THE FINAL Phantom Form Guide for 2023 is in.
In our fifth update of the Form Guide for this season, we have settled on our top 30 ranking of the best players in the draft pool this year.
DRAFT HUB Click here for the latest draft news
All the names at the top you have heard about for more than a season. Reid, Duursma, Watson, McKercher. Then there are Academy prospects at the Suns – Walter, Read, Rogers.
But this year's draft has an evenness to it that has some scouts believing it is wide open after the first dozen or so selections.
Remember, this is our draft rankings and does not take into account where the players will be selected and who by, but simply ranks them from the best to the next. The Phantom Draft for this year will be released next week.
In the meantime, see the profiles below for a glimpse on where each prospect may end up.
What more is left to be said about Reid? After 18 months of discussion about his status as the No.1 pick, the Bendigo Pioneers teenager has ridden the attention superbly and comfortably while also lifting his form. Aside from a concussion earlier in the year that saw him miss a block of games, Reid had a fantastic draft campaign that showed his talents as a midfielder/forward who takes marks, kicks goals, can play just about anywhere and will fend off just about everyone along the way. The Harley hype is justified and he has the power and explosiveness, as well as the penetrating kicking skills, to be playing at AFL level early next year.
Where does he go? West Coast hasn't been moved by offers from North Melbourne, Melbourne and Hawthorn to trade the No.1 pick, so it's going to take something significant to shift now. Only North can really up its offer from here so the Eagles are in prime position to snare Reid.
An imposing, tough, competitive key forward who has shown an aggressive, pack-crashing side to his game that doesn’t always come through in young tall forwards. Walter likes watching Charlie Curnow and it's easy to see why – similarly tall, Walter is athletic, quick at ground level and on the lead and capable of splitting open a group of players when he's going for his marks. Walter has the necessary key forward swagger, while also the unusual key forward chasing and tackling traits. The Gold Coast Academy product became a back-to-back under-18 All-Australian at the mid-year carnival and also dominated for the Suns in the Coates Talent League.
Where does he go? The question on Walter is not where he goes but who bids on him. The Suns will match wherever it comes, with North Melbourne a chance to lodge a bid on the key forward with one of its top-three picks. If not, the Hawks or Western Bulldogs will likely call his name for the Suns to match.
Duursma has the full bag of tricks to get fans excited for some time to come. The younger brother of Essendon's Xavier will join him in the AFL as a likely top-five pick, with the exciting half-forward/midfielder having many dazzling moments in his draft campaign. He kicked 33 goals from 12 games for Gippsland after kicking 31 goals last season as a bottom-ager. He flies for his marks, has poise and polish and is an exceptional kick and decision-maker. Some of his goals this year were outstanding and his height gives him a point of difference.
Where does he go? North Melbourne has been linked, while he has long been in the sights of Hawthorn. The Western Bulldogs at pick No.5 and Melbourne at No.6 will be as far as Duursma could reach.
Class, class, class. McKercher is a hugely promising prospect who dominated his draft campaign, seeing him be a joint winner of the Morrish Medal in the Coates Talent League and also be a standout midfielder for the Allies in their under-18 title win. McKercher is confident and plays as such, backing his speed and zip to get out of trouble and then always hitting a target. There's some Errol Gulden about his inside/outside balance and lovely left-foot kicking and all the clubs near the top have been keen on the Tasmanian.
Where does he go? McKercher looks poised to join the Kangaroos with one of their picks at No.2 or 3. The Hawks or Bulldogs would swoop if he was still available directly after that.
What a fun player 'the Wizard' has been to watch at under-18 level and what a fun time we have ahead to see him in the AFL. Watson will quickly be a fan favourite – he hasn't let his size work against him going through the junior ranks and he just knows how to kick goals and plenty of them. He booted more than 70 goals across all of his competitions this year and can produce a chance from nowhere. His speed and ground level work is terrific and he also likes to go for the odd flying grab. Small forwards don't usually get selected early in drafts but he is a special talent with the required front and fun which comes with the role.
Where does he go? Hawthorn, the Bulldogs or the Demons are set to snare Watson. He has trained with the Hawks for stints and impressed, while the Dogs could also grab him after moving up the draft board. Melbourne has interest too, with it hard to see Watson being available deeper in the top 10.
The key defender had an excellent draft season that was set up more than a year ago when he was named best afield in the Under-17s Futures Game on Grand Final day, 2022. Curtin continued to be one to watch through the year, playing as a key forward and midfielder as well as showing his standing as an intercepting key back. Curtin impressed late in the year with Claremont's senior side and will start his career as a tall back, but he has designs on being a midfielder in time as well.
