The time is almost once again upon us for about 50-60 young draft hopefuls as Friday's 2017 AFL National Draft is almost here.
Last year, I wrote up a mock draft, predicting which young prospect would go where, with the first round selections done with a bit of detail and then naming the remainder of my top 50. It was a lot of fun predicting which player would go where and that's why I decided that this year, we're bringing it back.
This year's draft class reportedly isn't as stacked as it has been in recent years, but there is still a lot of intrigue about who the Brisbane Lions will take with the number one draft pick. As it stands, there are three young talents still in the running, with perhaps an extra one or two players remaining a very slim chance of being taken as the best young prospect in the land.
Without any Father/Son or Academy Bids, there are 19 draft picks in the first round in total, and all of those will be done in detail, whilst I will name the remaining players who I believe will go inside the top 50.
So without further ado, let's get started with who I predict will go where in the 2017 AFL Draft.
1: Brisbane Lions - Luke Davies-Uniacke - Midfielder, 187cm, 85kg
This is perhaps one of the hardest number one draft picks I've ever had to predict as Brisbane need midfielders and this year's draft class has a good number of them. Rayner had been tipped to go here for so long, as has Paddy Dow and Andrew Brayshaw's name has been mentioned as well. In the end, I think the Lions should go with Dandenong Stingray Luke Davies-Uniacke. He has all the capabilities to become a great inside midfielder in five years time. He's tough, has a ready-made body for AFL, wins the clearances and contested ball, can break away from a contest and has already proven to be a match-winning midfielder in the TAC Cup.
2: Fremantle - Andrew Brayshaw - Midfielder, 184cm, 81kg
The brother of Melbourne on-baller Angus, Andrew Brayshaw's stellar 2017 campaign for Sandringham in the TAC Cup, to which he averaged 25 disposals, six tackles and five clearances, has sen him been projected into the top-five calculations. Some are even suggesting he could be Brisbane's number one draft pick come draft night. With Fremantle needing midfielders, Brayshaw's ability to win contested possessions as well as being used on a wing to great effect will be a solid addition in the Dockers' on-ball brigade and also has the ability to push down forward for a goal, kicking eight goals in his 10 appearances for the Dragons in the TAC Cup.
3: Carlton - Paddy Dow - Midfielder, 184cm, 78kg
The departure of Bryce Gibbs has opened up a spot in the midfield and they have long been linked to Geelong Grammar boy Paddy Dow, who stamped his draft credentials with a solid, yet limited TAC Cup campaign in which he averaged 26 disposals, with half of those being contested possessions along with five clearances per game, the problem is, he only played three games in the TAC Cup campaign due to a season-ending shoulder injury, but his form in the under-18 championships also showed of Dow's capabilities as a future midfielder. Strong in the stoppages and a future elite inside midfielder, Carlton would love another midfielder to complement Cripps, Murphy and Co.
4: North Melbourne - Cameron Rayner - Midfielder/Forward, 187cm, 88kg
Having been touted as the number one guy for so long, Cameron Rayner possesses an incredible amount of strength and an incredible skill set that has many draft experts comparing the Western Jets youngster to Richmond star Dustin Martin. He has an incredible ability to bust games open up either as a midfielder or up forward. The reason why I don't have him going at number one is the lack of endurance that has been well documented by the scouts and the draft experts. However, it shouldn't stop a side like North - who need kids like these - to select him as he is still a top-five talent in this year's draft class, and it should be expected that his endurance will grow over time and when that happens, look out.
5: Fremantle - Adam Cerra - Midfielder, 186cm, 80kg
With their second of two top-five picks in this year's draft, Fremantle should continue to build on their midfield problems with the selection of Eastern Ranges midfielder Adam Cerra, who despite having suffered both shoulder and knee injuries over the past 24 months, still oozes a lot of class and skill and has an outstanding work rate. He's a very powerful player in terms of one-on-one marking ability and is a very good decision-maker and very composed by foot. Averaged 26 disposals, six marks and six clearances in just four games at the TAC Cup this year - had it not been for injuries, could very well be in the discussion for the number one pick.
6: Collingwood - Aaron Naughton - Key Defender, 194cm, 85kg
There are a lot of huge wraps on West Australian key back Aaron Naughton, who is arguably the best key defender of the draft class this year, and just so it happens, Collingwood are a side on the lookout for key position players. Naughton has the ability to read the play superbly, has very good hands overhead, is very agile for someone his size and has already tasted senior experience in the WAFL. Draft experts have likened Naughton to Richmond premiership defender Alex Rance with his ability to intercept mark, and if he's even half as good as Rance has been, the Pies will have themselves a star.
7: St. Kilda - Jaidyn Stephenson - Midfielder/Forward, 188cm, 75kg
I have had Jaidyn Stephenson as a top-five selection for weeks, but due to the sudden interest in a couple of draftees and a big question mark in Stephenson's health, I have him going with one of St. Kilda's picks here. The Saints have all their needs filled, so my belief is that they will go with the best available choices. If Stephenson is available here, there is no doubt the Saints will swoop as he is a very talented young man. He has a great leap, fantastic speed, loves to take the game on and can find the big sticks. The Stephenson camp believe that this heart condition discovered from the Draft Combine won't affect his footy and the Saints would love to get someone like this kid who has the potential to become a bona fide matchwinner.
