PLENTY of strong teams are built around high draft picks, but it's the value selections later on in the draft that recruiters often hang their hats on.
The writers at AFL.com.au have cast their eyes over every draft since 2000 to find your club's best smokey.
The criteria doesn't allow for father-son picks taken under the old rule, with players like Gary Ablett jnr being taken far later than they otherwise might have been.
>> HAVE YOUR SAY Vote on the best smokey in the poll below
Here's your club's best selection from pick 50 onwards.
Ben Rutten (2001 Rookie Draft selection No.40)
A knee injury in his draft year meant Rutten slipped down the board for clubs, but Adelaide had seen enough to choose him as a rookie. It is one of the best decisions the club has made, with Rutten becoming a Crows great in the backline. Although Rutten started his career with three goals with his first three kicks in his debut, he quickly became a force in defence, proving unmovable in contests. A key player in the Crows' pursuit of a flag in the middle of the 2000s, 'Truck' was named a Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian in 2005. He retired at the end of 2014 after 229 games for the Crows.
Other candidates: Former skipper Taylor Walker came very cheaply as pick No.75 in the 2007 draft as a NSW scholarship selection. The Crows struck gold with Graham Johncock (pick No.67 in 2000), who forged a great career as an attacking defender. Rory Laird is a best and fairest and two-time All-Australian who came off the rookie list, while Rory Atkins (pick No.81 in 2012) has also been a late gem, too. - Callum Twomey
Tom Rockliff (2009 Pre-Season Draft selection No.5)
The ball-magnet's dual best and fairests (2011, 2014) and All-Australian blazer (2014) get him over the line in a quality field. Despite winning the best and fairest in a Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup premiership side that included Steele Sidebottom and Jack Ziebell, Rockliff was overlooked for the National Draft due to a lack of pace. He then had to wait two-and-a-half weeks for a pre-season draft headlined by Ben Cousins' move to Richmond to find a home. The 30-year-old enjoyed 154 games for the Lions – including two seasons as captain – before a move to Port Adelaide as a free agent.
Other candidates: Robert Copeland (Rookie Draft selection No.66 in 2001) won two flags, while Michael Rischitelli (pick No.61 in 2003) claimed a best and fairest and Joel Patfull (pick No.56 in 2005), two. International rookie Pearce Hanley, who retired in September, after 169 games for the Lions and Suns, can't be missed, but ask again in 12 months and dual All-Australian Harris Andrews (pick No.61 in 2014) may win the category. - Mitch Cleary
Eddie Betts (2004 Pre-Season Draft selection No.3)
Claimed after the national draft, Betts became an instant fan favourite at Carlton thanks to his ability to produce goals from thin air. He kicked 290 of them during his initial 184-game stint at the Blues, including the Goal of the Year in 2006. He also made two All-Australian squads during that time, won two club goalkicking awards and also enjoyed a prolific 50-goal campaign in 2011. He re-joined the club for the 2020 season after a successful six-year stint at Adelaide, much to the delight of the Blues faithful, adding 13 goals in 15 matches.
Other candidates: Andrew Carrazzo won a best and fairest in a 194-game Carlton career, having been drafted to the club via the rookie list. Ed Curnow and Michael Jamison have also enjoyed respectable Blues careers, having each been selected as rookies. - Riley Beveridge
Dane Swan (2001 Draft selection No.58)
Collingwood perhaps didn't know what to expect from its stocky pick No.58, who played just three senior games in his first two seasons at the club. But Swan would prove to be one of the great draft steals of this century. The powerful midfielder was a crucial member of the club's 2010 premiership side, while also winning the Brownlow Medal in 2011, three club best and fairests, the AFL Players' Association MVP and the AFL Coaches' Association Player of the Year. That's in addition to five All-Australian guernseys. He truly was one of the great modern midfielders throughout his 258-game career, all after he was selected late in one of the all-time great draft crops.
