AFL Phantom Draft 2017: A very, very early top 20

Josh Elliott Editor

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    After the trade period wrapped up last week the next big event on the AFL calendar is now the draft, which will be held a little over a month from now on Friday 24 November.

    Realistically speaking, the draft is still much too far away for us to have any hope of accurately predicting who will go where – but why should that stop me making a few wild guesses and having some fun?

    Below I’ve put together a very, very early attempt a top 20 phantom draft for 2017, looking at players both in terms of what kind of prospect they are, and how they would fit into the club I’ve matched them with.

    Some matches already feel hand-in-glove, most are nothing short of wild guesses. I make no apologies for what is a virtual certainty that I will be proven horribly, horribly off the mark when the big night arrives.

    Pick 1 – Brisbane Lions – Cam Rayner
    187cm, 88kg

    The Lions face a curious decision as moreso than other clubs they will be considering not just who is the best prospect but also who is the most likely to commit to a Queensland club for the long term.

    That is really always something of a gamble though and no matter which route the Lions go down there will be some risk. The recent departure of Josh Schache is a reminder that you never really can predict who will stay and who will go.

    With that in mind I have them taking the best talent available which at this stage appears to be Cam Rayner, who has drawn numerous and repeated comparisons to the iconic player of 2017, Dustin Martin.

    The knock on Rayner in his endurance – at the moment it’s not clear whether he has it in him to become a fulltime midfielder, or if he’ll forever split his time between the middle and the forward line.

    Pick 2 – Fremantle Dockers – Paddy Dow
    184cm, 78kg

    The leading contenders for this pick are all midfielders and Fremantle have a few options to choose from. I have them picking up Paddy Dow, a versatile inside-outside mid with a deadly burst of speed away from the stoppages.

    Pick 3 – Carlton Blues – Luke Davies-Uniacke
    187cm, 85kg

    Rayner, Dow and Davies-Uniacke are touted as the likely top three by most, though in what order remains to be seen – Carlton will be happy with any of them.

    Davies-Uniacke is a mature, big-bodied type who will be ready to play plenty of midfield minutes from Round 1, 2018.

    Luke Davies-Uniacke AFL draft 2017 tall

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Pick 4 – North Melbourne Kangaroos – Jaidyn Stephenson
    189cm, 76kg

    Stephenson hasn’t necessarily got same the deep record of good form as some other prospects in the early part of the draft, but his combination of height, speed and forward nous make him a unique and exciting prospect. North Melbourne could use that.

    Pick 5 – Fremantle Dockers – Aaron Naughton
    194cm, 84kg

    I was originally sceptical of Fremantle going after tall WA-born backman Naughton here, but having gained another top five pick they might be willing to reach for him a little.

    In combination with last year’s first pick Griffin Logue he would set their defence up for the longterm.

    Pick 6 – Collingwood Magpies – Jarrod Brander
    195cm, 90kg

    An athletic tall who has played good football at both ends of the ground, it’s not clear right now whether Brander will settle as a forward or a defender.

    These ‘swingman’ types make me a bit wary as I prefer players who know what their best position is, but Collingwood could badly use a tall at either end of the ground so it might be less of a concern for them than it would be others.

    Pick 7 – St Kilda Saints – Adam Cerra
    186cm, 85kg

    A classy midfielder, Cerra could easily go much, much higher than this but if the Dockers and Magpies pick talls then someone very promising is going to slip to the Saints and it might be him.

    Cerra would add a touch of finesse to a St Kilda midfield that is more known at the moment for its grunt and grind.

    Pick 8 – St Kilda Saints – Andrew Brayshaw
    183cm, 80kg

    The brother of Melbourne’s Angus, Brayshaw is a bit smaller and more versatile than his sibling, and has a touch more class as well, potentially making him a good fit for the Saints.

    Pick 9 – Western Bulldogs – Nick Coffield
    190cm, 85kg

    An attacking defender who may wind up a midfielder, Coffield’s height gives him the ability to match up on a versatile range of opponents.