8: St. Kilda - Darcy Fogarty - Utility, 192cm, 92kg
12 months ago, people would have had Darcy Fogarty in the discussions as 2017's number one draft choice. However, a knee injury this year has him slipping down the order, but he will definitely be a top-10 choice. He has the ready-made body for the AFL, he's tough, loves the contested ball, he's very powerful and can impact the scoreboard very easily - it puts me to mind of Jake Stringer, who as we all know, was very dominant in games when he wanted to be. He looks likely he will start his AFL career forward, but in time, will definitely be seeing him play as a midfielder, which is perhaps the one area the Saints will want to bolster up as they make their push towards their first Finals campaign since 2011.
9: Western Bulldogs - Nicholas Coffield - Defender/Midfielder, 190cm, 82kg
The Western Bulldogs would love to get their hands on someone who can fill the void in defence left by the retired duo of Matthew Boyd and Robert Murphy, and Coffield would perhaps be the best availble rebounding defender at this point, it would be a dream fit. He is a very composed figure whenever he has the ball in his hand, a very athletic and quick player and at 190 centimetres, has the versatility to become a swingman in the mould of the of Murphy. His leadership credentials are also well documented, having captained the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup this year.
10: Carlton - Aiden Bonar - Midfielder/Forward, 188cm, 86kg
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect from this year's draft pool, Aiden Bonar has all the tools to become a very great player. He's a great contested ball-winner, he can hit targets by foot, he's a proven goal-kicker, has very good athleticism and has the pace to become a genuine line-breaker. However, having come back from already two knee reconstructions is more than enough to make any recruiter nervous. Having secured a gun midfielder with their third pick in this year's draft, Carlton could roll the dice here if the Saints do pass on Bonar. If kept fit and healthy, could become anything in the league.
11: Greater Western Sydney - Jack Higgins - Forward/Midfielder, 178cm, 76kg
This is perhaps one of my favourite players to come out of this year's draft class. Jack Higgins isn't very tall, but he can still tear games apart with his work rate, his toughness and his ability to make an impact on the scoreboard whenever he has been thrown down forward. Having secured the Morrish Medal as the best player in the TAC Cup this year, there's no doubt GWS would love to have another small forward in their mitts given that Steve Johnson and Devon Smith are no longer at the Giants, and Brett Deledio probably doesn't have that much left in his ailing career. Higgins has drawn massive comparisons to Toby Greene in terms of his abilities as a midfielder and as a forward.
12: Adelaide - Jarrod Brander - Utility, 194cm, 92kg
The Adelaide Crows would love to get their hands on a replacement for Jake Lever and with versatile tall Jarrod Brander a possibility to still be available at this point of the draft, they would love to get their hands on a key position prospect who shows so much promise. He can play almost anywhere on the ground - he's got great endurance, has a very strong pair of hands and has a tremendous work-rate. There are question marks about his consistency and his lack of improvement in comparison to his standards in 2016, but he is still considered a top-15 prospect and the Crows would love to secure a tall defender to fill that void left by Lever's defection to Melbourne.
13: West Coast Eagles - Hunter Clark - Midfielder, 186cm, 80kg
Perhaps the biggest weakness in the West Coast Eagles side at the moment is their midfield depth, and with the retirements of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell, it's definitely left a gaping hole in the middle, and it should be partially filled with the Eagles' first pick here, with Hunter Clark who is perhaps the best available mid here. Clark has an incredible amount of toughness which is something the Eagles will welcome with open arms, and having spent lots of time playing at half-back as a junior, should have the capabilities to become a midfielder that can win the ball both inside and out. Some have Clark going inside the top 10, but I think he might slide down a little bit with his decision making under pressure a huge question mark on his game.
14: Sydney - Nathan Murphy - Utility, 188cm, 79kg
Another very interesting prospect as several draft experts have Brighton Grammar boy Nathan Murphy ranging from pick six to midway through the second round. Murphy arrived late into the system due to focussing on Cricket prior to this year, but has improved steadily with each game he has played. He has proven to be a very dangerous player anywhere he was put, kicking goals up forward, to providing the dash and creativity from defence. He's got a very good skill set that is only going to get better as he gets older. The Swans have been very keen on Murphy for quite some time and will most likely nab him with their first pick.
15: Brisbane Lions - Noah Balta - Utility, 194cm, 92kg
Athletically, Noah Balta has all the tools to become a very dangerous player in the AFL. He possesses elite strength, has a great leap, deceptively quick and he is quite agile for someone his size and he has the capabilities to play anywhere on the ground, despite several AFL clubs saying he would be best suited down back. Having secured a midfielder with their first pick, Brisbane would love to get a tall with one of their next two picks at 15 and 18. Balta would be a great fit and with the right training, could become another midfielder in what is shaping to be a very young and talented engine room at the Lions.
