ESSENDON is considering giving its latest top draftee Ben Hobbs an AFL debut to help cover the loss of injured playmaker Zach Merrett.

Merrett will miss a chunk of the season, starting with Friday night's clash against reigning premier Melbourne, because of an ankle injury.

Hobbs, an 18-year-old who was the Bombers' top selection at pick 13 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, is in the selection frame.

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"Absolutely he is a chance," Essendon coach Ben Rutten said on Wednesday.

"He has been working really hard on his game and another strong performance on the weekend (in the VFL) so he will certainly be in the mix of guys we're looking at."

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The Bombers have ruled out Nik Cox (ankle) from playing against the Demons while doubt remains over the fitness of star on-baller Dylan Shiel.

Shiel, troubled by a side strain, was a late withdrawal from Essendon's 22-point loss to Brisbane last weekend.

"We have got to wait and see how Shiely gets through training today," Rutten said.

The winless Bombers enter the MCG fixture as outsiders to topple Melbourne while Rutten defended 176-gamer Devon Smith from criticism about his output last week.

Devon Smith celebrates a goal against Brisbane in round two, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Smith had just four disposals after recording 17 touches in their season-opener.

"Last week, I thought Dev started really strongly but for whatever reason didn't quite have the impact that he would have liked in the back half of the game," Rutten said.

"We are there to drive a performance program, we need guys that continue to train and play well ... he brings so much to us Dev.

"He is an experienced player now and we know what he can do but we also need him to get back to his best as quick as he can."