LATE developers will remain on the radar of clubs ahead of this year's NAB AFL Draft even if the under-18 season is decimated by COVID-19, according to Melbourne recruiting manager Jason Taylor.
Taylor, who has headed Melbourne's recruiting since 2013, said scouting teams would be forced to change their approach in the wake of the impact of the coronavirus.
The AFL has all but locked in a draft for the crop of 2020, and is hopeful of an abridged version of the under-18 carnival later in the season, but there is no guarantee of any more games for draft hopefuls.
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'Futures' scouts who had been dedicated to watching this year's pool group in previous seasons, plus access to vision and state Academy camps meant clubs will be well prepared to select players, including those who had started to blossom at the start of this year, said Taylor.
"We feel we're in a pretty good position to assess them," he said on the Road to the Draft podcast.
"There was a period there where we're watching practice games and I think through that you do see some of those players who might emerge throughout the year, those late developers.
"You do have in your mind players who showed you a little bit and [we've] already done some follow up work on them."
Players such as Marcus Bontempelli, Clayton Oliver, Hugh McCluggage, Jordan De Goey and Tim Taranto have all blossomed in their respective draft years to be early selections, having not had the lineage as bottom-agers.
Taylor said prospects in a similar position this year would likely have established themselves during pre-season clashes, although it is unlikely the Dees would have seen enough of Oliver at the corresponding time of the season to select the midfield gun at No.4, like they did in 2015.
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He said his view of players at the start of the year generally matched up with his rankings when the draft arrived.
"There are fluctuations but they'd be on the minor side. I think your first thought comes into play a little bit," he said.
"But there are some who, because you haven't picked the eyes out of them, that you might come from another angle by the end of the year. But certainly I think your first thought is a pretty strong one."
The Demons don't have a first-round pick this year after executing a trade with North Melbourne last year. Taylor's view is that there should be no restrictions – either a minimum or maximum – placed on how many picks each club can use at the draft this year.
"I've got a lot of numbers on my board who I'm working through their vision and analysing and critiquing certain areas of their game," he said.
"That practice match period threw up a lot of players who were in pretty good form early in the year who you think 'He's going to be one to really watch and could push into hubs'.
"I think there's certainly enough depth in the pool."