The 10 best AFL players at the quarter mark of the 2023 season

And just like that, we're already a quarter of the way through the 2023 AFL season. Some teams are flying (how about those Saints?) and others are languishing at the wrong end of the ladder (looking at you Eagles, Hawks and Roos).

But what about the players? Who has shined through the first six weeks?

Here are the 10 best performers (ranked) of the season to date, not to be confused with my preseason ranking of the 50 best players heading into the year. Special shoutouts to Christian Petracca, Callum Wilkie, Jordan De Goey and Charlie Curnow who all narrowly missed the cut.

10. Jack Sinclair (St Kilda)

If you've comfortably been the best player on the team that's 5-1 and sitting on top of the ladder, how can you not have a place on such a list? The All-Australian running defender from last year has been in exceptional touch to start 2023, winning plenty of ball and launching scoring drives from the back half.

Among defenders, only Nick Daicos ranks higher then Sinclair in rating points. He's had the 10th-most disposals and seventh-most metres gained for the year, always using the ball with precision and efficiency.

Best performance: Sinclair has been ultra consistent but the game which stands out has to be Round 4 against the Suns. The Saint had 31 disposals, seven inside 50s, four rebound 50s, two direct goal assists and a goal of his own in the win.

9. Sam Taylor (GWS)

If you were surprised Taylor was named All-Australian last year, you clearly don't watch the Giants. The young key back was continuing on with his stellar 2022 form before suffering a brutal hamstring injury this past weekend, which is set to rule him out for up to 10 weeks.

Taylor just doesn't get beaten in one-on-one contests. In fact, he easily holds the best lose-rate of any defender in the game, with his opponents beating him in just 5.3% of contests. And just like last year, Taylor also leads the league in intercept possessions as well as ranking top 10 in contested marks.

Best performance: Nine of the 10 coaches votes went to Taylor in Round 5 for his starring role in a two-point win over the Hawks. Taylor had a staggering 16 intercept possessions and 20 disposals in the game and proved impossible to pass all afternoon.

8. Jordan Dawson (Adelaide)

Eyebrows were raised when Dawson was named Crows skipper at the beginning of the year but the football fraternity is now beginning to understand why Adelaide was so desperate to not only secure his services but make him captain.

Shifting Dawson into the midfield back in Round 3 might turn out to be the coaching masterstroke of the season from Matthew Nicks. He was already one of the best ball users in the league and has seamlessly added contested ball winning to his game, making him the perfectly balanced player. I wouldn't be surprised if he picks up a maximum nine Brownlow votes between rounds three and five.

Best performance: Dawson absolutely crushed the Blues in Round 5, humiliating last year's Brownlow medallist Patrick Cripps in the process. He finished with 32 disposals, seven clearances, 10 inside 50s (some of the best entries you'll ever see) and nine tackles.

7. Darcy Parish (Essendon)

After a down(ish) 2022, Parish looks to be back to his 2021 best and has played a key role in the Bombers' 4-2 start to the year (his long line of critics have also been noticeably quiet).

Parish had tallied 30+ disposals in the opening five games before slipping to 27 in somewhat of a disappointing Anzac Day showing. Still, he ranks fourth for disposals, equal-second for clearances and seventh for contested possessions after six rounds.

Best performance: He started his campaign in superb style against the Hawks, collecting 37 disposals (18 contested) as well as 13 clearances and 10 inside 50s to set the tone for the year.

6. Tim English (Western Bulldogs)

Undoubtedly the early frontrunner for the starting ruck spot in the All-Australian team, and likely still the case even if Melbourne skipper Max Gawn -- who has had a stranglehold on that position for half a decade -- hadn't gone down with a knee injury.

English has taken his game to great heights in 2023 and ranks No. 1 among rucks for disposals, marks, metres gained and intercept possessions. He has great balance to his game and is the only ruck to average 10 contested and 10 uncontested possessions per match, always making the right decisions and rarely wasting a touch.

