We seem very quick to make judgements when it comes to draft crops. You see people and media awarding grades to teams immediately following the draft at times, without ever watching any of the players compete at the highest level.
I know it generates clicks and I am sure they mean well when they are lavishing teams with praise for the great second-round selection they made, but I have often found that it is only when the dust settles and you have a decent body of work to assess players that you can truly hand out grades to each team’s performance.
It’s been five years since the 2017 AFL Draft.
Where does the time go?
It has given us enough time for players to either sink or swim at the highest level and following on from last year’s review of the 2016 Draft Grades (linked below), it is time to start assessing the 2017 Draft and the talent that came out of it.
Who are the genuine stars that have emerged? Who were the teams with foresight? And who were the teams that got things horribly wrong?
I won’t waste your time anymore, let’s jump into the five-year draft grades.
ADELAIDE – PICKS 12, 40
DARCY FOGARTY, ANDREW MCPHERSON
Limited picks, and in terms of McPherson, limited game time as he has battled injury most of 2022.
Fogarty has shown patches of excellent form but is still one of those players who can go missing for an entire game and you’re not at all surprised. Hard to give them any more than a C.
BRISBANE – PICKS 1, 15, 18, 41, 43, 54
CAM RAYNER, ZAC BAILEY, BRANDON STARCEVICH, TOBY WOOLER, CONNOR BELLENDAN, JACK PAYNE
Very close to an A, but to get one, I reckon you have to nail the early picks and have no more than one struggling to get a game. The Lions have two, but the recent form of Jackson Payne almost undoes the non-factors of Toby Wooler and Connor Ballenden.
Rayner still has star written all over him whilst Zac Bailey has made that leap ahead of him, thanks to Rayner’s knee injury. And then, Starcevich with pick 18 was an inspired selection.
CARLTON – PICKS 3, 10, 30, 70, 70
PADDY DOW, LOCHIE O’BRIEN, TOM DE KONING, ANGUS SCHUMACHER, JARROD GARLETT
So, Paddy Dow is not going to be the player the Blues thought he would when they spent the number two overall pick on him, and whilst Lochie O’Brien is starting to show a fair bit playing on the wing, a top ten pick for the return he has given thus far is not commensurate value.
The real value comes at pick 30, where the Blues snagged Tom De Koning. He is playing out of his skin this season and it beginning to look like he could be a ten-year ruck option in navy blue. His drafting keeps the Blues from having a pretty wasted draft.
COLLINGWOOD – PICKS 6, 39, 50
JAIDYN STEPHENSON, NATHAN MURPHY, TYLER BROWN
Do this after the first year and the Jaidyn Stephenson pick looks like a masterstroke, right?
Funny how things work out. If the bloke is in the league in two years, I’d be very surprised.
Nathan Murphy is only now making people a believer, whilst Tyler Brown seems to be stuck in a continuous loop of showing something then delivering little. He has played 11 games in 2022 and is yet to truly show me that he is a player the Pies can rely on. I’ll stop short of saying he is afforded the chances he is given by having a famous Collingwood surname, but I don’t reckon that is too far off the mark.
The Pies manage to stay in the C’s thanks mainly to Murphy.
ESSENDON – PICKS 49, 66, 76
JORDAN HOULAHAN, BRANDON ZERK-THATCHER, MATT GUELFI
The Bombers had bugger all to work with, but they have two players from the draft that are on their list and either in the senior side, or continually banging on the door. I reckon that’s a win given what they had going into the draft.
Zerk-Thatcher, similar to Nathan Murphy at Collingwood, is only really starting to demonstrate his potential value now, whilst Matt Guelfi seems to have found himself a nice role alternating between wing and half-forward.
They made a bit of chicken salad out of chicken shit with these picks.
FREMANTLE – 2, 5, 44, 59, 65, 69, 73, 75
ANDREW BRAYSHAW, ADAM CERRA, HUGH DIXON, MITCH CROWDEN, TOM NORTH, LLOYD MEEK, SAM SWITKOWSKI, SCOTT JONES
Bam – we have an A-grader. Not an A+ like their 2016 effort, but still another excellent draft by Freo. These two drafts have set up their current run at the top four.
The acquisition of Brayshaw at pick two, courtesy of a trade with Gold Coast, looks like the pick of the bunch, and though Adam Cerra high-tailed it out of there, they moved to grab Lloyd Meek, coming on really well as a back-up ruck, and Sam Switkowski, who I rate as one of the best all-round small forwards in the game when healthy, make this a fantastic day at the office for the Dockers.
In return for Cerra’s departure, Freo snagged Jye Amiss in the 2021 draft, so this crop of players turns out to be the gift that keeps on giving. If you want to have a look at why Fremantle have been on the improve in 2022, you could start by looking at what occurred in 2016/17 at the drafts.
Of course, there are a couple of obstacles that prevent them from being an A+ team – like Tom North. I mean, who’s that? Sounds like a US General. However, this is offset by the Meek/Switkowski late picks that are both winners.
