Ah, draft season, the final stop for the year until the offseason truly begins and we turn our attention properly to the summer sports. Not everybody likes the draft that much, but I certainly do and there’s nothing a draftnik like myself likes more than to match players to teams.
What does every team need to accomplish in the 2023 AFL Draft? We’ll look at each team’s goals in this article, as well as possible selections for each team. I’ll also give a rough estimate of how many picks will actually be used.
We all know what a Harley Reid or a Zane Duursma can do for a team, but do you know what a Will Patton or a Will Lorenz will do? Never fear, what your team could do for its later picks is included here as well. Every pick will be included, even if it’s a later-round pick that I will simply be recording as a pass.
Oh and before anyone asks, I’m not mulling over rookie draft elevations here. This is purely an exercise for the eligible draft prospects, so one of the ‘passes’ could very much be a rookie elevation.
Let’s get to it. But first, here’s the top 50 as it comes to prospects in my opinion. We’ll get to some more specific profiles as we go team by team, but here are the basics:
Kane McAuliffe, Midfield, North Adelaide, 187cm/86kg
Tarkyn O’Leary, Wing, Sandringham, 178cm/70kg
Picks: 10, 14, 20, 89
What they will need to accomplish:
There are two schools of thought here. The Crows are well equipped to move up on draft night if a team is willing to give them one of the blue-chip prospects in the draft, and they’ll certainly try. If they can’t move up, however, then they still hold three picks in the top 20 (before bids push one down).
The Crows, should they trade, would likely trade to Geelong. If a midfielder like Ryley Sanders were to slide to #8 then I’d be doing a trade here. However, Sanders is unlikely to be sliding past the Hawks or Demons, so trading for someone like Nate Caddy (the most likely to get to Geelong of the top prospects) makes no sense given the team has the exciting Tyler Welsh as a potential #1 overall pick in 2024 (father/son selection).
The Crows have to address two areas in the midfield and key defender. They lost Tom Doedee to the Lions while failing to lure Harrison Petty from the Demons, while their midfield brigade needs to begin to find the next generation to replace Matt Crouch, Rory Laird and Rory Sloane in the coming years. If teams look elsewhere ahead of them, they may not even need to trade up to match these needs with Connor O’Sullivan and Darcy Wilson.
One is a key position utility and the other is a midfielder, but the Murray Bushrangers duo both are hard runners with a lot in the tank. They make a lot of sense for the Crows, who just need a small push to get to September action. Pick #20 will serve as almost like a free hit for the Crows, who could look to Riley Hardeman as a rebounding defender/winger who can fit both roles for the Crows in the future too.
Brisbane are one of those teams who have done a phenomenal job in constructing its list, so there’s not really much to comment on in terms of immediate need.
What the Lions will do instead is try to find the gems in the draft. Could they trade up in the top 20? It’s not impossible, and neither is the idea of trading out into the 2024 draft for Levi Ashcroft bid matching purposes. But Brisbane probably will just look for high upside in the draft with such a relatively weak draft.
They don’t have to draft players with the view of seeing them play in Round 1, so I would expect a good blend of players in terms of position. To that end, I’ve selected some later round prospects who I believe have some excellent upside and would be well suited to a team that bring them along slowly. I could see them taking three, possibly four players.
Carlton burst onto the AFL scene as a shock preliminary finalist, showing they actually do have the capacity for their talented list to put it all together. They did their business in the trade period, and they look set for a tilt at the flag in 2024.
But where do they need to focus in the draft? They’re not going to pick until after the top 25 picks once bids are going to be in consideration, so they’ll probably focus on some immediate depth with a view to seeing them on the field in later years.
The team draft Harry Lemmey as a high upside forward with #47 in the 2022 AFL Draft, and they could look to add similar depth there again. Ashton Moir has been mentioned before, but there’s another SA medium forward in Jack Delean that makes sense as a solid forward prospect, and who looks like he’s going to be available for the Blues to pick.
I also think Carlton might need to take a rebounding defender to add some depth and a protégé for Adam Saad. There are quite a few available for their #28 selection and I did mull over a few players, but Tew Jiath has been a popular pick on a few sites for the Blues which makes total sense. Jiath is a high upside prospect and rebounding defender who would have the chance to learn behind one of the best in the game in that capacity.
I think Carlton will take just the two picks into the draft, unless someone they really like falls through. It’s a pretty rough draft to be in this year, so don’t expect a ton of later picks.
#22: Jack Delean, Forward, South Adelaide, 181cm/73kg
#28: Tew Jiath, Defender, Gippsland, 188cm/72kg
Picks: 19, 33, 80, 98
What they will need to accomplish:
A repeat flag, perhaps?
