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AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - West Coast v Essendon

The Dons rated Mark Baguley highly enough to hand him a leadership role

Adelaide

JOSH JENKINS
Season so far: He's shaping as one of the League's most improved in 2016. Big and powerful, Jenkins has taken yet another stride in the right developmental direction.
Why you probably don't rate him: As a late convert to football, Jenkins has taken a little longer to develop into the player his 199cm, 110kg frame suggests he can be. He's always had his moments but hasn't consistently impacted games across a season.
Why you should: His confidence in his own game has never been higher. He booted nine goals in the first two outings this year. Although he was held to a single major against Richmond, he still contributed with two goal assists and five marks. - Harry Thring 

Brisbane

DAN McSTAY
Season so far: Was monstered by Josh Kennedy in the opening round under an avalanche of inside 50s, but bounced back well in the past fortnight. Was swung forward against the Cats and kicked a goal.
Why you probably don't rate him: Most key position prospects take time to develop and McStay is no different. He's shown glimpses in his 32 games, but the 20-year-old hasn't done it consistently enough to grab headlines.
Why you should: He'll ultimately settle in defence, but McStay has already carried the attacking load last season and shown he can play both ends of the ground. He has excellent speed, is strong overhead, uses the ball well and will round out into an excellent key position package. - Michael Whiting 

Carlton

ED CURNOW
Season so far: 
Kept a tight rein on Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin in round one andhas won plenty of the ball in the past two games. He is second in tackles and third in disposals and clearances at Carlton.
Why you probably don't rate him: He has been regarded as a purely negative player. While showing some improvement this year, his disposal is not elite and he does not have a big impact on the scoreboard.
Why you should: Curnow is a consistent performer each week. He wins the ball in tight and is trying to become more than just a run-with player, using his elite running power in a more attacking way. - Howard Kotton 

Ed Curnow's consistency is a huge asset to the developing Blues. Picture: AFL Media

Collingwood

BRODIE GRUNDY
Season so far: Overlooked for selection in the season-opener, he kicked the match-winning goal at the death against Richmond before being shaded by St Kilda ruckman Tom Hickey in round three.
Why you probably don't rate him: Because his own club appeared not to, by picking Jarrod Witts ahead of him in round one. And there appear to be some physical limitations – he isn't the most athletic big man and is still developing his endurance.
Why you should: The South Australian is a bull-at-a-gate competitor who, unusually for a ruckman, has great presence with his follow-up work at ground level. A hate-to-lose type who can help drag the Pies out of their slump.
- Ben Collins

Essendon

MARK BAGULEY
Season so far: It's been a tough year so far for Essendon's defenders as they deal with the weight of opposition forward entries, but Baguley has held up well. He comfortably beat Demons small forward Jeff Garlett in round two when the Bombers upset Melbourne.
Why you probably don't rate him: Baguley came through the rookie draft as a mature-ager from the VFL, so there was never any hype about him. The back pocket doesn't have heaps of flash and does his job with a minimum of fuss.
Why you should: The 28-year-old is Essendon's vice-captain this season and has been a crucial member of the club's backline over the past three seasons. Baguley is courageous, tough and uncompromising. He has improved his kicking to be reliable with ball in hand, and most weeks completes the job asked of him. He was sixth in the Bombers' best and fairest last season. - Callum Twomey

Fremantle

GARRICK IBBOTSON
Season so far: He's been under siege in defence this season given the amount of supply that has been coming in. He's averaged 18 disposals at 75 per cent efficiency and is second for rebounds from defensive 50.
Why you probably don't rate him: Like most of his defensive teammates he doesn't get noticed as much as the Dockers' powerful midfield. He often plays on the third tall defender or as the spare.
Why you should: His ability to read the play and intercept mark is as good as any player in the AFL. He was named in the All Australian 40-man squad last year after playing every game, which is a testament to his consistency. - Alex Malcolm

Geelong

CAM GUTHRIE
Season so far: The good decision-maker has been excellent this season, playing as a high defender after Jackson Thurlow went down and spending some time in the midfield.
Why you probably don't rate him: He cemented his spot post-2011 and has been solid rather than flashy in a team of ageing superstars. Until this season, when he chose to wear a headband, he made little effort to draw attention.
Why you should: Consistent, tough and a great decision-maker he earned his first Brownlow votes last season while finishing fifth in the club best and fairest. He is not only a good ball user now but he wins the ball. - Peter Ryan 

Gold Coast

JARROD HARBROW
Season so far: An excellent start to 2016 with 20, 21 and 22 disposals in his three matches. Harbrow was instrumental in the win over Fremantle with some desperate last quarter spoils saving the Suns on more than one occasion.
Why you probably don't rate him: Quietly spoken and with a no-fuss attitude, Harbrow would rather let his footy do the talking than his mouth. He's solid more than spectacular, doesn't chase the ball and often plays defensive roles.
Why you should: Harbrow is versatile and plays anywhere from half-back to wing to midfield. He is quick and elusive with the ball but balances it with defensive accountability and a willingness to run both ways. - Michael Whiting

Jarrod Harbrow lets his actions do the talking on the field. Picture: AFL Media

GWS

TOM SCULLY
Season so far: 
Scully leads the Giants in disposals – at almost 30 per game – and inside 50s, and has set the tone with his defensive pressure on the opposition.
Why you probably don't rate him: The former No.1 draft pick signed a big-money deal to play with an expansion club, and with that came plenty of unrealistic expectations and media scrutiny.
Why you should: He did plenty of hard work for no reward while GWS struggled early on, but now has more help in the midfield and is finally reaping the benefits of a stronger list. - Adam Curley 

