2020 AFL Draft Positional Analysis: Key Position Defenders

THE KEY position stocks among this year’s potential AFL Draft crop are quite rich when compared to 2019, with a couple of tall defenders currently featuring at the pointy end of ranking boards. While not all of them currently have the opportunity to show their worth on the field, exposed form and long preseasons for most allow for a window into how the current stocks stack up.

In ramping up our 2020 AFL Draft analysis, Draft Central continues its line-by-line positional breakdowns, moving on to the best key position defenders. The following list features pocket profiles of top-age (2002-born) prospects who are part of their respective AFL Academy hubs, while also touching on some names who we may have missed, or will feature on another list.

Without further ado, get to know some of the premier key defenders who are eligible to be drafted to your club in 2020.

Note: The list is ordered alphabetically, not by any form of ranking.

James Borlase
Sturt/South Australia
18/06/2002 | 190cm | 94kg

His father, Darryl may have played 246 games for the Port Adelaide Magpies, but Adelaide lay claim to first dibs on the next generation of Borlase via its academy ranks. The 190cm prospect landed in the Crows’ zone and was born in Egypt, allowing him to join and develop through the Crows’ Next Generation Academy (NGA). Currently plying his trade in Sturt’s Reserves side, Borlase has been a mainstay in the South Australian state ranks, utilised at either end of the ground. But with his strength and sound reading of the play, the 18-year-old is looking to cement a spot down back this year. He is a little short on true key position height but has the frame to compete, and may become more of a third-tall type at the next level.

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Cody Brand
Calder Cannons/Vic Metro
23/05/2002 | 195cm | 84kg

Another NGA hopeful, Brand came on strong towards the back end of last year’s NAB League season having regained some confidence during his school football campaign. He is a good size at 195cm and 84kg, able to utilise his strength in one-on-one situations to pose attributes which slightly lean towards the shutdown role among the back six setup. But Brand is relatively adept athletically too, with a decent spring and closing speed allowing him to both impact aerial contests and rebound effectively. He is one of the few talls at Calder this year, and looks like locking down a key defensive post once again having also been trialled up forward.

>> Feature

Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia
31/01/2002 | 193cm | 81kg

A prospect who may rise quickly up draft boards is Chapman, an athletic key position type who is built for the modern game. The West Perth product mixes defence with offence well, able to read the play and intercept with aplomb, while also finding plenty of the ball and using it soundly on the rebound. While he still has time to grow, Chapman’s slight 193cm frame and terrific athletic attributes throw up the potential for him to be freed from the key position caper, in order to truly enhance his speed-endurance mix. But for now, expect to see Chapman dominating across centre half-back at Colts level for the Falcons, and a partnership alongside Denver Grainger-Barras also looms in future for the Black Ducks.

Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro
15/01/2002 | 199cm | 82kg

There is a lot to like about the 2020 Northern Knights co-captain, who brings precise dual-sided disposal, speed-endurance running, aerial prowess, and clean hands all in one versatile 199cm package. Cox cut his teeth in a range of different positions as a bottom-ager, roaming the wing at times while also being tried with great success up forward. But his sound disposal, leadership, and reading of the play have him pinned for a role at centre half-back this year, having appeared once already for Vic Metro among the back six. Should he put all the pieces together, Cox has the potential to be a true top 10 prospect, but as is the case with most high-upside prospects, he is still quite raw.

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>> Marquee Matchup

Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 78kg

Speaking of true top 10 prospects, Grainger-Barras is the early clubhouse leader among the key defenders having shown outstanding form to this point in his junior career. After earning All Australian honours at Under 16 level, the Swan Districts product went on to impress across two Under 18 National Championship games for WA, before being ruled out for the remainder of his bottom-age season with a serious shoulder injury. While he is still a touch light-on, Grainger-Barras is more than capable of competing in a lock-down defensive role, but thrives in being able to intercept and showcase his versatility across the backline. He should feature early at WAFL League level having cracked the grade in 2019.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

Jack Johnston
Gold Coast Academy/Allies
5/07/2002 | 195cm | 95kg

Another academy member among our list and one who has flown a little under the radar is Johnston, who looks a likely type. He is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS Academy, and played all five games in the NAB League Northern Academy series last year, playing an important role at centre half-back. Like many on this list, he possesses a good amount of athleticism to add to his defensive capabilities, able to impact the play aerially and at ground level. His frame makes him a readymade type, and he looks poised for an Allies berth in 2020 having made the squad as a bottom-ager.

Cody Raak
Western Jets/Vic Metro
8/10/2002 | 191cm | 77kg

While he might fall just under the genuine key position quota at 191cm, the Western Bulldogs NGA hopeful is one who plays the defensive role well. Having already turned out 11 times at NAB League level for the Western Jets, Raak is one of the more seasoned members of his region and provides a good deal of versatility to the potential Vic Metro back six. Raak is able to read the play well across the backline and intercept aerially, while also using the ball soundly when in possession and notching up a solid amount of disposals. He is working on his strength and one-on-one craft, but looms as an exciting third tall type going forward.

Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 82kg

The only player on this list to tip over the 200cm mark is Reid, who brings a bunch of desirable traits to the table. The leading Gippsland Power prospect does not just lean on his height and vertical leap to have an impact aerially, as he positions well and is improving on his strength-related game. Reid is also a terrific kick for his size and combines his slick use by foot with clean hands and athleticism to help sweep up at ground level. Having been tested through the ruck and up forward for periods as a bottom-ager, Reid looks primed to continue as a key defender with plenty to suggest he has all the right attributes for the next level.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

There were a few players who were tricky to omit from this list, but most will feature on others as they did not quite fit the true key defensive mould. Among them, the 188cm Jye Sinderberry is a very capable lockdown defender at Under 18 level, who competes well in all areas against players about his size. Geelong’s Cameron Fleeton is another versatile type who can adapt to the key position role as it stands, but is likely to be let off the leash going forward. Late bloomer Blake Morris possesses similar intercept marking power, but is again a touch short and light at 188cm/66kg. You can add Will Schreiber to the list, too, although he has also been utilised through midfield this season.

Oakleigh’s Sam Tucker is of a true key position mould, but can be considered a swingman of sorts given he has also played up forward, while the likes of Jack Driscoll double as ruck cover, and Jack Briskey narrowly missed the cut due to his athleticism suiting a slightly different role. Gold Coast Academy prospect Ryan Pickering is another who may impress in 2020, almost adding to the 200cm club.

Picture: AFL Media

Positional Analysis: Inside Midfielders | Outside Midfielders | Key Position Forwards

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July 2020 Power Rankings

Squad Predictions:
Allies
South Australia
Vic Country
Vic Metro
Western Australia

Features
AFL Draft Watch

Preseason Testing Analysis:
Jumps
Speed
Agility
Endurance

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