We all know the deal by now with Collingwood. Their list is ridiculously strong and they have pretty much no weaknesses, and they possess a top 20 pick despite adding the underrated Lachie Schultz from the Fremantle Dockers.
As a result, they get to sit back and see what falls to them. They might not add a top prospect, but they still can net a nice player or two.
The one position the team will probably look to target is a ruckman, with Will Green potentially sliding into their laps as the top unattached ruckman on the board. He won’t play in 2024, but he’s an underrated prospect.
Collingwood could perhaps look at some forward depth as well. The team is unlikely to spend more than two selections on players during the draft, but someone like Ashton Moir would be a perfect home run swing for them.
The Bombers seem set on giving themselves a big setup for the loaded free agent class in 2024 with a huge front-loaded contract to Ben McKay. They’ll need to be patient as they likely won’t be competing for the flag in 2023 despite adding Jade Gresham, Xavier Duursma and Todd Goldstein to the team, but the greater priority will be finding some players who can contribute immediately as well as maybe a longer-term prospect.
The team is good enough to at least play finals in 2024, and maybe get that long-overdue victory in September. Elijah Tsatas will have another offseason under his belt too.
Pick wise their #9 is more or less where the real wave of top talent stops. Some say it’s as few as six players and as many as ten. I’m of the opinion it’s nine or ten, but that includes the Suns-attached prospects in Jed Walter and Ethan Read.
Positionally the team could use another forward. If Nate Caddy were to slide in this best case scenario, it’s hard to see him not being immediately snapped up by the Bombers at that point. He, Peter Wright and Kyle Langford would be an exceptional forward trio.
The team could also stand to look at versatile prospects that can be utilised in different ways. Zane Zakostelsky and Keon Sanchez fit the bill in differing positions with the former as a key defender/ruckman and the latter as a small forward/midfield that can push for playing time as soon as next season. While Essendon will probably only take three prospects, they might match a late NGA bid for Mahmoud Taha as well given Taha has had some late pick interest from clubs but is unlikely to be picked in the top 40.
The Dockers traded away this year’s first-round pick in the Luke Jackson acquisition, so they won’t be in a position to obtain a top prospect, they’ll be forced to trade at least one of their 2024 first-round picks to make significant upgrades to their list.
For the first time in this article, we have a trade. Fremantle will send their 2024 first-round pick which is attached to Port Adelaide and should fall somewhere in the teens to GWS for their #16 selection. Port could finish anywhere within the top eight in my view, so the pick would be a good investment for the Giants while allowing the Dockers to take Riley Hardeman. The Dockers have been linked heavily to the WA product, and the trade allows them to skip past the Eagles in the draft order.
Other than that, I would like to see the Dockers move for WA prospects to help address their exodus problem. The Dockers need a lot of help, so Clay Hall and Keon Sanchez make sense at #34 depending on who they prefer. The Dockers should take additional selections to offset the departures, which should be used on two players with high upside.
Premiership hangover, or has the ageing list of Geelong finally caught up to them? 2024 will be a key indicator for the team, but what strategy they take in the draft is actually an interesting one.
The Cats currently hold two picks within the top 25 selections but little else thereafter. They are also currently fielding offers for pick 8 as the most likely team to move down in the top-10 selections as Geelong will want to take three to four picks this year.
That being said, a trade with the Crows makes a lot of sense here. This one is a bit more complicated than the one previous, and it looks like this:
Adelaide send: #10, #14 #20 Geelong send: #8, #25 and their 2024 second-round selection (pegged at #27 by using the 2023 ladder position of Geelong as a guide and taking into account the end of first round compensation picks originally given to North Melbourne making it 20 first-round picks for 2023)
According to the draft pick calculator (which is an imperfect tool, but it’s the best we have for these). Geelong receives 3468 points worth of selections to Geelong while sending 3010 points to the Crows. The difference in value is minimal (equal to pick #39) enough for the Crows to accept keeping in mind they get a higher selection and get to stockpile points for Tyler Welsh.
With #10, the Cats go for some key position talent in Connor O’Sullivan. He can play either end but more likely as a defender, and then go for James Leake at #14. Leake has fans picking within the top 10, so that would be exceptional value. With #20, the team swoops on midfielder George Stevens who appeared for Geelong’s VFL team this year.
Absolutely nothing, as it’s already been done. They will welcome Jed Walter, Ethan Read, Jake Rogers and Will Graham to the club as academy prospects after a job well done accumulating selections.
For the purposes of maintaining the article, they’ll be picks #24, #26, #27 and #32 here although bids will be appearing much earlier. With the first three being potential top-10 selections and Graham looking like a second-round bid.
