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Phantom draft form guide: August update

Callum Twomey  August 15, 2014 6:56 AM

AFL 2014 Portraits - Under 18 State Teams

Isaac Heeney's dominant season sees him move to No.4 in our phantom draft form guide

THIS year's NAB AFL Draft is widely considered the most even and open in years.

It's a view that was represented when piecing together the second phantom form guide of 2014, where we rank the best 20 players available.

Read Callum Twomey's first phantom draft form guide from July

There were more than 10 players in consideration for the last couple of spots, and any of them could still easily be first-round draft selections.

Given the evenness, and with many still to play finals, some strong performances in the final month of the year could see some significant changes in rankings.

No draftee is perfect and each has deficiencies.

We are combining how impressive they are now and how they might progress in the future. 

Remember, this is not a mock draft, and does not take into account clubs' ladder positions or needs.

Listen to our Road to The Draft podcast

Here is the list as it stands for mid-August.

Petracca has had a dominant year from the start, playing well in most games, and dominating many. His weight of performances sees him move to No.1. The midfielder has traits like no other in the draft. He's powerful, quick and explosive, and likes the rough stuff as much as the flashy, which he's particularly good at near goal. Petracca has shown across the year he is ready for the next level, and in his first TAC Cup game after the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships kicked five goals from 32 disposals and 10 marks.

A few small injuries this year – some foot soreness, then a finger fracture and then a quad strain – has interrupted McCartin's season. But he returns to the TAC Cup this weekend with the Geelong Falcons and will finish the year there. McCartin is the best key forward in the draft. He's a pack-splitting contested marker who runs through anyone in the way. Big, strong and physical, he amasses plenty of shots at goal and has good speed off the mark. Right in the frame as the first pick.

Wright sees himself as a forward who can play in the ruck, but some recruiters think the opposite. Certainly his best game of the championships for Vic Metro came when he started in the ruck and played there through the day against South Australia, but he has also kicked 26 goals for the Calder Cannons in nine games this year. A very good kick at goal over any distance.

Everybody has heard about Heeney, and with good reason. If not tied to the Sydney Swans via their academy, he would be a top-five pick, such are his AFL traits. Heeney is a competitive, hard-at-the-ball midfielder. He also wins plenty of it, having averaged 27 disposals in four TAC Cup games for the NSW-ACT Rams. In tight spaces there are few better than Heeney and in the air he flies for the ball with gusto, being a strong mark over his head for a midfielder.

Isaac Heeney shares a winning moment with his NSW/ACT teammates. Picture: AFL Media

Elevated himself to the top rung of the draft at the start of the season and has stayed there all the way through. You know what you get from Brayshaw. He's head first at the stoppages, and can get out of them with no trouble. In close he has quick hands, and in space he can deliver on both feet with precision. He is also prolific, averaging 24 disposals through the TAC Cup season. Strong-bodied, tough and should go top-five in November.

Moore made his VFL debut for Collingwood last weekend and will likely cost the Pies their first-round selection under the father-son rule (which is, of course, subject to possible change from the AFL). Moore is an interesting one to judge because at his size and shape there are few who can move as well as him, and play at both ends of the ground. But he's had an up-and-down year, and seems to play his best footy positioned in defence.

The lightning quick West Australian made his senior WAFL debut two weeks ago, and last weekend kicked the match-winning goal for South Fremantle. When up and going, Pickett is a player you'd pay to watch. He has the speed (he ran a 2.8 second 20-metre sprint in January) to cut through the lines, and the skill to deliver. He's in this spot because of his elite talent. With some more consistency he could be anything.

Durdin played his first senior game for SANFL club West Adelaide last week, doing quite well with 10 disposals and three marks. The key position player hasn't probably had the year he would have hoped for, but being moved around different positions wouldn't have helped. He has spent time in attack and the ruck, but looks most comfortable at centre-half back. Durdin's a mobile, athletic player who uses the ball well.

