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AFL Draft - August Power Rankings: Son-of-a-gun back on top of the class

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Where have all the taggers gone? (1:23)

Matt Walsh & Jake Michaels discuss the disappearance of tagging in the AFL, and if the role could limit recent dominant performances from midfielders. (1:23)

ESPN.com.au's expert Chris Doerre has revealed his AFL Draft Power Rankings for the month of August. Every month, Doerre will assess player formlines and growth both physically and in footy traits to determine a ranking of the upcoming draft's strongest candidates.

May Power Rankings | June Power Rankings | July Power Rankings


1. Will Ashcroft (Victoria Metro - Sandringham Dragons)

A Brisbane father-son prospect and the son of Marcus, Will is the most complete, advanced and productive midfielder in this draft class. What makes Ashcroft such an impressive midfielder is his combination of first possession-winning at stoppages, distribution by hand, inside/outside balance, how he is always on the move at high speed and driving the football forward with purpose.

While Ashcroft may be the most extreme high production prospect to come through the junior ranks, it is the 5-10 metres on the burst after winning or receiving the football before disposing that catches the eye and routinely sees him break games open. After disposing of the football, Ashcroft runs to support after disposing of the football, not giving up on the play and providing his side the outnumber on numerous forward forays.

The key with Ashcroft that gives him separation from the other midfielders in this draft is not just his top of draft level production but also the frequency of moments he impacts games. Throughout the Under-18 Championships, Ashcroft has been the star with averages of 33 disposals, 15 contested possessions and 10 clearances across his three games. In the NAB League, Ashcroft amassed ridiculous season highs of 51 disposals, 27 contested possessions and 14 clearances for Sandringham against Western in Round 10.

While in the VFL for Brisbane, Ashcroft averaged 28 disposals and eight tackles across his two matches. The reason for Ashcroft reclaiming top spot is based around his projected immediate impact far exceeding the rest of the draft pool and his floor being the highest in this draft with some separation.

July Ranking: 3

2. Mattaes Phillipou (South Australia - Woodville-West-Torrens)

The son of Sam, Mattaes is a 192cm, dual position impact player who is arguably this year's most damaging prospect through the midfield and up forward. As a forward, Phillipou hits the scoreboard at will, sets up teammates inside 50 with precise entry kicks, is a strong overhead mark, powerful ground ball winner and uses his pace to create meaningful separation on the lead and kick goals on the burst.

Through the midfield, Phillipou is a strong contested ball winner who regularly wins first possession at stoppages and displays a burst of speed and class with ball in hand. Phillipou's Under-18 Championships performance for South Australia against the Allies where he amassed 24 disposals, 17 contested possessions, six marks (one contested), five clearances, two goals and two score assists was arguably the most influential performance seen in this year's champs. The same dominant football was played by Phillipou against Vic Metro where early on he was the most influential player and amassed nine disposals in the first 15 minutes of play before leaving the field under serious duress and requiring treatment on his lower back.

With a December birthday, Phillipou only by a few days qualifies for this year's draft. With his performances on the board, mix of attributes, influence on games across multiple positions, and rapid rate of improvement, he arguably possesses the highest ceiling in this year's draft. Viewed as likely to feature outside the top five, Phillipou at No. 2 is a decision unique to this draft board.

July Ranking: 1

3. Harry Sheezel (Victoria Metro - Sandringham Dragons)

Victoria's most damaging and clever forward in this year's draft, Sheezel is both a contested marking and ground level threat inside 50. Finding and winning a good amount of the football for a forward, Sheezel demonstrates rare goal sense and the capability to set up teammates inside 50.

When utilised as a midfielder, Sheezel can be relied upon to win first possession at stoppages while displaying classy ball use and deceptive agility with his sudden changes of speed often catching out opponents. A genuine dual-position difference maker, Sheezel has enjoyed some ridiculous NAB League games this year headlined by six goals and six score assists against Tasmania, 37 disposals and 19 contested possessions against Northern and 33 disposals and three goals against the Jets.

July Ranking: 2

4. George Wardlaw (Victoria Metro - Oakleigh Chargers)

A contested beast who does his best work at stoppages, Wardlaw is a strong first possession winner who displays the strength to absorb opposition tackles, fend off opponents and burst out of stoppages. Wardlaw is an impressive distributor at stoppages who routinely finds targets on the outside by hand.

Defensively, Wardlaw is this draft's most impressive player with the pressure he applies, strength of his tackles and effort and desperation he plays with setting him apart.

In the AFL Academy vs. Collingwood game, Wardlaw secured a team-high 15 contested possessions to go with eight tackles in a game where he was the team's standout performer in the second half. Wardlaw has missed Vic Metro's first three Under-18 Championships matches due to a hamstring injury.

