AFL Draft selections by Emma Quayle.
There's some fine talent in Thursday's AFL draft, but while club needs and father-son selections will determine the final order our expert just picks the best players.
1. JOE DANIHER
(Calder Cannons. 18, 201cm, 89kg)
A tough call, because Lachie Whitfield is a star and he and Daniher are clearly such different players. But if Daniher was in the draft pool I'd go for him at No. 1 given there's simply not another player like him in the pool. He's a natural in every area: he kicks well, works hard and reaches for ground balls like he's a midfielder. When setting up for a mark he gets into good position, times his leap well and stretches his arms up to meet the ball so that he's impossible to spoil. He's used his time at Essendon to get a headstart on building some muscle and has a competitive streak that few of the other tall players in this draft possess.
Who will pick him? Essendon. He's locked in at No. 10 as a father-son pick.
2. LACHIE WHITFIELD
(Dandenong Stingrays. 18, 184cm, 77kg)
A clear second. What stands out with Whitfield is his understanding or awareness of what's going on around him, and his ability to make good decisions while he's in the middle of doing something else, whether it's fetching the ball, or side stepping someone. He always knows what he's going to do next, he has every athletic quality needed to make it at AFL level, he's skilful on both sides of his body and he can take marks, kick goals and reshape a game. He's there when his team needs him.
Who will pick him? The Giants. He's a deserving No. 1 pick.
3. TROY MENZEL
(Central Districts. 18, 187cm, 78kg)
Menzel is in this spot on pure talent. Of course he comes at a risk, given his history of knee injuries. But he could easily become the player in the draft. He can play anywhere, he can make his opponents look foolish at times with how easily he twists, turns and steps around them, and what's hard to describe is the way he can set a game's path in a quick, emphatic burst: blink and he will have kicked three quick goals in a quarter to make things suddenly very hard for the other team.
Who will pick him? Interesting question. GWS likes him and could grab him in the top 3 or hope he lasts until 12. Any club between there could pinch him instead: the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide, Brisbane Lions and Carlton would all consider it.
4. JIMMY TOUMPAS (Woodville-West Torrens. 18, 182cm, 78kg)
Toumpas' season ended early due to surgery on both hips, but he is all energy, a quick and clever wingman who likes to kick goals. He plays like he loves playing footy, in fact his whole demeanour is bubbly and enthusiastic, meaning as a footballer he wants to get the ball, and run with it, and do things. He'll work hard all the time and be a popular teammate from day one.
Who will pick him? He's right in the hunt for a top three spot. If GWS passes, Melbourne will face a difficult call between him and Ollie Wines. Hard to see him getting past the Bulldogs at No. 5.
5. JONATHAN O'ROURKE
(Calder Cannons. 18, 184cm, 73kg)
O'Rourke is another classy onballer who makes life much, much easier for his forwards, zooming towards the 50-metre line and placing the ball up in front of them. It took him a while to hit form this year but he's one of those players who can arch his back, duck back to get around a player rushing at him, dash off and kick while fully balance.
Who will pick him? He could become a Giant in the top three. If not, expect him to become a Bulldog at pick 5 or 6.
6. LACHIE PLOWMAN
(Calder Cannons. 18, 192cm, 84kg)
Plowman is the best key defender in the draft and another natural: he's not fast but he reads the play so well that he's usually able to get to where he needs to be in ample time. He's smart too, knowing when he can pick off a mark, when he can carry the ball out of trouble and when to simply punch the ball away. He's a competitor, but calm as well, which makes him so well suited to defence.
Who will pick him? He's a big chance for GWS. Similarly to Menzel, the Giants could either make sure they got him in the top three or roll the dice and hope he slips through to 12. The Dogs, Lions and Blues would all take a big look.
7. JACK VINEY
(Oakleigh Chargers. 18, 178cm, 82kg)
Viney plays football like a dog that's been locked in a room all day, then gets let out and goes nuts. He's hard, tough, a tackler, someone who make opposition players nervous because he can hurt them. There are kids with flashier skills in this draft but it's impossible to see Viney letting Melbourne down, because he will compete until the end and carry everyone around him with him. Who will pick him? He's all Melbourne's, and has been for two years. His dad – Demons' recruiting boss Todd Viney – will call his name out at No. 27 and all going well through the preseason he'll head straight into the Demons' centre square.
8. OLLIE WINES
(Bendigo Pioneers. 18, 188cm, 90kg)
Wines is another player who hates to lose and will do all he can to prevent it happening. There are sharper, skilled players in the draft but there are few who play as consistently well as he does. He's a favourite because even if Ollie's team isn't doing well, he's is making sure they hang on for as long as possible. He's not affacted by what's happening around him and will play a lot of games, well, for a long time.
