THERE is under three weeks until this year's NAB AFL Draft and clubs are racing to finalise their orders of prospective recruits.
In what shapes as the most compromised draft in history as a result of Next Generation Academies combining with northern Academies and father-sons, there is plenty of conjecture about the 2020 pool.
Throw in the events of this COVID-19 hit year and clubs are expecting plenty of surprises on the night. Here's the latest on the big draft questions.
Who will Adelaide take at No.1?
This is not like the past two years, when Sam Walsh was a guarantee at Carlton and Matt Rowell was already essentially wearing a Gold Coast jumper midway through last year. Adelaide's choice for the club's first ever No.1 pick is far less clear cut.
It is down to three candidates: West Australian key forward Logan McDonald, South Australian ruck/forward Riley Thilthorpe and Victorian midfielder/forward Elijah Hollands.
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McDonald came second in the WAFL senior competition's goalkicking this season, is a strong runner and converts his shots, while Thilthorpe battled groin injuries this season but is athletic, tall and a local. The Crows have still put plenty of work into Hollands, who has grown up an Adelaide fan but had his season wiped out by a knee reconstruction during the pre-season.
All fill needs for the Crows and it will be a very tight call: McDonald is a genuine key forward, Thilthorpe likely to be able to play a dual role and Hollands an attacking, tall, powerful midfielder who kicks it well.
Adelaide will also strongly consider bidding at No.1 on the Western Bulldogs' Next Generation Academy player Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, although the Dogs will automatically match it. That in itself is a layered decision.
Who is coming with a rush?
The 'Fantastic Five' of draftees all look settled right at the top of the pool. Putting Ugle-Hagan aside, they are McDonald, Thilthorpe, Hollands, Denver Grainger-Barras and Will Phillips. Many believe they are the most likely top-five players outside of Academy bids, although Tanner Bruhn has some interest at the very top end.
Beyond the 'Fantastic Five' there is a very even pool of about eight players who seem likely to be in consideration for the next group of selections. Archie Perkins is in that boat, with plenty of clubs fans of his talent, X-factor and power. The Bombers, with three top-10 picks, will consider the Sandringham Dragons midfielder/half-forward.
Then there is tall pair Nik Cox and Zach Reid, who are both 200cm and athletic. Cox's running ability, versatility and speed makes him an enticing player for clubs, while Reid is a key defender with great skills. Tom Powell, a midfielder who amassed plenty of the ball in 2020, is another likely to feature in the next bracket of picks, along with running tall defender Heath Chapman, exciting forward Ollie Henry and midfielder Finlay Macrae.
Outside of the top 15, there are other players who are getting interest in the second round. Luke Pedlar, a tough South Australian midfielder, has some fanciers, while Liam Kolar's testing at the NAB AFL Draft Combine has pushed him into consideration. Bailey Laurie's skills and smarts put him on the map as a possible top-20 pick, while Conor Stone is another who has his admirers as a versatile and robust forward.
Where will the bids come?
It is the year of the bid in the most compromised draft in history, but where they fall will have a big say on proceedings.
The Swans have said they're likely to bid on Ugle-Hagan if he gets through to pick No.3, but what happens with their own Academy player Braeden Campbell is also interesting. Hawthorn has been linked at bidding on Campbell at No.4, but the Swans are hoping it doesn't come until pick later in the first round.
Lachie Jones could attract a bid for Port Adelaide to match in the top 10, while Reef McInnes (Collingwood) and Connor Downie (Hawthorn) are likely to have their names called closer to the No.20 mark.
The Swans will wait to see what happens with Errol Gulden's bid, which is likely to come in the second round, but a bid could come late in the first round for Brisbane's Blake Coleman, with interest out there for the exciting talent.
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Fremantle pair Joel Western and Brandon Walker are seen as more likely to be 30-plus selections.
A number of other aligned players, including father-sons – Luke Edwards (Adelaide), Taj Schofield (Port Adelaide) and Maurice Rioli Jnr (Richmond) – are unlikely to attract bids until later or potentially go through as rookies.
How many picks will there be?
It shapes as a record low number of picks, with clubs predicting 55-56 selections to be used on draft night on December 9. AFL.com.au has found there will be a minimum of 50 selections and a maximum of 63, although some clubs are likely to hold over some list spots for rookie signings.
The advent of flexible list sizes, the trimming of spots, lack of Victorian football and the rules allowing clubs to only use one pick at the NAB AFL Draft don't seem set to significantly cut the numbers from last year's intake, when there were 65 players picked.
Gold Coast is likely to take in one selection, and West Coast may do the same, while the likes of Collingwood, Essendon, North Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn could all use five selections in the one-night event.
Who could be trading picks?
There's plenty of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes at the moment as clubs position themselves for better draft hands.
Collingwood has its first pick for next year on the table and is canvassing clubs about trading it into this year's pool, while Melbourne could also look to see if it can package up its end-of-first-round picks to move up the order.
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Essendon holds three top-10 selections and could tempt North Melbourne into a move, with the Roos open to offers for pick No.2, but it would have to be a special deal. The Suns have tried to move up from pick No.5 but it seems less likely to happen.
Geelong has traded out of its early-round picks but has a war chest of future picks that it could use to jump back into this year's pool, while the Swans may look to deal for more draft points as they try to avoid a deficit for their Academy players.
The large group of Academy and father-son prospects this season will likely see a number of clubs scurrying around for extra points in trades with rivals.