July Ranking: 5

5. Elijah Tsatas (Victoria Metro - Oakleigh Chargers)

With an established reputation for the ease with which he breaks the lines with his run, evades opponents on the move and precisely places his kicks out in front of targets to lead onto, Tsatas is one of this draft's most exciting players, especially offensively. Tsatas has elevated his game this year to become one of the NAB League's most prolific ball winners and accumulators.

Tsatas amassed a ridiculous 36 disposals and 18 contested possessions and 42 disposals and 15 contested possessions in rounds two and three of the NAB League season. With the damage Tsatas does with ball in hand and with his ball winning capabilities, he is one of this year's premier midfielders.

Due to a foot injury Tsatas has missed Vic Metro's first three Under-18 Championships matches.

July Ranking: 6

6. Aaron Cadman (Victoria Country - Greater Western Victoria Rebels)

Establishing himself as the premier key forward in the junior ranks during the Under-18 Championships, Aaron Cadman separates himself from the pack with the variety of ways he impacts games and takes advantage of rival key defenders.

Cadman is a strong contested mark, creates separation on the lead, is dangerous at ground level and wins the ball when it is there to be won, works hard up the field to provide an option, hits the scoreboard to a high level and sets up teammates inside 50.

A strong bodied key forward, Cadman kicked seven goals, seven behinds and took five contested marks across his three Under-18 Championships games so far. Cadman's confidence has only continued to grow since his most recent champs match with back-to-back best afield performances for Greater Western Victoria including 24 disposals, 18 contested possessions, seven inside 50s, five goals and three score assists against the Jets and 23 disposals, 15 contested possessions, six marks (two contested), six tackles, two goals and five behinds against Eastern on Saturday.

July Ranking: Outside-20

7. Jedd Busslinger (Western Australia - East Perth)

The leading key defender in this year's draft crop, Busslinger is an elite intercept mark with his early read of the ball in flight, attack on the ball aerially and how he plucks the ball out of the air. With ball in hand, Busslinger is a composed and reliable ball user while defensively he is competitive and able to curb the influence of his direct opponent. With averages of 23.8 disposals and eight marks in the WAFL Colts this year and 22 disposals and seven marks in his two Under-18 Championships games before deciding to undergo season ending shoulder surgery, the 197cm key defender is considered a likely top-10 choice.

July Ranking: 9

8. Bailey Humphrey (Victoria Country - Gippsland Power)

A possible draft bolter, Bailey Humprey after missing Vic Country's first three Under-18 Championships matches due to knee surgery went BANG on return for Gippsland with 31 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 12 marks (four contested) four goals, five behinds and two score assists.

Humprey is not a one game wonder with 20 disposals, seven inside 50s, four goals and two score assists for Gippsland against Sydney's Under-18s and 23 disposals, 14 contested possessions, eight clearances and three goals against Murray further supporting this ranking.

The appeal with Humphrey is his capacity to impact games forward or centre and through the midfield as one of this year's dual position impact players. As a forward, Humphrey is a contested marking force and is exceptionally strong over the ball when it hits the ground, while through the midfield he is a powerful contested ball winner who uses his strength to advantage at stoppages to break tackles at will. Humphrey's position of No. 8 on this draft board is likely to be unique at this stage though may not be for long if he continues adding to his resume with further eye-catching performances.

July Ranking: Outside-20

9. Henry Hustwaite (Victoria Country - Dandenong Stingrays)

A 194cm tall utility, the younger brother of Collingwood VFL co-captain Campbell, Henry has found his home in recent weeks through the midfield as a big bodied contested ball winner. Hustwaite through the midfield looms not only as a strong ball winner but a reliable inside distributor who demonstrates composure in traffic.

In a breakout performance for Vic Country in their win against the Allies, Hustwaite amassed 29 disposals and team highs of 13 contested possessions and six clearances. For Dandenong in their most recent game against Eastern, Hustwaite amassed 29 disposals, 17 contested possessions, nine clearances and two score assists.

One of this year's premier contested ball winners through the midfield, Hustwaite's upside is substantial as a rapid improver who is benefitting from a late growth spurt. While Hustwaite is unlikely to be ranked inside many top-10s at this stage, that may change if he continues to win the contested ball at a near best in draft rate.

July Ranking: 20

10. Elijah Hewett (Western Australia - Swan Districts)

Hewett is a strong ball winning midfielder who displays power when exiting stoppages and is often damaging when he secures the ball forward of centre.

