First-round draftees chat after the 2023 AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium on November 21, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

WE ARE calling it the 'draft capsule' and it needs to be added to the draft landscape as a key part of the year-round discussion.

Here's what we're putting forward: at the conclusion of every national draft, each club anonymously submits its top-30 list of draft prospects for that season into an online AFL portal. 

They are ranked in order from No.1 to 30 and collectively each pick is assigned points. The system automatically collates the points for each player depending on where they are put by the clubs and then generates a consensus top 30 draft prospects, in order, as judged by the clubs and recruiters themselves. 

It remains anonymous and under lock and key for 12 months and isn't released publicly until a week before the following year's draft – when the fanfare, interest and buzz on the next generation is at fever pitch. With time, the opening of the draft capsule will become a key part of the draft news cycle, bringing with it storylines on who was actually ranked where and how the first years of the players' careers had panned out against expectations.

Here's why the draft capsule is needed.

Recruiting has a revisionism problem. More broadly, it is human nature to use hindsight to turn the narrative the way that suits a current position. 


But the clandestine nature of drafting means it is very easy years down the track to twist where certain players were ranked and how keen (or not) clubs were on them depending on how successful (or not) their careers are. Often the comparisons are used to skewer the scouts who made the choices, even though they were often in line with where the general view was of the player's draft range.

The draft capsule will take out the guesswork. Richard Tambling at pick No.4 ahead of Lance Franklin? Well, the capsule might have told you that the consensus was that Tambling was ahead of Buddy and it wasn't just the Tigers. 

Dustin Martin at No.4 behind Tom Scully and Jack Trengove? The consensus might have said that's exactly where he was – and exactly who clubs also had ahead of him. 

But the draft capsule concept won't just defend picks that don't turn out well – it will be able to shine a light on the riskier selections that work or challenge those that don't.

Dustin Martin and Damien Hardwick at the 2009 AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Where did the consensus draft actually have Marcus Bontempelli before the Bulldogs took him at No.4 in 2013? Or Clayton Oliver when Melbourne grabbed him at the same number two years later?

Both were considered genuine draft bolters, but were they really according to the recruiters? What about the Wil Powell type of examples? Unspoken about in the lead-up to the 2017 draft, the Suns swooped at No.19. The draft capsule would certainly not have had Powell in the consensus top 30 but he has proven to be a terrific pick.

Wil Powell celebrates Gold Coast's win over Collingwood in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

And then there's the Chad Warner example. He got to the Swans' fourth pick in the 2019 draft at No.39 overall. Would he have featured in the consensus top 30? 

In 2018, after the introduction of live trading during the draft, we started at a now annual tradition of diving into the machinations of the first round of the draft in the days following it. It digs into all the what ifs, tactics and bluffs as well as the priorities for each club. 

Every year since, the story has covered the deals that happened and those that didn't, the offers that fell flat and which players each clubs were really after with their picks. It serves as a reference point for down the track. 

Of course, the draft capsule relies on recruiter and club honesty – the AFL wouldn't be able to enforce that other than suggesting the clubs would also get something out of the exercise.

Club recruiting teams often go back and revisit why some picks worked and others didn't, what they missed or what they mistook and any clues to help the next draft night they're on the clock. Some of those assessments can be informed further by the capsule each year, with not only content but more importantly context being borne out of the exercise.