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AFL draft power rankings

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Roar Guru
29th November, 2021
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Welcome to the final power rankings of this season. This weeks topic: the national draft.

Today we’ll go through each club’s picks and discuss how significant they are in terms of their overall list build, beginning with the worst draft hand.

18. Carlton Blues

New faces: Jesse Motlop (27).

The son of Port and North Melbourne player Daniel Motlop, the younger Motlop continues the 23-year legacy of Daniel, Stephen and now Jesse as Motlops in the AFL. A gifted small forward with the potential to play up the ground fills a need for the Blues, particularly after Michael Gibbons was delisted and Eddie Betts retired.

The reason I have them on the bottom of my rankings is that they were bit players in the remainder of the draft and they failed to address their major weakness in a lack of key defensive depth since the retirement of Liam Jones despite players such as Rhett Bazzo and Charlie Dean both being available at their selection.


17. Essendon Bombers

New faces: Ben Hobbs (13), Alastair Lord (46), Garrett McDonagh (52), Patrick Voss (rookie).

This was a stark contrast from last year’s draft, where the Bombers became the first side since Hawthorn in 2004 to take three top-ten selections. They took three selections and one rookie pick, leaving their list with two additional spots for players like Tex Wanganeen, Josh Misiti and Nyawi Moore, Nathan Lovett-Murray’s son.

However, the Bombers failed to address any of the urgent needs they have, instead choosing to back their development to bring about improvements on their list. That said, positively the Bombers did leave their powder dry for next year’s draft, where they’re sure to need points to match bids for the Davey twins, both of whom shape as top-40 selections.

16. Port Adelaide Power

New faces: Josh Sinn (12), Hugh Jackson (55), Dante Visentini (56), Jase Burgoyne (60), Trent Dumont (rookie draft).

Ken Hinkley and Port Adelaide seem to have something against drafting key defenders who can match up against the competition’s best forwards. Part of this would be attributable to the fact that there just weren’t any good defenders available, but this is the third consecutive draft where they failed to address the black hole that is key defenders on the Port list. Yes, they have Aliir Aliir, and he’s been great for Port, but they still lack someone who can shut down the best key defenders. They were able to get some good midfield depth in Trent Dumont, but I suspect he’s more of a break glass in case of emergency for Port.

15. West Coast Eagles


New faces: Campbell Chesser (14), Brady Hough (31), Rhett Bazzo (37), Jack Williams (57), Greg Clark (62).

The only reason I have them this low is because they reached for Campbell Chesser. I have little doubt that he will eventually be a good player, but I have my doubts as to whether a player who has played six games in two years will form an adequate selection for the Eagles.

As for the remainder of the draft, they’ve done a good job filling holes in their list, particularly with Jack Williams and Rhett Bazzo, both of whom were rated as top-40 chances in this year’s draft. Finally, there is the second of two mature-age prospects, Greg Clark, who is sure to form a vital part of the West Coast engine room going forward.

14. Sydney Swans

New faces: Angus Sheldrick (17), Matthew Roberts (34), Corey Warner (40), Lachie Rankin (58), Lewis Taylor (rookie).

This was a draft of snakes and ladders for the Sydney Swans. They reached for players like Angus Sheldrick and had players like Matthew Roberts slide to their picks. Given Sydney’s history of high draft picks outside of their academy not paying off – for example, Gary Rohan and Matthew Ling – it was strange to see them reach for a player that would be conceivably be available at their next pick.


However, I can’t hold that against them given the exemplary drafting of Kinnear Beatson over a long period. The reason I have them closer to the bottom of my rankings is that the Swans are in something of a holding pattern and didn’t really bring in the talent necessary to replace what they lost – namely, Jordan Dawson.

13. Geelong Cats

New faces: Toby Conway (24), Mitch Knevitt (25), James Willis (32) Flynn Kroeger (48). Cooper Whyte (64). Ollie Dempsey (rookie).

The Cats went local with their early selections, securing the services of Toby Conway and Mitch Knevitt with their first two picks, who are sure to form a productive midfield partnership as Geelong seemingly perpetually challenge for a premiership.

However, the reason I rate them so lowly is because I highly doubt any of their picks will be able to contribute immediately. That’s okay, as the Cats have long since shown a patience in their development.

