THERE is no good time for clubs to head into a NAB AFL Draft having not seen much of the prospects available.
But if there's any year for it, it's 2020, given the amount of quality players already linked to clubs via Academies and father-son opportunities.
Clubs have been banned from interviewing draft prospects for the next couple of weeks. They were planning to do interviews via Skype, Zoom etc but AFL has blocked that for now. More in @AFLcomau's rolling blog. https://t.co/Dy1py0P6bK— Callum Twomey (@CalTwomey) March 22, 2020
There is zero clarity about the possibilities around this year's draft pool given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis' impact on the AFL.
Pushing the draft back, raising the draft age, dropping the total number of draft picks and plenty of other options have been floated, but the League cannot progress with any draft plans until it knows how much of this year's AFL season will be played.
Already there will be no under-18 games until at least May 31, while the majority of club recruiting and list management staff have been stood down for that time across the competition as part of COVID-19's financial fallout.
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But as several recruiters have noted, if the draft was held this weekend some clubs would already be in a position to take players given their links over several years through Academy or father-son programs.
The 2020 draft pool, as AFL.com.au reported in September last year, looms as the most compromised in history.
Of the 48 players who were picked to play on Grand Final day last year in the under-17s 'Futures' clash, 18 were already tied to clubs.
More have also emerged in the months since, leaving the majority of clubs with at least one option with established links to the club. Of course not all are top-end prospects, but many look likely to fit inside the first two rounds in a normal draft order.
The Western Bulldogs are best placed, with first access to potential No.1 pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, a talented key forward who starred for the Oakleigh Chargers last year on their way to the NAB League premiership. He is a member of their Next Generation Academy.
Sydney will also benefit from its Academy, with access to likely first-round midfielder Braeden Campbell, smart small Errol Gulden and also Marco Rossmann, a penetrating wingman/half-forward.
Essendon has first call on key position pair Cody Brand and Josh Eyre, who both look exciting talents, while Reef McInnes is tied to Collingwood and showed his ability last season as a bottom-ager.
Connor Downie (Hawthorn), Tariek Newchurch (Adelaide) and Alex Davies (Gold Coast) are among the other highly rated Academy prospects available to clubs.
And then there's the father-sons. Luke Edwards, the son of Adelaide great Tyson, shapes as the best of that bunch, but is keeping his options open as to whether he would nominate or head into the wider draft pool.
Maurice Rioli jnr (Richmond), Taj Schofield (Port Adelaide) and Charlie McKay (Carlton) are among the other father-sons scattered around the competition.
WHICH PROSPECTS ARE TIED TO YOUR CLUB THIS YEAR?
Not all eligible prospects are listed
Luke Edwards (Father/Son – son of Tyson)
James Borlase (Next Generation Academy)
Tariek Newchurch (NGA)
Carter Michael (Academy)
Blake Coleman (Academy)
Saxon Crozier (Academy)
Charlie McKay (F/S – son of Andrew)
Tom Silvagni (F/S – son of Stephen)
Tom Gleeson (F/S – son of Adrian)
Mackenzie Hogg (F/S – son of Matthew)
Reef McInnes (NGA)
Cody Brand (NGA)
Josh Eyre (NGA)
Brandon Walker (NGA)
Chris Walker (NGA)
Joel Western (NGA)
Alex Davies (Academy)
Joel Jeffries (Academy)
Brodie Lake (Academy)
Joshua Green (Academy)
Connor Downie (NGA)
Deakyn Smith (NGA)
Lachlan Jones (NGA)
Taj Schofield (F/S – son of Jarrad)
Maurice Rioli jnr (F/S – son of Maurice)*
Ethan Baxter (NGA)
Errol Gulden (Academy)
Braedon Campbell (Academy)
Marco Rossmann (Academy)
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (NGA)
Cody Raak (NGA)
*is also eligible to join Fremantle under F/S rule but appears poised to nominate Richmond