Who will pick him? All the talk is that he'll become a Demon at No. 4. The club needs consistent, competitive, hard-working players like him. If Toumpas is available, Wines will appeal to the Bulldogs as another big, strong addition to their midfield, and be in contention for every club down to Carlton.
9. JAKE STRINGER
(Bendigo Pioneers. 18, 191cm, 94kg)
Putting his broken leg aside, and assuming that a year in an AFL environment will help him get his body ready, Stringer is definite top-end talent. There aren't many like him: as a tall midfielder he will crash, bash, tackle and fight for the ball. Playing forward he knows how to position himself, how to take marks and is capable of kicking multiple goals or at least disrupting play down there. He has confidence, which comes through in the way he plays, and loves being challenged to prove himself.
Who will pick him? Stringer is another intriguing prospect, given that he looked like a player returning from a badly broken leg this year. The Dogs have done lots of work on him, making him a slight chance at No. 6, but he's more likely to get outside the top 10 and could end up anywhere between there and Geelong or Fremantle at picks 16 and 17.
10. BRODIE GRUNDY
(Sturt. 18, 202cm, 100kg)
I'm worried I have Grundy a bit low. He's the best ruckman around, by a long way, and has qualities you can't teach: an aggressive attitude and a want to always compete. Off the ground he's a smart, left field thinker who likes to ponder life's many mysteries. On it, he plays like a big guy: he's imposing, he directs play from the ruck and he throws himself around.
Who will pick him? Grundy could become a Port Adelaide player at pick seven; if he doesn't, he could slide a bit. He would be a bargain for GWS at 14 if even the Giants overlooked him, he would surely appeal to North Melbourne, Geelong or the Dockers.
11. JACKSON MACRAE
(Oakleigh Chargers. 18, 189cm, 76kg)
Macrae brings the pizzazz to this year's draft. He can do some freaky things: unexpected smothers, dribbled goals, that sort of thing. He doesn't necessarily rely on others to get him the ball, but he's better on the outside because he can read the ball so well off packs, knowing where he needs to be and whisking the ball away. Takes tough marks, and gets quickly back to his feet.
Who will pick him? The furthest he should get is pick 11, which would make him a Blue. But he could well be snapped up before then, with the Bulldogs and Lions also interested.
12. BEN KENNEDY
(Glenelg. 18, 174cm, 74kg)
Kennedy was pegged as a small forward before this year, but he played in the middle for South Australia at the under-18s and was able to do the same things he does playing forward: get the ball, take off with it and kick it well to others. He's still working on his tackling and pressure skills, but is a pacy, confident, busy, self assured player who can also take a good mark.
Who will pick him? Kennedy's one who could go anywhere in the teens right through to the early 20s. He's a chance for either North Melbourne or Geelong, and Sydney has some interest too.
13. JOSH SIMPSON
(East Fremantle. 18, 184cm, 73kg)
Simpson had some injury problems this year and wasn't at his best coming into the under-18 championships. A speedster, he escapes tackles, slips away, and can kick brilliant goals, he is hungry to get involved and to get other players involved. He's exciting.
Who will pick him? The Dockers are very keen on Simpson, who moved back to Western Australia after finishing school in Adelaide this year. But they'd need Gold Coast to pass at 13 to get to him. Should even the Dockers pass, expect Geelong, Collingwood, Adelaide or Sydney to grab him.
14. SAM MAYES
(North Adelaide. 18, 187cm, 78kg)
Mayes is probably yet to prove that he'll play as a full-time midfielder. But as a half-forward who could move up onto a wing he is nimble and clever, boasting one of the best few kicks in the game. His teammates love him because he works so hard at his game, treats football and his future career like they means everything to him and looks out for those around him.
Who will pick him? Mayes is in the mix for the Power's pick 7. If they don't pick him he's a chance for Brisbane at No. 8. It's tough to see him getting through to the mid teens.
15. NICK VLASTUIN
(Northern Knights. 18, 187cm, 86kg)
Vlastuin is a soldier: he puts his head down, doesn't worry about anything but what's in front of him and loves to sit other players on their backsides and get dirty. He's still developing the tank to run as a full-time onballer but that should happen once he goes full-time. There isn't much space between "Tigger's" best footy and quiet games. He generally just plays well.
Who will pick him? Richmond, is the word. The Tigers have been linked to Vlastuin for quite some time. There's plenty of clubs looking for midfielders after that; Carlton would consider him at 11, and Geelong is also interested.
16. TAYLOR GARNER
(Dandenong Stingrays. 18, 187cm, 77kg)
Garner is another unusual type: a brave, stretchy player who can do unexpected things from awkward spots. His shoulders are a bit loose, but that hasn't discouraged him from sticking his arms up and putting himself into positions where he could get hurt. Scratches and scrounges to stay involved pushing through half forward and kicks goals when he drops deeper.