Other candidates: Premiership captain Nick Maxwell was claimed off the rookie list, as were fellow flag heroes like Heritier Lumumba, Alan Toovey and Jarryd Blair. Premiership defender Tyson Goldsack was claimed with pick No.63 in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft. - Riley Beveridge
Cale Hooker (2007 Draft selection No.54)
The West Australian defender was Essendon's last pick in the 2007 intake but has proved to be easily the most successful of that group. The intercepting backman's aerial exploits helped him settle into the Bombers' defensive unit, and he grew into one of the most formidable in the game, winning Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian honours in 2014. Hooker backed it up by claiming the club's best and fairest the following season. The 31-year-old has also shown he can push forward, booting 41 goals in 2017 while stationed in attack. He played only eight games in 2020, including his 200th milestone match in round 15 against West Coast.
Other candidates: The Bombers used pick 55 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft on Orazio Fantasia, who has since departed for Port Adelaide. Two years later, the Bombers took a punt on Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti as a rookie choice. The pair has combined to be a brilliant small forward duo.- Callum Twomey
Aaron Sandilands (2002 Rookie Draft selection No.33)
The Dockers took a punt on the 211cm ruckman as a rookie pick and never looked back. While he spent his first season playing in the WAFL, Sandilands was then elevated to the senior list and quickly assumed the No.1 ruck spot. He went on to become a four-time All-Australian, dual Doig Medal winner and one of the most dominant ruckmen in AFL history. 'Sandi' played 271 games and retired at the end of the 2019 season.
Other candidates: Five-time leading goalkicker Michael Walters (pick No.53 in 2008), mature-age ball-magnet Michael Barlow (Rookie Draft selection No.8 in 2009) and two-time club champion Lachie Neale (Pick No.58 in 2011). - Chris Correia
Mark Blicavs (2012 Rookie Draft selection No.54)
Fresh off a premiership, the Cats had the intuition to pluck an Olympic hopeful out of steeplechasing and onto an AFL list. Now 179 games later, the 29-year-old is a dual best and fairest. Arriving at Kardinia Park at 198cm and just 78kg, Blicavs was initially used as a midfielder who could tag and go third-man up in the ruck. He has since turned himself into one of the elite key backs in the competition – with 22kg added to his frame – and is the Cats' co-vice-captain.
Other candidates: Dual premiership players Max Rooke (Rookie Draft selection No.41 in 2001), Shannon Byrnes (Rookie Draft selection No.40 in 2003) and Mathew Stokes (pick No.61 in 2005) could've all taken the mantle. Matthew Egan (pick No.62 in 2004) was an All-Australian before a career-ending foot injury and the Cats also plucked James Podsiadly (Rookie Draft selection No.50 in 2010) before he was a premiership player 10 months later. - Mitch Cleary
Alex Sexton (2011 Draft selection No.88)
The Suns gained access to Sexton under priority rules for local talents, which half explained why he was taken at No.88 in 2011. Gold Coast made the most with their draft bargain for the goalkicker, who had impressed at under-18 level. Sexton took several years to get his career off the ground but has become a strong forward option for the Suns, leading the club's goalkicking in 2018 and 2019. Last year he booted 39 goals in an impressive campaign but managed just 19 from 14 games this season.
Other candidates: Adam Saad was selected as a rookie and got his career off and running at the Suns before they traded him for a future second-round draft choice at the end of 2017 to Essendon. Saad is now at his third club after being traded to Carlton in this year's Trade Period. - Callum Twomey
Zac Williams (2013 Rookie Draft selection No.54)
For the first part of their history, the Giants focused on top-30 picks rather than later selections, knowing they had a revolving door of top-end selections coming in and going out for opportunities elsewhere. In the past few seasons that focus has broadened, but still the Giants' majority of selections are early ones. Williams was tied to the Giants as a local talent and a player from their Academy, but they snagged him as a rookie and he's worked up to be one of the best dashing half-backs in the game. He crossed to Carlton as a restricted free agent during this year's Trade Period.