GWS – PICKS 11, 27, 28, 56, 64
AIDAN BONAR, BRENT DANIELS, SAM TAYLOR, ZAC LANGDON, NICK SHIPLEY
A bit of a miss with their first pick, but the Giants more than made up for it with their next two.
Despite an injury-riddled season, Brent Daniels at pick 27 will come back to haunt a lot of teams. I think he may have already haunted Collingwood in 2019 when he slotted the goal that gave them the Preliminary Final win. And one pick later, the Giants selected a bloke who could be an All-Australian defender by the time all is said and done this season. Sam Taylor, playing on a big exposure team, would be lauded as a champion by the media. He is, irrespective of what they say, or in his case, don’t say, but it’ll likely take an AA blazer to wake a few people up.
GEELONG – PICKS 22, 24, 36, 57
LACHIE FOGARTY, TIM KELLY, CHARLIE CONSTABLE, GRYAN MIERS
Ooooh, tough one.
The Cats took the gamble on Tim Kelly and it rewarded them with two excellent seasons, but he’s now gone, Lachie Fogarty is gone, and Charlie Constable is gone. And whilst they got a good sum for Kelly, the same can not be said for either of Fogarty or Constable.
The saving grace is the bargain-basement acquisition of Gryan Miers, who, at pick 57, is a steal.
GOLD COAST – PICKS 19, 42, 52, 55
WIL POWELL, CHARLIE BALLARD, BRAYDEN CROSSLEY, CONNOR NUTTING
Two fantastic intercept players acquired in the form of Powell and Ballard, with the latter right at the top of the table when it comes to intercept marks this season. Powell’s horrible ankle injury obviously puts a dampener on his stocks, but his form up until the injury was excellent.
The pick of Brayden Crossley at 52 could have been a great one, but Brayden put his foot in it and was suspended for a violation of the league’s drug policy and is no longer on an AFL list.
I was kind of hoping Connor Nutting would be traded to GWS when Aidan Bonar was there, so we could have had Bonar to Cumming and Nutting, but dreams don’t always come true, do they?
HAWTHORN – PICKS 45, 67, 71
JAMES WORPEL, DYLAN MOORE, JACKSON ROSS
Would have been higher had we started this process after two years, with Worpel bringing home a Peter Crimmins Medal in his second season in brown and gold, but things have really soured for him since.
They have not soured for Dylan Moore, however, as the 67th pick has blossomed into one of the best small forwards in the caper in 2022.
The Hawks were similar to Essendon in this draft – they had nothing to work with, but have turned it into a B&F winner and a gun small forward. If the Bombers are a C+, the Hawks have to be a bit more – the results of their picks has been better to date.
MELBOURNE – PICKS 29, 31, 37, 48
CHARLIE SPARGO, BAYLEY FRITSCH, HARRISON PETTY, OSKAR BAKER
Look at these buggers… not even a first-round pick and they have snagged themselves three best-22 players, with Fritsch the type of player that can turn a big game on its head in a matter of minutes.
At pick 31, to come into his fourth season and kick 59 goals for the season… that is remarkable for a player who is not a genuine key forward.
Harrison Petty is no slouch, either – a rock that keeps the Melbourne defence grounded and takes on the big jobs without fuss or fanfare.
And Charlie Spargo is not often spoken about, but probably should be. Maybe he should duck into more tackles to receive notoriety?
And look, I think I might be the only bloke who rates Oskar Baker. Maybe because he makes me think about the wrestler, Ox Baker, but there is something about blokes who look like they could have played in the 80s that just warms my heart – I’d love to see him get more of a chance. That said, had they pulled one out of nowhere with pick 48 (imagine they grabbed Dylan Moore? He went at 67), this could have been an A+ draft considering what they had to play with.
NORTH MELBOURNE – PICKS 4, 23, 62, 72, 77
LUKE DAVIES-UNIACKE, WILL WALKER, KYRON HAYDEN, TRISTAN XERRI, BILLY HARTUNG
They nailed it with LDU, who is really starting to come on over the last couple of months. At the time of writing, his last two weeks have seen him pick up 36 and 33 disposals and be amongst North’s best.
As for the rest… well, Will Walker could not stay on the park and is now out of the league, Kyron Hayden is a depth player, Tristan Xerri is showing a bit but wanted to leave last trade period, and Billy Hartung upset someone at the club, and despite having a bit to give, was gone pretty quick.
So, as much as I would like to bump up their grade due to LDU, the sum of the other parts prevents me from doing so.
PORT ADELAIDE – 47, 51, 58, 60, 61,
SAM HAYES, KANE FARRELL, JAKE PATMORE, JOEL GARNER, DOM BARRY
Like Essendon and Hawthorn, had bugger all to play with and took a punt on some players in the third round and beyond.
And at least one of them hit.
Kane Farrell is a weapon with the ball in hand, easily covering 60 metres when he sinks the slipper into it, and whilst the jury is out on Sam Hayes – and the fact he could not get a run when the Power had no one else is not a good sign – the later three picks ended up where you’d expect from gambles.
