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A 'FANTASTIC FIVE' has emerged in this year's draft group that is influencing how clubs look to use their first-round picks.

Recruiters believe there is now a clear group of five players – Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe, Elijah Hollands, Denver Grainger-Barras and Will Phillips – who have separated themselves from the next tier of the NAB AFL Draft class. 

PHANTOM FORM GUIDE Cal Twomey's latest rankings

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who is tipped to be a very early selection for the Western Bulldogs, is not included in the group as he will join the club as a Next Generation Academy pick. The 'fantastic five' are all in the open draft pool.

It is why clubs are keen to see if they can package picks to push up the order into that bracket, and also why the clubs with the first five selections (Adelaide, North Melbourne, Sydney, Hawthorn and Gold Coast) could be reluctant to shift back down the draft order even for multiple early selections.

Key forward McDonald finished second in the WAFL goalkicking after an excellent season with Perth's senior side, while Thilthorpe switched between the ruck and key forward role for West Adelaide in the SANFL.

Grainger-Barras showed his capacity as a tall, marking defender, while Victorian pair Hollands and Phillips didn't play this season. 

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Denver Grainger-Barras shows his talents

Young defender Denver Grainger-Barras shows off his intercept marking in the 2019 NAB AFL Under 18 Championships

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Hollands, an exciting midfielder/forward, ruptured his ACL in February and was ruled out of 2020 before COVID-19 struck, with the pandemic ending Phillips' hopes of backing up his excellent 2019 campaign as a consistent and damaging midfielder. 

Geelong pair Tanner Bruhn and Oliver Henry are among the prospects who are around the top-five mark, while Archie Perkins will also attract interest early on. – Callum Twomey