AFL mock draft 2017: Top 30

Maddy Friend Columnist

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    Just a little more than a week out from the 2017 AFL draft, Maddy Friend and Josh Elliott have put together a mock draft of the top 30 picks.

    It’s common around this time of year to see draft predictions put together by individuals, such as this one by Josh a few weeks ago, but a collaborative effort to predict the draft can provide a different kind of insight.

    Because the participants don’t know what the other participants want to do with their upcoming picks, there’s a greater need to think strategically about what decisions clubs might make to maximise their returns.

    In our mock draft, Maddy is picking for the Brisbane Lions, Carlton Blues, Collingwood Magpies, St Kilda, Adelaide Crows, Sydney Swans, Geelong Cats and Melbourne Demons.

    Josh is picking for the Fremantle Dockers, North Melbourne Kangaroos, Western Bulldogs, Greater Western Sydney Giants, West Coast Eagles, Richmond Tigers and Gold Coast Suns.

    Pick 1 – Brisbane Lions (Maddy Friend) – Cameron Rayner
    187cm, 87kg

    Rayner is the best player in the draft. He’s got class, x-factor, and is really the complete package. He can also slot in and play senior footy next year, which is an advantage for Brisbane given the club’s young list.

    In taking Rayner, the Lions will have a 200-plus-game player who will complement the inside midfielders the club has recruited in recent years.

    I also considered Paddy Dow, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw.

    Cameron Rayner AFL Draft 2017 tall

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

    Pick 2 – Fremantle Dockers (Josh Elliott) – Paddy Dow
    185cm, 78kg

    If I’m Fremantle this year my number one priority is to find a big, hulking forward who can be the centrepiece of the forward line – but there just isn’t a prospect like that in this draft that you could justify taking with either of the Dockers’ top five picks.

    Instead, this is a pick to keep building a promising midfield. There’s a lot of good prospects here and it’s a tight decision, but I’m picking Dow – his breakaway speed from the contest is a rare trait and could be what leads him to become an elite midfielder.

    I disagree that they need to take a key forward in the draft – they’ve got Cam McCarthy and Matt Taberner, and are looking at Brennan Cox and Griffin Logue as potential key forwards as well. They’re well stocked there.

    In that sense, Dow is a great pick up.

    Pick 3 – Carlton Blues (Maddy Friend) – Adam Cerra
    186cm, 80kg

    The comparisons with Scott Pendlebury are cliche, but the classy Cerra shares many of the same traits.

    I also considered Luke Davies-Uniacke, given the Blues have lost Bryce Gibbs, but Cerra is too good to pass up.

    Pick 4 – North Melbourne Kangaroos (Josh Elliott) – Luke Davies-Uniacke
    187cm, 85kg

    Oof, that pick leaves me with a tough decision to make. I was planning for Jaidyn Stephenson at this pick but realistically I can’t see North Melbourne overlooking Luke Davies-Uniacke – or Dow or Rayner for that matter – if available.

    It’s telling of how even the top handful of picks is that someone like LDU could easily go at No.1 but could also be available here – a big-bodied midfielder type, he’s probably the most immediately ready for AFL football of this year’s draft, which is not something I tend to take into account, but which will appeal to North given the large number of senior players they’ve cut over the last two years. They can build a future midfield around him.

    Luke Davies-Uniacke AFL draft 2017 tall

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Pick 5 – Fremantle Dockers (Josh Elliott) Jaidyn Stephenson
    189cm, 75kg

    Probably the best case scenario for Fremantle is that one of the players in the top four above slips through to them at some pick, but I’d be just as happy picking Jaidyn Stephenson.

    Stephenson is tall, at 189cm, but has excellent speed, and plays courageous, offensive football – it’s not a group of traits that you see together very often and it gives him as much if not more of a superstar ceiling than any other prospect going around.

    In him and Dow, I’ve picked Fremantle a pair of speedy, goal-kicking midfielders who can balance out Ross Lyon’s natural tendencies towards defensive football.

    Pick 6 – Collingwood Magpies (Maddy Friend) – Aaron Naughton
    194cm, 85kg

    There are still several good midfielders available, and any of them would be good selections for the Pies, but given their dearth of key-position players, Naughton would be too good to pass up.

