ESPN's Top 20 Must-Watch Players: 10-1

Every season, footy fans and experts alike compile lists of the AFL's best players, either looking back at the previous season or projecting ahead to the new one.

And who doesn't love a list, right? We certainly do, but ahead of the 2020 season, we wanted to do something a little bit different.

This isn't a countdown of the competition's finest players, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action. Be it superstars, players who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, top draftees or basically anyone who we expect to have us jumping out of our seats and yelling in excitement during the season.

Welcome to ESPN's second annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list. Click here to look at the 2019 edition.

These are the players ranked 10 to 1.

10. Nat Fyfe (Fremantle)

At full strength, Fyfe takes your breath away. He wins the ball at the coalface as well as anyone, takes spectacular marks around the ground and can push forward to kick goals.

Last year, the three-time All Australian stormed the field to become just the 15th player in VFL/AFL history to win the Brownlow multiple times, and that was for a low-scoring Dockers side that won just nine games.

Interestingly, the 28-year-old may become an even bigger attacking threat under new coach Justin Longmuir, who is set to banish the defensive mindset imposed by former coach Ross Lyon.

"His view on the game is different to what Ross's was. Justin has a view that really looks at opportunity and ways to score and potentially a bit more free-flowing," Fyfe said recently.

The prospect of Fyfe given free reign to shed his defensive shackles is a scary thought for 17 clubs, but should make him even more exciting to watch for neutral fans.

9. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

It's hard not to notice Bontempelli, so it's almost unfair to describe him as a 'must-see' player as he's more of a 'can't-unsee' player.

A beast in all areas of the ground, 'The Bont' had a stunning year in 2019, averaging career-highs in disposals, contested possessions, inside 50s, rebound 50s and clearances. Take a breath after that sentence.

Now 24 years of age, Bontempelli is entering the peak of his powers and may be a chance to take out the Brownlow Medal at the end of the year, though with ball magnets Jackson Macrae and Josh Dunkley alongside him in that midfield, it's easier said than done. Whether or not he ends his career with a Charlie to his name, Bont will finish his career as a club great and is a must-watch player in 2020.

8. Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

Could this be the season that Cripps gets even better? The Blues are building and with the young brigade now getting more midfield minutes, co-captain Cripps may not be relied upon as much to carry the load in the guts.

We've seen how damaging he can be when given freedom; whether it's racking up 30 or more touches, kicking four goals in a half of footy (sorry, Brisbane fans) or just being a brute around the stoppage, it's entirely possible that Cripps can get even better if he doesn't play a lone hand for the Blues.

With fellow co-skip Sam Docherty back in defence, the burden of leadership, too, will be shared, meaning the shackles will be loosened for Cripps to play his best footy in 2020.

7. Jordan De Goey (Collingwood)

This time last year, De Goey came in at No. 2 on our must-watch list after a barnstorming 2018 which culminated in a three-goal haul in the Grand Final loss to West Coast.

Fast-forward 12 months and De Goey never really rose to the heights many expected, with injury playing a part in his stop-start season. He even he flew to Germany in a late bid to be fit ahead of Collingwood's prelim but was unable to regain fitness in time.

With 2019 behind him, can the Collingwood bull take a Dustin Martin-like leap into superstardom? We're waiting with bated breath.

6. Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)

The power, the competitiveness, the individual brilliance, the strut ... love him or loathe him, Dangerfield is compulsory viewing when he suits up for the Cats.

For the past handful of years, the 2016 Brownlow medalist has been jostling with Gary Ablett, Lance Franklin, Nat Fyfe and Dustin Martin to lay claim as the league's best player, with Dangerfield sitting comfortably in that company.

The seven-time All-Australian (yes, seven!) is one of the few midfielders who can regularly hit the scoreboard, having booted more than 20 goals per year every season bar one since his debut in 2008, with his impact forward of centre or in the guts making him a complete dual threat.

Despite his individual and relative team success during his illustrious career, one thing is still missing - a premiership. Almost 30, he'll be doing everything he can to ensure he snares the ultimate prize before it's too late.

5. Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn)

Every year there's one: football's forgotten man.

Mitchell returns after a season on the sidelines and he'll be welcomed back to Hawthorn's midfield with open arms. Remember, he won the Brownlow Medal before breaking his leg and missing all of 2019.

The former Swan showed some promising signs during the Marsh Series, but like anyone returning from a major injury, there's plenty of question marks surrounding him. How long will he need to get back up to speed? Will he be able to reach the heights of 2018? Is he still the AFL's best ball winner?

All these questions will be answered when Mitchell returns to the park. Keep your eyes on him.

4. Marlion Pickett (Richmond)

The Tigers stunned the league and the wider football community by selecting mid season rookie selection to debut in the 2019 Grand Final.

Pickett was an incredible story in an otherwise bland decider, coming third in Norm Smith voting and etching himself into fans' memories with a blind turn.

The 28-year-old now has a full preseason under his belt and is almost locked in for a regular season debut in Round 1 against the Blues.

The Tigers have long lacked a ball-winning, high efficiency midfielder and it could just take them to another level.

Forget the 2019 fairytale, Pickett looks to be a midfield force to be reckoned with in 2020, with silky skills and Pendlebury-esque space and time to distribute the ball.

3. Matt Rowell (Gold Coast)

Everyone is always eager to see the previous year's No. 1 draft pick in action, and this season is no exception.

Snapped up by the Suns with the first pick in 2019, Rowell's junior resume is outrageous, being the first draftee to win two successive Grand Final best-on-ground medals in TAC Cup/NAB League history.

Much like 2018 No. 1 pick Sam Walsh, who made such an immediate impact with the Blues last year, expectations are high for Rowell to establish himself as AFL-standard as early as Round 1 in his debut season.

The early signs are good, but the real stuff hasn't started yet. Can he handle the step up in intensity? How will he deal with the pressure of being a No. 1 draft pick? Is he the man to help lead the Suns back up the ladder?

The AFL world will be watching with interest.

2. Dustin Martin (Richmond)

What more can you say about Martin? Two-time Norm Smith Medal winner, Brownlow medallist, a 'State of Origin' BOG, and most recently was labelled the GOAT by Daisy Pearce. It's a wonder he isn't the competition's No. 1 must-watch player!

He can tear up opposition midfielders and strike fear into the hearts of defenders when he floats forward, and seems to play the game so well, all the while with a look of almost indifference on his face, which is ... infuriating to watch in its beauty.

He's a matchwinner, a goal kicker and a treasure to watch when one-on-one - and he's still not to top our list.

1. Tim Kelly (West Coast)

In normal circumstances, Kelly might not have taken top billing on this list. But this is certainly no ordinary circumstance.

After an impressive rookie year with Geelong, Kelly took his game to the absolute elite level in 2019, often upstaging A-grade midfield teammates Dangerfield, Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood with his silky skills and effortless ability to win the ball. So impressive was his 2019 season that he finished fifth in the Brownlow Medal count with a tally of 25 votes.

It was widely known Kelly was seeking a move back to his native Western Australia, so it was no surprise to see him sign with West Coast in the off-season. With the addition of Kelly, the Eagles are just about flag favourites, but it will be interesting to see how he fits into what's already a stacked midfield group.

We'll be eagerly watching Kelly all year, especially when he returns to GMHBA Stadium and faces his old side in Round 16. Now that will be must watch television!