Leagues: SANFL League, SANFL Reserves, SANFL Under 18s
Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography
SNAPSHOT: “A classy midfielder/forward with impressive skills and agility, who has the ability to push forward and impact the scoreboard.”
One of several talented prospects to emerge from South Adelaide in recent times, Draper is a versatile and classy prospect who appears set to be an early-round selection come draft night. A soccer convert, Draper spent time at all three levels of SANFL football this season, starring in the Under 18s and performing well at Reserves level to earn a League debut. He also recovered from a mid-season high ankle sprain to represent the South Australian Under 19s against Western Australia. Draper spent most of the first half of the season in the Under-18s, where he looked a tier above, averaging 24 disposals, four marks, five tackles, 6.6 clearances and over a goal per his nine games. His stoppage smarts and midfield craft translated to Reserves level, where he averaged four clearances and five tackles. Draper didn’t look overawed by the intensity of league footy, playing alongside fellow teenagers Jason Horne-Francis and Matty Roberts. Playing across half-forward with stints in the middle, Draper was among SA’s best in their loss to WA in the first championships game, but saw his season cut short after sustaining an impact shoulder injury in the second match against the Black Swans. The injury, his second of the season, ruled him out of the draft combine but not before proving his class at several levels of football across the year.
+ Stoppage craft
+ Overhead marking
+ Forward craft
- Defensive running
Draper is one of the classiest midfielders in the draft pool. Despite spending most of his time on the inside, winning the bulk of his possessions in the coal face, he is a good ball user by hand and foot. Draper prides himself on his disposal efficiency and cleanliness at ground level – traits which set him apart from other inside midfielders. He isn’t a line-breaker, but has enough pace and moves effortlessly through in traffic. Although he wasn’t able to showcase it at state level, Draper has good acceleration, which is particularly noticeable at stoppages.
Draper’s natural agility and stoppage smarts are among his most appealing traits. At Under 18s level with South Adelaide, Draper was clearly the side’s number one clearance player, with his positioning and ability to read the taps particularly noticeable. His high IQ, combined with his one-touch cleanliness at ground level makes him a lucrative midfield option. At 186cm, Draper is a good height for a midfielder, however despite being slim, he was a dominant contested ball winner in the Under 18s.
Although his midfield craft is appealing, it’s impossible to profile the Willunga product without highlighting his versatility. Recruiters are always looking for players who can play a range of roles in today’s game, and Draper’s skillset has allowed him to spend time in all thirds of the ground. Draper’s overhead marking and footy smarts stood out when thrown forward for stints with both the Panthers and South Australia. Before injuring his shoulder in the second match with Western Australia, Draper also looked calm and composed playing across half-back. Wherever he ends up, Draper appears likely to start his career either across half-back or up forward.
Whilst Draper has a great blend of traits and the potential to become one of the best players from the draft pool, injuries have prevented him from showcasing his talent on a more consistent basis. The mid-season ankle injury saw him miss a couple of weeks, then the shoulder complaint prevented him from playing against the Allies and in the final match with WA and ruled him out of the combine. Although frustrating, given the injuries aren’t soft-tissue related clubs will be confident he can capitalise on his talent on a more consistent basis after adding some strength and size to his frame in the off-season.
Queries on durability aside, Draper can certainly add some consistency to his game. While a capable runner, he is very much an attack-minded player in the sense he will prioritise winning the ball, but not necessarily what occurs when it falls the oppositions' way. While he wins plenty of ball at stoppages as a midfielder, being able to spread and impact away from the contest will lend to greater consistency throughout four quarters, and make him a more well rounded ball winner.
DRAFT PROJECTION: First Round
Draper is one of the leading South Australian draft prospects, whose class through the midfield, down back and in attack should see him come into consideration in the mid-to-late stages of the first round. Considered a high upside pick, Draper would be an attractive prospect for clubs looking to add some polish and versatility to their list. Draper would ideally require a season of state league development, but expect him to push for a senior debut after adding some strength and enhancing his running game.
SANFL Under 18s