Where does he go? A crucial question in the shape of the top 10. If the Eagles moved back down the order it would be to grab Curtin but they could also try to come back into the first round if they grab Harley Reid at No.1 using a future first-rounder. He has been in North Melbourne's mix, while Hawthorn is right in the frame. If he gets past them, Melbourne will be a strong chance, while the likes of Adelaide and Essendon would likely see if they can move up the board if still available.
Sanders really couldn't have done any more this year. His campaign was the most consistent of any draftee – he was a standout really from start to finish, closing his year by being a pivotal player in the Sandringham Dragons' Grand Final win. The tough, physical inside midfielder is more than that – he can get the ball on the outside, he marks above his head, he stands up at big times of games and looks a long-term midfield lock wherever he ends up. The Larke medallist at the under-18 carnival is an impressive character who will be playing regular AFL games next year.
Where does he go? Is tied to North Melbourne's Next Generation Academy but the Roos can only match a bid for him after pick 40, so that's not happening. The Western Bulldogs will consider strongly with pick No.5 as will Melbourne with the next selection, while it's hard to see him getting past the Cats if he got to selection No.8.
A key forward who enjoyed some dominant games this season in a campaign that had a couple of disruptions. He returned from a leg fracture at the start of the season then missed a block of games through illness, but Caddy's second half of the season in particular produced some big games as a strong-marking key forward who occasionally went through the midfield as well. Caddy, the nephew of Richmond dual premiership player Josh, kicked 25 goals from nine games this season with Northern.
Where does he go? Hawthorn has done its work but No.4 could be a little early, with Melbourne, Geelong, Essendon and the Giants all showing interest inside the top 10.
An athletic ruckman who showed his elite running prowess at the Draft Combine when he ran 5:56 minutes in the 2km time trial. That was met with some astonishment from recruiters who were aware of his running capacity but still wowed by the run that placed him third overall in the endurance test. The All-Australian under-18 ruckman has really good skills for his size, he moves swiftly around the ground and can be a marking option in attack as well. If he was in the open draft there would have been far more hype on him.
Where does he go? The Suns will be hoping a bid for Read comes as late as possible to help their points situation. Could it be the Bombers who lodge a bid at No.9? Anything after pick eight or nine would be a bonus for Gold Coast.
O'Sullivan is a key defender with a stretch to be able to get to a contest at the last moment and put in a spoil or even float over the top and grab the mark himself. The Murray Bushrangers talent was a big factor in the Allies' title-winning team at the under-18 carnival, when he was named an All-Australian, and he finished his season by running the 2km time trial in 6:11 minutes at the Combine. Can play in a number of roles but will be an early pick as an intercepting key defender.
Where does he go? The Crows have done their work on O'Sullivan, while the Hawks and Giants have also shown interest in him. Geelong and Essendon look likely to be his other main suitors in the top rungs of the draft.
Windsor has come with a rocket in the second half of the season. His form for Vic Metro put him on the map and he continued to show his classy kicking skills and high-end athleticism for the Ranges in their run to the Grand Final. The outside midfielder had a stellar Draft Combine – third in the 20-metre sprint and top 10 in the running and standing vertical jumps test – and is one of the players who has clear 'upside' in the eyes of clubs.
Where does he go? Has been linked to Greater Western Sydney as an option with its first pick, with Essendon, Melbourne and Adelaide also likely to consider. If he got to St Kilda's pick at No.13 it would be hard to see him not taken, but is likely to be snapped up by then.
Another player who has steadily risen up the ranks throughout this year with strong form for the best part of the season wherever he's been thrown. Leake was an All-Australian half-back who provided plenty of spark in the Allies' defence, and then he spent some time in attack for Tasmania late in the year, kicking five goals in one game for the Devils. Has a leap and footy nous.
Where does he go? Adelaide has been linked as a suitor for Leake, but will he get to its first pick? Greater Western Sydney and Geelong are in the mix for him and Essendon will look. Sydney is another club who could think hard if he gets to No.12.
Rogers' consistency shone throughout the season, with the smaller midfielder busy throughout his campaign. His hard running, clean hands and tight skills made him a regular playmaker at under-18 level and he will take that into the next level. Tied to Gold Coast's Academy, he had a taste of the Suns' VFL side late in the year.
Where does he go? A bid for Rogers appears likely to come a bit later into the first round of the draft after the Suns' first two Academy players. Either way, the Suns are stocked with points and set with plans to match it and grab him.
