With the 2019 AFL draft in the rearview mirror and club lists finalised for 2020, we decided – despite overwhelming popular opinion – that it’s not at all too early to start speculating about the season ahead.
Over the coming week I’ll profile five clubs who look likely to shape the early part of the 2019 AFL Draft: Adelaide, Fremantle, Geelong, Melbourne and Port Adelaide.
2019 was Adelaide’s ‘annus horribilis’ – their second in a row! They still looked scarred by their 2017 grand final loss, there seemed to be disconnect between club and players, and their culture continued to be questioned after 2018’s infamous controversial pre-season camp.
Unsurprisingly, there were changes aplenty at the end of the season. Six players left in the trade period, as did the coach and other key staff, and there have been reports that star midfielder Brad Crouch tried to shop himself around to other clubs, so desperate was he to leave.
That’s a lot of upheaval for any club to go through, but it will benefit the club in the long run.
Despite their list overhaul, none of the six departed players – Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Alex Keath, Josh Jenkins, Hugh Greenwood, Eddie Betts, and Sam Jacobs – were or would have been integral to their best 22 going forward.
Betts, obviously, was a crowd favourite, and Keath was a handy defender, but neither fits the Crows’ list profile age-wise.
Ellis-Yolmen was always a fringe player, Greenwood is a similar type to many others on their list, and Jacobs and Jenkins were on the outer.
The Crows also managed to bring in ruck-forward Billy Frampton from cross-town rivals Port (interestingly, he’s only the sixth player to play for both South Australian clubs).
Where the club probably would have been disappointed was with the draft return they managed to get for their departing players.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t part with pick 13 for Keath, probably Adelaide’s highest-value departee, and the highest picks they managed to bring in were 2019 pick 37 and a future second-round pick (given this is tied to the Bulldogs, it could end up being a very late second-round pick next year).
When you have this big of an exodus and need to turn over your list, you really need to be aiming to get a few top 20 picks, which they were unfortunately unable to do.
However, they managed to keep all their higher existing picks intact, and remain in a good position to do well out of this draft with picks 4, 23, 28, and 37.
The Crows are one of the clubs who will really shape the top ten of this year’s draft.
There’s talk they could do a pick swap with GWS that would see them gain pick 6 for pick 4 and probably GWS’ 2020 first-rounder.
I’m sure the Crows would consider this – GWS’ first-round pick next year seems likely to be from 15-18, which isn’t great for Adelaide, but the chance to get an extra first-rounder in next year may be tempting.
That would give them five first-round selections in three years, after they took Chayce Jones and Ned McHenry last year.
A consideration here will be that next year’s draft is significantly compromised by academy and father-son picks – roughly half of the top 30 prospects could already be tied to a club.
Having an extra selection next year could advantage Adelaide by giving them the currency to swap it with another club that needs academy points.
The Crows themselves will have James Borlase as an academy prospect and Luke Edwards, son of club legend Tyson, available as a father-son possibility in the 2020 draft.
So, what do they need? Probably a bit of everything. They have a lot of smaller types, and added to that last year with Jones and McHenry – although both look like being good players – so they may be keen on taller types like ruckman Luke Jackson, or bid-bodied midfielder Tom Green, who is tied to GWS.
Intercept defender Hayden Young and athletic midfielder/forward Sam Flanders are two others likely to come into consideration at their first selection. They’d all be excellent fits for Adelaide, and all bring different things to the table.
Young is just a complete player who can intercept well and is a gorgeous kick – please do yourself a favour and watch the clip below – and while Adelaide are well stocked for halfbacks, he’s just too good to pass up.
How about this kick from potential top-10 NAB AFL Draft pick Hayden Young… ???? pic.twitter.com/DCuZp3LBxI
— AFL (@AFL) July 3, 2019
Jackson is a ruck/forward who has some special traits. He could almost play as a tall midfielder, such is his agility and versatility. Pick 4 is early for a ruck, but he’s going to be a wonderful player, and he’d complement Reilly O’Brien nicely.
Flanders would add a different look to the Crows’ fairly one-paced midfield, while Green is a contested bull and is rated by Champion Data as the second-best player in this year’s pool (behind certain first choice Matt Rowell).
GWS wants to swap picks with Adelaide so that they can get a selection on before a bid comes on Green, assessing that Adelaide and Sydney are both likely to bid on the midfielder.
If the pick swap does eventuate, these same players will likely be in Adelaide’s considerations, but local outside midfielder Dylan Stephens may also come into their thinking. He’s probably more likely to go from pick 9-15, but he’d be perfect for the Crows.
There’s talk that they might also be keen to move down the order and take tall defender Fischer McAsey at pick 6. It’s early to take a key defender, but he’s a great player and fills a need – he can develop behind Daniel Talia and Kyle Hartigan, but could also play next year if needed.
They could look to package up their two second-round picks to get up the order, but I can’t see a club willing to do a deal at this stage, given this draft doesn’t have too many father-son or academy picks in it.
So, assuming they keep those picks, they’re in a good position to wait and see who falls to them. In my view, this draft has two clear tiers of talent – picks 1-2 and picks 3-15, and from there it becomes pretty open.
There could be a few players in their thinking here. Victorian Will Day, WA’s Trent Rivers and Jeremy Sharp, and local prospect Will Gould could all be halfback options, while midfielders Harry Schoenberg, Cooper Stephens, and Jay Rantall might also fit the bill.
Local forward Cam Taheny has talent, as does Dylan Williams, but they both had inconsistent years.
Some talls who might appeal could be Sam de Koning, brother of Carlton’s Tom, Harrison Jones, or Josh Worrell. Any of these players would complement their list nicely, but who they take may depend on what they do at pick 4.
Pick 37 will be an even more wait-and-see affair, but a few players around that mark who could be available include tall forwards Charlie Comben and Cooper Sharman, midfielder Hugo Ralphsmith, and defender Brock Smith.
It’s also possible they might look at a mature player like local midfielder Luke Partington here, should they feel they want to balance their list profile a bit more.