ESPN's early first round phantom draft for 2022

Throughout 2022, ESPN.com.au AFL draft expert Chris Doerre has cast his eye over the country's best junior footballers to give readers an early insight into the next generation of AFL stars.

This is his early, first round phantom draft for 2022.

1. Brisbane - Will Ashcroft (F/S)
Will, the son of Brisbane great Marcus, has nominated the Lions as a father-son selection, and Brisbane will match any bid placed. Averaging 29.3 disposals, 7.3 tackles and five clearances for Brisbane in the VFL, Ashcroft is a Round 1 ready midfielder who requires no time to develop. Ashcroft stands out with the volume of his contested ball winning and the frequency he bursts 5-10 metres with power out of stoppages.

2. North Melbourne - George Wardlaw
Wardlaw is a contested beast who does his best work at stoppages. A powerful first possession winner, Wardlaw absorbs and fends off opposition tacklers with ease, is a reliable distributor by hand from stoppages and, defensively, displays an unmatched level of commitment and effort which sets him apart.

3. West Coast - Elijah Tsatas
One of the most prolific accumulators and contested ball winners in this draft, Tsatas is also one of the most damaging offensively. Damaging with ball in hand, Tsatas breaks the lines with his run, evades opponents on the move and precisely places kicks out in front of targets to lead onto.

4. GWS - Aaron Cadman
The premier key forward in this year's draft, Cadman has demonstrated rapid improvement and has separated 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 powerful over ground balls, dangerous close to goal and adept when pushing further afield.

5. Essendon - Harry Sheezel
One of this year's premier forwards, Sheezel demonstrates goal sense, sets up teammates inside 50m, takes contested marks and provides a ground level threat inside 50m. Also effective through the midfield, Sheezel wins first possession at stoppages, displays classy ball use and deceptive agility with his sudden changes of speed often catching opponents off-guard.

6. Adelaide - Jhye Clark
Playing taller than his height, Clark is not only adept winning the contested ball through the midfield, but is also a strong overhead mark who can push forward and provide a target. A complete midfielder, Clark displays a promising inside/outside midfield balance with the ball winning and tackling on the inside, composure, neat and tidy skills, high work rate and outside run.

7. Hawthorn - Cameron Mackenzie
A St Kilda Next-Generation Academy midfielder, the Saints will not have first access to Mackenzie as a bid will come well inside the top-40. A balanced and well-rounded midfielder, while Mackenzie is a strong contested ball winner, he is equally adept receiving the ball on the move at stoppages where he displays quickness, evasion and hurts the opposition by foot by placing his kicks out in front of his targets to lead onto.

8. Gold Coast - Bailey Humphrey
A draft bolter, Humprey after missing Victoria Country's first three Under-18 Championships matches due to knee surgery, has starred since returning and has established himself as one of this year's most damaging dual position impact players. Up forward, Humphrey is a contested marking force and strong over ground balls, while through the midfield he is a powerful contested ball winner with the strength to break tackles at will.

9. Port Adelaide - Mattaes Phillipou
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. Through the midfield, Phillipou is a first possession winner who bursts out of stoppages at speed and demonstrates class with ball in hand. As a forward, he provides a marking presence, hits the scoreboard at will and sets up teammates inside 50m with precise entry kicks.

10. St Kilda - Jedd Busslinger
The most advanced key defender in this draft, Busslinger is an elite intercept mark who reads the ball earlier in flight, attacks the ball aerially and 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.

11. Carlton - Oliver Hollands
The younger brother of Gold Coast's 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.

12. Western Bulldogs - Henry Hustwaite
The younger brother of Collingwood VFL co-captain Campbell, Henry is a 194cm stoppage specialist. Hustwaite is not only one of this year's premier contested ball winning midfielders but is a reliable inside distributor who demonstrates composure in traffic. Hustwaite is a rapid improver with substantial upside who has benefitted from a late growth spurt.

13. Richmond - Elijah Hewett
A big game performer, Hewett is a strong contested ball winning midfielder who displays power when exiting stoppages. Hewett possesses speed, agility, evasion and is an aerial marking threat. Damaging when he secures the ball forward of centre, At his best, Hewett places kicks out in front of targets inside 50m to lead onto and is a dangerous finisher around goal.

14. Fremantle - Reuben Ginbey
A tall, big-bodied, ball winning midfielder with power and acceleration away from stoppages, Ginbey won the Western Australian MVP during the Under-18 Championships. A consistent performer, Ginbey is a strong contested ball winner with a powerful build who distributes effectively by hand and possesses the strength to stand up through and break tackles.

15. Collingwood - Matthew Jefferson
An athletic, high-flying key forward, Jefferson is one of the premier readers of the ball in flight in this draft and is a marking force forward of centre. Providing heavy scoreboard impact during the Under-18 Championships, headlined by seven goals for Victoria Metro against Western Australia, Jefferson does not need to find much of the football to hit the scoreboard heavily.

16. Sydney - Olli Hotton
A dual position player who impacts games through the midfield and up forward, Hotton is a dangerous matchup across both positions. Through the midfield, Hotton wins first possession at stoppages and evades opponents with speed and agility. As a forward, Hotton is threatening aerially with his high leaping and strong marking, demonstrates a high work rate and crumbs well at ground level.

17. Sydney - Brayden George
A strong bodied, powerful forward, George plays a high impact per possession game. He hurts opponents by foot around the ground and does not need to find a lot of the ball to hit the scoreboard heavily. Proficient both overhead and at ground level, George is a marking threat one-on-one, aerially and on the lead while at ground level he is a one-touch player and a powerful contested ball winner.

18. Geelong - Isaac Keeler
A part of Adelaide's Next-Generation Academy, the Crows will not have first access to Keeler if a bid is placed on him inside the top-40. 2022's most freakish key forward, Keeler is also able to provide relieving minutes through the ruck. A high leaping, smooth moving athlete at 198cm, Keeler is dangerous around goal, can push high up the field and displays impressive one-touch cleanness at ground level.

With Melbourne trading away their first round selection, in the second round they may look to Jackson Broadbent - A mobile ruckman, Broadbent directs hit-outs to advantage, works hard around the ground, is clean at ground level and capable overhead. With a December birthday and a light build, Broadbent is a project player who will require time to develop physically.