AFL Draft Combine wrap - the standouts, surprises and how to interpret it all

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Crows the clear winners from the trade period: Doerre (1:26)

ESPN's AFL draft expert Chris Doerre lauds Adelaide for being able to secure Sydney's Jordan Dawson in the trade period for not much compensation, despite the leverage the Crows had in negotiations. (1:26)

This year's AFL Draft Combine was held as separate state combines rather than a single national combine, due to lockdowns and state-based restrictions.

These combines gave clubs the opportunity to interview, observe, test and measure the draft eligible talent.

Unfortunately, due to lockdowns, there was no combine held for Vic Metro prospects.


How combine results should be interpreted

It's easy to look at draft combine results and get excited about footballers if they're breaking records in particular tests. What clubs do, because they've been watching the players invited throughout the year, is put the results in context of what the footballer does in game to explain what they've been watching during the year.

If a footballer breaks the vertical leap record, if they're not going to be tall enough to play through the ruck, or they're a poor mark overhead and struggle reading the ball well in flight, a vertical leap record doesn't add meaningful on-field value. North Melbourne's Kyron Hayden, who held the previous running vertical jump record and features in the top-10 all time in standing vertical jump, is one such example where to date he has been unable to convert his leaping gifts into intercept marking or contested marking dominance.

Similarly, a player could break 20m sprint, agility or 2km records, but if they're unable to use their running gifts in game to advantage, it's not adding a great deal of value. Joel Wilkinson in 2010 is one such case, holding all-time combine records of 2.75 seconds in the 20m sprint and placing in the top-10 and scoring an elite time in the 3km time trial, despite stopping twice to tie his shoes. But Wilkinson was unable to convert those incredible testing results into on-field performance, never looking comfortable taking on the game with his run.

Other than providing context to a footballer's game, the other component clubs can take value out of from the testing results is using it as a comparison to past testing results. Most footballers will have testing results from younger age groups and at different stages across a season. Clubs can use that information to help track the rate of progression a footballer has shown and can give some indication as to their rate of improvement to be used in calculations of a player's upside.

Clubs also test for player heights, weights, wingspans and handspans. As testing data improvements from years past, if a footballer has grown 10cm in the past 12 months, there is a good chance the footballer is still growing and will still have a lot of footballing improvement left in them as they grow into their bodies. Marcus Bontempelli, Patrick Cripps and Richmond's Tom Lynch each fit into the late and rapid growth categories as players who have far exceeded the performance expected of someone drafted at their positions.

The outstanding combine results that have wowed clubs

Securing an all-time record running vertical jump, South Australian Leek Alleer registered a ridiculous 107cm, surpassing Kyron Hayden's 2017 record of 103cm and Nic Naitanui's 102cm. Alleer also managed a South Australian combine best 75cm standing vertical jump. A 20-year-old key defender, Alleer established himself in the SANFL this year and has shown rapid development. Alleer is this year's premier intercept mark and most difficult to stop aerially when launching at the ball. He has potential to become the competition's premier intercept marking force, with his playstyle similar to Aliir Aliir, though standing 2cm taller and possessing even greater leaping ability. Considered likely to feature in the middle portion of the draft, these test results only support Alleer's draft credentials and suggest he could be one of this year's draft bargains, not to mention the best key defender.

Securing a 2.976 second 20m sprint and a 6:18 in the 2km time trial, the second and third best times in the respective tests at the Vic Country combine, 194cm Mitch Knevitt wowed onlookers. Among other tall midfielders, Knevitt's 20m sprint compares favourably to Scott Pendlebury's 3.01, Marcus Bontempelli's 3.2 and Patrick Cripps' 3.23. On matchday, Knevitt covers the ground well, manages to get from contest to contest, looks agile in traffic and provides good spread. What's more incredible with Knevitt is he's not just a tall athlete, but a genuinely good midfielder. Knevitt plays his best football through the midfield as a ball winner and inside distributor, displaying the strength to stand up through tackles and release by hands. A strong contested mark who can also push forward and provide a forward of centre marking threat, Knevitt has the scope to be successful at AFL level, as there will be few who can both run with him and compete in marking contests. With his strong last two months to the season and incredible combine results, Knevitt is likely to receive first round consideration.

The result that confirms what we already believed

Winning the South Australian agility test with an elite time of 7.94 seconds, Alastair Lord also performed strongly in the 2km time trial, placing inside the top-5 in the state with a time of 6.48. Arguably the most aggressive rebounder from defence in this draft, Lord takes on the game routinely, displays run and dare, and pairs that with a reliable but damaging kick. There are several rebounding defenders in the mix to feature inside the first round, but Lord, who is seen as being in the mid-draft mix, may be the best of his type and could provide real value.

The surprise

Returning from a knee reconstruction sustained last year and struggling with shin splints, there were few expectations of Josh Cripps on return, but his last two months have been strong and place him in the draft mix. An overage 199cm ruckman and key forward, the younger brother of Carlton's Patrick enjoyed a better-than-expected draft combine. Managing an agility run of 8.3 seconds, an elite time by key position or ruck standards. Josh's time for a point of comparison was 0.27 seconds faster than Patrick when he tested at the National Combine. While Josh has played a competitive brand of football, where he follows up well at ground level after ruck contests and provides a marking target forward of centre, he has looked slow and immobile with his athletic testing the most surprising of any of the combine results. Cripps is viewed as a late draft chance, and with his rate of improvement and late season performance, he's one clubs should be considering, though based at least on what he has shown on field, not for his mobility or athleticism.


National Combine Results

VERTICAL JUMP
Corey Warner (WA) 76cm
William Bella (QLD) 75cm
Leek Alleer (SA) 75cm, Noah Pegoraro (WA) 75cm
Lochlan Paton (WA) 73cm

RUNNING VERTICAL JUMP
Leek Alleer (SA) 107cm
Corey Warner (WA) 100cm
Josh Gibcus (VIC) 95cm
Jahmal Stretch (WA) 93cm
Noah Pegoraro (WA) 92cm

20M SPRINT
Harvey Harrison (SA) 2.845s
Taj Woewodin (WA) 2.898s
Luke Polson (WA) 2.900s
Hugh Stagg (SA) 2.910s
Noah Pegoraro (WA) 2.926s

AGILITY
Alastair Lord (SA) 7.940s
Bryce Watson (WA) 8.006s
Matt Johnson (WA) 8.061s
Cooper Beecken (SA) 8.070s
Ronald Fejo jnr (NT) 8.080s

2KM TIME TRIAL
Cooper Hamilton (VIC) 5:48m
Hamish Sinnott (VIC) 5:58m
Mitchell Knevitt (VIC) 6:18m
Kai Lohmann (VIC) 6:19m
Jamieson Ballantyne (VIC) 6:19m

2KM TIME TRIAL ON STRAVA
Josh Ward (VIC) 5:57m
Josh Fahey (NSW) 5:59m
Ned Long (VIC) 6:05m
Karl Worner (VIC) 6:07m
Blake Howes (VIC) 6:08m, Connor MacDonald (VIC) 6:08m