Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions ahead of Round 7.
Who'll be the best player from the 2018 draft?
Niall Seewang: First things first, the top-end of the 2018 draft will go down as the best ever: Sam Walsh, Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine, Max King, Connor Rozee, Ben King, Bailey Smith, Tarryn Thomas, Chayce Jones and Nick Blakey all look like future 200-game stars. I've not seen a better debut game than Rankine's but his sample size is still too small, so if I was choosing now, I'd go Smith, just, over Rozee.
Jake Michaels: It depends how you define 'best'. I'm convinced Sam Walsh will be a 350 game player and just about the most consistent in the competition. Do I think he will ever break games open and single-handedly lead his team to victory? Probably not. On the other hand, Rankine and Rozee have already proven to be game breakers. I think most people would still take Walsh at No. 1, but gee, this draft class, particularly the top 10 is absolutely elite.
Matt Walsh: It's so tough to determine this, not only because the level of talent is so high from this draft class, but they're also very different players. The King boys may become the best key position players in the game, while Rankine might become a better Robbie Gray or Toby Greene. As Jake said, Walsh may play 300+ games and average 26 really good touches. I think every club is stoked with who they got in this draft, particularly at the top end.
Jesse Robinson: It's early days but you get the feeling we'll be having this debate for years to come, and we'll probably get nowhere. Much like 2001 "superdraft" that saw the likes of Ablett Jr, Judd and Hodge enter the league, the 2018 class has the potential to leave a big impact on the game. Walsh was clearly the pick of the bunch last year, with Smith leading the way this season but the key position stocks like Lukosius and the Kings will continue to improve as the years go by.
An #AFLDraft special! The team is joined by @ChrisDoerreESPN— footytips (@footytips) December 7, 2020
and @championdata's Christian Joly to chat:
🦠 COVID curveballs
🧐 A top 20 phantom draft
📈 Risers and sliders
👀 Ranking the No. 1 picks since 2000
Stream the latest @ESPNAusNZ#AFL pod herehttps://t.co/XHlrbAAC7Y
Who is the recruit of the year?
NS: Right now, I reckon Hugh Greenwood has been. He is ranked first in the league for tackles per game, sixth in total goal assists, eighth for total contested possessions and 13th in clearances per game. His leadership has also stood out in a Suns team that has finally taken some big steps forward. All for the bargain price of a third and fourth round pick!
JM: The Blues gave up nothing to bring in Jack Martin and what a stroke of genius it has turned out to be. The former Sun has slotted in well at IKON Park, averaging a touch under 15 disposals and almost a goal and a half per game as a half forward. Martin's exceptional ball use is what the Blues had been crying out for and those silky skills in the front half are invaluable.
MW: If you were to ask me preseason who St Kilda's best recruit would be, I would have said Brad Hill by a mile ahead of Zak Jones. But I tell you what, Dan Butler fits into Brett Ratten's coaching style so well, and it's little wonder he's kicked 10 goals from his six games so far. He gets to good spots, relishes a fast ball inside 50 (which the Saints do well) and has finished particularly well this year. Bargain. Speaking of bargains, Marc Pittonet has been an excellent addition to Carlton's ruck stocks.
JR: It seems like the Saints have nailed it this offseason, with Dan Butler being maybe the value recruit of the year so far, but Brad Hill has revolutionised the way they run and gun through the midfield and provides the perfect link coming out of defense that has seen St. Kilda look like a real threat for the first time in a few seasons.
Is there still room in footy for the bump?
NS: The weekend's bump bonanza shows the risks players take when they do decide to bump - sometimes with disastrous consequences. The risk far outweighs the reward in bumping and while I'm glad the front-on hits has been eradicated, I hope the bump doesn't ever disappear completely, because it is a unique part of our unique game.
JM: There is but you have to get it right. If you get it wrong, even marginally, then expect a spell on the sidelines. We can't have players taking each other's heads off. Given the risks, I actually suspect coaches will start to caution their players when it comes to the bump.
MW: Yes, but if there's a better option and you mistime it, or your opponent adjusts their line after it's too late, be prepared to wear the consequences. Tackle if you can, or bump safely - if there is such a thing.
JR: Much like the tackle, it certainly has a place but it has to be done properly and safely, the players will always have a duty of care to one another and this gets lost in the bump sometimes. It's hard to see where the AFL stands on the bump given the wide range of punishments it has handed out to some very similar incidents over the past few weeks. Maybe teams need to do some bumping training alongside their tacking training.
Which team is the most attractive to watch this year?
NS: Attractive footy has been in short supply this year but I think, when on song, the Lions might be the best to watch. They take the game on, score heavily (third most points this season) and boast eye-catching talent across every line. Port Adelaide, Geelong, St Kilda and even Carlton have also been fun to watch at times this year.
JM: The Lions were the best team to watch in 2019 and once again I reckon they are at the top of the pile in the watchability stakes. A young and excited midfield group combined with a dynamic forward line makes for great football, and we're seeing it on a regular basis. The Tigers may be miles away from their best but we all know how good they can be to watch when they're on song.
MW: Well given the Gold Coast Suns are about to play their first ever match not on a Saturday or Sunday in this next block of fixtures, they'd have to be close! Ben King, ably supported by Sam Day (who isn't being talked about enough for his comeback to footy) and now Izak Rankine in the forward line, is exciting. Their young mids, too, are showing plenty and moving the ball with confidence and pace. Maybe I'm getting swept up in the Gold Coast fever, but they're up there with the Saints, Power, Blues and Lions for mine.
JR: Hard to disagree that the Lions bring the action and excitement each week. Their midfield led by Lachie Neale and is rapid and Charlie Cameron is always producing something special up forward. A matchup between Brisbane and St. Kilda would probably be the most free flowing match up we could hope for this season