The Bulldogs father-son talent is a key forward who is still developing his body but showed exciting signs through the year for the Calder Cannons and Vic Metro. He can get off his man and take a mark and converts his shots for goal, while at the Draft Combine he displayed his running capacity by completing the 2km time trial in 6:05 minutes – ranking him fourth overall. The son of former Dogs defender Matthew Croft, who played 186 games for the club between 1991-2004.
Where does he go? Another case of not where but who places the bid. The Dogs traded three first-round picks to get up the board into the top echelon of the draft and get ahead of the Croft bid as well as claim a top-five pick. Sydney loom as a possible bidder, but it could also come deeper into the first round.
The attacking midfielder/half-forward brings a different set of skills to the top end of the draft class. He has an exciting speed and endurance mix, his agility is elite and he can jump – not only did he show that at the Draft Combine, but it comes through in his games when he uses his overhead marking. Wilson had some of the best games of draftees this year at Coates Talent League level with the Murray Bushrangers and in a running game has some high-end attributes.
Where does he go? Wilson has been invited to the draft, so clearly has interest from clubs around the top 10. Essendon and Geelong are two clubs who could consider with their selections, as may St Kilda and Adelaide.
Tholstrup will quickly become a fan favourite wherever he is drafted – he has some swagger and personality, he mixes well with all types and walked around the Draft Combine with a pair of high-vis sunglasses wrapped around his head. But he will also endear himself to fans with his strong-bodied, tough approach – he goes hard at the ball and man and plays with some physicality. As a half-forward this year he did his job with Subiaco's league side but he could also play further up the ground.
Where does he go? Another player who was one of the 15 or so invited to attend the opening night of the draft, but he will stay in Perth to watch with his family and friends from home town Esperance. St Kilda, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney will all likely consider, while others later in the first round, such as Collingwood, have been linked should he get through.
The left-footer is a medium defender with a long kick, a strong mark and the ability to break the lines with his ball use and run. Some of his athleticism was on show at the Draft Combine where he placed in the top 10 for both of the jumps tests. Hardeman pieced together a strong championships for Western Australia, which he captained at the carnival, and was named in the under-18 All-Australian team.
Where does he go? Essendon has been linked as a suitor, but that could be if the Bombers shifted back some spots on draft night. North Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood are also chances for Hardeman in the teens.
Collard is an excitement machine. He showed his talent on many occasions through the season and he finished with back-to-back hauls of five goals in Subiaco's colts finals series. He finished with 32 goals from 11 games in the colts and then backed that up with a standout Combine, winning the agility test, coming fourth in the 20-metre sprint and also ran the 2km time trial in 6:32 minutes. Collard flies for marks, kicks miraculous goals often and will be a talent to watch.
Where does he go? A tough one to answer. Collard is tied to the Eagles' Next Generation Academy but only if he slips outside the top 40, which is unlikely. If the Eagles want to grab him, they may need to with pick 23, where he could well be available. All clubs have done their work on Collard, with St Kilda, Richmond and Fremantle others to have been linked.
There's been some versatility on show at times this year, with McCabe occasionally in attack, but he will be selected as a key defender who can intercept and set up the play. McCabe's marking is a strength, with the 197cm prospect able to read the ball well and know where he has to be to spoil or be in a marking position. He averaged 22 disposals and six marks for Central District's under-18 side.
Where does he go? Hawthorn has nominated McCabe as a father-son, with a bid expected to come around the first 15 or so selections. Adelaide looms as a potential bidder for him, as do the Saints and Kangaroos in that range.
With his genuine speed and versatility, DeMattia has fans around this point of the draft. DeMattia has wheels – he broke three seconds at the Draft Combine and ran 2.92 seconds earlier this year – and his zip was on show at times for Vic Country at the mid-year carnival when he co-captained the side. Clubs have different views about DeMattia ends up being – a half-back, midfielder or half-forward – having played in different spots this season.
Where does he go? Has some interest through the first round, with St Kilda, North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney all expected to be in the mix for him. Adelaide, too, with its later first-round selections could be an option.
Edwards is another player who shot into draft calculations mid-season. He didn't play in Vic Metro's carnival but his second half of the season with Sandringham was impressive and he played a part in their midfield on the way to the premiership. The taller onballer and midfield prospect has strong endurance and can bust out of a pack, having also spent time at half-back for the Dragons last year.
Where does he go? There's significant interest in Edwards from clubs but his landing spot remains to be seen. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and St Kilda are among the clubs to be linked.