Other candidates: Small forward Zac Langdon was taken at pick No.56 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft as a mature-age option and delivered in his first season, kicking 21 goals from 21 games in 2018. He featured in the Giants' round one win over Geelong this season. - Callum Twomey
Luke Breust (2008 Rookie Draft selection No.47)
Had to wait until his third AFL season to make his senior debut but he took off from there. Breust (220 games) slotted 40-plus goals in six separate seasons, including 57 in 2014, is a dual All-Australian and was an integral part of the Hawks' 2013-15 flag three-peat. A deadeye dick in front of the sticks, he kicked 109 goals against just 31 behinds across the 2014-15 campaigns. Breust is also an excellent pressure forward and formed a feared trio with Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo.
Other candidates: Rookie-lister Brad Sewell played 200 games, won a pair of flags and the 2007 Peter Crimmins Medal, while No.66 draft pick Paul Puopolo retired at the end of the season with 196 games under his belt and is a triple premiership player. James Sicily (No.56) has also far outperformed his draft status. - Marc McGowan
Aaron Davey (2003 Rookie Draft selection No.3)
Davey (178 games) came via the Northern Territory league and the VFL – where he was voted the competition's best prospect – before the Demons snapped him up. He played so well in his first pre-season that the club's coterie group paid $10,000 to have him promoted to the senior list. Davey earned a Rising Star nomination on debut, developed a reputation as a chase-down expert up forward, then won the 2009 best and fairest from half-back. Boasted great acceleration and was a beautiful left-foot kick.
Other candidates: Mark Jamar rose from a rookie to an All-Australian in 2010. Neville Jetta was a No.51 draft pick but his career took off after he was delisted, rookied and became a defender. Tom McDonald (pick No.53 in 2010) has made a strong contribution at both ends. - Marc McGowan
Michael Firrito (2002 Rookie Draft selection No.10)
Few defenders are more reliable than Firrito was during a stellar 275-game career at Arden St. 'Spud' was a senior staple virtually from his second season in 2004 until 2016, when he was one of four high-profile players to depart, including Brent Harvey, Nick Dal Santo and Drew Petrie. Firrito played taller than his 189cm and was a key Kangaroo in preliminary finals in 2007, 2014 and 2015. Rarely beaten and not only shut his opponents down but also won his share of the Sherrin.
Other candidates: Lindsay Thomas kicked 329 goals from 205 matches after being a rookie selection, while ironman Sam Gibson racked up 130 games from the same humble beginnings. Forwards Corey Jones (pick No.60 in 2000) and Leigh Harding (rookie) both played well over 100 games. – Marc McGowan
Robbie Gray (2006 Draft selection No.55)
Despite kicking an abundance of goals in his draft year, Gray slid to Port Adelaide with pick No.55. However, he quickly outgrew his draft value. A three-time best and fairest winner, two-time club leading goalkicker and a four-time All-Australian, Gray returned from an ACL injury in 2012 to become one of the game's leading mid-forwards. He claimed the AFL Coaches' Association Player of the Year award in 2014, enhancing his reputation as a big-game player with five Showdown Medals to his name. He is truly a draft steal, with plenty of time still left to add to his 237-game Port Adelaide career.
Other candidates: Port Adelaide struck gold late in 2006, also securing fellow best and fairest winner Justin Westhoff with pick No.71. Premiership player Dom Cassisi was taken with pick No.50 in 2000, while current captain Tom Jonas was drafted as a rookie. - Riley Beveridge
Dylan Grimes (2010 Pre-Season Draft selection No.2)
After being overlooked in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft, Grimes made his way onto Richmond's list via the PSD. Despite a stack of injuries, the defender was elevated to the leadership group ahead of the 2013 season after just 17 senior games. Capable of playing on opponents of all sizes, Grimes has been a mainstay of the Tigers' back six during their recent dominance. Took his game to another level in 2019 in the absence of Alex Rance and was rewarded with his first All-Australian blazer. The highlight of 171-game career to date was keeping Coleman medallist Jeremy Cameron to just one goal and the Giants to their lowest ever score in last year's Toyota AFL Grand Final.