Best performance: English slaughtered the Tigers back in Round 4. The big man didn't just rack up 20 touches and kick two goals but also applied elite pressure around the ground, finishing up with nine tackles.

5. Caleb Serong (Fremantle)

If Andrew Brayshaw's first six games of 2022 was enough to elevate him into the competition's elite, then young Dockers teammate Serong's first six this season has to have done exactly the same.

Serong has been ultra impressive in the first quarter of the year and would easily be leading Fremantle's best and fairest. The 22-year-old is yet to dip below the 28-disposal mark and has had 16+ contested possessions in each of the past four games. He also ranks equal-third for clearances and sits in the top 10 for pressure acts.

Best performance: Serong's had several eye-catching games already this year but it's hard to go past the Round 3 Derby where he amassed 35 disposals, 12 inside 50s, eight clearances, eight tackles and two direct goal assists en route to collecting the Glendinning-Allan Medal.

4. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

Bontempelli's form looked to have slipped a touch last season (I mean, he had set a pretty high bar in 2021) but make no mistake; the Bulldogs skipper is well and truly back to his devastating best.

No player in the competition has won more clearances than Bontempelli through the first six weeks and he's winning a higher volume of contested ball than at any point in his career. He's also getting the job done defensively, ranking third in the league for tackles and top 15 for pressure acts. Champion Data's player ratings currently has him ranked No. 1 in the game.

Best performance: His latest effort was magical. The Bont kicked two goals from his 31 disposals, while also tallying 18 contested possessions, eight clearances and seven inside 50s as the Bulldogs steamrolled the Dockers in Perth.

3. Clayton Oliver (Melbourne)

When your worst game of the season might well be 41 disposals and 25 contested possessions in a loss, you know you're flying. Oliver continues to be one of the game's most consistent stars, winning a mountain of ball and doing his best work at the contest.

Through six weeks he's averaging 32 disposals, 16 contested possessions, seven clearances, six inside 50s and six tackles per game. He's also booted four goals, one short of what he managed in the entire 2022 season. Such is Oliver's consistency that there's an argument to be made he could poll Brownlow votes in all six games. Here's how he's tracking.

Best performance: Ironically, the ball-magnet's best outing so far in 2023 might be his lowest disposal tally. Oliver had 25 touches against the Swans in Round 3 but booted two goals and had a game-high nine score involvements to be the highest-ranked player on the ground at full time.

2. Nick Daicos (Collingwood)

At the beginning of the season I released my list of the 50 best players in the AFL. Daicos didn't feature. If I were to re-do it again right now, he has to be in the top 20, telling you everything you need to know about how he's tracking in 2023.

What more can you really say about this guy? From day one he's looked as comfortable as any player in the league and now, in his second season and with just 31 games under his belt, is (amazingly) the favourite to scoop the Brownlow Medal. After six rounds, Daicos leads the league in disposals, uncontested possessions and metres gained and is relishing playing through the midfield. He can consider himself pretty unlucky to not be at the summit of this list.

Best performance: The Saints had no answer for Daicos in Round 5. He picked up a career-best 42 disposals (27 of them kicks) and had a clear game-high 856m gained. Surely another three-vote outing.

1. Jeremy Cameron (Geelong)

Geelong's premiership defence got off to a rocky start at 0-3 but the one constant of Chris Scott's side in 2023 has been Cameron, who continues to stake his claim as the No. 1 player in the competition. It's getting more difficult by the day to argue he's not just that.

Cameron already has one hand on the Coleman Medal, having booted 27 goals to lead last year's winner, Charlie Curnow, by six. He's averaging career-highs in disposals (19 per game), inside 50s (five per game) and marks (seven per game) and ranks first in the league for score involvements. Right now, nobody seems to have an answer for him. Forget the 100-goal season, could Cameron be in with a shot of the Brownlow Medal?

Best performance: It's tough to split his six-goal lone effort against the Blues in Round 2 or his seven-goal game on Easter Monday. But the Cats only banked four points in one of those outings, so the edge goes to his afternoon against Hawthorn.