12. Gold Coast Suns

New faces: Mac Andrew (3), Charlie Constable (64), Levi Casboult (rookie), Jez McLennan and Rory Thompson (re-rookied), Bodhi Uwland and Sandy Brock (prelisted academy picks).
The Suns have done reasonably well. They clearly don’t ever want to be without a ruckman ever again. They took the raw prospect Mac Andrew, who is that unicorn-like prospect who can play on every line. He will need to pack on the kilos, weighing just 70 kilograms at the start of his draft year. Then they brought in Constable as important depth for the midfield as a like-for-like swap for Hugh Greenwood.

Before finishing the rookie draft they selected Levi Casboult as more ruck/forward depth and relisted Jez McLennan and Rory Thompson. The Suns are heading into a do-or-die year for their head coach, and the draft reveals their belief they need more depth in all areas of the list.


11. Adelaide Crows

New faces: Josh Rachele (6), Jake Soligo (37), Zac Taylor (44), Ben Davis (relisted rookie), Luke Nankervis (preseason draft).

One of two clubs to take selections at the preseason draft, the Adelaide Crows have prioritised making their midfield more explosive. They chose small forward/midfielder Josh Rachele, who is sure to slot straight into the front six while doing stints in the engine room. However, in Jake Soligo and Zac Taylor they’ve selected very similar players who are smaller midfielders and will consolidate their midfield.

The Crows finished the draft selecting skinny outside midfielder Luke Nankervis (no relation) as a raw prospect who needs to pack on the kilos for an AFL career.

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10. Brisbane Lions

New faces: Darcy Wilmot (16), Kai Lohmann (20), James Tunstill (41), Cam Ellis-Yolmen (rerookied).

It was a holding pattern draft for the Lions in 2021. They have a salary cap that’s near to bursting at the moment and their premiership window is wide open. They’ve addressed the lack of outside run in the backline with the recruitment of the youngest player of the draft, Darcy Wilmot. With Kai Lohmann they have valuable depth for their forward line, and James Tunstill is shaping as a diverse inside outside midfielder.

This draft is understated but extremely important for the Lions, as last year was the first year they’ve been negatively impacted across their ascendancy in the AFL. The Lions have consolidated positions that are more than likely going to be disrupted by retirements to players like Mitch Robinson, Dayne Zorko and Daniel Rich.

9. Saint Kilda Saints

New faces: Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (11). Mitchito Owens (33). Marcus Windhager (47). Oscar Adams (51).

The Saints came into this draft needing to create outside run for a midfield that can be a little too one-paced. In Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera they have the wingman they’ve been crying out for – a player who can run and carry the ball while also being the best kick in the draft. In the latter half of the draft the Saints matched bids on Mitchito Owens, who grew a remarkable ten centimetres in a single year, while there was also Marcus Windhager, who’s able to fill the hole that has been left by Luke Dunstan with his trade to the Demons.

The Saints would be ecstatic they were able to keep their academy picks and collect with their fourth selection 198-centimetre defender Oscar Adams to fill the hole left by the delisting of Oscar Clavarino and the retirement of Jake Carlisle.

8. Collingwood Magpies

New faces: Nick Daicos (4), Arlo Draper (45), Cooper Murley (49), Harvey Harrison (52), Charlie Dean (rookie draft).

The Magpies achieved their primary goal to draft one of the best talents in Nick Daicos. But when you consider they could also have had Finn Callaghan if they had held their nerve, you’ve got to mark them down. Collingwood would be extremely happy with their choices, particularly with the players that fell to their later picks, with Arlo Draper falling to them at 45, a player who can play every line of a side.

There’s also Charlie Dean, the reigning Fothergill-Round-Mitchell medallist, and there’s important key defensive depth for the injury-prone Darcy Moore and the ageing Jeremy Howe and Jordan Roughead.

7. Hawthorn Hawks

New faces: Josh Ward (7), Sam Butler (23), Connor MacDonald (26), Jai Serong (53), Ned Long (rookie draft).

This was a draft where they targeted the midfield, with Josh Ward playing like a tough gut-running Zac Merrett clone to give the Hawks a different look as well as begin developing successors to Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara. In addition, they’ve also begun improving their small forward depth with the selection of Sam Butler, younger brother of Dan, but he has the advantage of being slightly taller then his brother and having the ability to go through the midfield. They also selected accumulator Connor MacDonald and third tall forward Jai Serong before finishing off with big-bodied midfielder Ned Long.

6. Melbourne Demons

New faces: Jacob Van Rooyen (19), Blake Howes (39), Taj Woewodin (65). Judd McVee (rookie).

