THE 2013 NAB AFL Draft is just over six weeks away and with last week's NAB AFL Draft Combine complete, the young prospects have done as much as they can to impress League recruiters and scouts.
Certainly, the group at the top is really starting to take some shape.
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AFL.com.au draft reporter Callum Twomey has ranked his best 20 draft hopefuls based on some extensive research and what he has seen this season.
Click here for Callum Twomey's draft analysis
A reminder – this form guide is not a phantom draft, and does not take into account where players will get picked, and which clubs like which players.
Quite simply, it is a ranking.
It is our third such ranking of the season and there has been some rises and falls, but one thing - or person - has remained a constant and that is Tom Boyd at No.1.
Listen to Callum discuss his top 20 in the Draft Countdown podcast with AFL.com.au reporter Mark Macgugan.
After a three-month layoff with his ankle injury, which led to a calf niggle, Boyd returned to footy in the TAC Cup Grand Final and kicked four goals. He didn't test at the combine but remains the best player of the draft as a tall, strong and powerful forward. Has carried the tag as the No.1 pick all year with little apparent trouble, and will be ready to join an AFL club.
The classy midfielder hit some form at the back end of the year at senior SANFL level for Norwood, but had a few quiet weeks in between. He played in the club's back-to-back premiership triumph on Sunday and gathered 15 disposals. For the first time Aish has dealt with a really hard tag, which has been a learning experience. Aish makes things look easy, is composed, and likes to run with the ball.
It wasn't an easy season for Billings, but he is still one of the best players of this year's draft. After managing a knee issue throughout the year he had a minor operation in August, which kept him out of action for the combine. Billings has played a lot of his footy across half-forward but will become a midfielder. What places him this high is his capacity to be a matchwinner: he needs only a moment to turn a game with a goal, clean pick-up or overhead mark.
On Monday, North Melbourne snapped up McDonald as a father-son selection, and will use pick eight in the draft to recruit him. He's definitely worth it. McDonald's VFL finals series for Werribee showcased his talent, with the long-kicking, game-breaking defender dominant. He averaged almost 25 disposals across the three games, and showed he was up to it at that level. Energetic, driven and competitive, McDonald is set to feature for North next year.
Kelly reminded everyone of his persistent attitude in the combine, when he strode towards the win in the three-kilometre time trial. As well as his endurance base, Kelly has added some burst speed to his game, evident when he ran fifth in the repeat sprints test. The 18-year-old is up there as the best pure midfielder in this year's crop and has done everything to prove himself as an early pick.
The mobile utility has had a foot injury that's sidelined him for about a month, something that occurred through overuse. That won't make any difference to his standing in this year's draft, given he has shown his ability over the last two years. Scharenberg has spent a majority of the year through half-back but also moved into the middle and occasionally in attack. He is quick, smart, and uses the ball well.
Lennon proved at the end of the season he can, and will, be a midfielder. Over a five-week stretch, he averaged 28 disposals a game for the Northern Knights and moved out of his more customary role across half-forward to start things in the middle. Lennon gives this draft some excitement. He marks strongly on the lead and is sharp by foot, but also knows his way around goal, pinpoints passes, and backs himself with the ball.
He has come from the clouds a little bit this year, but Kolodjashnij continues to firm as one of the best players available. After a strong under-18 championships for Tasmania, the creative half-back continued that form at local level. What makes Kolodjashnij so highly rated is the fact he is as much footballer as athlete: he baulks and weaves out of trouble but can also run quick and jump high, as seen in his combine testing.
Freeman is the bolter of this year's draft having quietly crept up on a few of his contemporaries and he has done it through being dynamic. The strong-bodied midfielder finished the year well with the Sandringham Dragons, is a reliable kick, and loves to win the ball at stoppages and then burst from them. Showed his running prowess at the combine when he was ranked quickest for the repeat sprints (23.62 seconds), second for the 20-metre sprint (2.82 seconds) and 10th for the beep test (level 14.10).
A serious foot injury won't harm Taylor's draft position, despite it ruling him out of the end of the TAC Cup season. The small and powerful midfielder sat out of Geelong Falcons' finals campaign, and is still in a moonboot after surgery last month on a cracked bone. Taylor's size might count against him in the eyes of some but he's an excellent player, and one with spark.
Salem can play just about anywhere, and does it all with a layer of class, or several for that matter. He is a strongly-built midfielder who has been used variously on the wing, through half-back and also close to goal. He kicks precisely and with depth on his left foot, and is also better overhead than just about all of the players his size.
The leaping forward hasn’t played since he broke his leg in the final game of the under-18 championships, but that hasn't really affected him as a top draft prospect. McCarthy is the second best tall available in the draft given his marking ability and goalkicking. The West Australian is tall and athletic and covers the ground well, making him sought-after.
Bontempelli has shot up to 194cm, is still yet to turn 18, and has the athletic prowess of few players in the draft pool. They are the main reasons that have pushed him up the order, coupled with the fact he finished the season strongly. Bontempelli likes to link things up through the middle of the ground, hold the ball in one hand and waltz down the wing. He can also play across half-forward or half-back.
Perhaps the best ball-winner in the draft, Crouch finds possessions more often than almost any player available, is quick with his hands, and a stoppage specialist. The left-footer, whose brother Brad made an immediate impact at AFL level with Adelaide this season, doesn't have a strong aerobic base, yet, but knows how to hunt the ball and make it his.
Underlined his elite endurance last week at the combine, when he ran an all-time record 16.6 in the beep test. Hartung set himself to break Bradley Hill's 16.1, set in 2011, and willed himself up and down the line. The Dandenong Stingray is small but has elite foot skills, a burst of speed, and clearly can run all day. He brings some zip to every game he plays, be it through the middle, close to goal or streaming from half-back.
Acres is the modern-draft prospect. He's tall, quick, agile, can jump, mark and kick, and play nearly any position on the ground. Problem is that he's barely played this season, after a shoulder injury ruined his year and forced him into surgery. In nine games at colts level for West Perth, Acres played as an inside midfielder and averaged 27 disposals.
Sheed could, and probably will, be drafted earlier than pick 17 come next month's draft. But given it's a year full of midfielders, each club and on-looker has slightly different opinions as to where to rank every player in the top bracket. Sheed's season ended with a high-quality performance in June when he broke his collarbone against Vic Country, having collected 29 disposals and kicked four goals. Kicks it long and attacks the contest.
Was close to best on ground for Norwood in its SANFL premiership win on Sunday, having collected 20 disposals across half-forward and through the midfield. Only at stages this year has Dumont been able to show his wares at full fitness, and when he does he looks a real first-round prospect. Hard, tough, and with a little bit of dash, Dumont could step easily into an AFL system.
Dunstan has been sidelined of late by a leg injury, a disappointing end to a solid year from the bullocking midfielder. The South Australian captained his side to its division one winning championship mid-year, and is a strong leader. Averaged 23 disposals for his state side, of which almost 40 per cent were contested.
Pushed back down the list a touch but remains one of the better defenders available this year. The 193cm prospect is competitive, resilient and aggressive, and is a fighter. As a key defender he wills himself to contest after contest, and throws himself at the ball.Twitter: @AFL_CalTwomey