Other candidates: Former captain Chris Newman (No.55 in 2000) and Nathan Foley (Rookie Draft selection No.3 in 2003) were both bargains, while premiership heroes Kane Lambert, Jason Castagna, Jayden Short, Liam Baker and Ivan Soldo all came off the rookie list. Bachar Houli (Pre-Season Draft selection No.2 in 2011) fits the criteria but wasn't considered as he had already established himself at Essendon. - Ben Sutton
Sam Fisher (2003 Draft selection No.55)
Two best and fairests in an era that included Nick Riewoldt, Brendon Goddard and Lenny Hayes gets the rebounding backman the nod. Initially focusing on golf as a junior, Fisher made the switch to football and shone for West Adelaide in the SANFL in his early 20s. Drafted as a 21-year-old, he found his feet in the Saints' line-up in 2005. Could play tall or small and was a major driver in attacks from the Saints' defence. Added an All-Australian blazer in 2008.
Other candidates: Skipper Jarryn Geary (Rookie Draft selection No.58 in 2007) was plucked from the clouds and is now one of the most respected defenders in the competition. James Gwilt (pick No.63 in 2004) and Zac Dawson (Rookie Draft selection No.13 in 2009) played in Grand Finals under Ross Lyon. Stephen Milne wasn’t considered because he arrived at the end of 1999. - Mitch Cleary
Dane Rampe (2013 Rookie Draft selection No.37)
Sydney has been so astute when it comes to rookie (and pre-season) draft selections it's certainly not easy naming one brilliant one ahead of another. Jake Lloyd is now a dual B&F winner, Dane Rampe, Kieren Jack and Craig Bolton have all been co-captains, and Tom Papley has turned into a star. As an All-Australian defender, a Bob Skilton medallist, a co-captain, and the key plank of Sydney's backline, we're giving this gong to Rampe who was rookie-listed in 2012 at the age of 22. He would have had another All-Australian blazer on his back, too, if not for getting injured this year, but was recognised by his peers during the AFLPA awards, winning the Robert Rose Most Courageous Award.
Other candidates: Premiership players Heath Grundy, Kieren Jack and Nick Smith made more than 200 appearances after starting as rookies. Gun small forward Tom Papley, and All-Australian Jake Lloyd are also rookie-listers, while Luke Parker was taken with the No.40 pick in 2010. The Swans also snapped up former Brisbane player Craig Bolton in the pre-season draft of 2002 with selection No.3. - Cameron Noakes
Jeremy McGovern (2011 Rookie Draft selection No.44)
Taken with the Eagles' last pick at the end of 2010, McGovern had to wait 1236 days to debut in round six, 2014 after a long stint in the WAFL. Starting as a forward, he quickly settled in defence and was selected in the All-Australian squad of 40 in his first full season in 2015. From then on, he forged himself as the best intercept defender in the competition with four consecutive All-Australians from 2016-2019. Included was the 2018 premiership, where he kickstarted the match-winning play with a daring mark in defence.
Other candidates: Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis (Rookie Draft selection No.31 in 2006) delivered a phenomenal career after arriving as a mature-age pick from the WAFL. Quinten Lynch (Rookie Draft selection No.19 in 2002) and Will Schofield (pick No.50 in 2006) headline the premiership players. - Mitch Cleary
Matthew Boyd (2002 Rookie Draft selection No.23)
The Bulldogs have at least 10 brilliant smokeys to choose from, but Matthew Boyd has to be the best with 292 games, the captaincy, three All-Australian selections, three Charles Sutton Medals and a premiership. Boyd was one of the best ball-winners in the League at his best, before becoming the veteran that led an inexperienced defence to the 2016 flag. Scott Clayton managed to draft Brian Lake at pick No.71 in the 2001 NAB AFL Draft before picking up Boyd – a smokey masterclass.
Other candidates: Daniel Cross, Easton Wood, Dale Morris, Brian Lake, Jarrod Harbrow, Luke Dahlhaus, Liam Picken, Caleb Daniel, Jason Johannisen – take your pick! The Dogs have a brilliant track record. - Jourdan Canil