With good speed, agility and evasion, Hewett mixes this with damaging skills by foot whether he is locating and hitting inside 50 targets or finishing around goal himself. He has also shown that he can be an aerial threat, taking some high-flying marks this season. A big game player who routinely stars on the big stage, Hewett in 2021 was arguably Swan Districts' most influential in their WAFL Colts premiership triumph against Claremont and best afield the following week for Western Australia against South Australia.

His best performance this year came during the Under-18 Championships for Western Australia against favourite Vic Metro, with game highs of 29 disposals, 11 inside 50s, five score assists, a team high five clearances and an equal team high of two goals. Hewett's drop can be attributed to what other than his performance against Victoria Metro has been below expectation play for Western Australia across their final three champs matches.

His work by foot was below his usual standard, his impact per possession was much lower than what he can produce on a good day and little of the ball he found was in dangerous positions.

July Ranking: 4

11. Jhye Clark (Victoria Country - Geelong Falcons)

A strong ball winning midfielder, Clark is one of the most complete midfielders in this draft. The 180cm Clark plays taller than his height suggests and is not only adept at winning the contested ball but is also a strong overhead mark.

Clark plays a courageous game, routinely puts his body on the line and never takes a backwards step when the ball is there to be won. He displays a promising inside/outside midfield balance with the ball winning and tackling on the inside, but then the composure, neat and tidy skills, high work rate and outside run.

He can also push forward and provide an effective option forward of centre overhead and at ground level. Clark played his best football during the Under-18 Championships with averages of 24.7 disposals, nine marks and two score assists across his three matches so far, with the strength of his champs play the catalyst behind his rise.

July Ranking: 12

12. Cameron Mackenzie (Victoria Metro - Sandringham Dragons)

A St Kilda Next-Generation Academy midfielder, the Saints will not have first access to Mackenzie if a bid comes inside the top-40. One of the most complete, balanced and damaging midfielders in this draft, Mackenzie has been the beneficiary of the absence of projected top-5 draft choices George Wardlaw and Elijah Tsatas from Victoria Metro in their first three Under-18 Championships matches. Mackenzie's first two games were his best, amassing 28 disposals, 13 contested possessions, six inside 50s and two score assists against the Allies and 28 disposals, five clearances and one goal the next week against Western Australia. A balanced and well-rounded midfielder, while Mackenzie is a strong ball winner, he has spent much of his year on the receiving end at stoppages of Ashcroft's distribution by hand. Mackenzie displays quickness and evasion, often receiving on the move at speed. With time and space, Mackenzie is one of the most damaging by foot of this year's top end midfielders, with his kick placement out in front of targets one of his greatest weapons.

July Ranking: 7

13. Lewis Hayes (Victoria Metro - Eastern Ranges)

The younger brother of Port Adelaide's Sam, Lewis is a key defender who involves himself regularly as a rebounding defender and demonstrates neat and tidy skills for someone his height. Standing at 197cm, Hayes is an excellent intercept mark and very mobile but will be looking to add weight to his still slender frame to improve his one-on-one craft.

Given his uncommon capabilities for someone his height and age, demonstrating a rapid rate of improvement and having a December birthday, Hayes possesses considerable upside. His progress so far this season has been promising with his involvement as an intercepter, rebounder and in general play improving by the week.

Hayes has averaged 24 disposals, seven marks and 6.5 rebound 50s across his past four NAB League games and 18.5 disposals 5.5 marks and 6.5 rebound 50s for Vic Metro over their past two Under-18 Championships matches. Hayes at this stage is not viewed as a consensus first round pick with his placement at 13 currently unique to this draft board.

July Ranking: 11

14. Casey Voss (South Australia - Sturt)

The son of Michael, Casey Voss in 2021 earned a position in the SANFL Team of the Year, won Sturt's best and fairest, and this year won the Fos Williams Medal for best-on-ground in the annual SANFL vs. WAFL match. Still just a 21-year-old, Voss has arguably developed into the premier general defender outside the AFL and has impressed with averages of 23.6 disposals and 9.2 marks in the SANFL.

Voss also secured 29 disposals and 15 marks in this year's state game agains the WAFL. A consistent year on year improver, Voss possesses a ready-to-go and well-rounded game with how he intercepts behind the ball, generates drive by foot and restricts the influence of his direct opponent. Voss displays a combination of competitiveness and smarts in defence seen in only the very best by position. Voss' top-20 position on this draft board is based on the view that he is an any-AFL club best-22 calibre piece, with the decision of AFL clubs to pass on Voss last year and again during the mid-season draft no deterrent to this ranking.