One of the most exciting prospects available. Laverde played a little bit of everywhere throughout the U18 championships but is a creative option all over the ground. Quick, tall and athletic, he enjoys having the ball in his hands and can produce some moments of pace or skill that make you take notice.

Jayden Laverde has been putting on a turn of speed for the Western Jets this year. Picture: AFL Media

Ahern could be selected in the first handful at the draft, and he has plenty of fans amongst the clubs. There's an  reason for that, because he has something that sets him apart - speed. Ahern is quick, and it gets him out of trouble and allows him to set up the play. The gap between his best and worst needs to shrink, but with his class around goal and the midfield, and ability to carry the ball, he can open a game up.

De Goey is a midfielder with smarts. He can win the ball and use it well, and always seems to be in the right position at the right time. He doesn't get huge numbers of possessions but uses them well and can play a number of positions, including as a midfielder, half-back and half-forward. Most clubs see De Goey as a first-round prospect and deservedly so. Great kick, and has a natural feel for the game.

Perhaps the toughest player to rank this year given he hasn't played all season and is recovering from a knee reconstruction. Could still be a top-10 pick given his impressive character and form last year as a bottom-ager, but may also get to the teens. The tall defender, who has grown to 194cm, took on a coaching role during the national carnival and has attacked his rehabilitation with vigour. On track to test at October's NAB AFL Draft Combine.

At times you need to look closely to see where Ellis' talent lies. He isn't going to be a player whose stats jump off the page. Instead it will be the other things – how he uses his hands in traffic, how he takes a second to steady himself before making the next move, and how he quickly works out what to do with the ball – that show Ellis' quality. A left-footer who can be used across half-back or the midfield.

Paul Ahern (left) and Corey Ellis (right) showed plenty of potential in the U18s this year. Picture: AFL Media

By all rights, Lamb has the potential to be more than 10 spots higher than this, and with a good finals series he might end up there. He has plenty of attributes which would put him in top-five contention – he can run all day and run quickly, he's tall enough to play in a key position, agile enough to be used as a midfielder and with the ability to turn a game. It probably doesn't all come together as often as it should, but he has been good recently across half-back, and every time he gets the ball you expect him to use it well.

Weller brings some class to the draft, and you know when he has the ball he's going to do something good with it. A minor knee problem has restricted him a little bit since the U18 championships, but he still remains one of the premium midfielders available. Weller's kicking is at an elite level, he has a turn of pace and enjoys moving forward and hitting the scoreboard.

Back injuries have curtailed some of Marchbank's development in previous years, but he has shown exciting signs through the year. The mobile key position prospect is at his best as a defender but can be used in attack as well, where his marking on the lead is a trait. A knee injury has kept him out in recent weeks.

Caleb Marchbank looks to be over the back injury that slowed him last season. Picture: AFL Media

Goddard has been moved around a lot in the past two years playing for his school and representative sides which probably hasn't helped him settle into one role. He seems most comfortable in defence, where he can use his height and athleticism to shut down opponents. Works hard and is competes when the ball's on the ground or in the air.

Duggan has had a really good year and continues to develop his game. He started the season playing mainly as a half-back or on the wing but has also proved he can be used as an inside midfielder. Uses the ball with poise on his left side and does things with a minimum of fuss. Won the AIS-AFL Academy's Ben Mitchell Medal, awarded to the player who best represents the values of the program.

A midfielder who barges through contests, Blakely has spent all of his season in Western Australia playing senior WAFL footy. And he's done well, averaging 17 disposals a game for Swan Districts. Offers something a little bit different with his height through the midfield and was named an under-18 All Australian player. Some see him nudging the first 15 on draft night.

Smith might end up getting picked somewhere later in the second round but he has some talent. Hasn't taken huge steps forward this season after a terrific year as a bottom-ager in 2013, but remains a strong-bodied rebounding defender who makes an impact on the ball and on those players around it.

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