THE STAGE is set for the 2020 AFL National Draft to get underway tomorrow night, poised to present one of the most unpredictable and even events in history. It has been an unprecedented year in many aspects; with Victorian talents, who typically make up over half of the selected players, unable to take the field as top-agers, while prospects from around the nation showed their wares throughout improvised state league seasons.
There are plenty of moving parts to play out, but Draft Central can finally reveal its first round Phantom Draft ahead of the big day. Live trading has not been taken into account in this effort, but club needs, preferences, and our own rankings have been considered with each pick. The shape of the first round will likely look much different after high-stakes live trades and academy bids, but this is an insight into what each club at the top end may be looking for with their picks.
Pick 1 | Jamarra Ugle-Hagan – Western Bulldogs (Adelaide bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 195cm | 90kg
The consensus best player in the draft pool yields a bid where he ultimately should, at pick one. Adelaide will not have access to the Lance Franklin-like key forward though, as he is tied to the Western Bulldogs’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). The Dogs will quickly match the bid, putting Adelaide back on the clock. Ugle-Hagan promises to bring great athleticism and aerial prowess to the Bulldogs’ forwardline alongside Aaron Naughton, coincidentally fitting their most pressing list need perfectly.
Pick 2 | Logan McDonald – Adelaide
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 86kg
Having bid on a key forward with pick one, Adelaide will almost inevitably snap up another when its selection slides to number two. McDonald is arguably the next best option in his position and has enjoyed a stunning campaign at WAFL League level with Perth. His contested marking and endurance combine for a package similar to that of Nick Riewoldt, but the West Australian is set to blaze his own trail. While it has been a talking point, the go-home factor is minimal here, with local talent Riley Thilthorpe also in the mix and Crows supporter Elijah Hollands another who has been considered for much of the year.
Pick 3 | Elijah Hollands – North Melbourne
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg
One who could easily have pushed to be the number one ranked player with a top-age campaign, Hollands fits North Melbourne’s need for a dynamic midfielder in the long-term. He spent 2020 recovering from an ACL tear and has mainly cut his teeth as a half-forward thus far, but has all the traits necessary to make a more permanent midfield transition down the line. Given the Roos’ need for key forward support with Ben Brown out the door, McDonald and Riley Thilthorpe could also be desired options here, but Hollands has long been linked with this pick – which North Melbourne has also committed to.
Pick 4 | Will Phillips – Sydney
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 180cm | 80kg
While others are bullish on linking key defender Denver Grainger-Barras to this pick, the Swans may also look to add to their long-term inside midfield depth with Phillips. He may not be the big body to replace Josh Kennedy down the line, but is a reliable ball winner with very few weaknesses who looks every bit the 250-game prospect. As far as comparisons go, he may well be this year’s Matt Rowell, who he spent time alongside in Oakleigh’s premiership midfield during 2019. He looms as the best pure midfielder available at the top end.
Pick 5 | Braeden Campbell – Sydney (Hawthorn bid matched)
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 75kg
Hawthorn, who could well be looking for a midfielder like Phillips, might then be the one to keep Sydney accountable with a top 10 bid on academy product, Campbell. The 181cm midfielder has some elite traits, headlined by his versatility, searing speed, and damaging left-foot kick. The Swans will likely be a touch perturbed by a bid this early, but should take little time to match the selection and end up with consecutive picks. They will then sweat on when a bid for Errol Gulden arrives, ideally in the second round.
Pick 6 | Riley Thilthorpe – Hawthorn
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 201cm | 100kg
With its first top five pick in 15 years, Hawthorn is in a great position to stock up in a couple of key areas. With McDonald and Phillips off the board in our draft, Thilthorpe is a terrific option should he survive Adelaide’s first selection. The 201cm ruck/forward has two years of senior SANFL football under his belt and moves incredibly well for his size, covering plenty of ground and winning the ball both in the air and at ground level. He plays mostly as a key forward, but can also rotate through the ruck as a quality second option.
Pick 7 | Denver Grainger-Barras – Gold Coast
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 194cm | 78kg
This is your typical best available kind of pick, with Grainger-Barras a true bargain outside of the top five. He is clearly the best key defender available and showed off all of his intercept marking prowess against top three fancy, McDonald during the WAFL League season. He is quite lean but makes up for it with courage and athleticism and has plenty of time to fill out. The Suns may already lay claim to a solid key defensive set-up, but they also tend to look for star power with their picks and the West Australian has plenty of it. A midfielder could also come into consideration here.