Who will pick him? He's been linked to Collingwood and is a strong chance to make it to there with a few other clubs, including North Melbourne, to take a look.
17. MASON WOOD
(Geelong Falcons. 18, 192cm, 80kg)
Wood has a nice streak of confidence, which you need as a key forward. He's grown a few centimetres in the past year or two and gotten a bit stronger but has still been able to use his strengths: he's got a fast first few steps, he covers a lot ground and he knows how to manoeuvre himself to get around players. Do these things more consistently at AFL level and he'll be tough to match up on.
Who will pick him? Quite a few clubs are interested in Wood. He's a chance for either Fremantle or Geelong and three clubs with picks in the 20s are keen: Adelaide, Sydney and St Kilda.
18. KRISTIAN JAKSCH
(Oakleigh Chargers. 18, 194cm, 83kg)
This one could come back to haunt me, because Jaksch hasn't done much wrong this year and could have been listed a little higher. He'll become either a key forward or a tall backman, having shown this year that he knows how to handle both positions and can flick between either end without much stress. Has worked at becoming more consistently involved, marks well, kicks long and will be an enthusiastic teammate.
Who will pick him? A tough one to place. Could go as high as Brisbane at pick 8, although Mayes and Macrae are also in the Lions' sights. Carlton will have a look, and there's a slight chance he could get through to the late teens.
19. NATHAN WRIGHT
(Dandenong Stingrays. 18, 185cm, 78kg)
A hectic dasher off half-back who grabs the ball cleanly and takes off with it, brushing players aside on his way. His kicking can be untidy, but Patrick Dangerfield was a bit like that too. Knows what he's good at – running – and makes sure he does it.
Who will pick him? Wright will appeal to Collingwood, and has been linked to St Kilda and Hawthorn in the 20s as well.
20. JESSE LONERGAN
(Launceston. 18, 182cm, 91kg)
Lonergan's season started late because of injury but he came back really well. A big-bodied, powerful sort of midfielder who is really hard to dislodge when he's sitting under the ball. A bold, explosive player who always has a smile on his face.
Who will pick him? He's a chance for Carlton at No. 11, and the Suns could take him at pick 13. He's in Geelong's mix too, but could get through into the late 20s.
21. NATHAN HROVAT
(Northern Knights. 18, 175cm, 79kg)
It's hard to see Hrovat letting anyone down. He's worked really hard at the things that will get him drafted, and sought out people who could help him improve. He makes sure he gets to the ball at the first possible chance – he hunts it – and is arguably the most reliable inside-the-packs player in the pool.
Who will pick him? Several clubs are fans of the Hrovat's simple ability to win the ball. He's in the Suns' mix, and has been linked to North Melbourne and Collingwood as well. He'd be an good pick for St Kilda if he reached the mid-20s.
22. TIM O'BRIEN
(Glenelg. 18, 193cm, 80kg)
O'Brien's marking sets him apart. He runs hard and throws himself up and at the ball when it's coming in high. Tested really well for speed and agility and having only recently moved to Adelaide from the country, has plenty of scope to improve.
Who will pick him? O'Brien is popular. Fremantle's considering him, as well as Geelong, Collingwood and Adelaide.
23. AIDAN CORR
(Northern Knights. 18, 195cm, 86kg)
Corr was held back at times by injury too this year, but is another solid competitor who sticks to his man. While he doesn't win heaps of the ball, he makes sure that his opponents don't either. Can also clunk a mark playing forward.
Who will pick him? He's an option for Richmond at nine, Gold Coast at 13, and GWS at 12 or 14. From there could go anywhere in the teens to the early 20s.
24. TOM CLUREY
(Murray Bushrangers. 18, 192cm, 83kg)
Clurey is a really honest player. He doesn't win much of the ball but knows how to knuckle down and keep someone quiet, without much fuss at all. A solid mark and a player with huge endurance. Just keeps going and going and going.
Who will pick him? Clurey's range is broad. He could appeal to GWS should they miss out on both Plowman and Aidan Corr, who would have been No. 26 on this list. He's also a chance for Collingwood, and could get through to the mid-20s where St Kilda would take a look.
25. TIM MEMBREY
(Gippsland Power. 18, 189cm, 88kg)
Membrey's a big kid who was easily able to outbody many of his opponents this year. But he didn't do it entirely through brute force: he knew how to position himself and how to nudge others with a hip to get them out of the way and get the ball into his arms. Kicked goals in big, close finals for Gippsland and could be a tough-to-match-up-on third forward at AFL level.
Who will pick him? He's another chance for Collingwood. It's tough to see him going before then, but you never know. If he's there at pick 22, and the Bulldogs haven't already taken Jake Stringer, he could well end up at Whitten Oval.