Jiath was a late-season success story, something of a bolter into top-25 contention. His performances for Gippsland started to catch the eye of clubs and he was a standout against the Dandenong Stingrays in the finals series, where he had 29 disposals and 11 marks. The younger brother of Hawthorn's Changkuoth Jiath plays in a similar fashion and is seen as a prospect who could develop further in an AFL system.
Where does he go? Been a huge riser in the back half of the year. The Giants, Richmond and St Kilda could all be chances late in the first round or in the second, while others will look in the 30s. If he gets to pick 40, Hawthorn will be able to match a bid on him as a Next Generation Academy player.
Roberts has played as something of a set-up man for his teams: he is an attacking half-back who gets the ball in his hands and makes decisions with it with his kicking and game sense. He was a consistent member in Vic Metro's under-18 championships side, averaging 21 disposals and four marks to be named an All-Australian. He closed his campaign by running the 2km time trial in 6:08 minutes at the Combine, showing clubs the work he had put in.
Where does he go? Seems likely to fit into the second round somewhere. St Kilda, where he trained earlier this year, could be a chance, as may West Coast, while Geelong has also done its work.
Murphy was named Vic Metro's most valuable player and an All-Australian after his under-18 carnival, where he averaged 11 disposals and five marks a game in the backline. The tall defender is certainly that – at 200cm he can match up on most key forwards and use his smarts on shutting down opponents with a spoil. Ran the 2km time trial in 6:18 minutes, placing him among the best times at the Combine.
Where does he go? Looks more likely to fit in early in the second round of the draft than in the first. Geelong could be a fit if the Cats don't grab a key defender with their top pick.
Green's skills for a player his size are very exciting and he had some impressive games, particularly in the second half of the season with the Northern Knights and also Vic Metro. The 204cm prospect can be dominant in the centre square big men battles but also get around the ground, and his testing result of 6:34 minutes at the Combine saw Green mix it with the midfielders and show his ability to be a ruck who plays the minutes out.
Where does he go? Has been linked to Sydney, while North Melbourne has also been tipped to look tall if it goes with midfield types early in the draft. Likely to be one of the rucks taken in the top 30.
After a dominant start to the season in Peel's colts side, where Edwards averaged 35 hitouts a game, the ruckman stepped up to the reserves side and also got good experience against more mature bodies. Clubs expect to see Edwards take some time to develop, but given his height and exciting athletic traits (he finished in the top five for the jumps tests at the Combine and ran the 20-metre sprint in three seconds), there's plenty of scope.
Where does he go? Fremantle has first access to Edwards if he gets through the first 40 picks under NGA rules, but that will be touch and go. Would the Dockers try to snap him up first with their picks before then?
A key forward who is a reliable kick for goal and who has nice kicking skills around the ground. His better patch of form came late in Vic Country's championships and then afterwards with Gippsland Power before he finished the year at local level, winning a premiership with Inverloch. The younger brother of Essendon's Zach, who was a top-10 pick in 2020.
Where does he go? An interesting watch on draft night given the need for talls. Reid has had interest late in the first round, including from Collingwood, but shapes most likely as a second-round selection, with the likes of Richmond, Brisbane and Essendon expected to have a look.
A small forward who can catch the eye with exciting moments. He did that through the Murray Bushrangers' season and again for the Allies at times, and then showed his athletic traits at the Combine, when he ran the 20-metre sprint in 2.96 seconds and was second overall in the standing vertical jump test. Plays with a nice dash of creativity.
Where does he go? Has a wider draft range than some given he probably enters the mix in the teens but could also be picked later in the second round. North Melbourne and the Giants are among the clubs who could look at Gothard.
Goad has been a watch throughout the year as an imposing ruckman with a basketball background who has some untapped traits. After only turning his hand to footy solely this year, Goad steered South Australia's midfield, with the ruckman having some strong performances mid-year. Goad ran 2.93 seconds for the 20-metre sprint at the start of the year and 2.96 seconds at the Combine.
Where does he go? Adelaide and North Melbourne have been linked late in the first round for the raw big man but he will also have suitors in the second round.
Coming off a knee reconstruction in 2022 always meant Stevens was likely to start this year slower than he would end it. It proved to be the case, with Stevens beginning as a long-kicking half-back but finishing the season as a bigger-bodied midfielder who was crunching out big numbers at every level he played. Stevens' size gives him a presence at stoppages and he can feed the ball to others on the outside. He shapes as an interesting draftee given his skillset.
Where does he go? Will divide clubs but has had interest through the year given his midfield traits. Geelong could look having seen his traits up close in the VFL, while Sydney is another possible suitor depending on its hand of picks. Clubs with late picks, such as Richmond and Port Adelaide, could consider if Stevens remains on the board.