2023 AFL Draft Preview: Essendon

WITH season proper and trade period done and dusted, AFL fans and staff alike now turn their attention towards the draft (November 20-21). The chaos has momentarily settled on player and pick swaps, and budding prospects have completed their combines, leaving a nervous wait until they learn their fate.

In the next of our club-by-club draft previews, we take a look at Essendon’s hand and offer insight into how the Bombers may utilise the picks at their possession. After an underwhelming season without finals, but a typically prominent trade period, the Brad Scott Bombers regeneration is set to continue.

LADDER FINISH: 11th (11-12, 89.7%)
2023 PICKS: 9, 31, 35, 61, 88

Pick 9

Essendon’s list needs are plentiful, despite a productive trade period, and many of the holes have been present for some time. The Bombers are arguably still in need of genuine big bodied midfielders, key forward depth, rebound defenders, and running capacity in general.

Despite that, and the recruitment of Ben McKay, key defender Connor O’Sullivan may be a player who proves too good to refuse at pick nine – akin to 2021’s 13th pick, Ben Hobbs. The versatile tall is not restricted to defensive duties, and could develop as a swingman or even a very tall on-baller.

It seems highly improbable that the likes of Ryley Sanders and Daniel Curtin will slip through to the Bombers’ first selection, but either player would be an ideal addition to the engine room. Both have the size and contested craft to enhance a relatively small inside midfield group.

More pressing to Essendon’s list holes than O’Sullivan would be Nate Caddy – an athletic 193cm marking forward with potential to enhance his midfield craft. In the way of running power, outside types Darcy Wilson and Caleb Windsor are right within the Bombers’ range and little splits their talent.

Do not discount Essendon placing a bid on Academy or father-son talent, either. There would be a slight element of risk in doing so on Suns-tied small midfielder Jake Rogers for the sake of accountability, but Bulldogs father-son Jordan Croft makes sense given he suits the need for a key forward.

Darcy Wilson is in the frame for Essendon’s first pick | Image Credit: Rookie Me Central


Anticipated to make three selections at the draft this year, Essendon has a little bit of flex to move up the order with two second round picks stacked close to each other (31 and 35). Even if that’s not the case, big-bodied mids like Charlie Edwards and George Stevens could be in consideration.

The former is a late developer with strong running capacity and burst speed at 191cm, while the latter is an intriguing prospect who doesn’t tick too many boxes athletically, but is a readymade unit whose exposed form and character should get him over the line this year – potentially at bargain price.

Others in a similar category and range include West Australian Clay Hall, whose running power will also appeal to the Bombers. In the same vein, 190cm wingman Joel Freijah has what it takes, and the Bombers often court explosive athletes like South Australian bull Kane McAuliffe.

There are a few handy running defenders in the mix too. Luamon Lual is a small tied to the Western Bulldogs with good speed and competitiveness. Taller options include Tew Jiath and Angus Hastie, who like to take the game on and spark dangerous end-to-end passages.

Looking later on in the draft, and depending on what the Bombers have previously done, there are plenty of viable options to round out the crop. Run-and-gun defender Nathan Philactides is one who suits the athletic profile that Essendon likes, and will likely slip far enough down the order.

Elsewhere, should a key forward be required, Geelong Falcons co-captain Michael Rudd could be in the mix late on. Of course, the Bombers would likely be heavily into reuniting brothers Zach and Archer Reid as key position pillars at either end of the field, but Archer is a strong chance to be snapped up in the 20s.

Essendon also has a bunch of quite even, yet not outstanding Next Generation Academy products to consider as rookies – all out of the Calder Cannons. Inside midfielder Mahmoud Taha is the only one with a draft combine invite, while forward Amin Naim and defender Ryan Eyre had solid Talent League seasons.


– Can Essendon manufacture more moves at the live trade table?
– Will Essendon take the best available at pick nine?
– How many list holes can Essendon cover with three picks?

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments