Every club in the AFL invests an incredible amount of time and focus into the draft as a means for building their lists. List managers, draft experts and football directors analyse under 18’s statistics to figure out the best available players. The use of high draft picks can lead to the discovery of future stars but at the same time the draft combine can produce unpredictable prospects. At pick 18 in last year’s draft, Brodie Grundy looks like becoming the steal of the year and this list will look at some of the best draftees that were overlooked by the majority of clubs.
Chris Mayne (Fremantle) Pick 40 2007
One of the most important players in the Fremantle line-up, Mayne has become a very damaging forward target as a player who can break a game open with a few quick goals. He could go close to All-Australian this year.
Corey Enright (Geelong) Pick 47 1999
The main reason this doesn’t make the top 10 is because at this point in time, the draft was still a hit and miss and clubs weren’t as reliant on its success as they are today. Enright is one of the best Geelong players in the past decade and was a vital element in their dominant period which yielded three premierships in five years.
Mathew Stokes (Geelong) Pick 61 2005
Stokes is another premiership player at Geelong and a very handy small forward who has recently rediscovered his blistering pace and goal sense. Will fight it out with a number of players for All-Australian spots this year.
10. Kade Simpson (Carlton) Pick 45 2002
Due to Carlton’s salary cap punishments, Simpson was their first pick in the 2002 but he has turned out to be an absolute steal. An excellent wingman who can sneak forward and contribute on the scoreboard. Is currently vice-captain of the Blues and was very close to the top spot. He represented Australia in the International Rules Series and won the Jim Stynes Medal in 2008.
9. Rory Sloane (Adelaide) Pick 44 2008
One of the most courageous young players in the league and constantly touted as a future captain of the Crows, Sloane was passed over by every team twice until Adelaide took notice of his incredible stamina and clearance ability. He is averaging 23 disposals this season and is one of the few positives in a pretty disappointing year for the Crows.
8. Cameron Bruce (Melbourne/Hawthorn) Pick 64 1999
A champion of the Melbourne football club for a decade before playing one season with the Hawks, Bruce was taken very late in the 1999 draft. This draft in hindsight is one of the strongest in history with a number of players achieving significant success. He won the Melbourne best and fairest in 2008 and was a tremendous on-field leader.
7. Daniel Cross (Western Bulldogs) Pick 56 2000
Cross is a best and fairest winner at the Bulldogs and one of the most underrated midfielders of the past decade. He continues to put his body on the line for his team and consistently racks up the possessions. His tremendous 2008 season saw him beat Adam Cooney for the Charlie Sutton medal despite Cooney winning the Brownlow in the same year.
6. Lindsay Thomas (North Melbourne) Pick 53 2006
When he’s switched on Lindsay Thomas is the best small forward in the competition. He can win games off his own boot and has an unbelievable goal sense and agility in the forward 50. 2006 was a pretty strong draft but it’s hard to believe that he fell to pick 53. He seems to have an All-Australian spot sewn up and has kicked a career best 49 goals this season.
5. Dayne Beams (Collingwood) Pick 29 2008
In hindsight Dayne Beams should have been a top 10 pick and the other 15 clubs who overlooked him will regret it for years to come. The reigning Copeland Trophy winner has incredible disposal efficiency and was a ready made footballer when he was drafted. He has had an injury-interrupted season but could be an x-factor for Collingwood in their finals campaign.
4. Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn) Pick 36 2001
Sam Mitchell is the forgotten player in the super draft of 2001 and could have easily cracked the top 10 that year. A former premiership captain and four-time best and fairest, Mitchell is one of the best midfielders in the league today. He came agonisingly close to winning the Brownlow last year and was an ineligible runner up the year before. He’s averaging 28 disposals this year and could become a two-time premiership winner if the Hawks can capitalize on their current form.
3. Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney) Pick 56 1999
O’Keefe is snother premiership player who was taken quite low in the draft and in hindsight should have been a first-round pick. He won the Norm Smith Medal in Sydney’s win over Hawthorn last year and could reach 300 games if he continues on for another season.
2. Brian Lake (Western Bulldogs) Pick 71 2001
Lake was one of the last nine players taken in the 2001 super draft, but possibly one of the best. A two-time All-Australian and Western Bulldogs best and fairest, he has been compared to Matthew Scarlett and Stephen Silvagni as one of the best full-backs in the modern era. Lake was the general in the Bulldogs’ backline for a number of years before moving to Hawthorn through free agency.
1. Dane Swan (Collingwood) Pick 58 2001
A Brownlow Medallist taken at pick 58 is the definition of a steal. Dane Swan has been the best midfielder at Collingwood since the heyday of coach Nathan Buckley and is the ultimate accumulator. He is a vital element in the clearances and never stops running. To go with his Brownlow Medal in 2010, he is also a four time All-Australian, three time best and fairest, ANZAC Medallist, premiership player and AFLPA MVP.
These players are proof that the draft can be unpredictable and that a diamond can be extracted from the depths of the draft combine to become an absolute champion of the game.