    He’s the best key defender in the draft pool, and while his kicking needs work, he’s a player you can build your defence around. Pairing Naughton with Ben Reid in the next few years would be ideal.

    Pick 7 – St Kilda Saints (Maddy Friend) – Andrew Brayshaw
    184cm, 82kg

    Full disclosure – I’m a Saints fan, and if Brayshaw is available here come draft night, I will be ecstatic.

    I was a bit surprised Josh didn’t take him with Freo’s pick 5, but am glad he’s fallen to here. He’s not quick, but he’s the complete package otherwise, and is a classy and hard-working player who will nicely fit in with the Saints’ current band of young midfielders.

    Brayshaw was definitely one I considered with Fremantle’s second pick, and would also be a chance for North at pick 4. The reason I passed is he doesn’t have that obvious, defining attribute that separates him from the pack – but he’s a well-rounded prospect any club would be happy to have.

    Pick 8 – St Kilda Saints (Maddy Friend) – Hunter Clark
    186cm, 80kg

    I tossed up a few players here – Nick Coffield being one – but I chose Clark based on his speed and ability to play through the midfield and on a wing, which is what the Saints desperately need. He’s a classy ball user, and can play both inside and outside.

    Hunter Clark

    (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Pick 9 – Western Bulldogs (Josh Elliott) – Darcy Fogarty
    192cm, 95kg

    I was probably hoping Aaron Naughton might slip to here – while the Bulldogs added two key position players over the trade period, it’s still an area on which they could work.

    There isn’t really one on the board at this stage, so instead I’m going for tall midfielder-forward Darcy Fogarty. He’s 191cm, so not quite true key-position height, but clubs will look to start him off as a forward or half-forward and eventually develop him into a tall inside midfielder who kicks goals.

    There are several players who would be in the mix here, I’ve picked him over them because I like his offensive capabilities as a point of difference to those who are more comfortable playing behind the ball.

    Pick 10 – Carlton Blues (Maddy Friend) – Jack Higgins
    178cm, 77kg

    Having taken Cerra at pick 3, the Blues can afford to fix a hole in their list by taking a small forward here. Higgins is the best one in the draft, and is already a consummate professional. He will play senior footy next year, and with his goal nous and determination, he’ll become a very good player.

    The one knock on him is his height, but we’ve seen with Caleb Daniel in recent times that if you’re a good player, this doesn’t matter. Higgins has been aware of the need to maximise his other abilities, and has done so successfully, so I don’t see this as an issue.

    Pick 11 – GWS Giants (Josh Elliott) – Nick Coffield
    191cm, 82kg

    Oh, that breaks my heart a little to see Higgins off the table right before the Giants pick – he’s the perfect fit for them here.

    That makes the decision a bit difficult, but I’m going to pick up Nick Coffield. He’s a 190cm rebounding defender type who can eventually progress into being a full-time midfielder, and GWS would be happy with him whether he stays as a defender with an eye to being a Heath Shaw replacement, or develops into a big-bodied mid.

    Pick 12 – Adelaide Crows (Maddy Friend) – Charlie Constable
    191cm, 86kg

    Constable will be a great pick for the Crows as they look to bolster their inside midfield stocks. He’ll work well with Rory Sloane and the Brothers Crouch, and at 190cm he’s the modern midfield prototype.

    He’s also a solid citizen, which is something I imagine will be important for the Crows given their recent retention issues.

    Pick 13 – West Coast Eagles (Josh Elliott) – Aiden Bonar
    189cm, 87kg

    West Coast are in something of an awkward position here, they’ve invested heavily into this draft after trading away next year’s first, so this might be the only top 20 pick they have across the next two years.

    Despite that being the case, I’m still going to take what might be a bit of a risk here and pick Aiden Bonar – his combination of height and speed gives him significant upside, but he’s already had two ACL injuries before even being drafted and that will make some teams wary. Still, he brings the x-factor the Eagles sorely need.

