I know, I’m going a bit early with this. I could have waited until the start of the new year, right?
Anyway, call me eager, call me highly excitable, call me anything… as long as you call me.
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, and this year is no exception.
No sooner had the kids had their hands shaken and were on the phone with their new coaches, that the boffins at Fox Footy were predicting just how great the teams performed in picking players to join them. They did this without ever watching any of the players compete at the highest level.
And you think I’m premature…
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 long enough since the 2018 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 2017 Draft Grades, and the year before, as well, it is time to start assessing the 2018 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 got things horribly wrong?
I won’t waste your time anymore, let’s jump into the five-year draft grades.
ADELAIDE – PICKS 9, 16, 30, 64
CHAYCE JONES, NED MCHENRY, WILL HAMILL, LACHIE SHOLL
All four of these blokes are arguably best-22 when fit and firing.
I am a little concerned as to where Lachie Sholl is heading after watching him in 2022. He seemed to be on the fast track to holding down the wing spot opposite Paul Seedsman in 2021, but was an invisible man at times in 2022.
Chayce Jones is really yet to find himself, but I like the picks of Hamill and particularly McHenry, as he adds bite to the Crows’ smaller forward division. It will be interesting to see where he fits with both Rankine and Rachele working inside 50. One of them will be working higher up the ground. At this stage, McHenry is as good a bet as any.
The Crows get a bump up from a C+ to a B- due to the foresight of picking up Jordon Butts at pick 39 in the rookie draft, as well. What can I say – I like Big Butts, and I cannot lie.
BRISBANE – PICKS 21, 36, 40, 42, 55
ELY SMITH, THOMAS BERRY, TOM JOYCE, CONNOR MCFADYEN, NOAH ANSWERTH
It’s difficult to like what has occurred here. Outside of Noah Answerth, who saves them from a lower grade, these picks have just about all been misses.
Ely Smith did not move the needle at all in his time with the Lions, and truthfully, was lucky to be kept on the books as long as he was. Tom Berry is off to chase game time with the Suns, and both Joyce and McFadyen failed to do anything remotely prosperous.
Not the greatest year at the draft table for Brisbane.
CARLTON – PICKS 1, 19, 66, 70
SAM WALSH, LIAM STOCKER, FINBAR O-DWYER, BEN SILVAGNI
Well, the Blues grabbed a generational midfielder when they snatched up Sam Walsh. He has gone from strength to strength and established himself as one of the best gut runners in the game. If we base it on just Walsh, the Blues are in A+ grade territory.
But as a whole… not that impressive, and the remaining three drag their ranking down.
Liam Stocker’s delisting came as a bit of a shock, particularly with the Blues willing to take such a gamble on him back in 2018. The other two… late picks and their results warranted the late selections, I suppose.
Still, the brilliance of Walsh carries the day for the Blues. You could argue that it is difficult to cock up a number one pick. I’d argue that history would orive you wrong.
COLLINGWOOD – PICKS 13, 29, 77
ISAAC QUAYNOR, WILL KELLY, ATU BOSENVULAGI
Hit and miss for the Pies, with Quaynor turning into a very solid rebounding defender, whilst the other two have provided little-to-no excitement for Pies fans. Kelly remains on the list, but with just three games to his name, 2023 will be his last opportunity.
Meanwhile, Atu was given his chance to prove himself at North Melbourne. And he responded by losing just about every one-on-one contest he had during his time there.
They scrape into the C Grade thanks to IQ.
ESSENDON – PICKS 38, 60, 72
IRVING MOSQUITO, NOAH GOWN, BRAYDEN HAM
I can remember when Essendon and Hawthorn were both after Mosquito.
Turns out, neither team really won the race for him, even though he landed at Essendon. After an ACL injury, Mosquito, who genuinely looked okay in a couple of outings, called it a day. Apparently, the demands of rehab were a bit too much for the fella, and his career was done.
I have Noah idea what happened to Noah Gown, but at least Brayden Ham managed to stick it out for a few years before being delisted.
Not the best outing for the Bombers.
FREMANTLE – PICKS 17, 32, 57, 59
SAM STURT, LUKE VALENTE, LACHLAN SCHULTZ, BRETT BEWLEY
Injury has prevented us from having a good look at Sam Sturt. He is still there, but with just four games to his name in four seasons, his time is either now, or never.
Love the pickup of Schultz – he is a terrier and plays with his heart on his sleeve.
Luke Valente just couldn’t get his body right and retired without playing a game, so that’s a complete waste of a pick, whilst Brett Bewley was handy as a fill-in wingman for a couple of years.
