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Phantom form guide: July edition

U18: All Australians revealed Cal Twomey and Kevin Sheehan talk U18 footy on Prime Prospects

RECRUITERS will vary in their views on the depth of this year's NAB AFL Draft, but few will argue about the talent available at the top.

And, given the under-18 championships finished on Wednesday, it is time to rank the best players available in 2018.

So here is AFL.com.au's first Phantom Form Guide for the year, where we rate the best 20 players in the crop.

As always, this is a ranking and not necessarily where we predict the players to be selected at November's draft.

U18 ALL AUSTRALIAN TEAM Croweaters dominate

POS: Midfielder, Ht 183cm, Wt 74kg, DOB 2/7/00
From Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

There is not much more Walsh could have done so far in his draft season. He has dominated at every level he's played, including at the championships, where he averaged 29.5 disposals for Vic Country as its sole captain for most of the carnival and claimed the Larke Medal as the best player in division one. Walsh is as consistent as he is committed: he backs up every week and is happy to do the team things, such as play more of an inside role due to requirements, if it helps his side. He uses the ball well by foot, likes to push forward and kick a goal, has a strong endurance base and is prepared to put his head over it. There's very few concerns with him as a prospect.

POS: Tall forward, Ht 194cm, Wt 85kg, DOB 9/8/00
From Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia

Lukosius showed his credentials as a potential No.1 pick last season when he kicked four goals on debut at senior level in a SANFL preliminary final. This season has seen more of the same from the brilliantly natural key forward, who plays with a relaxed style but uses the ball with great skill and poise. He kicked four goals in South Australia's first game of the championships, then three the following week, and last week played up the ground on a wing and across half-back. Tall, athletic, footy smart and with a good work rate, Lukosius deserves to be high on draft boards. It's a very tight call between him and Walsh at the top.

POS: Half-forward/midfielder, Ht 180cm, Wt 76kg, DOB 23/4/00
From West Adelaide/South Australia

One scout said recently of Rankine, "He could win a couple of Brownlows". He showed that on Wednesday night, when he kicked three goals in the first term of South Australia's win over Vic Metro and finished with a best-afield five-goal effort. Rankine doesn't take much to light up a contest. He has genuine pace and zip, he is creative and precise by foot and around goal he is deadly. He sees things other players just don't, like his across-the-body out-of-the-corner-of-his-eye pass to Jack Lukosius in South Australia's first game that made Lukosius chuckle after taking the mark. Arguably the most talented – and definitely the most exciting – player in the pool.

POS: Tall forward, Ht 202cm, Wt 86kg, DOB 7/7/00
From Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro

Unsighted since undergoing a knee reconstruction in April, King remains one of the top prospects in this year's pool. The key forward was unstoppable in a game for the Sandringham Dragons earlier in the year when he booted 8.5 in a dominant showing before the injury. He is agile at ground level and powerful in the air, making him a real threat when the ball's in his area. King's injury could see him picked a few selections later than he might have been had he played (and dominated) all year, but his talent is still there. Spending two days a week at St Kilda doing his knee rehabilitation.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 185cm, Wt 82kg, DOB 7/12/00
From Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro 

It's hard not to love what Smith has produced this season. Through sheer hard work the midfielder has lifted himself into top-10 contention with a consistent campaign of big midfield numbers. Smith starred at the championships, averaging 25 disposals. He also pushed forward to kick three goals in their win over Vic Country. Smith has a great mix as a modern midfielder: he's tough and competitive, he adds good run on the outside, has a nice blend of speed and endurance and he performs every week. 

POS: Tall forward/defender, Ht 202cm, Wt 85kg, DOB 7/7/00
From Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro 

Started the season as a key defender, when he was named the best player in the NAB AFL Academy's win over North Melbourne's VFL side. When his twin brother Max went down with injury, Ben shifted forward and has played there since. He booted five goals in the Metro's first game of the carnival, kicked the match-winner against the Allies in the dying minutes  and finished with 12 goals in the carnival. Presents as an athletic option who can hold down a key position at both ends and also pinch-hit in the ruck if needed. 

POS: Tall forward/midfielder, Ht 195cm, Wt 80kg, DOB 27/2/00
From Sydney Swans Academy/Allies 

A viral infection floored Blakey early in the championships, sending him to hospital and seeing him lose four kilos. He returned and grew into the carnival, booting two goals for the Allies against South Australia last week and playing a dominant role in the midfield in Wednesday's loss to Western Australia. Blakey is a unique size and shape. He plays generally as a marking half-forward given his height, but he is quick to collect the ball and snap it on his left side and showed he would be tough to contain in the midfield. Blakey will join the Swans as an Academy player on draft night.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 189cm, Wt 73kg, DOB 25/3/00
From Tasmania/Allies 

After an outstanding Academy series when he led Tasmania to the title and he won the Harrison Medal as the best player of the carnival, Thomas was unable to reach those heights for the Allies in the division one championships. He was solid without being outstanding, but still had his moments of class. Behind Thomas' skills is a real toughness that underpins his game – he attacks the ball and player ferociously and enjoys a big tackle. North Melbourne may have to use its first pick at the draft to match a bid on the Next Generation Academy prospect.

