AFL Draft 2023 Power Rankings: 'The Wizard' shoots up the list

The cream of the crop is starting to rise in 2023, with another AFL Academy appearance under the belt and State team trial matches cementing National Championship teams.

After a later start the WAFL has kicked off, and a full complement of prospects have been able to showcase their talent to AFL recruiters. Especially impressive was the AFL Academy's ability to take it right up to the Port Adelaide SANFL side in Mount Barker.

These are ESPN's AFL Draft power rankings for May.

1. Harley Reid (last month: 1)
Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country
MID, 185cm, 82kg
Talent League: 3 games, 22 disposals, 1.7 goals

Whether it's the Talent League, AFL Academy or VFL, Harley continues to impress. The consensus number one pick collected 13 touches in his Carlton VFL debut against the Dogs, winning the first centre clearance of the day and looking the part in his time on field. Reid is one of the most aggressive players in the draft, fending off would-be tacklers and taking ground whenever he can.

2. Ashton Moir (2)
Glenelg/South Australia
FWD, 186cm, 78kg
SANFL u18s: 2 games, 12.5 disposals, 3 goals

Moir is uniquely ambidextrous off both feet and boasts elite evasiveness, routinely making defenders look silly. In his two SANFL appearances he's looked a class above, but struggled to make an impact for the AFL Academy where wet conditions and bigger bodies proved a tough task for his side.

3. Nick Watson (8)
Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
FWD, 170cm, 66kg
Talent League: 3 games, 26 disposals, 2.7 goals

The 'Wizard' Watson has begun 2023 in as good a form as any draft prospect. Graduating into a full-time midfield role with Eastern, he's exploded with 26 touches and nearly three goals per game, showcasing a contested side of his game that hadn't been unearthed. Watson is freakish around goals, and his height makes him extremely difficult to tackle.

4. Zane Duursma (3)
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
FWD/MID, 189cm, 79kg
Talent League: 2 games, 20 disposals, 1 goal

Another forward-half midfielder that hits the scoreboard and can collect a stack of the ball, Duursma has recruiters keen with his athletic profile and goal nous. He does his best work as a forward where he regularly hits the scoreboard, but if he can impact games in the same fashion as a midfielder this year he'll be undeniable as a top-three selection.

5. Jed Walter (5)
SUNS Academy/Allies
FWD, 195cm, 94kg
Talent League: 3 games, 18 disposals, 4 goals

Walter kicked eight goals on the weekend to solidify his claims as the best key forward in the draft. He's fast in straight lines and hits the ball full-chested, plus chases and tackles without the ball. Walter is an old-fashioned full forward in the sense that he takes a lot of marks on the lead, and makes the most of his set shot opportunities.

6. Daniel Curtin (4)
Claremont, Western Australia
DEF, 195cm, 93kg
WAFL Colts: 2 games, 11 disposals, 1.5 goals

Curtin made his name as a defender in the AFL Future's Grand Final curtain-raiser last year, but has started his year with Claremont up forward. He does his work early in one-on-ones to manoeuvre his opponent away from the drop zone, and he has the confidence to fly for his marks at either end of the ground.

7. Nate Caddy (7)
Northern Knights/Vic Metro
FWD/MID, 191cm, 83kg
Talent League: 2 games, 12.5 disposals, 2.5 goals

Caddy is set to be Metro's forward focal point with his aerial presence. He attracts a crowd of players when he leads because of his contested marking ability, but he also butters up at ground level and uses his frame to win contested ground-balls. He's a unique tall that could explode at the next level with his multidimensional skill-set.

8. Colby McKercher (9)
Tasmanian Devils/Allies
MID, 181cm, 76kg
Talent League: 4 games, 31 disposals, 0.75 goals

The leading Tasmanian prospect in the draft, McKercher is a silky midfielder and one that forwards love with ball in hand. He hits targets by hand and foot and explodes out of contest with a quick first few steps, helping him collect a stack of uncontested footy.

9. Archer Reid (6)
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
FWD, 203cm, 93kg
Talent League: 1 game, 17 disposals, 3 goals

With a huge wingspan and great endurance for his size, Reid is a defender's nightmare because he can beat you in a variety of ways. He's a neat set shot and has really developed his forward craft over the past 12 months.