The Demons seem to be turning everything to gold right now. They’ve consolidated an already deep line-up with more talent. They have the versatile Van Rooyen, who can fill a role forward or back. They brought in the sliding Blake Howes, counting their lucky stars that they could recruit the wingman/half-forward at the relatively cheap Pick 39.

Melbourne then finished off with the scion that best exemplifies the maladies Melbourne went through in the early to mid-2000s – Taj Woewodin, son of Brownlow medalist Shane Woewodin. The Demons have managed to balance consolidating their depth and speculative picks with explosive potential.

5. Western Bulldogs

New faces: Sam Darcy (2), Arthur Jones (43), Luke Cleary (61), Robbie McComb and Charlie Parker (rookies).

The Bulldogs have had extreme luck with their father-son selections, and with Sam Darcy they have a third-generation 205-centimetre prospect who can play ruck forward or even in defence. Their luck is such that the punditocracy has begun pushing for father-son selections to be rated the same as academy selections.

Arthur Jones is a 178-centimetre small forward prospect, and given the tendency for Luke Beveridge to rotate players from all parts of the list, he could conceivably play next year. Charlie Parker and Luke Cleary provide additional height through the midfield as well as being able to play multiple positions.

4. Greater Western Sydney

New faces: Finn Callaghan (3), Leek Aleer (15), Josh Fahey (42), Cooper Hamilton (rookie), Jacob Wehr (rerookied).

The Giants have taken the best available talent in Finn Callaghan – he is as skilled as Josh Kelly and nearly as tall as Marcus Bontempelli. In Leek Aleer they have the rawest key defensive prospect who is extremely skilled at intercepting, and with Phil Davis and Nick Haynes fast approaching their retirements, Aleer presents important depth.

They finished their draft night matching a bid for Josh Fahey, becoming one of six players named Josh selected on the evening. He has explosive run and carry and has one of the best kicks in the draft. The Giants also selected Cooper Hamilton as a medium defender/midfielder, providing important depth.

3. Richmond Tigers

New faces: Josh Gibcus (9), Tom Brown (17), Tyler Sonsie (28), Sam Banks (29), Judson Clarke (30).

Gibcus is the best key defender in the draft, and he will almost certainly debut in Round 1 next year given the dearth of key defensive players for the Tigers. This was a defensive draft for Richmond, as they selected Tom Brown and Sam Banks as running halfbacks. They’ve also brought in Tyler Sonsie, who was rated as a top-five selection early on this year, and Judson Clarke, who is an explosive medium forward with an outstanding highlights reel. The one aspect I would criticise of the Tigers is they have not replaced the lack of key forward depth they lost during the trade period.

2. North Melbourne Kangaroos

New faces: Jason Horne-Francis (1), Josh Goater (22), Paul Curtis (35), Miller Bergman (38), Jackson Archer (59), Jared Polec (rerookied).

North Melbourne have exploited their first pick to maximum effect. The reason they’re not No. 1 is they didn’t hold Collingwood or the Western Bulldogs to account and they messed with my Bombers. But they’re clearly building from the midfield outwards with forward-midfielder Jason Horne-Francis and defender-midfielder Josh Goater. It’s clear some of these players will come in and play from day dot next year.

They also addressed their lack of small forward depth with Paul Curtis and signed the son of the Shinboner of the century Jackson Archer with their final pick. They finished off the draft selecting Jared Polec with their rookie selection, as they needed to create senior list spots and Polec, though important for veteran depth, is no longer a best-22 player.

1. Fremantle Dockers

New faces: Jye Amiss (8), Neil Erasmus (10), Matthew Johnson (21), Eric Benning (54), Karl Worner (rookie), Mitch Crowden and Connor Blakely (rerookied).

It looks like Freo is the way to go. I don’t know if they’re rubbing cats paws or casting hexes on opposition clubs, but they had an extremely lucky draft period. It was expected that they would sign two of Matthew Johnson, Jye Amiss and Neil Erasmus, staying decidedly local after they got burnt by Adam Cerra. But thanks to an own goal from the Eagles they’ve managed to exploit it to the fullest.

The Dockers head into an important preseason for Justin Longmuir, who heads into the last year of a contract. He’ll be seeking to get the Dockers over the line and playing finals footy next season. This year’s draft represents an important stepping stone for the Dockers, particularly as Nathan Fyfe and David Mundy head into the twilights of their career.

What do you think about my draft power rankings? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I will do my best to reply.