The 2017 AFL Draft takes place tonight and while phantom drafts are flying around, there’s another thing that needs to be taken into account and that’s which teams are under the most pressure to nail their picks.
Whether clubs have had a few poor years of drafting in a row, are in a rebuilding phase or looking for the final pieces of the puzzle, all clubs are under pressure, but unquestionably some more than others.
The draft order also has a part to play in this as even though a team like Hawthorn had a poor year, their lack of picks leave them pretty free of stress tonight.
So who are the teams under the microscope tonight and who has more of a free hit?
1. St Kilda
Draft picks: 7, 8, 34, 45 and 100
St Kilda spent most of 2017 trying to land a big fish from another club and had the draft picks to get something done. Unfortunately for them, they left the trade period unsuccessful and now need to take the best midfielders available with their top 10 picks.
The Saints have been on the verge of finals the last few years, but have come up short and the pressure will mount in 2018 if they can’t take the next step. Picks seven and eight will likely play a massive role in St Kilda’s ability to climb the ladder and if they get them wrong, the flow-on effect could leave recently re-signed coach Alan Richardson in hot water.
Draft picks: 2, 5, 42, 60, 66, 71, 79, 83 and 97
Fremantle are in more of a rebuilding phase than St Kilda, but this is a list that desperately needs elite talent. They were one of the big winners of the trade period, scoring pick two from the Gold Coast as part of the Lachie Weller trade and that’s put them in the best draft position of any team.
However, with great power comes great responsibility and the Dockers now need to nail their two top five selections. Fremantle’s descent down the ladder doesn’t seem to be over just yet, but that could start turning around if they get this draft right. The pressure is well and truly on.
3. North Melbourne
Draft picks: 4, 23, 64, 78, 91 and 96
In what is supposedly a shallow draft, North Melbourne has one big shot to get a star into their club and to say they have to get it right is an understatement. The Roos have a list seriously lacking young talent to build around, but getting this top five pick right could start pointing them in the right direction.
North has received a lot of criticism for their list and their first chance to start proving people wrong comes tonight. They’re a team rebuilding and to put it simply, they cannot afford to get this draft wrong.
Draft picks: 1, 15, 18, 40, 44, 52 and 93
No guarantees comes with the number one pick, especially for a team with a track record of losing top draft picks to homesickness and with all of that comes a lot of pressure. Brisbane’s list looks promising, but when you win the wooden spoon and have three picks inside the top 20, there’s naturally a lot of expectation to continue building your squad.
Things are looking up at the Lions and they have the chance to select who they deem the best kid in the country. For the sake of football in Queensland, let’s hope they get it right.
5. West Coast
Draft picks: 13, 21, 26, 32, 37, 69, 87 and 105
West Coast is currently experiencing a run of consecutive poor drafts and this is partly to blame for where they sit going into 2018. They’ve lost a lot of experienced players and don’t have much underneath to replace them. They could be a team that falls dramatically down the ladder in 2018 and they need to start replenishing their list.
They have a decent allotment of picks with five selections in the top 40. The Eagles have as much pressure on them in this draft as any other team and need to start finding replacements for the players who have recently left the club, especially through the midfield.
Draft picks: 6, 38, 56, 61, 70, 80 and 98
Similarly to North Melbourne, Collingwood is a team that needs young talent, but only has one big shot to throw. The Pies desperately need key position players at both ends, but this draft seemingly doesn’t have what they’re looking for. Despite that, the number six pick is a great spot to be in and for a team that will be under intense coaching scrutiny again in 2018, they need to start getting these high selections right.
Draft picks: 3, 10, 30 and 73
Carlton may take the cake for most consistently poor drafting across the 21st century, but Stephen Silvagni appears to have turned that around. Their last two drafting performances have been outstanding and that takes the pressure off them slightly. However, they still have two top 10 picks and as a team that finished in the bottom four, they have to continue drafting well. With All-Australian Sam Docherty out for the 2018 season, there’s even more pressure on them to continue adding to their midfield depth.
8. Western Bulldogs
Draft picks: 9, 16, 82 and 101
The Bulldogs fall into the top eight on this list mainly because of the picks they have at their disposal. As the only remaining team with a top 10 pick, the Dogs have a lot to work with. The pressure also comes from the 2016 premiers’ terrible season and given they still have a relatively young squad, the onus will be on them to bounce back and get back in the premiership hunt.
9. Gold Coast
Draft picks: 19, 41, 50, 54, 76 and 94
The Weller trade has left Gold Coast with a poor hand of picks, but everything this club does comes with buckets of pressure. The Suns are yet to play finals and the club continues to leak talented youngsters to other clubs. They’ve gotten last year’s draft selections to recommit to the club which is a good sign for them, but they need to continue the momentum tonight. Finding a few decent players through the midfield would be a win for them.
10. Greater Western Sydney
Draft picks: 11, 27, 28, 57, 65, 89 and 107
The Giants lost a lot of talent through retirements and trades and need to replenish in this draft. They lost three quality young players and now have to replace them with the selections they received as compensation. GWS is a team still in its premiership window, but there are now questions over their depth. If they have another year with such a horrid injury run, the players they pick up in this draft could go a long way to keeping them afloat next year.
Draft picks: 14, 33, 51, 88 and 106
Sydney has always had a strong record in the draft, especially considering they never really get their hands on top picks. The Swans have a great list, but were soundly beaten in the second round of finals by Geelong. However, they were arguably the form team of the competition after round six and have stars all over the field. They should simply be looking to add the best players available in the draft. Pick 14 gives them a decent chance to do that and now we’re starting to get into the teams that’ll be under minimal stress.
Draft picks: 29, 31, 36, 47, 84 and 102
Melbourne gave up their first round pick to land Adelaide defender Jake Lever and so go into this draft with a number of decent selections, but nothing of any note. They should still have a good chance to get some talent into their club, but for a team looking to make a run up the ladder, they really only need to add to their existing depth here.
Draft picks: 22, 24, 35, 58, 72, 90 and 108
Geelong is clearly in full premiership mode at the moment and while they have two picks in the top 25, their focus would simply be on adding depth around their established stars. Their list arguably bats deeper than any other team, but who knows how long this premiership window will last, so the Cats still have some pressure on them to get players ready to replace the likes of Harry Taylor and Gary Ablett.
Draft picks: 12, 37, 77 and 109
The runners up had a very active trade period and as a result, have minimal selections outside of pick 12. An 18-year-old won’t make a great deal of difference to their premiership aspirations and so they’re not under much pressure tonight. They probably have the luxury of taking the best available player as well.
Draft picks: 17, 20, 25, 53, 55, 74, 92 and 110
Richmond just won the flag so there is zero pressure on them right now, but given they have three decent picks and a father/son selection available, the eyes of the Richmond army will be on them, hoping the good times keep rolling. They have enough picks tonight to make a decent impact.
Draft picks: 43, 68, 75, 81 and 99
What’s the best way for a bottom eight side to take the pressure right off themselves heading into the draft? Trade away all your picks! The Hawks will enter at pick 43 and in this supposedly shallow draft. They’ll probably take their three players and not make much fuss about it.
17. Port Adelaide
Draft picks: 46, 49, 59, 62, 63, 86, 95 and 104
Port had a busy trade period, but they still have quite a few picks at their disposal. They clearly believe they’re in the premiership window, but a bit of additional depth couldn’t hurt them given the amount of players they lost in the trade period. A backup ruckman in particular would be a good get.
Draft picks: 48, 67, 85 and 103
Essendon got the job done during the trade period and are now really only heading to the draft because they’re forced to take at least three players. Adrian Dodoro can put his feet up tonight.