10. Will Patton (13)
West Adelaide/South Australia
DEF, 191cm, 74kg
SANFL u18s: 4 games, 25 disposals, 5.5 marks

Patton appeals to clubs as one of the draft's best leaders to go with his ability as an intercept defender. He's courageous in the air and uses it neatly out of the backline. Patton was one of the AFL Academy's best against Port Adelaide.

11. Nathan Philactides (14)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
DEF, 181cm, 78kg
Talent League: 2 games, 15 disposals, 2 tackles

Providing the scintillating speed at the top of this draft is Philactides, who doesn't collect the ball in spades but always makes the most of his possessions. He sets himself up at the edge of packs and bursts forward, taking ground with his legs before delivering inside 50.

12. Mitchell Edwards (11)
Peel Thunder/Western Australia
RUCK, 207cm, 90kg
WAFL Colts: 3 games, 13 disposals, 31 hit-outs

The leading ruckman of the draft, Edwards got first crack in the AFL Academy side but lost out the battle to Sam Hayes. He's developed his craft over the past 12 months but the challenge for Edwards will be to cement his standing as the best ruckman during the National Championships.

13. Koltyn Tholstrup (10)
Subiaco/Western Australia
FWD/MID, 188cm, 80kg
WAFL League: 3 games, 12 disposals, 4 tackles

Sporting a curly mullet and cult figure name, Tholstrup is one of few draft prospects to begin his campaign at League level. He's well and truly held his own in the WAFL, kicking two goals across his three games and applying good pressure as a forward.

14. Connor O'Sullivan (new entry)
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country
DEF/FWD, 198cm, 86kg
Talent League: 3 games, 18 disposals, 7.7 marks

O'Sullivan has announced himself as one of the best talls in the draft at either end. He reads the ball well and is a willing user out of the backline, as well as kicking goals for the Bushrangers at the other end.

15. Ryley Sanders (15)
Sandringham Dragons/Allies
MID, 186cm, 85kg
Talent League: 3 games, 32 disposals, 1 goal

Sanders accumulates the footy as well as anyone, winning contested footy and dishing to outside runners with regularity. As an inside midfielder he is elite with his tackling and pressure to go with his ball-winning ability.

16. Will Lorenz (12)
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
MID, 186cm, 70kg
Talent League: 2 games, 20 disposals, 1 goal

A classy midfielder that has an abundance of poise in the contest, Lorenz will lead Vic Metro's midfield brigade this year. He's had a quiet start to the season by his standards, but is still showcasing a lethal left boot and ability around goal.

17. Luamon Lual (18)
GWV Rebels/Vic Country
DEF, 181cm, 70kg
Talent League: 4 games, 18 disposals, 3.3 tackles

Lual's ceiling is sky-high and he continues to turn in impressive performances for the Rebels off half-back. His defensive mentality is one of the best in the draft class, and he loves to rebound off half-back and deliver the ball inside 50.

18. Kane McAuliffe (19)
North Adelaide/South Australia
MID, 187cm, 90kg
SANFL u18s: 5 games, 26 disposals, 5.8 tackles

McAuliffe continues to appeal with his contested ability, using his big frame to dominate ground-ball gets and feed outside runners. He's been able to get forward and hit the scoreboard and he provides more positional versatility than your typical inside midfielder.

19. Darcy Wilson (new entry)
Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country
MID, 184cm, 66kg
Talent League: 3 games, 22 disposals, 2.3 goals

An outside midfielder with a bag of tricks and craft, Wilson has rocketed into first round calculations with his start to the season. He's kicking multiple goals each game for the Bushrangers and was one of AFL Academy's best two weeks ago, where he dominated his wing in a scrappy, wet game.

20. Cooper Simpson (new entry)
Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country
MID, 182cm, 74kg
Talent League: 2 games, 24 disposals, 1 goal

Simpson has class and speed to burn, able to collect the ball at full pace and dish to outside runners. He helped the Stingrays to a Grand Final appearance last year as a bottom-ager and has been one of their best performers to start 2023.