With only six rounds left in the home-and-away season, Friday night’s clash at Adelaide Oval between two genuine finals contenders takes on special significance.
Like Port Adelaide (who I looked at in my last analysis), cross-town rival Adelaide looms as one of the clubs most likely to shape this year’s draft order, with picks 8, 13, 16, and 21.
The Crows were quiet in the trade period, sending forward Mitch McGovern to Carlton, and acquiring mature-aged SANFL player Shane McAdam and Richmond small forward Tyson Stengle. At his best, McGovern is one of the best third-tall forwards in the competition, and the Crows aren’t flush for players in that role.
However, it’s fair to say he had a poor season last year, and by all reports was unhappy at the club, so acquiring a first-round pick and McAdam in exchange was a good result for the club.
McAdam is a medium forward who has been overlooked for three drafts, but displayed excellent form this year in the SANFL with Sturt, where he kicked 31 goals, and so seems a good like-for-like replacement for McGovern.
Stengle is a tenacious small forward who fills a need at the Crows, who don’t have much depth in that position beyond star Eddie Betts. Though young, the fact that Stengle has been developing in a premiership environment at Richmond means he should have picked up a thing or two that he can bring to the Crows.
So, given that their trade strategy was to replace McGovern and fill a need in Stengle, what does their draft strategy look like?
There’s been much talk of the Crows possibly looking to package two of their first-round picks to climb up the draft order and nab one (or more) or the high quality South Australian talent on offer. It could happen – Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine, and Connor Rozee look all but certain to be taken in the top 10, and any of those three would appeal to the Crows.
Lukosius is a talented tall forward (although may not play that role at AFL level), Rankine is a clever, quick small forward, while Rozee is a classy midfielder. They’ll almost certainly all be gone at pick 8, unless one of the other clubs up the order pulls a surprise, but that would be very unlikely.
On the other hand, multiple first-round picks are hard to come by, and while the Crows lost two good players in the process (they gained one 2018 first-round pick last year from Melbourne as compensation for losing Jake Lever), they’ve done well to put themselves back in a position to take three star youngsters.
They last had multiple first-round selections in 2015, when they took Tom Doedee and Wayne Milera; they’ve been consistent in taking a first-round pick every year since 2014, but other than Doedee, the others in that group have either left the club (Lever) or are still developing (Jordan Galluci and Darcy Fogarty). Given the Crows’ dismal season on and off-field, now looks like a good time to reset and bring in some top-quality players to bolster its list.
Ultimately, the Crows need to decide whether having one pick in the top eight, and acquiring a future South Australian star, is worth giving up two first-round selections. Personally, as good as Lukosius and Rankine in particular are likely to be, I’d be keeping the selections they currently have. That will allow them to bring in potentially three quality young players who may have an impact next year.
So, who do they choose?
At pick 8, they may find one of the South Australians falls to them, most likely Rozee, but it wouldn’t surprise if midfielder Bailey Smith or one of the King twins was also available. Any of those players would be excellent additions to the Crows’ list, and all should play some senior footy next year.
Others who could appeal here are midfielder Jy Caldwell, or half back Jordan Clark.
Picks 13 and 16 are more difficult to predict. At this point in the draft, clubs with a bevy of early picks either choose based on needs, or take the best available player.
I think it depends who the Crows take at pick 8. If they take a key position player there, I can see them stocking up on midfielders here; however, they might also be enticed by some of the half backs and medium forwards here.
Regardless, they’re in an excellent position to grab two good players. I can see them placing a bid for North academy player Tarryn Thomas, as his speed and class are exactly what they need. Other players who would likely be available are South Australian midfielder Jackson Hately, smaller midfielder Zac Butters, Ryiey Collier-Dawkins, a tall midfielder in the Marcus Bontempelli mould, midfielder Curtis Taylor, or speedster Ian Hill.
One player who has shot up in draft estimations recently has been Dandenong half forward Sam Sturt. He was judged around a second or third-round selection earlier in the year, but such has been his form towards the end of the season that he’s rocketed into first round calculations.
I think Picks 13 and 16 are slightly too early for him to be picked, but I get the sense that if the Crows liked him and didn’t take him here, he’d be gone by pick 21. He has plenty of upside, and may appeal to a club like the Crows with a bunch of early picks, as they can afford one speculative player without it mattering too much.
At pick 21, some of the players I’d see them considering are Tasmanian midfielder Chayce Jones, South Australian pair Jez McLennan and Luke Valente, and tenacious small forward Ned McHenry. It also wouldn’t surprise if they placed a bid on Collingwood father/son player Will Kelly, whose brother Jake is already on Adelaide’s list (after Collingwood chose not to match the Crows’ bid for him in his draft year), although it seems likely that the Pies are keen on Kelly and will match whichever bid comes.