INJURIES are the only reason draft prospect Adam Cerra isn't in the conversation to be this year's No.1 pick, says Essendon great Darren Bewick.
In eight seasons as coach of the TAC Cup side Eastern Ranges, Bewick rates the classy midfielder the equal of any player he's mentored - and that includes graduates of the quality of Jon Patton, Tom Boyd and Christian Petracca.
A knee complaint ruined the 17-year-old's 2016 campaign, while a shoulder injury in August ended this season prematurely.
With fellow ball-magnets Cameron Rayner and Luke Davies-Uniacke the nominal contenders to be taken first in November's NAB AFL Draft, Bewick believes whoever selects Cerra won't be left disappointed.
Cerra averaged 18 disposals for Vic Metro at the Under 18 championships, with a starring performance against Western Australia reaping 24 disposals, six tackles, five clearances and a goal.
"Adam is as good a player that has come through our program," Bewick told AFL.com.au.
"He got injured last year and he's had a few injuries this year, so if he'd played a full season he'd be right in contention for the No.1 pick.
"Boyd and Patton were No.1 picks, and Petracca was pick No.2, but Adam just has a great understanding of the game and his skills are at a high level.
"He can play inside and out, he can play half-back, and I put him forward one day and he kicked 3.5 in a half.
"He's a (future) 200-game player that's ready to play AFL football now."
Bewick is every chance to have three of his former protégés taken in the top ten this year, with playmaker Jaidyn Stephenson and ruckman Sam Hayes also highly-rated prospects.
After predominately being a high-flying forward in his two previous seasons in the TAC Cup, Stephenson has developed into a dangerous midfield option.
"Jaidyn has developed really well because he's gone from that player who was perceived as being the cream on the cake, to a player that can win his own footy in the midfield," Bewick said.
"But he's still retained that X-factor that makes him a match-winner around the goals."
Hayes, considered the best ruckman available in this year's draft crop, also has the ability to go forward and kick a bag of goals.
Bewick says he wouldn't read too much into the big man's poor endurance testing at the Combine.
"Once Sam is in the AFL system he'll be fine because he's a big kid that's only 17," he said.
"He's getting better with the requirements of the professional footballer, but his upside is enormous.
"What he'll be able to do in three-to-five-years time as a forward and a ruckman will be scary."
Bewick also believes two of his other former charges, Dylan Moore and Joel Garner, are chances to be selected late in the first round, while he expects father-son prospect Tyler Brown to be snapped up by Collingwood.