    Having lost Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd to retirement this year, Coffield could be a logical acquisition for the Bulldogs as someone who can slot into a similar role.

    Pick 10 – Carlton Blues – Sam Hayes
    203cm, 93kg

    Although he is considered one of the best prospects in the draft, ruckman Sam Hayes – by virtue of being a ruckman – could prove to be a slider on the night.

    Clubs are generally hesitant to draft ruckmen this early, and looking at recent premiership teams you’ll notice none of them have spent big on rucks.

    However with a goodly number of high picks lately, Carlton may be willing to buck the trend and pick up Hayes with an eye to making him the successor to 28-year-old Matthew Kreuzer. Someone has to be.

    Pick 11 – GWS Giants – Jack Higgins
    178cm, 76kg

    The classic “that’s what I’d be saying if you weren’t an inch too short” type, Higgins arguably boasts more talent than some of those who I’ve already taken off the board at this point but at his height there are naturally questions about him being a fulltime midfielder.

    That’s not a problem for GWS and it’s why it makes sense for him to go here. They could use more dangerous medium and small forwards and he could play Round 1 for them in that role.

    Pick 12 – Adelaide Crows – Darcy Fogarty
    192cm, 92kg

    A contender for the number one pick at the start of the year who failed to come on due to injury as much as anything else, Fogarty is the best South Australian prospect on the table and it would be a dream come true for Adelaide if he slips to this pick.

    He’s played both in the midfield and as a tallish forward, the Crows would probably expect him to be a midfielder longterm. I like the fact that, unlike most other prospects left on the board now, he’s more forward-leaning rather than being a behind-the-ball type.

    Pick 13 – West Coast Eagles – Aiden Bonar
    190cm, 89kg

    One of the harder prospects to place in the draft pool, Bonar has already been through two ACL reconstructions but the blend of speed and power he has shown when able to play is electrifying. He’s played both forward and midfield.

    It’s not the safest pick available by any means but West Coast have spent years drafting safe types and have a dishwater-dull midfield as a result. It’s time to take a risk.

    Aiden Bonar AFL

    (Photo by Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Pick 14 – Sydney Swans – Charlie Constable
    190cm, 83kg

    Compared by many to Carlton’s Patrick Cripps, Constable has developed from being more of a general defender into a genuine big-bodied inside midfielder.

    In the absence of any obvious need here Sydney can afford to take best available. Constable would learn a lot from and likely eventually replace Josh P Kennedy.

    Pick 15 – Brisbane Lions – Lochie O’Brien
    184cm, 75kg

    An outside midfielder with line-breaking ability and good kick, O’Brien would add another layer of class to Brisbane’s emerging young midfield.

    Pick 16 – Richmond Tigers (matching bid from Western Bulldogs) – Patrick Naish
    180cm, 69kg

    A slightly-built outside midfielder/forward, Naish will likely join the Tigers as a father-son pick. As is always the case with players of his size, the question on him is how much he can eventually bulk up.

    Pick 17 – Western Bulldogs – Noah Balta
    194cm, 92kg

    Balta is a bit difficult to place in the draft due to not having really settled in one position and being a more raw prospect than some, but his athleticism and booming kick put him in the conversation as one of the best talls in the draft.

    Pick 18 – Brisbane Lions – Jack Petrucelle
    185cm, 77kg

    He would be a bit of a bolter at this pick, but Petrucelle is the fastest player in the draft and having brought a diverse range of young talent into the club lately, that might be a point of difference that appeals to Brisbane.

    Pick 19 – Gold Coast Suns – Hunter Clark
    186cm, 79kg

    A regular victim of leather poisoning, Clark is an inside midfielder ball magnet who would help balance out the abundance of flanker-types that Gold Coast has drafted over the years.

    Pick 20 – Richmond Tigers – Oscar Allen
    191cm, 83kg

    A WA-born key forward who won the Larke Medal as the best Division One player in the national championships, Allen might prove to be a little shorter that most AFL key forwards, but perhaps that’s the way the league is trending.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.