JOE DANIHER is a budding superstar of the competition due to his high marking, brilliant goalkicking and ability to turn a game Essendon's way in a matter of minutes.
His rise has been reflected in the fifth annual Players' Top 50, where he has been voted the 19th best player in the competition. He wasn't in the top 50 before last season.
Players 20-16 are revealed below, and you can click here to see the full Players' Top 50 as they are revealed.
According to his former goalkicking coach and Bombers champion Matthew Lloyd, there has been a largely unnoticed factor behind his rise to be one of the leading key forwards in the AFL.
"I remember watching him when I was doing the work with him and his goalkicking, and he was always in the last five or six at the club with the endurance running. That's an area where he's really improved," Lloyd told AFL.com.au.
"His second and third efforts, ability to sit on peoples' heads and take marks at his highest point and then go up to the ruck and stretch ruckmen who aren't big ball-winners – he's improved dramatically."
That was evident last season, when the 23-year-old kicked a career-high 65 goals for the season, was named an All Australian forward, claimed his first best and fairest award and took out the Woolworths Mark of the Year, albeit in controversial circumstances.
WATCH: the grab that won Joe Daniher the 2017 Woolworths Mark of the Year
Daniher produced several best-on-ground efforts, including his outstanding display on Anzac Day against Collingwood and then five-goal effort against Geelong three weeks later.
After a wobbly start to the season (he had kicked 13 goals and 16 behinds after six rounds), Daniher also corrected his conversion rate, booting 52.26 for the remainder of the year.
|Joe Daniher's 2017|
|23 games||65 goals|
|All Australian||9 Brownlow votes|
|Club best and fairest||Club leading goalkicker|
Lloyd, who expects Daniher to get stronger in coming years to further dominate defenders, said it is the Essendon spearhead's confidence that is central to his ability to impact games.
"One thing I love about him is, as poor as his kicking has been at certain times, he always wants the ball in his hands. I know if I was ever having a bad day I'd shy away from the ball occasionally and that's when I knew I was off as I'd avoid having a shot for goal. But he never backs away from that," Lloyd said.
"He loves a challenge, loves the big stage, and never gets caught up too much in his great games or beats himself up over his poor games. That's where he's got a really good head on his shoulders."
- Callum Twomey
20. Dayne Zorko
Last year's ranking: 36
Official AFL Player Rating: 6
AFL Fantasy value: $805,000
It was a big 2017 for Zorko, who won his third consecutive best and fairest, earned All-Australian selection for the first time and represented Australia in the International Rules. He couldn't have done much more for the Lions, topping the list for goal-kicking with 34 – the greatest scoreboard impact of his career – while averaging 25 disposals and seven tackles a game. Only Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin hit the scoreboard more often when it came to midfielders pushing forward. While Zorko can struggle when tagged, and will no doubt get more attention this season, his durability, explosiveness and ability to kick a long goal are elite components of his game.
19. Joe Daniher
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 72
AFL Fantasy value: $597,000
18. Zach Merrett
Last year's ranking: 28
Official AFL Player Rating: 20
AFL Fantasy value: $825,000
Ascended to be considered one of the competition's best ball-getters with an average of 30 disposals in 2017, which rated him elite. Was named All-Australian for the first time and was a force at clearances and in tackles for the Bombers, although his kicking was rated below average. Still, his left foot can prove damaging and his consistency – and maturity despite being in the system for just four seasons going into 2018 – have confirmed his place as an integral part of the Bombers' midfield.
17. Eddie Betts
Last year's ranking: 19
Official AFL Player Rating: 23
AFL Fantasy value: $511,000
Fan-favourite and all-round package, it's easy to forget Betts wasn't always a Crow. The ex-Blue has become a cult figure at West Lakes for his exciting string of traits that extend beyond kicking remarkable goals. Consistently brings his teammates into the game – a skill that's rated elite – and packs a strong defensive game as well as being Adelaide's leading goalkicker for four straight seasons. Won his third consecutive All-Australian selection in 2017, and will continue to thrill Crows' supporters for years to come after signing an extension until the end of 2020.
16. Tom Mitchell
Last year's ranking: -
Official AFL Player Rating: 31
AFL Fantasy value: $896,000
Thrived in his first season at the Hawks after crossing from the Swans, finishing the year as one of the competition's biggest ball-winners. Broke the AFL record for total possessions in a home-and-away season with 787, which included 50 against Collingwood in round nine. He didn't just rack up raw numbers, though; Mitchell was also a driving force and ranked No.1 in the League for assisted metres gained. Ran second in the Brownlow medal for his efforts, which also included personal-best returns in tackles and clearances.