GWS – PICKS 11, 14, 22, 24, 34, 61
JYE CALDWELL, JACKSON HATELY, XAVIER O’HALLORAN, BOBBY HILL, KIEREN BRIGGS, CONNOR IDUN
So, three of their first four picks have now all jumped ship and will be playing elsewhere in 2023.
Not the greatest endorsement for retention of talent, is it? Still, the adage bandied around about the Giants is that they keep the good ones, and there at pick 61 is a very good one, named Connor Idun.
I love what Idun brings to the table, and truth be told, even though the Giants may have drafted well, that players were already having a foot out the door the moment they stepped in… I cannot grade them well based on that.
I know, I know… it is an issue for the smaller clubs.
GEELONG – PICKS 15, 48, 50, 65, 74
JORDAN CLARK, BEN JARVIS, JACOB KENNERLEY, DARCY FORT, JAKE TARCA, OSCAR BROWNLESS
So, I start typing about the Cats, knowing full well that I just whacked the Giants in the section above for not holding onto the players they drafted.
And the first cab off the rank is Jordan Clark, who buggered off to WA following the 2021 season.
So, in the interest of fairness, I should hold that against the Cats, as well. And I will. The rest of their picks did not make an impact with the club, whilst Darcy Fort started to look okay at Brisbane this year.
Like the Crows, the Cats get a little bump due to their savvy recruiting in getting Tom Atkins on board. Picking him up in the rookie draft at pick 11 – that is a bargain in anyone’s language. Atkins gets them out of the D Grade area for this year.
GOLD COAST – PICKS 2, 3, 6, 23, 71
JACK LUKOSIUS, IZAK RANKINE, BEN KING, JEZ MCLENNAN, CALEB GRAHAM
When you get three picks in the top six, surely you cannot cock up all of them, right?
Izak Rankine may have run off home to SA, but Jack Lukosius recommitted to the Suns, as did Ben King. I look at those three early picks as being eternally tied together. King is the standout (so, of course, he was the last one picked), Lukosius just has not found his role, and I am starting to wonder whether he ever truly will, and Rankine… well, he came across as part wizard and part court jester at times.
The late pickup of Caleb Graham, with pick 71 is a great get. He has played backup key defender over his tenure with the Suns, and given their injury issues, has found himself in the best 22 quite a bit more than people would have expected.
HAWTHORN – PICKS 52, 63
JACOB KOSCHITZKE, MATTHEW WALKER
Look at these Hawks… still believing they were in the premiership window in 2018… the silly buggers.
Two late picks didn’t give them much to work with, and whilst I have given them a D, as much for their strategy of trading for established players (the same one Geelong employed properly and won a flag with), there is still hope that Koschitzke can be the capable second marking forward.
Aaaand, I don’t know who Matthew Walker is.
MELBOURNE – PICKS 27, 33, 53, 56, 75
TOM SPARROW, JAMES JORDON, AARON NIETSCHKE, MARTY HORE, TOBY BEDFORD
I like this haul, mainly because I am a bit of a believer in the first two picks, and secondly, because the Dees were able to snare them without wasting a first-round pick on either. So, in effect, they were able to secure good, young talent – premiership talent – and offset the later picks that didn’t amount to much.
On Bedford, playing behind Kysaiah Pickett is always going to be a tough ask, so I completely understand him looking elsewhere. With Bobby Hill leaving the Giants and Brent Daniels not hitting the heights (yet) that I thought he may have, opportunity knocks for him. He may be one of the surprise impact recruits of the new season.
NORTH MELBOURNE – PICKS 8, 46, 49, 69
TARRYN THOMAS, CURTIS TAYLOR, BAILEY SCOTT, JOEL CROCKER
There’ll be a few North jokes here and there stemming from the next bit I’ll write, but their first three picks in this draft are still at the club and are in their best 22 side. You cannot ask for much more than that.
That said, my jury remains out on Thomas. He had a poor 2022 – went way backwards – and questions about his playing future amount to the sort of chatter that usually goes hand-in-hand with red flags.
I really like Curtis Taylor – if he can clean up some of his disposal, North have grabbed a bargain at pick 46. Meanwhile, Bailey Scott displays signs, but I wonder where he fits, long term, in this Kangaroos outfit.
A 2022 All-Australian at pick 5, and a 2020 All-Australian squad member at pick 12.
Port have long been thought of as the absolute kings in this draft. However, with the form of Xavier Duursma slipping right away in 2022, the crown started to slide off their head a little. So much so that I thought Duursma may have been dangled as trade bait to get Jason Horne-Francis across from North.
