Starcevich. The last three choices in Toby Wooller, Connor Ballenden (Brisbane Academy) and Jack Payne (Brisbane Academy) are strong value gets as key position players.
Grade: A


St Kilda
St Kilda picked according to the script, taking Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield with picks seven and eight. Oscar Clavarino and Ben Paton as a key defender and half-back flanker respectively are strong value gets.
Grade: B+

Gold Coast
A good draft that could have been a great draft. Wil Powell was a shock selection at 19 as a light bodied, projected player who breaks the lines. It was a surprise that Charlie Ballard made it through to 42, representing strong value as a classy, late blooming 195cm wingman. Brayden Crossley at 52 through the Gold Coast Academy also represents strong value late.
Grade: B+

North Melbourne
Luke Davies-Uniacke is a dream pick for North Melbourne at pick 4, with the pace and influence he provides through the midfield. Will Walker was one of the players picked earlier than expected, featuring at pick 23 as a ball winning midfielder who is dangerous up forward. Ex-Hawk, Billy Hartung with pick 77 is a solid need filler, adding outside pace.
Grade: B

Port Adelaide
Sam Hayes, their first choice at 47 is arguably the strongest value and most notable choice as the only two time All-Australian in the draft class. Port Adelaide otherwise drafted with a theme towards outside pace and skill with four of their five selections.
Grade: B

Western Bulldogs
A solid, unspectacular draft choosing players around where they were predicted to go. Naughton as a key defender is a solid get who is season one ready to play while Ed Richards replaces some of the rebound lost off half-back with the retirements of Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd.
Grade: B

Will be stoked with their draft haul of Jaidyn Stephenson, Nathan Murphy and Tyler Brown. Murphy (pick 38) was spoken about as someone Collingwood might consider with pick six. It was also a bonus for Collingwood, not needing to use pick 38 to acquire Tyler Brown. The knock on Collingwood's draft performance is after the departures of four key position players, and few young key position players, that none have been added to the clubs list.
Grade: B

West Coast
Jarrod Brander at 13 went earlier than expected at 13, but likely was not going to get through to pick 21 with Richmond interested. Oscar Allen, who was in the mix at pick 13 was lucky to get through to pick 21 as another key forward. Liam Ryan was an astute pick at 26 as a forward, after kicking 73 goals and taking four out of five nominated attempts at mark of the year in the WAFL. While West Coast addressed their midfield needs with their final three picks, electing to go with a speed theme in the 30s with the selections of Brayden Ainsworth and Jack Peruccelle.
Grade: B

A surprising draft where midfield list needs were not fully met with Matt Guelfi at pick 76 the only midfielder Essendon took. The notable selection is Jordan Houlahan who at pick 49 while not filling a list need represents strong value as a damaging medium forward.

Grade: C+

Went earlier than expected with the choice of Matthew Ling, but gained solid value with Ryley Stoddart with pick 53. Addressed list needs adding drive off half-back and a key forward prospect in Tom McCartin.
Grade: C+


Greater Western Sydney
With several pressing list needs Greater Western Sydney added two small forwards in Brent Daniels and Zac Langdon which was a pressing need after the departure of Devon Smith. It was the failure to find a replacement for Shane Mumford or add small or medium defenders with Heath Shaw ageing and Nathan Wilson joining Fremantle that makes this draft a question mark for the Giants.
Grade: C

Chose wisely with Paddy Dow at pick three first up, who is likely to play regular senior football from season one. Lochie O'Brien was taken at the top end of his draft range. Tom De Koning at 30 was a big surprise given other more highly touted ruckmen and key forwards available. The selection of Jarrod Garlett in the national draft with the final pick (78) also raised eyebrows, though as a previous first round selection with pace and skill, he is still a developable prospect.
Grade: D+

Drafted eight new players and a lot of them project as depth. The standouts are Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw who are a solid combination early, though the decision to pass on Luke Davies-Uniacke with pick two may be one Fremantle rue for years to come.
Grade: D+