16: Western Bulldogs - Ed Richards - Defender, 184cm, 77kg
With their second pick inside the first round, the Western Bulldogs will finish up on stocking up their rebounding defenders with the addition of Ed Richards, who is a relative to Collingwood great Lou Richards. The young kid from the Oakleigh Chargers had a very impressive second-half of the TAC Cup season this year, and will be amongst one of this year's draft bolters. He's incredibly quick, makes smart decisions coming out of defence and he is very good on his trusty left foot. Has a lot of scope to progress into a midfielder in time and has shown that he isn't afraid to slot a goal.
17: Richmond - Oscar Allen - Forward, 191cm, 82kg
As the defending premiers, Richmond don't really have to get a specific type of player, so they could very well go best available and look at a somewhat tall forward in the 191 centimetre tall Oscar Allen. He can play either as a lead-up forward or with his abiity to pick the ball up so cleanly from ground level and capability to be another pressuring forward, can play the small forward role. His height would add another dimension to the Tigers' forward line and with his accuracy a highlight in his game, would be a welcome asset in any side.
18: Brisbane Lions - Charlie Constable - Midfielder, 191cm, 83kg
Sandringham Dragons' prospect Charlie Constable is another young lad who is difficult to get a proper reading of as some have him as high as a top-10 selection, whilst others have him close to the end of the first round and even as low as early-second round. Constable not only has the height that recruiters love to look for in a midfielder, but he has proven to be very strong player in the congestion, with his ability to win the clearances well documented over the course of 2017. He has also shown at times his ability to push forward and kick a goal or two, kicking 10 goals for the Dragons in 10 games this season. Brisbane would love to cap off a good draft with securing a tall, versatile midfielder.
19: Gold Coast Suns - Lochie O'Brien - Midfielder, 184cm, 75kg
Being one of the worst sides in the AFL right now, the Gold Coast Suns would not only be looking at getting the best players possible, but they'd want to get players who want to be committed to the club long term. Lochie O'Brien would perhaps be the next best available prospect. As he is a very damaging midfielder with his elite decision making and foot skills, along with his line-breaking pace and amazing agility. The midfield is perhaps what the Suns need the most following the exit of Gary Ablett, and whilst O'Brien isn't a proven contested ball winner just yet, he's got serious potential to be a damaging wingman in the mould of Andrew Gaff.
Rounding Out The Top 50
20: Richmond - Sam Hayes - Ruckman, 202cm, 92kg
21: West Coast Eagles - Tim Kelly - Midfielder, 183cm, 82kg
22: Geelong - Matthew Ling - Midfielder, 183cm, 75kg
23: North Melbourne - Joel Garner - Defender, 183cm, 81kg
24: Geelong - Zac Bailey - Midfielder, 181cm, 81kg
25: Richmond - Patrick Naish (Father/Son Selection) - Midfielder, 184cm, 75kg (Projected Bid: 18-25)
26: West Coast Eagles - Lachlan Fogarty - Midfielder, 179cm, 75kg
27: Greater Western Sydney - Callum Coleman-Jones - Ruck/Forward, 201cm, 98kg
28: Greater Western Sydney - Charlie Spargo - Forward/Midfield, 173cm, 73kg
29: Melbourne - Bailey Fritsch - Forward, 186cm, 82kg
30: Carlton - Gryan Miers - Forward, 178cm, 73kg
31: Melbourne - Charlie Ballard - Utility, 195cm, 82kg
32: West Coast Eagles - Brandon Starcevich - Midfielder, 186cm, 84kg
33: Sydney - Jordan Houlahan - Forward, 186cm, 78kg
34: St. Kilda - Jack Petruccelle - Midfielder, 185cm, 77kg
35: Geelong - Tom McCartin - Forward, 193cm, 86kg
36: Melbourne - Ryley Stoddart - Defender, 185cm, 74kg
37: West Coast Eagles - Dylan Moore - Midfielder/Forward, 176cm, 66kg
38: Collingwood - Jackson Ross - Midfielder/Forward, 192cm, 74kg
39: Adelaide - Brayden Ainsworth - Midfielder, 184cm, 77kg
40: Brisbane Lions - Connor Ballenden (Academy Selection) - Forward, 199cm, 95kg (Projected Bid: 25-40)
41: Gold Coast Suns - Brayden Crossley (Academy Selection) - Ruckman, 198cm, 105kg (Projected Bid: 30-60)
42: Fremantle - Liam Ryan - Forward, 184cm, 76kg
43: Hawthorn - Harrison Petty - Defender, 195cm, 82kg
44: Brisbane Lions - Ben Paton - Defender, 186cm, 78kg
45: St. Kilda - Cassidy Parish - Midfielder, 190cm, 87kg
46: Port Adelaide - Oscar Clavarino - Defender, 196cm, 86kg
47: Melbourne - Will Walker - Utility - 187cm, 79kg
48: Essendon - James Worpel - Midfielder - 185cm, 84kg
49: Port Adelaide - Andrew McPherson - Defender/Midfielder, 186cm, 78kg
50: Gold Coast Suns - Toby Wooller - Forward, 193cm, 90kg