    Interesting taking Bonar after the Eagles took a bit of a gamble last year and selected Daniel Venables with their first pick, but I agree he adds x-factor.

    Aiden Bonar AFL

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

    Pick 14 – Sydney Swans (Maddy Friend) – Jarrod Brander
    195cm, 92kg

    I’m surprised Josh didn’t select Brander for GWS, given his academy ties. I’ve taken him here, because he’s one of the best talls in the draft, and it’s an area where the Swans need more depth.

    They drafted a key defender last year in Jack Maibaum, but Brander’s versatility would be a definite advantage for the Swans. He’s been thrown around a bit, position-wise, but he fits best as a forward, so he’ll slot in nicely alongside Lance Franklin and Sam Reid.

    Came pretty close to picking Brander at the Giants’ first pick, yeah – talls who haven’t found their best position yet sometimes make me a bit skittish though, I worry they’ll get stuck in swingman limbo.

    Pick 15 – Brisbane Lions (Maddy Friend) – Oscar Allen
    191cm, 82kg

    This might be a bit of a reach for Allen, but with Josh Schache’s departure, the Lions could do with another key forward to develop. They addressed their small forward and midfield needs through the trade period (Charlie Cameron) and Rayner, so they can afford to take a forward here.

    Allen has a good pair of hands and is a good kick for goal, making him a good addition. The only problem may be the go-home factor, but that’s become less of an issue for Brisbane since Chris Fagan’s appointment.

    Allen is likely a player the Tigers and Bulldogs would be keen on with the following two picks, so he’s unlikely to still be on the board at pick 18.

    Pick 16 – Western Bulldogs (Josh Elliott) – Lochie O’Brien
    184cm, 77kg

    From the Bulldogs’ perspective, it would be disappointing to see two promising talls in Brander and Allen taken in the two picks before this one – Brander, in particular, would’ve been a good value get here.

    Noah Balta would be an option if they still wanted a tall, but with Lochie O’Brien on the table I’ll pick up him instead.

    An outside midfielder with some speed and a good left-foot kick, they can start him on half-back to replace Bob Murphy, with an eye to him becoming a fulltime winger as he progresses.

    Pick 17 – Richmond Tigers (Josh Elliott) – Sam Hayes
    203cm, 93kg

    Toby Nankervis was a great recruit for Richmond last year and obviously became a premiership player, but there’s still some need to think about the future of their ruck department. Having two more early picks to follow this one, and having just won a flag, they’ve got license to pick someone who is going to take a bit of time to develop.

    Hayes could be one of the best ruckmen in the competition when he comes of age, and might be someone who can float forward and kick goals at the next level too.

    Sam Hayes

    (Photo by Jack Thomas/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Pick 18 – Brisbane Lions (Maddy Friend) – Ed Richards
    185cm, 78kg

    Brisbane would be extremely happy to add Richards to their squad – he’s an excellent kick, has pace, and would complement Alex Witherden across the half-back line. He’s a genuinely exciting player, which the Lions need.

    Pick 19 – Brisbane Lions (Maddy Friend) – Connor Ballenden, matching bid
    198cm, 96kg

    I’m going to put in a bid here, the first bid of the draft, for Connor Ballenden, who is a Brisbane academy player.

    Having already brought in some instant impact by trading for Lachie Weller, Gold Coast can afford to take someone who will need a bit more time to develop – and, given he’s a Queenslander, is unlikely to run out on the club.

    A versatile key position prospect, from a Suns’ perspective, I’d be happy to see him develop in any area of the ground – defence, forward, or ruck – but if a bid comes this late then I suspect Brisbane will be happy to match.

    Happy to match Gold Coast’s bid here – while Ballenden has had an up-and-down 2017 season, he has some exciting traits, and he’s a good development player for the Lions over the next few years. Being an academy selection means he’s not about to complain about homesickness either.

    Pick 20 – Gold Coast Suns (Josh Elliott) – Lachlan Fogarty
    179cm, 75kg

    No surprises there. If I’m not picking a Queenslander, I want someone who can play sooner rather than later so they can become a part of the team and hopefully that eases any issues around homesickness.