#24: Jed Walter, Forward, Gold Coast Academy, 195cm/91kg (NGA)
#26: Ethan Read, Ruckman, Gold Coast Academy, 202cm/87kg (NGA)
#27: Jake Rogers, Midfield, Suns Academy, 171cm/68kg (NGA)
#32: Will Graham, Defender, Gold Coast Academy, 186cm/81kg (NGA)
#36: Absorbed during academy bid
#38: Absorbed during academy bid
#66: Absorbed during academy bid
#71: Absorbed during academy bid
#74: Absorbed during academy bid
#84: Absorbed during academy bid
Picks: 7, 16, 43, 59, 77, 79, 95
What they will need to accomplish:
The Giants made an unexpected return to finals football in 2023, even winning their final against St Kilda. GWS will be full of confidence in 2024 and will take one of the top prospects (whoever falls to them), but they must look past their first pick and see which other first-round selection fits them.
The good news for the Giants is they still possess excellent talent everywhere, so they can take the best player available. Nate Caddy looks the player most likely to be sitting there at their first pick and he could be an excellent forward tandem with the #1 pick last year in Aaron Cadman for the next 10-15 years. The team meanwhile could look towards Ollie Murphy if he slides to help shore up a defensive front that needs to be a bit stouter for the Giants to move up the ladder during the next few years.
The Giants are likely to take three players in the draft, so the question is which player falls to them? Joel Freijah makes sense as a versatile player who could end up playing a lot sooner than people think.
The Hawks might be the most exciting rebuilding team in the AFL, but they still need lots of help to continue to move up the ladder into September contention. Luckily they’ll be receiving that in this draft with a top-five selection as well as accumulating points for F/S prospect Will McCabe. The team might take a third selection too, with Tew Jiath an unlikely but still possible prospect to slide past the top 40 and become a NGA product for the Hawks.
Other than that, this is a pretty straight forward draft with the exception of their #4 pick. This pick seems like it could be down to either Zane Duursma and Ryley Sanders, with Duursma to be the pick if North Melbourne pass on him and Sanders to be the pick otherwise.
Duursma is probably the preferred selection for Hawthorn, and their best-case scenario. As mentioned before, for simplicity we’ll put McCabe and Jiath as the second and third picks respectively despite in reality being picked much higher.
#4: Zane Duursma, Midfield/Forward, Gippsland, 189cm/79kg
#44: Will McCabe, Defender, Central Districts, 197cm/81kg (father/son)
#47: Tew Jiath, Defender, Gippsland, 188cm/72kg (NGA)
#49: Absorbed during F/S and academy picks
#62: Absorbed during F/S and academy picks
#63: Absorbed during F/S and academy picks
#83: Absorbed during F/S and academy picks
Picks: 6, 11, 42, 93
What they will need to accomplish:
This is another simple one for the article. Melbourne deeply desire Harley Reid and have a bid on the board that’s pretty generous in a vacuum. #6, #11, #42 and a 2024 first-round pick is an excellent offer that could be accepted on draft night still if the Eagles believe Daniel Curtin is available at that #6 (which is possible if North passes on him, which is highly speculated to be the case now).
Simply put, the Demons obtain #1 and take Reid, while picking a project player with #93 (which will fall much lower once bids and passes begin to accumulate).
Plot twist: North Melbourne are not trading for Harley Reid in this article.
Before angry Roo fans attack me with torches and pitchforks, the reasoning is quite simple. They cannot possibly outbid Melbourne without giving up both #2 and #3, which the Roos are quite rightly reluctant in the extreme to do. There’s no avenue to break up the pick in a way that’s satisfactory for everyone either.
With that in mind and the Roos refusing to overpay (you might think they should do so, but it’d be a hefty price), the team instead grabs two excellent prospects with #2 and #3. The team is reportedly locked in on Colby McKercher at this stage with Zane Duursma and Daniel Curtin the two picks in play for the other. North Melbourne have said they want key position players, but they might be finding the game-changing abilities of Duursma too much.
Luckily they can have their cake and eat it too, and they bundle their picks to Geelong for what is quite an even trade for the calculator.
Geelong send: #8 and #25 North Melbourne send: #15. #17 and #57
The calculator has North sending 2319 points worth of picks while receiving 2307 points worth in return, and use that selection to take Connor O’Sullivan to help fill the key position ranks. They’re not done here however, and they find Ollie Murphy waiting for them as well to double dip at the position.
North take one final pick at #25 also, and go for a boom or bust prospect in Archer Reid to develop as a partner for the elite Nick Larkey. Reid has all the tangibles to be a #1 key forward in the AFL, but the gaps between his best and worst are very evident.
If they take these picks away with them, North Melbourne fans should be feeling good.