July Ranking: 16

15. Kobe Ryan (South Australia - West Adelaide)

One of 2022's most advanced midfielders, Ryan is a strong contested ball winner who does his best work at stoppages. Ryan is one of this year's premier first possession winners, displays clean, quick hands at stoppages, neat and tidy skills, is a lively tackler, demonstrates a high work rate and possesses good speed and agility.

After a strong start to the season, Ryan has transitioned to SANFL League level seamlessly and has averaged 18 disposals and 0.5 goals across his four games. During the Under-18 Championships, Ryan averaged 22 disposals and a potent 10.3 contested possessions despite spending time stationed on a wing and across half-back.

Ryan's best game for South Australia was their last one, coming up against Western Australia, he was unleashed through the midfield as an on-baller and secured 24 disposals, 13 contested possessions, five clearances, one goal and three score assists in a comprehensive performance. The placement of Kobe Ryan at 15 is unique to this draft board with him at this stage not considered to be in the first-round mix.

July Ranking: 8

16. Mitch Szybkowski (Victoria Country - Dandenong Stingrays)

A strong ball winning midfielder, Szybkowski is one of this draft's premier inside distributors with his work by hand, vision in traffic setting up teammates and the ease with which he frees his arms when tackled to deliver a handball on time and on target.

Possessing good speed, Szybkowski spreads well from stoppages, covers a lot of ground, and displays good speed and agility. A balanced midfielder, the Vic Country talent while most influential at stoppages finds a good amount of ball on the outside and applies himself well defensively.

Szybkowski has been one of Vic Country's better midfielders over their three games with averages of 26.7 disposals, six marks and two score assists.

July Ranking: 13

17. Oliver Hollands (Victoria Country - Murray Bushrangers)

The younger brother of Gold Coast Sun Elijah, Oliver Hollands is one of the elite endurance athletes and two-way runners in this year's draft. A midfielder with a balanced inside/outside game, Hollands can push through the midfield and win his own ball, is a composed and classy user of the football by hand and foot, creates time and space for himself in traffic and covers substantial ground over the course of a game.

Putting forward a best afield display for Vic Country in their Under-18 Championships match against Western Australia, Hollands enjoyed his best game so far this year, amassing a game high 34 disposals, to go with 11 contested possessions and seven marks.

July Ranking: Outside-20

18. Adam D'Aloia (South Australia - Woodville-West-Torrens)

One of the most advanced and consistent ball winning midfielders of the 2022 draft class, Adam D'Aloia is a stoppage star who does his best work in close. A prolific first possession winner, tackler, and an excellent distributor by hand, D'Aloia plays a competitive two-way game. D'Aloia's game is no flash but all substance.

During the Under-18 Championships, D'Aloia was South Australia's most consistent and prolific stoppage midfielder and earned South Australia's MVP. He averaged 23.75 disposals, 13.75 contested possessions, 7.5 clearances and six tackles per game. D'Aloia has also been prolific in the SANFL with averages of 30.5 disposals, 8.1 clearances and 5.9 inside 50s in the Under-18s and 19.5 disposals, eight tackles and six clearances in the Reserves.

July Ranking: 14

19. Brayden George (Victoria Country - Murray Bushrangers)

A strong bodied, powerful forward, George plays a high impact per possession game. He wins a high portion of ball contested and does not need to find a lot of the football to provide heavy scoreboard impact, averaging 2.8 goals from 10.3 disposals in the NAB League. George is strong contested mark, wins one-on-one contests, causes problems aerially for opponents and is a one touch player who is just as dangerous overhead as he is at ground level.

With ball in hand, George is one of this draft's premier ball users. He displays composure with ball in hand, makes sound decisions and by foot is not only penetrating but also precisely places his kicks out in front of targets to lead onto. The next step for George will be showing that he can push up through the midfield and start finding more of the football because with his mix of attributes, he would be one of the first few picked if he found more of the football. Currently missing after undergoing knee surgery, George will be hoping to return to match play before the end of the season.

July Ranking: 15

20. Reuben Ginbey (Western Australia - East Perth)

After spending the beginning of the season in the WAFL against League opposition as a defender, Ginbey found his best position as a ball winning midfielder for Western Australia during the Under-18 Championships. Western Australia's most consistent and influential performer, Ginbey was awarded Western Australia's MVP during the Under-18 Championships. Around stoppages, Ginbey is a strong contested ball winner with a powerful build who distributes effectively by hand and displays power and acceleration away from stoppages and the strength to stand up through and break tackles.

Ginbey works hard around the ground and is at his best when there is a ground ball to be won. Averaging 20.75 disposals during the Under-18 Championships there was negligible separation between his best and worst game, with a low of 18 disposals across his four matches.

July Ranking: Outside-20