No top ten pick? No worries: Hidden gems in the National Draft

Every year the AFL Trade and now Free Agency Period brings a certain sense of excitement amongst AFL clubs and fans. With the season done and dusted, every club goes back to square one in a bid to retain, alter or rejuvenate their list in an attempt to achieve their goals for the following season. Whether you’re a side like Hawthorn or Sydney who look to bring in established stars as they press for a premiership, or a side like St Kilda or Melbourne that focus their attention on gaining the services of talented youngsters or high draft picks; the off-season is an exciting time.

With excitement comes debate about whether clubs can snare players in the National, Rookie or Pre-Season drafts that are likely to become 200 game players, captains or role players who can help push the club towards its next premiership. Much has been spoken about the 2013 draft crop as being shallow after the first 15 picks. While this may be the case, there is still plenty of genuine talent outside the first round that could surprise a lot of fans over the coming years. While many might argue that those players taken in the top ten are comfortably higher than those ranked in the later rounds, there are a number of players that could be fantastic value for a club that might not have that early pick.

#1 – Tom Boyd (Eastern Ranges) -> Michael Apeness (Eastern Ranges)

It seems ironic that if you’re not a club in the race for pick one but need a key forward, that a perfect late value pick could be Tom Boyd’s team mate Michael Apeness. Apeness is just as good of a contested mark and demands the footy on searching leads. He might not have the dominance that Boyd has shown at Under 18s level, but with the frame and the underlying talent that he has, Apeness could be a late second rounder to third round pick and provide the same contest and impact up forward. He’s ready made and can impact next season if given the chance and could be a very handy pick up for one of the lower sides looking for a young key forward.

#2 – Ben Lennon (Northern Knights)/Jack Billings (Oakleigh Chargers) -> James Sicily (Western Jets)

Both Ben Lennon and Jack Billings are all but expected to go inside the top ten. Both players are primarily forward, however can play in the midfield or in Lennon’s case, down back as well. It’s hard to find too many players that are in that lead up role, but one player who is a real gem is Western Jets’ James Sicily. Behind only Lennon and Billings in a height-contested mark scale, Sicily consistently beats players who are well out of his height and weight division. He has fantastic goal sense and can play the crumbing role as well. Very similar to a Brent Macaffer but rated even higher at the same age. Was originally a third to fourth round pick but has shot up into the second round, but could still be there for a late second round pick.

#3 – James Aish (Norwood)/Josh Kelly (Sandringham) -> Riley Knight (Woodville-West Torrens)

This year has undoubtedly being touted as a midfielder’s draft. With so many talented midfielder’s going in the first round, it’s hard to compare and contrast so many. One guy who has flown under the radar massively is Riley Knight from Woodville-West Torrens. He played at the Under 18s Championships and has been ultra-impressive in the SANFL. He’s a good kick of the footy and wins plenty of it. The fact he has great endurance just makes him solid across the athletic and skill bases. While he has a few question marks over his hurt factor, Knight has the potential to become a very dangerous player in the future with the right development. Could be one to watch in the third round or beyond.

#4 – Matt Crouch (North Ballarat Rebels) -> Ben Cavarra (Eastern Ranges)

After his brother was drafted to Adelaide in the mini-draft, Crouch became one of the most talked about draftees in the 2013 draft crop. He has impeccable vision but lacks damaging footskills and doesn’t have a huge athletic base. One player who could go late due to his height and continually being overlooked by recruiters such as his omission from the draft combine is Eastern Ranges’ captain Ben Cavarra. He finds the footy with ease and relentlessly urges his team on regardless of the game situation. He wins the hard ball and while he can tend to rush his kicks a fair bit, he racks up clearances like there’s no tomorrow. Very similar to Matt Priddis in the way he goes about it and could be fantastic value as a late pick.

#5 – Marcus Bontempelli (Northern Knights) -> Lewis Fitzgerald (Oakleigh Chargers)/Jonothon Marsh (East Fremantle)

The last player type that is likely to go inside the top ten is the tall midfielder that is Marcus Bontempelli. Bontempelli is a hard player to compare because he plays the tall forward role intermittingly with the wingman role. There are two players that are similar if you look at his individual roles. In terms of midfield, Lewis Fitzgerald is that tall midfielder who has a raking kick and has potential to do damage around the field. He is quite athletic and knows how to find the football too which is always handy in that position. If you want Bontempelli for his forward aspects, then perhaps West Australian Jonothon Marsh might be the guy you’re after. He’s so hard to place because on potential he’s one of the highest in the draft, but on current ability he is about a third round pick. No doubt a recruiter will pounce early in the second round but if he slides, Marsh could be one to grab if he’s still there at your club’s third rounder.

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