Pick 8 | Tanner Bruhn – Essendon
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 183cm | 74kg
Essendon fans may bemoan this selection because of the current profile of their team’s midfield. At 183cm, Bruhn is not exactly the big-bodied ball winner the Bombers have been crying out for, but has plenty of classy qualities on the inside with the potential to also utilise his skill on the outer or up forward. The Geelong Falcons product may not have gained a ton of exposure on-field over the last two years, but has shown all of his worth when given the opportunity and would be a terrific addition to Essendon’s starting side.
Pick 9 | Zach Reid – Essendon
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 83kg
The Bombers will almost certainly look for a tall option with one of their three-consecutive picks within the top 10, and Reid looms as the best of the lot in that range. He looked incredibly sharp at the recent Victorian testing day and at 202cm, possesses wicked skill by foot. The Gippsland product is also incredibly versatile and has a knack for swinging forward to kick clutch goals, but looks most suited to a key defensive post where he can read the play, intercept, and rebound.
Pick 10 | Archie Perkins – Essendon
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 188cm | 79kg
Linked to clubs as high as the top five, Perkins has also long been attached to Essendon’s picks and we have taken the opportunity to snap him up. It looms as somewhat of a prospective selection, but Perkins is exactly the kind of explosive, powerful midfielder which Essendon fans would love to get on-board. He is billed as one who could turn into that prototype midfielder/forward in the mould of Nat Fyfe, especially given his aerial ability and knack for finding the goals. A bid on Collingwood NGA member Reef McInnes could also be considered here, and the Bombers could field bids for the pick from the likes of GWS and Collingwood.
Pick 11 | Finlay Macrae – Adelaide
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 186cm | 78kg
Having already snared a tall, Adelaide can focus on building its midfield at this range and Macrae is a terrific option should that be the case. The half-brother of Jackson, he boasts a similar appetite for the ball and is exactly the kind of player you want delivering it inside 50. He is clean and dual-sided with terrific decision making to boot. The Crows could also be the ones to bid on McInnes here, though Collingwood may be proactive and trade with Adelaide to this pick, thus ensuring that is not the case.
Pick 12 | Lachlan Jones – Port Adelaide (GWS bid matched)
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 186cm | 89kg
Jones would be a very handy fit for the Giants’ backline, but is tied to Port Adelaide through its NGA and will quickly have a bid in this range matched. Essendon is another club which has been linked to Jones, but the feeling is that he will slide into the teens, potentially even further than this point. A bid here is still quite realistic though, especially given Jones’ exposed form at senior level in 2020. He was a key part of the Eagles’ premiership defence and stood out with his mix of aggression and class on the rebound. A readymade player if there ever was one.
Pick 13 | Nik Cox – GWS
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Utility
15/01/2002 | 200cm | 87kg
With their first defensive choice unavailable to them, GWS would likely spend little time in looking for someone like Cox to fill that gap in the long-term. While he is a versatile type who can also play up forward, Cox’s magnificent ball use on either side and athletic traits suit the defensive caper. He still has plenty of filling out to do and improvements to be made in the contested side of the game, but should develop well alongside the likes of Phil Davis and Nick Haynes. Heath Chapman is another who could be snapped up here, while Macrae would be an enticing midfield option if still on the board.
Pick 14 | Tom Powell – North Melbourne
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 183cm | 74kg
The Kangaroos may already lay claim to a bunch of inside types through midfield, but Powell would be hard to pass up at this range. He averaged over 35 disposals in the SANFL Under 18s this year and was a consistent clearance machine. His outside game and damage by foot are areas to work on, but the 183cm prospect is well aware of that and even showed improvement there throughout the year. Could form the future of North’s midfield alongside Hollands, Jy Simpkin, and Luke Davies-Uniacke.
Pick 15 | Nathan O’Driscoll – Fremantle
Perth/Western Australia | Balanced Midfielder
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 78kg
Perhaps a bold choice here by the Dockers, O’Driscoll is one whose range divides many a draft watcher. What we do know for certain is that he gives 100 per cent each time he plays, making him one of the hardest working midfielders going both ways. His character will appeal to clubs and the local factor makes him a desirable choice for Fremantle. The likes of Chapman, Jack Carroll, and Brayden Cook may also be around the mark here.
