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2008 AFL draft first round takes shape

2008 AFL draft first rounders

Perhaps it’s an illusion, but it seems to me that the consensus view from pundits about the order of the kids picked in the first round of the 2008 AFL draft is more set than ever – which makes early planning for your 2009 fantasy team in the Fanplanner more interesting. I’m not just talking here about phantom/mock drafts done on forums like BigFooty, but pronouncements by AFL clubs about their drafting intentions, plus predictions made by respected insiders such as Emma Quayle.

Quayle, whose credibility apart from being an experienced journalist for the Age is the research she did for her book The Draft, made her predictions last year and nailed each one of the top ten, albeit that she had two or three options for some picks. This year her thoughts as expressed on radio SEN are as follows:

1. Jack Watts [Melbourne]
2. Nick Naitanui [West Coast]
3. Daniel Rich, Stephen Hill or Tyrone Vickery [Fremantle]
4. Vickery, Hamish Hartlett, Hill or Chris Yarran [Port Adelaide]
5. Yarran, Rich or Hill [Essendon]
6. Michael Hurley or Hartlett [Carlton]
7. Jack Ziebell, Hartlett or Steele Sidebottom [Brisbane]
8. Hartlett, Vickery or Ziebell [Richmond]
9. Lewis Johnston or Jordan Lisle [North Melbourne]
10. Phil Davis or Jackson Trengove [Adelaide]

The top two are pretty much set in stone everywhere you look, and few think that Freo will go past Rich, as he is just the sort of player they need to fill out their undermanned midfield. Port have already made noises about drafting Vickery, though with Choco Williams you never know what’s going to come out of his box of chocolates. After that it’s anyone’s guess on the order of the next four players: Hill, Hurley, Hartlett and Ziebell will probably be the four taken from 5-8 though. Beyond 8 it’s even more wide open, though Geelong has already staked its claim for Tom Swift and Freo’s second pick looks likely to be set aside for a small forward to replace Jeff Farmer, with Neville Jetta and Michael Walters in their sights.

How much of this is relevant to fantasy coaches? Everyone’s getting on board the Rich bandwagon, so there’s no news there. If you’re prepared to pay top draft dollar for NicNat and/or Vickery then good luck to you, though there’s no guarantees on them getting games with two established ruckmen at both clubs. Watts, who is in a fair few plan teams, is finishing year 12 next year so temper your expectations, as you should have this year with Scott Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield.

In many ways the main fantasy interest is outside the top 10 this year, as clubs seem to be laser-focused on talls. The shining example of Hawthorn’s 2004 draft stares at wannabe-Pelchens in the face, no doubt, as the November sunlight glints off the premiership medals of Jordan Roughead and Lance Franklin. Meanwhile, fantasy coaches know that smalls are where it’s at for fantasy value in first year players, so they’re looking at who picks up Yarran, Sidebottom, Jetta, Walters, Sam Blease, Nick Suban and Rhys O’Keefe. It looks like most of those players will escape the price premium put on top 10 picks by VirtualSports, making them even more tasty.

It should also be reiterated that rookies are going to become more important this year with the relaxation of rules on rookie elevation, such that rookies like Ranga Ediriwickrama could become much more popular than most draftees with fantasy coaches as midseason pickups.

More analysis of the draft when it happens, of course!

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