Turns out it wasn’t required. Duursma needs to match the output of his draft mates in 2023. Had he continued on the path he started on in 2019/20, this team would have been an A+ rating… even if they did take Brodie Grundy’s brother in the hopes the then-Collingwood big man would sign with them. That could have been an A+ move, as well.
Duursma may benefit from the absence of Karl Amon, who owned the attacking wingman role at Port. With Amon on Hawthorn, the door is ajar.
RICHMOND – PICKS 20, 43, 58, 62,
RILEY COLLIER-DAWKINS, JACK ROSS, FRASER TURNER, LUKE ENGLISH
A couple of nice moves in the rookie draft bolster the Tigers a little, here. Jake Aarts has been a borderline best-22 player and was taken at pick 16, whilst Mabior Chol was snatched up at pick 45 and hasn’t he come on over the last 12-18 months! Pity the Tigers already had two established key forwards.
It’s a good thing they performed well in the rookie draft, too, as the picks in the national draft aren’t going to knock you over in amazement.
RCD was one that I heard about from a lot of Tiger fans – he was gonna be a big thing. Delisted.
Jack Ross showed a bit in 2022, but was it enough? Barely.
And the other two? Yeah… I never saw them play. The rookie draft saves the Tigers’ bacon, here.
ST KILDA – PICKS 4, 41, 47, 54, 67
MAX KING, JACK BYTEL, MATTHEW PARKER, NICK HIND, ROBERT YOUNG
Is it fair to say the Saints’ best pick in this draft, after the obvious number one choice, was Callum Wilkie in the rookie draft? He went at pick three.
Nick Hind only really took off after he left the Saints, slotting into Adam Saad’s vacated role at Essendon, whilst Jack Bytel just hasn’t really got going as part of the St Kilda midfield, notching just 16 games.
But the pick of Max King was both gutsy and well thought out. He was always going to miss the 2019 season, sitting out with an ACL. Taking him at pick four, whilst his fully-able brother was sitting on the board… the Saints must have been tempted to grab Ben, instead. I like that they backed themselves, here.
SYDNEY – PICKS 10, 25, 44, 51
NICK BLAKEY, JAMES ROWBOTTOM, JUSTIN MCINERNEY, ZAC FOOT
Bam, bam, bam… look at those first three picks. I love ‘em!
Blakey slipped to pick ten, after nobody bid on him early, Rowbottom has emerged as the dependable workhorse in the middle, and McInerney has proven that he can play either outside runner, or defensive wingman/half-back when required.
Of course, they put their Zac Foot in it with the last pick, but that is not enough to detract from the threesome that is as good as any other three players taken by one team in this draft, on average. An excellent day at the office for the Swans.
WEST COAST – PICKS 28, 31, 35, 39
XAVIER O’NEILL, LUKE FOLEY, BAILEY WILLIAMS, JARROD CAMERON
Looking at this bunch… they might just turn out okay, after all.
I was not initially a Bailey Williams fan, but he is starting to win me over. Luke Foley has shown glimpses, whilst the X-Man is one of the players I am keeping an eye on to see whether he is ready to have a breakout season in 2023.
Harry Edwards was a decent pickup in the rookie draft, so that is some real value for the Eagles, there. I’m not sure there are any future stars in this mix. As a matter of fact, I highly doubt it. However, this draft may have given the Eagles some solid role players for the next eight or so years.
WESTERN BULLDOGS – PICKS 7, 26, 37, 45, 78
BAILEY SMITH, RHYLEE WEST, LAITH VANDERMEER, BEN CAVARRA, WILL HAYES
Smith is a great pickup, and his work ethic has pushed him to pretty significant heights in his young career, thus far.
I’d love to see Vandermeer get a full season under his belt on the back of a full preseason. I am a bit of a believer in him, but he really needs a good run at it. Maybe a spot on the wing in the absence of Lachie Hunter could open up for him?
And Rhylee West is another I think could have a breakout season. Alas, he is on the periphery of one of the most talented midfields in the game, so, as we saw in 2022, he may have to be pretty patient, and pretty flexible in the meantime.
So, to make it easy for ya, here is the ladder in order.
A PORT ADELAIDE, SYDNEY
B ST KILDA, NORTH MELBOURNE, GOLD COAST, ADELAIDE
C+ MELBOURNE, WESTERN BULLDOGS
C WEST COAST, GWS, COLLINGWOOD, FREMANTLE
C- RICHMOND, GEELONG
D HAWTHORN, ESSENDON, BRISBANE
And there we go – no one down in the E and F areas, which may indicate I am waaaay too lenient, or way too positive. I was harsher than last year. I’ll await your feedback – it’s always interesting.