Pick 16 | Oliver Henry – GWS
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Medium Utility
29/07/2002 | 188cm | 77kg
One who had top 10 potential, was pegged for such status, and has perhaps now slipped back out of that range, Henry would be a quality choice for GWS at pick 16. The brother of Geelong’s Jack, he is able to play up either end of the ground and thrives aerially. He could be the dynamic marking forward which many clubs are after, so would be too hard to ignore if he slides all the way back here.
Pick 17 | Heath Chapman – Collingwood
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 192cm | 81kg
After a disastrous trade period, Pies fans would be absolutely chuffed if Chapman gets to their first pick and he would suit their needs well; potentially freeing up Darcy Moore to fill a key forward post, or acting as another intercept defender in tandem with Jeremy Howe. Collingwood could also be one to trade up and get a selection like Chapman in just outside the top 10, with Cox and Reid other players in contention. The concern will also surround a potential McInnes bid, but that is allayed in this scenario.
Pick 18 | Bailey Laurie – GWS
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
24/03/2002 | 179cm | 78kg
Laurie has been heavily linked with the Giants’ first round picks and would be a shrewd selection in our eyes. He is another classy ball user who adds to GWS’ strong creative element in the front half and while he may be pegged as a bolter, Laurie looms as one who could quickly repay the faith. He makes things happen and will quickly endear himself to fans.
Pick 19 | Conor Stone – Collingwood
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Medium Forward/Wing
22/04/2002 | 188cm | 81kg
Another first round bolter of sorts from the Oakleigh Chargers, Stone has attracted interest from Collingwood on the back of some promising form as a bottom-ager. His five-goal haul on NAB League debut was a particular highlight, but the medium forward also showed some star power on the wing while running out for St Kevin’s. His running power and goal sense make for a versatile package who could prove too hard to ignore.
Pick 20 | Reef McInnes – Collingwood (Richmond bid matched)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 193cm | 86kg
While this bid has been linked to picks as high as the top 10, one at pick 20 would arguably suit McInnes’ true value a little more. The inside midfielder tore up the draft combine with a searing 20m sprint time and has risen up draft boards as a result, making him a player of interest inside the top 20. Collingwood would be more than happy to match here, after their first two selections.
Pick 21 | Zavier Maher – Richmond
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
5/05/2002 | 184cm | 83kg
Richmond is not afraid to make surprise selections and Maher could be the next in that category. The Murray midfielder has recently been linked to the top 25 and might match the Tigers’ need for some long-term squad depth, despite the array of midfielders they already boast. With his burst from the contest, he looms as one with a point of difference from the others, though.
Pick 22 | Jack Carroll – Melbourne
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 187cm | 76kg
This was one of the more straightforward picks across a very even first round. The West Australian looks like developing into the wingman Melbourne is crying out for and did not quite cover last trade period, while also having the potential to cover as a classy half-back or develop into an inside type. He uses the ball beautifully, can find the goals, and is a great size for modern-day football.
Pick 23 | Brayden Cook – Melbourne
South Adelaide/South Australia | Wing/Forward
18/07/2002 | 189cm | 82kg
Yes, perhaps another wingman, but one who looks likely to develop as a forward early in his career. Cook is this year’s great bolter and shot onto the scene on the back of a SANFL Under 18s season where he averaged over two goals per game. He is terrific in the air and makes good decisions going forward, while also boasting the wildcard of being a game-winning type close to goal.
Pick 24 | Luke Pedlar – GWS
Glenelg/South Australia | Inside Midfielder/Forward
17/05/2002 | 183cm | 80kg
The Giants are said to have great interest in Pedlar and should they not pounce with a pick in the teens, he would be a steal for them at this stage. While injuries have curtailed his last two seasons at different points, Pedlar has shown his outstanding hunger for the ball and eye-catching burst from congestion on every occasion afforded to him. Add leadership quality and forward potential to the mix, and you have a very handy bolter.
Pick 25 | Max Holmes – St Kilda
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Wingman
29/07/2002 | 189cm | 74kg
Holmes’ running capacity is what will appeal most to clubs around this range and he has come from seemingly nowhere to jet into draft contention in 2020. He comes from good athletics pedigree but has played high-level football throughout his junior career and will be a handy developable pick. Jake Bowey and Eddie Ford could also be in the mix here.