With the football season and AFL trade period over, clubs turn their full attention to the national draft in Sydney on Nov. 24.
Drafting has become a more exact science over time, and ESPN's AFL draft expert, Christopher Doerre, aka Knightmare, has identified three key trends in recent years that have shaped the current draft landscape.
As well as attending live games during the season, Doerre pores through match vision, analyses the stats and talks to industry sources to ensure he can offer the most insightful analysis.
1. Fewer ruckmen are selected inside the first 20 picks
After a period between 2004 and 2008 when ruckmen were hot property within the first 20 picks, clubs have greatly reduced their options on rucks early in the draft. So much so that no ruckmen have been taken inside the first 10 since 2011 (noting Tom Boyd was selected as a key forward in 2013), and 2008 was the last year in which two or more ruckmen were taken inside the top 20.
This trend has occurred due to the lack of relative success from many of those ruckmen taken early, in combination with so many rookie draft success stories. Since 1999, Dean Cox, Aaron Sandilands, Shane Mumford, Darren Jolly, Sam Jacobs, Dean Brogan, Mark Jamar and Mike Pyke have written a rookie draft success story, outperforming the vast majority of ruckmen taken before them.
The trend against ruckmen in the draft is unlikely to change in the next few years. However, if a transcendent ruckmen comes along, it is not unreasonable to think they could feature inside the top 10.
List of lead ruckmen taken inside the top 20 in recent years:
2016: Tim English (19)
2013: Tom Boyd (1 - drafted as a key forward)
2012: Brodie Grundy (18)
2011: Billy Longer (8)
2010: Daniel Gorringe (10)
2008: Nic Naitanui (2), Ayce Cordy (14)
2007: Matthew Kreuzer (1), Ben McEvoy (9), Matthew Lobbe (16)
2006: Matthew Leuenberger (4), Shaun Hampson (17)
2005: Patrick Ryder (7 - drafted as a key position player), Mitch Clark (9 - played most of his career as a key position player but requires acknowledgement having made the 40-man All-Australian squad 2009 as a ruckman), Max Bailey (18)
2004: John Meesen (8), Adam Pattison (16), Cameron Wood (18)
2. Recruiters are viewing state league talent more favourably
Typically, late in the national draft, clubs have always had an interest in drafting mature-age players with a view towards taking them to fill an immediate list need. The key change over time is the shift away from recycling players -- clubs re-drafting those who have been on other AFL lists -- to placing a greater focus on state league talent and over-agers. It is noteworthy that each of the past seven premiership sides have possessed at least two mature-age players secured from the state leagues, emphasising the importance of looking beyond the under-18 competitions.
The trend is likely to continue to grow, with recruiting departments expanding and looking for new ways to snare talent beyond junior competitions. Clubs are also expected to invest further resources into opposition talent identification, seeking players from opposition clubs via trade, free agency and delisted free agency -- which should see the number of recycled players also rise.
Mature-age and overage selections in recent drafts:
3. Height matters more and more
Taller players are being drafted at each position around the ground, and footballers of once unusual heights are now playing in positions they previously would have been deemed far too tall to play.
Genuine 200cm key forwards are today entering the competition with movement and cleanness at ground level typically expected of medium forwards. This is making clubs look at this new breed of 200cm players as genuine key position players, not just ruckmen. Since the selection of star Essendon father-son draftee Joe Daniher in 2012, the frequency of 200cm key forwards being picked is rising.
On the flip side, there has been a reduced frequency of players shorter than 195cm drafted as key position players since 2008.
Also, there are many more footballers 190cm and taller gaining senior opportunities as midfielders and flankers. These 190cm-plus midfielders and flankers similarly are bringing to the table suitable skill sets, mobility and ground-ball winning to have no difficulty dealing with their smaller counterparts. Over the past five drafts, there have been no fewer than two 190cm and taller midfielders or flankers chosen within the top 20, with the number likely to continue rising over coming seasons.
This trend is occurring because more footballers are late bloomers -- growing up playing through the midfield and then suddenly having a growth spurt and retaining the skills they have developed. The other relevant factor is the push from AFL clubs and through the junior ranks for players to become multi-positional, following the recent Hawthorn premiership model in which every player can play multiple positions.
It is not unreasonable to expect within the next 10-15 years that 200cm midfielders and 205cm key forwards will be among the best players at their positions.
List of key position players 200cm or taller taken inside the top 20 in recent years:
2015: Harry McKay (200cm), Eric Hipwood (202cm)
2014: Peter Wright (203cm), Darcy Moore (201cm)
2013: Tom Boyd (200cm)
2012: Joe Daniher (200cm)
2009: Ben Griffiths (200cm)
2008: Tyrone Vickery (200cm)
2005: Mitch Clark (200cm)
List of key position players 194cm or shorter taken inside the top 20 in recent years:
2016: Griffin Logue (193cm)
2015: Charlie Curnow (194cm), Harrison Himmelberg (194cm)
2014: Paddy McCartin (194cm), Caleb Marchbank (193cm), Jake Lever (194cm)
2013: Cam McCarthy (192cm)
2012: Jake Stringer (192cm), Aidan Corr (194cm)
2011: Adam Tomlinson (194cm)
2008: Michael Hurley (193cm)
2007: Jarrad Grant (193cm), Alex Rance (194cm), Tony Notte (194cm)
2006: Mitch Thorp (194cm), James Frawley (193cm), Jack Riewoldt (193cm)
2005: Paul Bower (192cm)
2004: Jarryd Roughead (193cm), Mathtew Bate (192cm), Lynden Dunn (192cm)
2003: Ryan Murphy (193cm), Billy Morrison (192cm)