The 2019 AFL Draft is rapidly approaching, and with intrigue surrounding the best young talent at an all-time high, ESPN's draft expert Chris Doerre has written 10 of the biggest FAQs in anticipation of the big day.
How is the top-end in this year's draft?
There is a clear top-two in Matthew Rowell and Noah Anderson. Tom Green has the performances on the board and deserves to be in the conversation to increase that bracket to a 'top three'. Outside of those names, the next group look like very good player but unless expectations are exceeded, there are no others who are touted to become stars of the competition.
How deep does this draft go?
After the first 30 the draft flattens out and divides opinion. Expect more of a 'needs' focus from clubs after the first 30 selections.
How does this year compare to 2018?
Not as strong, as 2018 was a draft with a potentially all-time strong top 15. The sheer quantity of quality key position players up the very pointy end was unique with Jack Lukosius, Max King, Ben King and Nick Blakey all selected inside the top 10. The next group of picks 16-27 were similarly strong, with a splashing of good players coming in the latter portion of the second and third rounds.
This year, there is a lack of top-end key position players with Brodie Kemp able to play key position, otherwise only Fischer McAsey is in the mix. Overall, the top end is solid but lacks the same quantity of projected stars, though like last year, the top 15 is the sweet spot to be drafting - prospects rated 4-15 are rated fairly evenly. The next 10 should produce some more than capable AFL footballers, though after the first 25 or so selections, the draft flattens out.
Which clubs have the strongest hand in this year's draft?
Gold Coast 1,2,15, 20
Fremantle 7, 10, 22, 58, 69
Melbourne 3, 8
Adelaide 4, 23, 28, 37, 45, 49
Geelong 14, 17, 24, 36
Port Adelaide 12, 18, 29, 66, 67, 68, 71
With Matthew Rowell and Noah Anderson expected to be the first two selected, who will be among those next few?
While the order is not yet clear, a bid should come on Tom Green with one of the first five picks, with Sydney sure to bid on Green if Melbourne and Adelaide don't. Western Australian ruckman Luke Jackson, rebounding defender Hayden Young, and Gippsland duo Sam Flanders and Caleb Serong are the others believed to be in the mix to be top five selections.
Who are the academy and zone prospects in the mix?
Tom Green (GWS Academy), Liam Henry (Fremantle next-generation academy), Connor Budarick (Gold Coast Academy), Malcolm Rosas (Gold Coast - Northern Territory Zone), Noah Cumberland (Brisbane Academy), Will Martyn (Brisbane Academy), and Liam Delahunty (GWS Academy) were all invited to the national draft combine and have attracted AFL interest.
Budarick and Rosas have been pre-listed by Gold Coast and will not cost the Suns any selections due to the AFL's assistance package. In an open draft both may have attracted interest in the second or third round. While not invited to the national draft, Gold Coast have also added Matthew Conroy from their Academy as a ruckman/key forward.
Green, a bullocking midfielder, is likely to be bid on inside the first five which would force GWS to use their pick 6 to match a bid unless they can move further up the draft order.
Talented forward Henry will draw a bid inside the first round and it's possible a bid comes before one of Fremantle's two top-10 selections.
Cumberland is a speedy utility, Martyn racks up plenty of ball and Delahunty is a promising key position player - they all may attract interest from rival clubs in the national draft.
Who are the father-son prospects in the mix?
This year the two father-son prospects who will get drafted are Finn Maginness (Hawthorn - son of Scott) and Jackson Mead (Port Adelaide - son of Darren). Maginness and Mead both are in the mix to feature late first or second round.
Which clubs may look to make draft day trades?
With the likelihood that a bid on academy product Tom Green will occur before Greater Western Sydney's pick 6, the Giants are one of the clubs that may explore trade opportunities to move up.
Fremantle are a second club that may consider moving up in the draft depending on whether they believe a bid will occur for next-generation academy prospect Liam Henry before their picks 7 or 10.
There has been talk about Gold Coast showing interest in securing a third top 10 pick with the view that they will target someone they believe will not be there with pick 15.