POS: Half-back, Ht 182cm, Wt 82kg, DOB 15/1/00
From Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Collingwood is set to get a real win from its Next Generation Academy in Quaynor. The defender can take on most roles in the backline and get the job done. He's not overly tall but uses his body well enough to be comfortable matching up on taller forwards, while he is quick and powerful enough to take on the smalls. Quaynor was excellent in Metro's last-gasp win over the Allies and played out the game with a fractured rib, but returned for the final round against South Australia. 

POS: Half-forward/midfielder, Ht 185cm, Wt 71kg, DOB 22/1/00
From North Adelaide/South Australia

It wasn't quite the standout championships that Rozee would have been hoping for, but the South Australian remains a top prospect. He adds something a little different to this year's draft pool; he bounces around, leaps high for marks, picks up the ball at speed off the ground and can play in a range of positions. We've seen that across this year, with Rozee used across half-back, in the midfield and as a half-forward. He appears best suited to the half-forward role, where his spark, class and movement make stopping him a challenge.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 190cm, Wt 81kg, DOB 21/10/00
From Central District/South Australia 

It has been an excellent year for Hately, who has pushed himself up draft rankings with a run of top performances. Hately, a big-bodied midfielder, has starred at senior level in the SANFL, regularly gathering high disposals and floating forward to hit the scoreboard. He seems likely to be a first-round pick at the draft and does most things well as a midfield option. 

POS: Midfielder/half-forward, Ht 175cm, Wt 76kg, DOB 9/2/00
From Perth/Western Australia

It took a little while for Hill to get going in the championships, but he played his best game against Vic Country last week when he gathered 19 disposals before missing the final round with suspension after a sling tackle. Hill is a scintillating talent who likes to run and carry the ball and then deliver it with his foot skills. He is small and his season hasn't been one full of consistent games but he remains his state's best draft prospect.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 184cm, Wt 78kg, DOB 28/9/00
From Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country 

Injury struck again for Caldwell early in the carnival with the Vic Country midfielder sidelined by a hamstring injury for his side's final three matches. It was a shame, because Country missed his midfield presence and Caldwell didn't get the chance to match it with some of the top ball-winners in the country. The Bendigo Pioneer is a hustle-and-bustle midfielder who is good with his hands. He has a good inside/outside mix and shapes as one of the top midfielders available. 

POS: Half-forward/midfielder, Ht 186cm, Wt 79kg, DOB 6/4/00
From Geelong Falcons/Vic Country

Taylor showed his class in Vic Metro's win over Vic Country in the third round of the championships, when he slotted three goals in a polished display. He has spent most of this year playing in attack for the Calder Cannons, where his kicking and goal sense stands up. But Taylor also flicks through the midfield at times and has shown in smaller snippets that he has the awareness and agility to make an impact further up the ground.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 180cm, Wt 80kg, DOB 12/7/00
From Calder Cannons/Vic Metro

West made the All Australian team as a forward, but he did all his work through the midfield for Vic Metro. The son of former Bulldogs champion Scott West, the Calder Cannons prospect is great in the clinches, where he is smart and tough with his hands and able to win the ball. He's pretty consistent and you know what you're getting with him: fierce competitiveness and a ball-winner. Eligible to join the Dogs as a father-son.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 193cm, Wt 88kg, DOB 3/2/00
From Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

Collier-Dawkins has grown on plenty of recruiters across the year, having literally grown plenty in recent years. After a growth spurt he is now 193cm, making him one of the tallest midfielders in the draft and someone to dig in at the stoppages. The Oakleigh Charger has played well at TAC Cup level and can drift forward and be a marking target there, too.

POS: Ruckman/Tall forward, Ht 198cm, Wt 95kg, DOB 17/4/00
From Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country

Williams has his really exciting moments, when he clunks a big mark and is a commanding target in attack. He is also able to play and dominate in the ruck. But he has had his quieter times throughout the season, including at times during the championships as one of Vic Country's most talented players. Williams kicked seven goals in a game for the Stingrays earlier this year and will be keen to have a strong back end of the year.

POS: Midfielder, Ht 180cm, Wt 74kg, DOB 14/1/00
From Tasmania/Allies 

The Tasmanian draft hopeful can be moved around the ground to fill a number of roles. Jones is capable off half-back, he likes it in the middle, and he can be a smaller forward option, too. He recovered from a bad ankle injury last season and has enjoyed a solid season so far, impressing in stages for the Allies with his tight ball use and work ethic. Not everything Jones does will catch the eye, but he's good at the coalface and doesn't often let his team down. 

POS: Midfielder, Ht 181cm, Wt 70kg, DOB 8/9/00
From Western Jets/Vic Metro

Butters' season is now over, with the Western Jets midfielder to have shoulder surgery soon after working through the injury during the season to make sure he could play well for Metro. He did that for the most part, although he went off with an injury to the shoulder in the second term of the final game against South Australia. Before that he hadn't gotten huge numbers but had made an impact with his run and carry and sharp disposal as a smaller type.

POS: Key defender, Ht 193cmcm, Wt 83kg, DOB 16/8/00
From Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro

It was a very good championships from Kelly, who wouldn't have been far away from All Australian selection in defence. Kelly is an athletic and tough backman who can play on a variety of forwards, including potential No.1 choice Jack Lukosius, with the pair matched up for periods of Wednesday's final contest. Kelly is tied to Collingwood as a father-son pick, where his father Craig played in the Pies' 1990 premiership.

Podcast: How should the Crows spend their draft bounty?

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