The pick of Farrell keeps them in C-territory.
RICHMOND – PICKS 17, 20, 25, 34, 63
JACK HIGGINS, CALLUM COLEMAN-JONES, NOAH BALTA, PATRICK NAISH, BEN MILLER.
The Tigers also picked up Liam Baker in the rookie draft, with Pick 18, but we are only rating the National Draft, here.
Three of their five picks are gone, with Higgins’ departure probably the one most keenly felt, especially with Jason Castagna’s recent efforts. At his best, Higgins could be an AA player. At his worst, he plays the AFL equivalent of Matador Defence.
CCJ now wears blue and white and has struggled to maintain a place in the Kangaroos’ line up, whilst the same issues that plagued Patrick Naish at Tigerland now restrict him at West Coast – he turns the ball over and double-grabs too much.
But the pick of Balta with number 25 is a ray of hope. Capable of playing anywhere, Balta is a bit of an athletic freak and, with Ben Miller playing seniors more often this season, they keep this draft haul looking relatively positive.
ST KILDA – PICKS 7, 8, 35, 46
HUNTER CLARK, NICK COFFIELD, OSCAR CLAVARINO, BEN PATON
Hmmm, two top ten picks for the Saints, but man, they really have not had much luck with these blokes.
Hunter Clark seems to have some sort of target on his head, as people continue to cannon into it, whilst Nick Coffield was ruled out of the 2022 season with an ACL before playing a game.
When you add to those two the broken leg suffered by Ben Paton last season, this draft class has been unable to get a clean run at it.
Of course, Oscar Clavarino, who kind of sounds like someone from The Sopranos, was also hampered by injury, but unlike the other three, he was barely able to get on the park for the Saints.
SYDNEY – PICKS 14, 33, 53
MATTHEW LING, TOM MCCARTIN, RYLEY STODDART
What the hell happened to Cameron Ling’s son, anyway?
It’s beside the point, as we are talking about Matthew Ling, who managed just four games for the Swans over four years. In terms of Round One picks, this wasn’t a great one, particularly when Zac Bailey was the next cab off the rank.
A bit of redemption came at pick 33, as the Swans picked up a promising young key position player named Tom McCartin, who would later lure his brother, and former number one pick, Paddy, to the club.
Two Swans with one pick.
As good as Tommy has been, the misstep with their first pick has to sting a little. They could have killed this draft.
WEST COAST – PICKS 13, 21, 26, 32, 38, 68
JARROD BRANDER, OSCAR ALLEN, LIAM RYAN, BRAYDEN AINSWORTH, JACK PETRUCCELLE, HAMISH BRAYSHAW
Probably the hardest to rate or all teams.
Jarrod Brander was a bust. Both he and Matthew Ling, listed above, have failed to impress. Even now at GWS, Brander was only really getting a run when the Giants were out of options.
The best picks came in the twenties, with both Oscar Allen and Liam Ryan selected, and whilst Ryan’s credentials have been proven multiple times since, Allen, as a bigger bloke, still has the jury out.
Because he is yet to prove he can stay on the park.
With no games to his name in 2022, and at just 23 years of age, the Eagles are in for the long haul with him, but whether becomes a 20 games per year type of player, or one who spends more time out than in (Shrek would be proud) will determine how he is assessed.
The rest are hit and miss.
Ainsworth is a miss, despite seeming as though he could play a tagging role. Petruccelle does great things and dumb things in about equal amounts, and Hamish Brayshaw – he is the Chris Daniher equivalent in his family.
Again, tough to assess, but health permitting, the one-two punch of Allen and Ryan in the twenties make it a good one, for me.
WESTERN BULLDOGS – PICKS 9, 16, 74
AARON NAUGHTON, ED RICHARDS, CALLUM PORTER
Nailed it with Aaron Naughton, and there’d be a couple of teams (cough Carlton and Collingwood cough) who would love a do-over to get their dirty hands on Naughton.
His star rose rapidly when he took nine contested grabs in a game, falling one short of the record set by Wayne Carey, and he has since become the focal point of the Dogs’ offence.
Richards, meanwhile, has found himself playing tall in defence this season as the Dogs have struggled for consistency from their key defenders. Richards has emerged as a real talent for the Dogs this season and with a good key position player (Alex Keath is NOT a KPP), we could see him go to another level in 2023.
And then there is Callum Porter. I don’t know anything about him.
So, to make it easy for ya, here is the ladder in order.
A FREMANTLE, MELBOURNE
B+ WESTERN BULLDOGS
B ST KILDA, HAWTHORN, GEELONG, GWS
C+ WEST COAST, GOLD COAST, ESSENDON
C SYDNEY, RICHMOND, PORT ADELAIDE, NORTH MELBOURNE, ADELAIDE, CARLTON, COLLINGWOOD
And there we go – no one down in the D-section, which may indicate I am waaaay too lenient, or way too positive. I’ll await your feedback – it’s always interesting.