Richmond -- with picks 38, 39, 41, 56, 75, 77 -- Port Adelaide -- with picks 29, 66, 67, 68, 71 -- and Essendon -- with picks 31, 33, 61, 64, 65 -- will be in talks with clubs looking to secure academy or father-son picks. Clubs with academy or father-son prospects may choose to move down the draft to secure a combination of these picks to get a discount through the draft value index points system.
Who are some potential draft bolters?
With no ruckman taken inside the top-10 since Billy Longer in 2011, Luke Jackson may be the next. There is talk of Jackson receiving draft consideration as high as the top five with several clubs with top-10 picks believed to be considering him.
Elevating his stocks during the Under-18 Championships, athletic small forward Cody Weightman kicked four goals in the second and third rounds for Vic Country which bolted him inside the top-15 conversation. His nine goals during the Under-18 Championships and 2.3 per game were the highest over the five weeks. With Melbourne trading for pick 8, after missing out on Jamie Elliott as a free agent, there is a thought process that Weightman may be among those considered with the selection, with Carlton a second possible destination at pick 9 after missing out on Tom Papley.
Despite not featuring during the Under-18 Championships, Cooper Sharman earned a National Draft Combine invite after kicking 14 goals from eight games for Oakleigh during the second half of the season. Sharman is one of the best readers of the ball in flight, is a strong mark overhead, clean at ground level and doesn't need much of the ball to hit the scoreboard. Mid to late draft Sharman may receive draft consideration.
Missing out on selection during the Under-18 Championships, Sam Philp who despite solid form for Northern including featuring in their bests in nine of their first 10 games did not make the cut. Philp is a strong ball winner who distributes effectively by hand at stoppages and won the 20m sprint at this year's draft combine. Expect mid to late draft consideration for Philp.
And who are the potential sliders?
One of three 2018 and 2019 Under-18 All-Australian's and a SANFL League premiership player, Will Gould is one of this year's most accomplished. With a heavy body composition at 106kg and after testing poorly at the draft combine, Gould has divided opinions among recruiters. He is likely to be picked in the 10-30 range despite being one of this year's best performed.
After being touted a potential first round selection at the beginning of the season, skillful Tasmanian midfielder Mitch O'Neill struggled with injury and form for much of the year. Despite being one of three back-to-back Under-18 All-Australians, O'Neill no longer seems to be in the first-round draft mix and is viewed more as a second or third round selection having not imposed himself on games as much as hoped in 2019.
Looking like a probable top-five choice this time last year, the stocks of Dylan Williams have dropped over the course of the season due to inconsistent performance. Williams has played throughout much of the season hurt and sat out the latter portion of the season due to a stress fracture in his back. A talented forward who is dangerous aerially, at ground level and around goal, Williams is now seen as a possible late first or second round choice.
Viewed as a potential top-10 selection before the beginning of the season, talented South Australian forward Cameron Taheny has again this season impressed around goal, kicking 15 goals during his first four SANFL League games. While Taheny doesn't need much of the ball to hit the scoreboard heavily, the issue has been that he doesn't find enough of the ball and other than the goals he kicks feels like he has little involvement in games. Due to below expectation numbers and a quieter than expected Under-18 Championships, he is likely to feature in the second or third round in this year's draft.
Winner of Sandringham's 2018 Best and Fairest, Corey Watts entered the season with a striking resume. Watts as an underager accomplished this on a team featuring four first round picks in last year's draft including twins Max and Ben King, Bailey Smith and Morrish medallist Liam Stocker. This year, and despite possessing the capability to beat his opponents one-on-one and take intercept marks, Watts has failed to take the next step and has seen his numbers drop across the board. Attending the Rookie Me Combine, it appears unlikely that Watts is drafted despite looking like a potential first round chance this time last year.
Despite kicking nine goals through the first two NAB League rounds and appearing a potential first-round choice, Charlie Dean is considered against the odds to be selected this year. Dean joined Sandringham teammate Corey Watts at the Rookie Me Combine after a similarly disappointing season. While Dean is one of the best readers of the ball in flight, Dean's season has been marred by inconsistency with clubs critical of Dean's difficulty creating separation on the lead when used forward.