2016 AFL draft: Who are the real top 20?

Hindsight is always 20-20, and that's especially the case when you look back at previous AFL drafts and wonder 'what if?'

The draft is where list managers really earn their money. Nail the early picks and your club will be that much closer to a finals campaign or even a premiership tilt. But if you miss the mark, trouble awaits.

Of course every club has had its fair share of hits and misses in recent years but the endless question from each draft remains - who are the best players, and in what order? ESPN.com.au draft expert Chris Doerre has revisited the drafts from 2013 to 2017 and re-selected who he believes are the top 20 talents, based on career output so far and future potential.

Doerre has analysed every player available during that particular year's draft, with often completely overlooked players who were subsequently selected in following seasons ending up being among the best of their initial draft class.

This is Doerre's top 20 from 2016.

No. 1: Sean Darcy
Where he was picked: No. 38
Analysis: Darcy is the competition's best ruckman under the age of 24 and can be the best player in this draft pool. He's a powerful unit who is an excellent tap ruckman and tackler. The bargain of the draft, Darcy made an incredible jump from a junior who struggled to find the ball, didn't hit the scoreboard and had a limited impact on games to putting up the best numbers of any first-year ruckman in a long time. He backed this up with a promising second season and is likely to take further strides over the next few years.

No. 2: Tim Taranto
Where he was picked: No. 2
Analysis: Taranto will be one of this draft's best and early days he looks like the best midfielder in his class. His tackling and contested ball-winning and skills are excellent. He also has the capacity to hurt the opposition as a forward with his contested marking and scoreboard impact among his points of difference as a junior.

No. 3: Jarrod Berry
Where he was picked: No. 17
Analysis: With Berry's height, the contested side to his game and rate of progression, he has the upside to become an elite midfielder. Berry's hurt factor and versatility to play inside/outside midfield, or on a flank further add to his value.

No. 4: Hugh McCluggage
Where he was picked: No. 3
Analysis: McCluggage should continue to improve and become one of the competition's most damaging outside midfielders. He is an elite kick inside 50m already and an excellent outside runner with speed and endurance. Expect McCluggage's numbers to continue improving and for his conversion in front of goal to improve, which as a junior was also elite.

No. 5: Andrew McGrath
Where he was picked: No. 1
Analysis: McGrath is an immediate impact player who can fit either in defence or through the midfield and improve a team. His acceleration is his point of difference and whether used through the midfield or in defence is likely to start finding more of the football. A worthy No. 1 pick, but there are a few others I prefer long term.

No. 6: Sam Powell-Pepper
Where he was picked: No. 18
Analysis: Powell-Pepper is a physically mature midfielder with excellent ball-winning ability and explosiveness. His kicking will need to improve to move up this list and with his running capabilities, if allowed the freedom, could add more outside run to his game.

No. 7: Alex Witherden
Where he was picked: No. 23
Analysis: Witherden is an offensively minded defender who generates a lot of drive from the backline with his kicking his main weapon. An incredible result from Brisbane with each of their first three selections (pick 3 = McCluggage, pick 17 = Berry, pick 23 = Witherden) featuring inside my top seven from 2016.

No. 8: Sam Petrevski-Seton
Where he was picked: No. 6
Analysis: Petrevski-Seton is a damaging midfielder with speed who provides good pressure around the ground. He has improved each year and should see his midfield minutes and numbers rise over the next few years.

No. 9: Tom Stewart
Where he was picked: No. 40
Analysis: Stewart, who is five years older than his peers in this draft, is already an established defender of high quality who in 2018 became one of the competition's premier defenders and an All-Australian. He wins one-on-ones consistently, intercepts and has the versatility to play tall or small, limiting their output.

No. 10: Tim Kelly
Where he was picked: No. 24, 2017
Analysis: Kelly is four years older than most of his 2016 draft peers and entered the league one year later, but off the back of his 2018 season, he is a standout. Kelly is a damaging midfielder/forward and explosive ball winner who impacts games most heavily when matches are there to be won.

No. 11: Will Setterfield
Where he was picked: No. 5 - academy bid matched
Analysis: After two injury-plagued seasons with Greater Western Sydney, Setterfield requested a trade to Carlton. He was traded along with pick 66 (Finbar O'Dwyer) to the Blues for pick 45 (Western Bulldogs - Ben Cavarra) and Carlton's 2019 second round selection. I speculate this will prove a successful trade for Carlton as Setterfield is a tall midfielder with excellent ball-winning capabilities and skills, though it will depend on whether he strings matches together and remains healthy.

No. 12: Will Brodie
Where he was picked: No. 9
Analysis: While Brodie has had a slower than expected start to his career, his play in the NEAFL was excellent in 2018. He showed enough promise late last season at AFL level as a ball-winning midfielder and looks likely to have a breakout season.

No. 13: Jack Bowes
Where he was picked: No. 10 - academy bid matched
Analysis: Bowes is a developing midfielder who is starting to realise his ball-winning ability, winning a high percentage in contested situations. Expect his numbers to continue to rise. What will need work is his ball use which has lacked reliability at AFL level to date.

No. 14: Will Hayward
Where he was picked: No. 21
Analysis: An effective medium forward who is a dangerous marking target inside 50m and hits the scoreboard. To reach the next level Hayward needs to start finding more of the ball up the field.

No. 15: Jack Henry
Where he was picked: rookie draft, No. 16
Analysis: During a breakout 2018, Henry established himself as an athletic intercept marking defender who is a contested marking threat and expertly reads the ball in flight. The bonus with Henry is he also has the capacity to play forward, kicking eight goals in five rounds late in the season when Geelong needed another marking target.

No. 16: Oliver Florent
Where he was picked: No. 11
Analysis: An improving midfielder with good speed and endurance. Florent has the capability to play inside and outside and should see his numbers rise again in 2019. He will need to improve his kicking as at this stage he can look rushed and lack composure kicking into the front half.

No. 17: Zac Fisher
Where he was picked: No. 27
Analysis: A small who took giant steps in 2018 and looks like a valuable long-term piece through Carlton's midfield. He has had an immediate impact as a speedy midfielder who contributes effectively at stoppages.

No. 18: Jy Simpkin
Where he was picked: No. 12
Analysis: Simpkin adds x-factor with his speed and damaging skills. An improved contested ball winner who took major strides in his second season. Further improvement is probable and if he can start working into space on the outside and finding more of the ball, he will likely become a damaging player at AFL level.

No. 19: Ben Ainsworth
Where he was picked: No. 4
Analysis: Ainsworth is an explosive marking small forward who is strong one-on-one, impacts games heavily and can push up through the midfield. His impact has not been as immediate as expected but with his mix of attributes should come good.

No. 20: Daniel Venables
Where he was picked: No. 13
Analysis: A premiership player with intriguing upside due to his contested ball-winning capabilities and explosiveness. With these attributes, he has upside and can improve his position on this list in the future though he will need to start getting his hands on the ball more first.