Re-drafting the 2017 AFL Draft: Who makes the top 20?

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A draft stacked with star key position players, a strong crop of mature age talent and unusual depth of stars secured in the second round, the 2017 AFL Draft was one to remember. Here, we look back and re-rank the talent selected.

Original 2017 Draft order:

1. Brisbane - Cameron Rayner
2. Fremantle - Andrew Brayshaw
3. Carlton - Paddy Dow
4. North Melbourne - Luke Davies-Uniacke
5. Fremantle - Adam Cerra
6. Collingwood - Jaidyn Stephenson
7. St Kilda - Hunter Clark
8. St Kilda - Nick Coffield
9. Western Bulldogs - Aaron Naughton
10. Carlton - Lochie O'Brien
11. Greater Western Sydney - Aiden Bonar
12. Adelaide - Darcy Fogarty
13. West Coast - Jarrod Brander
14. Sydney - Matthew Ling
15. Brisbane - Zac Bailey
16. Western Bulldogs - Ed Richards
17. Richmond - Jack Higgins
18. Brisbane - Brandon Starcevich
19. Gold Coast - Wil Powell
20. Richmond - Callum Coleman-Jones

Re-drafting the 2017 AFL Draft:

1. Sam Taylor (pick 28 - Greater Western Sydney)
2. Aaron Naughton (pick 9 - Western Bulldogs)
3. Andrew Brayshaw (pick 2 - Fremantle)
4. Luke Davies-Uniacke (pick 4 - North Melbourne)
5. Cameron Rayner (pick 1 - Brisbane)
6. Zac Bailey (pick 15 - Brisbane)
7. Dylan Moore (pick 67 - Hawthorn)
8. Noah Balta (pick 25 - Richmond)
9. Oscar Allen (pick 21 - West Coast)
10. Darcy Fogarty (pick 12 - Adelaide)
11. Adam Cerra (pick 5 - Fremantle)
12. Bayley Fritsch (pick 31 - Melbourne)
13. Liam Ryan (pick 26 - West Coast)
14. Tim Kelly (pick 24 - Geelong)
15. Charlie Ballard (pick 42 - Gold Coast)
16. Harrison Petty (pick 37 - Melbourne)
17. Liam Baker (rookie draft - pick 18 - Richmond)
18. Brandon Starcevich (pick 18 - Brisbane)
19. Brody Mihocek (rookie draft - pick 22 - Collingwood)
20. Ed Richards (pick 16 - Western Bulldogs)

How the re-done top 20 was selected?

The re-done top 20 is not strictly selected based on performance to date, as players develop at different rates and there are several late bloomers emerging with the scope to surpass some of the more immediate performers. It also needs to be considered that with several mature-age prospects among the best performed, that they're unlikely to enjoy as long of a career span and need to be ranked accordingly.

In the future, there are sure to be others from the 2017 draft who emerge, pushing past some of the currently more established players, while others may endure major injuries which could slow the momentum of their careers and see them drop. This re-draft has been done with the information available to us at this time.

Observations of the top 20 re-draft:

  • Eight key position players inside the top 17 and four inside the top seven.

  • Five state-leaguers make the top 20.

  • Both players originally selected in the rookie draft were selected out of the state leagues as mature age selections.

  • Eight players selected in the 21-45 range appear in the list.

The best story from the 2017 Draft:

In 2020, Dylan Moore was delisted by Hawthorn and re-drafted by the Hawks in the rookie draft. In 2021, Moore broke out and, over the past two years, become one of the best players of the 2017 draft crop.

What were the major dilemmas and how was the order decided?

It can be simple to rank players of similar positions, where the challenge lies is in the ranking players of different positional types as their contributions are not directly comparable.

Thee top four -- Sam Taylor, Aaron Naughton, Andrew Brayshaw and Luke Davies-Uniacke -- are each among the competition's elite by position, but all pl;ay extremely different roles. For this re-draft, it was decided that with Taylor establishing himself as the competition's premier young key defender, he would be the top-rated talent. Naughton was favoured over Brayshaw and Davies-Uniacke mostly due to positional scarcity and unusually immediate career impact by position. Brayshaw edges Davies-Uniacke for greater early career success, and to date, a more sustained period of high performance.

After the top four, the talent tiers become much less obvious. Cam Rayner, Zac Bailey and Dylan Moore were the first three from this group. The capacity for Rayner, Bailey and Moore to impact the scoreboard and push up through the midfield separated them from the rest of the field. Rayner's extra size and future midfield scope gave him the slight edge when projecting long term, while Bailey's volume of scoreboard impact and swifter career success sees him rank just ahead of Moore.

Noah Balta, Oscar Allen and Darcy Fogarty were difficult to rank, as all have plenty of scope to improve. The trio possess very high ceilings, and if things go right, could be among the best in the draft. Balta places ahead of Allen due to the questions around Allen's foot, which saw him miss the 2022 season, while Fogarty rates behind the pair due to the patchier football he has played so far in his young career.

Adam Cerra, as a good midfielder with good skills and versatility, fits in just ahead of mature agers Bayley Fritsch, Liam Ryan and Tim Kelly. Fritsch and Ryan are ranked just ahead of Kelly due to Kelly's drop off since joining West Coast, as well as the fact he's the older of the three mature agers. Fritsch edges Ryan due to his greater scoreboard impact over his past two seasons and projected greater scoreboard impact over coming years.

There is then a solid 14-19 range with Charlie Ballard, Harrison Petty, Liam Baker, Brandon Starcevich and Brody Mihocek. Ballard and Petty are both very strong key defenders, but look unlikely to join the competition's absolute elite. They rate slightly favourably to Baker and Starcevich, due to relatively greater positional scarcity. Ballard's superior intercepting capabilities, and more immediate career success, place him just ahead of Petty. Baker and Starcevich rate ahead of Mihocek, despite Mihocek being to date the best performed in this ranking range. Mihocek is the oldest of this group, five years older than Baker and six older than Ballard, Petty and Starcevich, something which impacted his ranking. Baker slightly edges Starcevich, due to his more immediate career impact and the greater number of positions and roles he can influence winning in.

Ed Richards was lucky to earn the 20th spot in the rankings, and did so on the back of his strong close to 2022. The hope with Richards is that his late year performance is sustainable. Hunter Clark and James Worpel were the two players, aside from Richards, who were seriously considered for the final spot. If Clark can have a healthy run with injury, over time he has the scope to rocket into the top 20 and could even push as high as the top 10. Worpel, on immediate performance as a best-and-fairest winner in his second season, also has a strong case. He missed out on making the re-draft due to his more recent football not being as strong as his more highly-rated peers.

Who was unlucky to miss out?

Hunter Clark (pick 7 - St Kilda)
James Worpel (pick 45 - Hawthorn)
Wil Powell (pick 19 - Gold Coast)
Changkuoth Jiath (category B rookie - Hawthorn)
Nathan Murphy (pick 39 - Collingwood)
Tom McCartin (pick 33 - Sydney)
Jack Higgins (pick 17 - Richmond)
Gryan Miers (pick 57 - Geelong)
Nick Coffield (pick 8 - St Kilda)
Jaidyn Stephenson (pick 6 - Collingwood)
Sam Switkowski (pick 73 - Fremantle)

There is also the case a ruck -- Lloyd Meek, Tom De Koning, Tristian Xerri, Callum Coleman-Jones or Sam Hayes -- could earn their way into the top 20 in a few years' time, given players in this position tend to come into their own in their mid-20s. However, at this time, it's far too speculative, but if one makes it, Lloyd Meek, following his trade to Hawthorn, appears the most likely based on his dominant year in the WAFL.