We have a fair gauge on how well an AFL draft plays out once players reach the 100 game mark. So let’s revisit the 2010 draft (link) and redraft the first 20 picks based on careers thus far.
The East Fremantle product who was selected #45 in the draft has started 2016 in strong fashion and is on target to kick 50 goals this season. He has kicked 48 goals in his last 26 games, shedding some of the inconsistency that has plagued his career but not all of it; of his 20 goals this season, 14 have come in three games. While kicking goals is his main skill, he ranked fifth in the league in goal assists in 2015 and is in the discussion when debating the better mid-sized forwards in the league. He has found his niche in this Collingwood side and looks likely to become a permanent fixture; his goal sense is a huge advantage and something he will look to translate into consistency.
After three unsuccessful and dismal seasons at Brisbane, former #5 draft pick Polec returned home in 2014 where his form has reflected that of the Power. When they were nearly Grand Finalists in 2014, he averaged almost 20 possessions and four inside 50s per game as a running midfielder. His best four games this season have been in Power wins, and he has responded in a positive manner to being dropped earlier in the year. The Power gave up two draft picks to bring the highly-rated midfielder home, and would expect more consistency from a former #7 draft pick.
McDonald has developed into one of the more effective mid-sized defenders in the competition. Playing in the backline for 91 games in a largely deplorable team has had its benefits; McDonald has been exposed to a hectic learning environment and has handled it with aplomb. McDonald has ranked in the top 10 in one-percenters on three occasions, ranking second in this category in 2014. There are blue skies ahead of the Demons and the #53 draft pick gives them a consistent backman around which they can further build their defence.
Caddy was another first round draft pick (#7) who got homesick and returned home and is developing a very solid career for himself at Geelong. He has improved all key statistical categories in each season at Geelong and like many middle of the road players performs far better at home than he does away from the confines of Skilled Stadium. Not only has he averaged 21 possessions a game over the last two season, he has also ranked in the top 50 for tackles and like Guthrie is predicating his game on a combination of contested and uncontested possessions.
Taken as the #22 pick, this father-son selection has navigated a few issues throughout his early years but has established himself as a critical player at the high-flying Bulldogs, ranking in the top 20 in both handballs and clearances. He thrives at the contest, ranking 17th in the league in this category last season and 29th so far this season. Consistency is key for Wallis; he has failed to tally 20 or more possessions just three times in his 29 games since the beginning of 2015, and less than 10 contested possessions in just seven of those games. The Dogs are barking and Wallis is a huge reason for that happening, and figures to be a key part of their future success.
Overlooked at the draft table, Puopolo was snagged by the Hawks at #66 in the draft and he has developed into a key cog in the well-oiled Hawthorn machine. Statistics don’t do Puopolo justice, as his game is not predicated on huge numbers but rather pressure and intensity and he does both with aplomb. Near on half his possessions are contested and he has averaged a goal and a half since 2014. Some commentators rank him among the very best small forwards in the competition; that's a stretch, but he sits inside the top 15 of the 2010 redraft.
Smith began as a backman and has now become a key part of Adelaide's midfield depth. His game is based around run and carry, with a large majority of his possessions uncontested and that plays to his strengths. Smith is the only player in the AFL who ranks in the top 25 in both inside 50s and rebound 50s, having been in the top 10 for rebound 50s in both 2014 and 2015 as well. When you add an above average effective disposal rate, the result is a player who is already proving to be well worth a top 15 draft pick after being selected at pick #14.
Guthrie has taken a step onto the next level in 2016, becoming a key midfielder for a powerful Geelong side and becoming a highly effective player. After a slow start, he has gradually improved each year and wins ball at the contest while also having a solid uncontested game. Wearing the number 23, which matches where he was selected in the draft, he looks likely to continue a rich tradition of quality Geelong midfielders.
Day started his career as a forward but has become a backman in recent times, primarily to cover the absence of Steven May and Rory Thompson. The development of Peter Wright may enable the Suns to keep Day as a backman or for him to remain a player the side can move both back and forward. While big men take longer to develop the Suns would be looking for return on their investment in the #3 pick from the 2010 draft. He has not yet finished in the top 10 in the club best and fairest, a fact that he would be desperate to rectify.
On pure talent he is the first picked if this draft is re-done (and was second pick behind Swallow in the draft proper), but Bennell has never shown the dedication to his craft either in his preparation or his attitude. The Suns were happy to sell him for what amounted to pocket change, and Fremantle took a low-risk, high-reward gamble on the precocious young talent. 2016 is a write-off due to a mysterious calf injury, with whispers that it is allegedly something far more sinister. Speed, skill, strength; Bennell has it all. Whether or not he ever delivers on even half of his talent remains to be seen, and for now he goes down as one of the great wasted talents of this generation.