    With that in mind, I’m going for Lachlan Fogarty, who’s a small midfielder with ball-winning ability, good skills and is a goalkicker – he would probably be going earlier if he had a few more centimetres.

    A big-bodied midfielder would’ve been nice, but it’s not really an option here.

    Lachlan Fogarty tall

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Pick 21 – Richmond Tigers (Josh Elliott) – Noah Balta
    195cm, 95kg

    As I mentioned with the Hayes pick, coming off a premiership, Richmond can afford to pick players who still need to spend some time developing, and Balta is that – but this late in the draft, he’s good value.

    Athletic, tall at 195cm and probably more likely to be a key defender than a forward, I’m still happy to have him at either end from a Richmond perspective.

    Pick 22 – West Coast Eagles (Josh Elliott) – Nathan Murphy
    188cm, 80kg

    There’s a need at West Coast to find the next generation of goalkicker, so I’m picking a medium forward.

    A 188cm marking forward, Murphy’s got good endurance too, so can be developed with an eye to him playing stints up the ground and laying on forwardline pressure all day long.

    Pick 23 – Geelong Cats (Maddy Friend) – Tim Kelly
    182cm, 81kg

    Kelly is a mature-aged midfielder from the WAFL, who was eligible for the draft several years ago, but has gone away and worked on several things and improved greatly.

    Geelong like ready-made players who can have an immediate impact – such as Tom Stewart this season – and he’ll work well with the Cats’ midfield group.

    Pick 24 – North Melbourne Kangaroos (Josh Elliott) – Jack Petrucelle
    185cm, 78kg

    Having taken a ready-to-go midfielder for North at pick 4, I’m happy to balance that out with someone who is more of a project player in Jack Petrucelle.

    He is, simply, the fastest player in the draft, and can add some speed and excitement to a side that would love to have more of both. It might be a while before he has a big impact at senior level though.

    Pick 25 – Geelong Cats (Maddy Friend) – Matthew Ling
    183cm, 75kg

    Ling gives the Cats some run and carry off half-back, and is a local Geelong Falcons product, which will also appeal. There are some questions over his finishing ability, as he’s not the most accurate kick, but that can be remedied, and his other traits are probably too good to pass up here.

    Pick 26 – Richmond Tigers (Josh Elliott) – James Worpel
    185cm, 86kg

    I probably would’ve expected to be matching a big for Patrick Naish at this pick from a Richmond perspective, but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a slider on draft night as clubs are often wary about investing in players as slight as he is.

    The Tigers will be ecstatic if they can bring in three quality youngsters before having to match a bid for him. Here I’m taking Worpel, a midfielder – his love of tackling will fit in well with the club’s pressure-first gameplan.

    Pick 27 – West Coast Eagles (Josh Elliott) – Joel Garner
    184cm, 83kg

    Garner is a good user of the ball, was All Australian at this year’s under 18 champs, and also captained Vic Metro to the championship. Leadership and good skills are both something West Coast could use more of, so he fits in well.

    Pick 28 – GWS Giants (Josh Elliott) – Gryan Miers
    178cm, 77kg

    If I’m the Giants I’d really like to get some smaller forwards who can add another dimension to what is currently a pretty top-heavy forward line. Miers kicked 50 goals in the TAC Cup this year, seven of them in the grand final, and can put pressure on too.

    Gryan Miers

    (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Pick 29 – GWS Giants (Josh Elliott) – Charlie Spargo
    172cm, 70kg

    Spargo was in the Giants’ academy until the zones were changed, so they’ve already had a decent look at him and will know if they want him.

    At 172cm he’s one of the smallest players in the draft, but that’s not a worry for GWS, who have plenty of tall and big-bodied types. He can start as a small forward for them and probably eventually develop into a high half-forward or goal-kicking winger.

    Pick 30 – Melbourne Demons (Maddy Friend) – Zac Bailey
    181cm, 81kg

    Bailey is a smaller, quicker midfielder who wins a lot of his own ball. He’s not a proven goalkicker, but he would work well with Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney in winning the contested ball, and then being able to deliver it inside 50.

    I see him as being a link-up player for the Dees, which is something they could use.