Hawthorn

BEN STRATTON
Season so far: Should, but won't get the three Brownlow votes for his complete obliteration of Bulldogs star Jake Stringer last Sunday, in which he kept him to one goal and that was from a free kick. Stitched up West Coast's Jack Darling the week before as he did in last year's Grand Final.
Why you probably don't rate him: Because Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Cyril Rioli, Jarryd Roughead, Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust et al are the ones who grab the headlines and win the honours at Hawthorn.
Why you should: Alastair Clarkson raves about him at every opportunity. Stratton has been super reliable and a key defensive cog since arriving at the Hawks in 2010, able to lock down both tall and small defenders. Among his other scalps in the last 12 months are Eddie Betts, Michael Walters, Lindsay Thomas and Jamie Elliott. - Ashley Browne 

Ben Stratton has been a vital part of the Hawks' three flags. Picture: AFL Media

Melbourne

DEAN KENT
Season so far: 
Kent has not set the world on fire to start 2016, although he has kicked five goals from three games. Blessed with blistering pace, his forward pressure is vital to the Demons.
Why you probably don't rate him: Kent has struggled with injury in his four seasons at Melbourne and managed just four games last year due to a serious hamstring tear against Richmond in round four. He hasn't averaged above 12 disposals in any of his seasons so far.
Why you should: Kent's speed and liveliness were desperately missed through injury last season. He can break lines and finish his work in front of goal, but he also has an aggressive streak that points to his competitiveness. - Ben Guthrie 

North Melbourne

JAMIE MACMILLAN
Season so far:
The dependable backman has been his consistent self, collecting 15, 16 and 14 touches in the Roos' three wins. Hasn't rated a mention in AFL.com.au's best players yet, but his importance to North wouldn't have gone unnoticed internally.
Why you probably don't rate him: He's an unassuming type who just gets the job done. Macmillan never chases kicks, but plays his role by helping to set up his teammates in the right spots.
Why you should: Macmillan is the youngest member of North's leadership group for a reason, and is adding a more attacking element to his game. Last year he was among the AFL's elite for metres gained and was No.1 at the Roos for rebound 50s. - Travis King 

Port Adelaide

AARON YOUNG
Season so far: The 23-year-old has excelled over the past fortnight, having been inserted for the injured Hamish Hartlett after round one. Hauls of four and three goals as well as solid possession numbers have guaranteed his position for the time being.
Why you probably don't rate him: Quite simply, you probably just haven't seen enough of him. Young's struggled to cement his place in a Power midfield full of stars and only played 11 senior games last year (the bulk of which he started as the sub).
Why you should: He's been in Port's best in both his games this year - averaging almost 20 possessions and booting seven goals. He is a classy finisher and gets himself into scoring positions. - Harry Thring 

Aaron Young (left) has been among Port's most valuable forwards this year. Picture: AFL Media
 


Richmond

SHAUN GRIGG
Season so far: 
Missed round one with a thumb injury and played through an ankle problem in round two to win 30 possessions and be one of the Tigers' more influential players. One of their best against the Crows with six clearances.
Why you probably don't rate him: There are bigger names in the Tigers' midfield and Grigg often finds himself in more accountable roles. He is a below average kick, which can undo his good work.
Why you should: He is one of the most committed two-way runners at the Tigers and is particularly valuable at centre bounces, where his body work allows him to win centre clearances (ranked No.1 at the club so far this season) and set up teammates. - Nathan Schmook 

St Kilda

SEAN DEMPSTER
Season so far: Was critical against Collingwood. Dempster's intercept marking in the second half halted any hope of a Magpies win. He kept Western Bulldog Jake Stringer to two goals, certainly not an easy feat.
Why you probably don't rate him: His quiet nature means he is not one to put himself in the spotlight. The Saints finished fourth-last for points against in 2015, casting their back six in an unflattering light.
Why you should: All Australian selection in 2012 and finishing third in four of the past five best and fairests is an excellent achievement. Has long been a defender who can be relied on to beat his opponent most weeks. - Dinny Navaratnam

Sydney Swans

JAKE LLOYD
Season so far: 
Lloyd is averaging more than 26 possessions per game, with a career-high 35 in round one against Collingwood. He is a linkman for the Swans and is comfortable playing both an inside and outside role.
Why you probably don't rate him: It's tough to get a headline when your fellow midfielders Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Kieren Jack are stars; not that the 22-year-old is losing sleep over it.
Why you should: Since coming off the rookie list to debut in round five of 2014, Lloyd has missed just two games – a remarkable achievement given the competition for spots at one of the League's strongest clubs. - Adam Curley 

Jake Lloyd is enjoying a breakout start to 2016. Picture: AFL Media

West Coast

SAM BUTLER
Season so far: Butler has had a pretty consistent season so far, averaging 14 disposals at 88 per cent efficiency playing in defence. Only Eric Mackenzie has a better efficiency rating of the Eagles that have played every game.
Why you probably don't rate him: His injury issues have made it difficult for him to stay on the park and he has become a forgotten man in many ways as a result. Butler has never played more than 17 games in a season.   
Why you should: When he plays he is very reliable, particularly with his ball use and decision making. He is a cool head in defence and his finals experience is invaluable having played in three Grand Finals, including the 2006 premiership. - Alex Malcolm

Western BulldogsLIAM PICKEN
Season so far: The low-profile midfielder has continued his stellar form under Luke Beveridge by averaging 22 possessions and four tackles a game. Has kept the defensive nature of his game while winning plenty of the footy. 
Why you probably don't rate him: The 29-year-old tends to get forgotten in a midfield boasting young stars Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter. And you won't catch him doing much media, as he prefers to let his footy do the talking.
Why you should: The former rookie is highly respected at Whitten Oval for his selflessness and team-first approach. His ability to adapt to Beveridge's attacking game plan and transform himself from a tagger to a dangerous midfield weapon shouldn't be underestimated. - Ryan Davidson