KYLE Langford played 13 games for the Northern Knights last year, kicked nine goals and showed some exciting signs. But it was only until a couple of breakout games at the start of this season that his performances started to get traction.
Langford, a 190cm half-forward, kicked five goals against the Calder Cannons in round two of the TAC Cup and then backed it up with another five-goal haul against the Eastern Ranges the following round.
"I thought 'Who is this bloke?'" one recruiter said. "I had to mark his name down. He was very, very exciting."
Despite good signs in attack to start the year, Langford played for Vic Metro at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships as a half-back, where he still showed his agility and strength, despite not being in his customary position.
As the clubs say, Langford has a lot of AFL traits and parts to his game that will translate to the next level. He can jump and take a mark – he averaged eight a game in the TAC Cup this year – and he can kick a goal.
But for a player his shape, Langford moves quickly on the ground. His 8.36-second agility test at the combine saw him inside the top-10 for all competitors, and you see it in games. He twists and turns in tight spaces and gets out of trouble.
Langford's standout quality is his ball-handling. In the air he has confidence to leap into, over or in front of packs and take a mark. But he's very sharp below his knees and often holds the ball in one hand while working out his next move – a sign of his composure.
Langford's field kicking can be at times a little inconsistent, but there's nothing there that can't be tweaked. It improved through the year and by the combine he placed second in the kicking test, scoring 28 out of 30 points. He has a lot going for him.
He comes from the Northern Knights and can jump, do it at ground level, kick goals and be used all over the ground. So there's going to be comparisons between Langford and young Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli.
Bontempelli will probably end up more of a midfielder than Langford, who has shown his best form across half-forward, but there are similarities at times with their raw talent
Could be this year's bolter. Has been discussed early but looks like he will find a home somewhere inside the first round. He doesn't turn 18 until December 1, so will be 17 on draft night – another reason for optimism when assessing his room for growth.
Langford is very high on some club's draft boards, and it doesn't take long to see why: he can do lots of things that few others can. He has a big motor, is very strong overhead and loves to lead at the ball off half-forward and kicks goals.