The 2018 AFL Draft was defined by an all-time crop of top end talent, and highlighted by the fact that each of the first four players could have been taken at pick No. 1 and nobody would have batted an eyelid.
Also unique to this draft was the number of father-son (six), academy (three) and next-generation academy (seven) selections. These are not numbers we have ever seen before.
Meanwhile, the first year of live trading proved to be somewhat of a success, and was entertaining to boot, with 10 live trades completed throughout the two-day event.
The boldest and most surprising trade was Carlton's trade of their 2019 first round selection for Adelaide's pick 19 (which the Blues used to select Liam Stocker) and Adelaide's 2019 first round choice.
The other trades completed fit the script, with Sydney cleverly manoeuvering out of the top 20 only to work their way back in after a bid on academy jet Nick Blakey had been matched.
Here are the early winners and losers from the 2018 AFL Draft.
The Suns secured the two best prospects in the draft with the second and third overall selections in Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine, instantly making Gold Coast the draft winners. An argument could even be made that the pair are the two best players taken over the past three seasons.
With the additions of Lukosius, Ben King and Caleb Graham, the Suns have added to their key position stocks considerably. Meanwhile Rankine adds X-factor through the front half and midfield, and Jez McLennan may carve out a role as a rebounding defender and completes the Suns' trio of South Australian recruits.
The Dogs substantially upgraded the club's midfield in adding arguably the best midfielder in the pool in Bailey Smith, who possesses the best combination of contested ball winning, general skills and acceleration of this crop. Rhylee West (son of Scott) was a bargain and may be the best stoppage player picked outside the first round.
With the club's other selections, the Dogs went with a speed, taking one overager in Laitham Vandermeer and two mature agers in forward Ben Cavarra and outside midfielder/defender Will Hayes. Buku Khamis slipping through to the Dogs as a Category B rookie is another win. In the rookie draft, the Dogs added a hard edge with Jordon Sweet -- an aggressive mature age ruckman -- while Lachlan Young is a physical rebounding defender.
Brisbane may have secured the bargain of the draft in snapping up academy prospect Connor McFadyen with a matched bid of pick 42. At 190cm, McFayden is one of this year's premier stoppage players and marking forwards, and was rated at No. 10 in my November Power Rankings.
With their first selection (at pick 21), Brisbane selected stoppage specialist Ely Smith, while the club's four other selections are all promising prospects despite having missed substantial amounts of football. Thomas Berry, Tom Joyce and Connor McFadyen all missed chunks of this season, while Noah Answerth missed almost all his draft year in 2017. Thomas Berry joins his brother Jarrod as an explosive ball winning midfielder, while Tom Joyce and Noah Answerth are two additional strong ball winners.
The Bombers used the 2018 AFL Draft to focus on solidifying their front half. Selecting Noah Gown with pick 60 was a bargain, as he may become the best key position player selected outside the first round.
Irving Mosquito from Hawthorn's next-generation academy adds speed, energy and excitement as a small forward, while Brayden Ham further improves the Bombers' front half with his hurt-factor and finishing around goal. As a rookie, Thomas Jok is an athletic mature age defender with role-playing potential.
Making two of the best draft trades, Adelaide may have secured one of the first choices available in the 2019 draft, after Carlton traded its 2019 first round selection for Adelaide's pick 19 (which was used on Liam Stocker) and the Crows' 2019 first round pick. Adelaide's second trade was one which added value; the Crows moved down a few places in the second round to secure an extra 2019 second round selection.
With its first pick -- following a failed bid for North academy product Tarryn Thomas -- Adelaide selected well-performed midfielder Chayce Jones, if a little earlier than expected. Small forward Ned McHenry was chosen with the club's second pick, while Adelaide's two other national draft selections, Will Hamill and Lachlan Sholl, were drafted to provide run from defence.
As rookies, Kieran Strachan is a mature age ruckman while Jordon Butts is a sage key position selection who was unlucky to be overlooked in 2017.
Securing Riley Collier-Dawkins was arguably the bargain get of the first round, as Richmond has acquired a 192cm ball-winning midfielder who bursts away from stoppages and possesses clean skills. In addition, the Tigers also selected Jack Ross, who is an impressive contested ball winner with clean skills.
Fraser Turner was one of the Allies' most productive during the Under-18 Championships, while Luke English built a reputation for racking up the ball in the WAFL Colts through the midfield. Jake Aarts as a mature age prospects is a forward pressure specialist.
Greater Western Sydney
The Giants nailed their first selection, acquiring surprising value with Jye Caldwell who is a dominant contested ball-winning midfielder with explosiveness. Jackson Hately is a ready-to-go mid who can win the ball on the inside and runs hard on the outside, while Xavier O'Halloran and Ian Hill inject some speed. O'Halloran is an athletic midfielder with excellent breakaway speed, while Hill breaks the lines like few in the draft can.
The Giants possibly spent overs (two second round picks) to secure Hill with pick 24, but this is something we are likely to see more of in future seasons if clubs feel a player has fallen later than they should. A bid for aggressive ruckman Kieran Briggs came later than expected which is also a win. Late draftee Connor Idun is a powerfully-built prospect who can play either end.
Fremantle's first two picks really stand out. Sam Sturt is an athletic medium forward with one of the sweetest kicks in the draft, while Luke Valente is a similarly impressive kick and one of this year's most powerful ball winners.
Fremantle also selected a few mature age recruits; Brett Bewley is a ready-to-go hard running midfielder, Lachlan Schultz is a powerful marking forward and Tobe Watson as a rookie is a rebounding defender. Jason Carter as a Category B rookie adds further speed and rebound from defence.