Port Adelaide did their damage at the trade table, bringing in reinforcements in defence and at ruck while moving almost all of their picks on. Port are looking for a flag now and they’ve had previous drafts where they invested heavily in youth, so it makes sense.
As far as their pick, they won’t find a player who can play in 2024. They’ll be looking for a developmental pick, and former SA captain Will Patton looks like a solid fit who could potentially be available.
#73: Will Patton, Defender, West Adelaide, 192cm/79kg
Picks: 29, 41, 65, 68, 86
What they will need to accomplish:
Richmond are capable of making some sort of push in 2024 if Tom Lynch can stay healthy. That’s still a big “if”. However, even if this happens, and the team don’t have an early pick due to the Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper trades. To make sure new coach Adem Yze has a good draft to take into 2024 and beyond, the Tigers will need to continue to improve its offensive production around Lynch. Some defensive help is needed as well, but the priority should be to find goals.
There are some options for Richmond to accomplish this. Archer Reid, as mentioned above, is a polarising prospect but could flourish at Tigerland with Tom Lynch to learn from. They could also find someone to learn from Dusty Martin as he enters the twilight of his career (if he stays beyond 2023), and small forward Phoenix Gothard is an intriguing prospect who has top 30 potential. The Tigers are likely to take two selections at this draft.
St Kilda are a typical Ross Lyon-coached team, where the defensive half is perfectly sound but the forward play is horrendous. St Kilda need to remedy this with several picks at the position in the draft, and build around Max King.
They have some avenues to do this, however, including some small forward prospects who can bring immediate production as the team looks to continue upwards in 2024. Lance Collard could be a consideration at #13 as an exciting forward prospect that is keenly sought after by both WA clubs among others, while they could pair Jack Delean with him.
#40 could be used in a variety of ways to help build depth, with Angus Hastie being someone who makes sense around this mark and can help add depth to their defensive stocks.
Sydney are yet another team that is relatively easy to predict at this draft. NGA prospect Caiden Cleary will be on the list as a second-round bid is sure to transpire, and the Swans will also use #12 as the team probably takes two picks into this draft.
Who they take at #12 depends on who falls there, but the team could target a key defender after the team. There’s nobody that would fit a ‘best case scenario’ situation however as Connor O’Sullivan realistically won’t fall to #12, but they can simply take the best potential player that makes sense here in James Leake.
#12: James Leake, Defender/Forward, Tasmania Devils, 188cm/75kg
#45: Caiden Cleary, Midfield, Swans Academy, 180cm/78kg (NGA)
#55: Absorbed during academy pick
#91: Absorbed during academy pick
WEST COAST EAGLES:
Picks: 1, 23, 37, 58, 81
What they will need to accomplish:
This by far is the toughest one to write, if for no other reason than I don’t know if the Eagles are better off taking the heavily touted Reid to be the centrepiece of their rebuild or to trade it for a ransom of picks. After much consideration, the only thing that makes sense for the Eagles here is to trade it if the offer is ridiculous overs from a desperate North. So here, they’re trading the #1 pick to North Melbourne who cave in this scenario for #2, #3 and #18 for #1 and #23.
It’s a huge ransom and slightly unrealistic, but sending #23 back might be just enough to tip the scales if the Roos are desperate enough.
So the Eagles get their treasure trove of picks, but what do they do with it? Key defender and local lad Daniel Curtin is a must, while the exciting and versatile Zane Duursma is a favourite of a lot of people.
#18 would be used to take Riley Hardeman, another WA lad who the team is very high on, before #37 is used on one more local lad in Clay Hall. The Eagles will have fans and detractors whether or not they keep the picks, but this would be an excellent haul. They finalize their draft haul with one forward prospect, with Jack Callinan to boost the small forward stocks.
It looks like the Bulldogs have their choices all but locked in for the draft, with three picks likely to be the call. Jordon Croft will be a first-round bid, while the team will be hoping NGA prospect Luamon Lual gets outside the top 40 (which is a possibility).
The only question is who does the club take at #5? Nick Watson is the longtime favourite but Ryley Sanders is also in consideration as well. Sanders is probably off the board to Hawthorn if the Hawks can’t get Zane Duursma, but the team faces a tough choice if both are available.
It’s tough, but I believe Watson is the better choice. ‘The Wizard’ is one of the more exciting small forward prospects in recent memory, and would be an excellent partner in crime for Cody Weightman.
#5: Nick Watson, Forward, Eastern Ranges, 170cm/66kg
#48: Jordan Croft, Forward, Calder Cannons, 200cm/80kg (father/son)
#50: Luamon Lual, Defender, GWV Rebels, 181cm/71kg (NGA)
#52: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#53: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#56: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#69: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#72: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#75: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks
#90: Absorbed during father/son and academy picks