2016 has seen the promoted rookie struggle but it's easy to forget just how good he was in before he broke his leg. His debut season in 2010 saw him pass 30 disposals in 6 of 13 games as he ranked ninth in the AFL is disposal average. Despite being far from quick, his ability to find space and get ball on the outside has never been questioned. As the game has sped up it has left him behind and he may not play another game for Fremantle, but this mature-age recruit was one of the best value midfielders of recent draft times.
Another youngster ravaged by injury, Liberatore is on the road to recovery having lost the entire 2015 season after a knee reconstruction. He was the #41 pick in the 201 draft and was mounting a case for being the best young inside midfielder in the competition. He ranked 3rd and 7th (2013 and 2014) for contested possessions and 14th, 2nd and 1st in clearances from 2012-2014. Has started slowly in 2016 but ranks top 35 in contested possessions and that is likely to improve as he gets more game time under his belt.
Swallow was the #1 selection in this draft and his career arc was heading upwards before an injury-ravaged 2015. His total possessions averages, clearances averages and inside 50 averages all increased each year from 2012 to 2014 and he started 2015 in strong form. All things being equal and given a fair run with injury, he remains a worthy #1 pick but the injury impact cannot be underestimated. Swallow finished 7th twice in the Gold Coast club champion award in 2012 and 2013 before winning the award in 2014 and remains one of the most promising youngsters of recent times.
Smith was recruited at pick #19 as a mature-age player and has lived a charmed existence at Hawthorn. His outside run and leg speed is the perfect complement for the likes of Sam Mitchell and he ranks among the league leaders in inside 50s as a key link man who thrives on uncontested possessions. He is a three-time premiership player and starred in the 2015 flag win with 23 possessions and 3 goals and will take on an increased role at Hawthorn as players are managed and the list gets older.
Prestia has been a model of consistency, averaging more than 25 possessions since 2013 and ranking in the league's top 30 in contested possessions from 2013-2015. He ranked second in the AFL in clearances before injury in 2015 and has never returned to that pre-injury form. He has shown signs of returning to that form in early 2016, ranking high in possessions, inside 50s, tackles and contested possessions and figures to continue improving as he gets more games under his belt. His status as the #7 pick in the draft is reflected in his standing amongst this redrafted group.
Selected at pick 11, Lynch ranks among the league's best in contested marks and goals, having ranked in the top five for contested marks in every season from 2013 onwards (including ranking first in 2014) and being on target for 60 plus goals in 2016 having passed 40 goals in both 2014 and 2015. Statistically he compares very favourably to young Melbourne superstar Jesse Hogan, ranking slightly below him in most categories but still featuring among the league leaders in those that matter for key forwards.
Gaff has ranked in the top 10 for total disposals in the last two seasons and has led the league in uncontested possessions, gathering attention from opposition players but leading most on a merry dance with his elite stamina and uncanny ability to find the ball. He won the Eagles club champion award in 2015, beating the Brownlow medal runner-up and Coleman Medallist in the process. He has a limited contested game, but that is largely unnecessary as the former #4 pick carves a niche as the AFL's best outside runner.
Darling was overlooked by every club in the draft for perceived disciplinary reasons and it is the Eagles that have benefited from the misjudgement of the other clubs. Selected at #26 in the draft, Darling hasn’t missed a beat in his career, averaging almost two goals a game and finishing in the top five in the club champion three times already in his young career. Perhaps most impressively he still has plenty of room for improvement; unlike many of his teammates he doesn't struggle away from the confines of Domain Stadium but is yet to fully impose himself on the competition the way he should.
The Essendon midfielder was selected #8 in the draft and started his career as an outside player and he did that very well, tallying near career-high uncontested possession numbers in his first season. He has since become a top line inside-midfielder as well ranking in the top 40 in contested possessions from 2013-2015. His inside 50s statistics have gradually declined over this time, a by-product of becoming the #1 midfielder at Essendon. Time will tell how the 12 month break impacts him, but expect Heppell to step right back into being an A grade player and likely Essendon skipper in 2017.
Parker has established himself as a top tier player critical to the Swans' fortunes. He has ranked in the top 12 in the league for contested possessions, the top 35 for total possessions and the top 40 for clearances in each of the last three seasons. He has a high quality team around him which helps, but his finals performance outline what a fantastic player he already is. In 2014 when the Swans made the Grand Final he averaged 26 possessions (15 contested), 7 tackles and a goal a game while the Swans went out in straight sets without him last season. He was a worthy club champion in 2014 and would be selected at #1 if the 2010 national draft was redone, a far cry from when he was selected at pick 46!
So that's the redraft, but who missed the mark in the 2010 draft? The jury is out as these players are theoretically not at their peak yet but Reece Conca (pick 6), Daniel Gorringe (pick 10) and Billie Smedts (pick 14) need to lift their game while Lucas Cook, Seb Tape and Matthew Watson are first round selections who would fill their former clubs with a deep sense of regret.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!