The Eagles traded picks like seasoned experts over the draft period, moving their 2019 third round pick up for Sydney's 2019 second round pick to accommodate Sydney's draft desires, and trading one pick in the 20s for both of Gold Coast's second round picks.
As for actually acquiring young talent, Bailey Williams as an athletic marking key forward has great scope for development, while next-generation academy prospect Jarrod Cameron is one of this year's most exciting forwards.
As athletic midfielders with good all-around games, Xavier O'Neill was selected earlier than expected, while overager Luke Foley landed around where he was predicted to feature. Their rookie selections were Harry Edwards -- an athletic key position prospect -- and delisted Pie Josh Smith, who adds run across wing/half-back.
Hawthorn was expected to secure next-generation academy prospect Irving Mosquito with their final selection in the draft, but elected not to match Essendon's bid in favour of drafting key defender Jacob Koschitzke who slid later than expected.
The Hawks traded up slightly with their second pick to secure medium marking utility Matthew Walker, while rebounding defender Damon Greaves represents value as a rookie selection considering some pre-draft predictions had him going mid-draft. Outside runner Will Golds was also considered likely to feature in the national draft, and ex-Giant Tim Mohr was added as key position depth.
Pace was certainly the theme for the Power, who selected three quick and versatile midfielders with their first three selections in Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma. All three are of similar ability though Duursma may be the pick of the group with his leadership qualities.
Riley Grundy, brother of Collingwood's Brodie, adds to the club's key defence stocks, while Boyd Woodcock can push for games as a small forward. Martin Frederick and Kai Pudney as Category B rookies add further run with their speed and endurance respectively. Tobin Cox was also selected as a rookie.
The Saints sagely added a focal point to their front half with the addition of towering key forward Max King. Stoppage specialist Jack Bytel adds further potency to the club's midfield, while St Kilda's other selections all share the theme of mature agers who can run. Matthew Parker and Robert Young are speedy forward pressure specialists while Nick Hind and Callum Wilkie provide drive on the wing and half-back respectively.
North Melbourne was required to pay full market value for next-generation academy midfielder Tarryn Thomas after he attracted a bid earlier than expected. North also matched bids on hard working midfielder Bailey Scott (son of Robert), but that was later than forecast, while dangerous marking forward Joel Crocker (son of Darren) was not bid on and could have been selected as a rookie.
North Melbourne utilised their picks smartly, shifting two picks in the 50s for future picks, while trading their future third round pick for pick 46 to select dangerous marking forward and ball-winning midfielder Curtis Taylor. Taylor was predicted to feature up to 20 selections earlier than he did.
As rookies, North added unexpected slider Tom McKenzie who is a skillful midfielder, and mature age pressure forward Thomas Wilkinson.
Run and carry was the theme of Melbourne's draft day, as aggressive midfielder Tom Sparrow, rebounding defender James Jordan and Melbourne next-generation academy forward Toby Bedford all have explosive pace.
Sparrow may be the most aggressive tackler in this draft, while Melbourne will be breathing a sigh of relieve that no club bid on Bedford earlier than expected. Aaron Nietschke is a high-production endurance runner while Marty Hore is a ready-to-go intercepting defender with reliable skills who can play early and often. Kade Chandler as a rookie is a ball-winning pressure forward specialist.
Improving the club's key position stocks, the Swans matched the bid on highly-touted academy product Nick Blakey. Sydney's trades with West Coast were also masterful; they moved their pick in the 20s before it could be used to match the Blakey bid, only to complete a second deal (securing pick 25) after securing Blakey for a lower "fee".
The selections of midfielder James Rowbottom and outside runner James McInerney were earlier than expected, while Zac Foot injects some serious pace. As rookies, Sydney selected rebounding defenders in Durak Tucker and Harry Reynolds. Sam Wicks joins the Swans as a Category B rookie and as a forward.
With Geelong's in "win now" mode, their selections did little to move the needle. Geelong have likely found a long term half-back flanker in Jordan Clark, while adding father-son midfielder Oscar Brownless (son of Billy) with the club's last selection is a win.
Geelong products Darcy Fort and Tom Atkins(a mature age ruckman and midfielder, respectively) likely only add depth. Outside runner Jacob Kennerley was taken later than predicted while forwards Ben Jarvis and Jake Tarca were picked as medium and small goalkickers to replace what the club has lost in recent seasons. Next-generation academy forward Blake Schlensog joins Geelong as a Category B rookie.
In undoubtedly the dullest draft in their history, Collingwood picked up two next-generation academy prospects and one father-son, while also re-drafting Tim Broomhead and Sam Murray as rookies following their delisting earlier this year.
The Pies did manage to pick up Will Kelly (son of Craig) later than expected, while the bid on academy product Isaac Quaynor came around where it was expected. Fellow academy product Atu Bosenavulagi did not attract any bids, but is an athletic forward who tackles aggressively. With no live picks, a potentially opportunity may have been missed. The positive for Collingwood is no points deficit.
Yes, Sam Walsh makes Carlton's midfield a lot better and is of comparable quality to recent first overall selections. The query is whether the Blues maximised the opportunity they had at pick 1 considering Jack Lukosius is arguably the best prospect of the last decade and Izak Rankine is likely to be better than anyone drafted in 2016 or 2017.
Carlton's trade of their 2019 first round selection for Liam Stocker and Adelaide's 2019 first round selection is ballsy but questionable considering there are several impressive midfielders expected to go inside the first five at next year's draft.
Skillful forward Finbar O'Dwyer was a surprise pick late, while Father-son prospect Ben Silvagni (son of Stephen) as a key forward and recycled rookie Hugh Goddard as a key back are questionable additions with Carlton's list already overflowing with key position players. It was also a surprise to see journeyman Tomas Bugg receive a third chance.