MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 14: Harry Taylor of the Cats (L) celebrates a goal with Tom Hawkins after he kicks the ball for a goal in the dying stages during the round 21 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 14, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

In the lead up to the 2017 season, we will be assessing each club’s list and naming our best 22 for round one. Working our way up the ladder; following the analysis of GWS, the next cab off the rank is Geelong.

Ins: Ryan Abbott, Aaron Black, Zach Guthrie, Jack Henry, Timm House, Jamaine Jones, Quinton Narkle, Mark O’Connor, Brandan Parfitt, Esava Ratugolea, Sam Simpson, Tom Stewart, Zach Tuohy.

Outs: Jimmy Bartel, Zac BatesJosh Caddy, Mitch Clark, Jock Cornell, Cameron Delaney, Corey Enright, Shane Kersten, Padraig Lucey, Michael Luxford, Tom Read, Billie Smedts, Nathan Vardy.

Zero Hanger 2017 ladder prediction: 3rd

2016 was a season that showed a lot of promise but ended in crushing disappointment for the Cats. They were blown away in an incredible first quarter blitz by the Swans in their preliminary final. Their big weapons fired in that match, Dangerfield and Selwood had 39 touches each, but they were outgunned by the Swans spread across the board. It demands a re-think from the Cats hierarchy, how can they get the best out of their B & C grade players without hurting the performance of their stars? Which is better for the team?

Strengths

The Cats have recruited well to try and cope with the losses of Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright down back. Zach Tuohy comes in to aid their run from defense, while they already added Lachie Henderon a year prior. Jackson Thurlow returning from a knee reconstruction is a great story, he looked like he was just hitting his straps before he went down last year. Jake Kolodjashnij is developing nicely and mature-aged Tom Stewart is being touted to play round one, although he doesn’t quite make my side. They have plenty of options down there and that allows Harry Taylor to push forward.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA – JULY 29: Joel Selwood of the Cats handpasses the ball to Patrick Dangerfield of the Cats during the 2016 AFL Round 19 match between the Geelong Cats and the Western Bulldogs at Simonds Stadium on July 29, 2016 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Related: check who is out of contract at the Cats here.

Related: Cats, Hawks name week one squads for JLT Series

The midfield is an obvious strength for Geelong, but their strength can be both a blessing and a curse. Brownlow Medalist Patrick Dangerfield is the best player in the game and Joel Selwood isn’t far behind him. The obvious knock is Geelong is too reliant on the big two. Statistically, Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and the departed Josh Caddy all hit their disposal averages from previous years, but their impact on games seemed to be diminished. One weakness is they seem to have a lot of front-running players running through the midfield, with few focusing on the defensive aspects of the game. Chris Scott should be able to address that in the off-season and Scott Selwood will help in that department.

Weaknesses

Providing a foil for Tom Hawkins has been the main difficulty for the Geelong hierarchy. Mitch Clark, Shane Kersten, Nathan Vardy and Josh Walker have all be tried in that role and have failed. It’s a difficult position as Hawkins commands so much of the footy in the Geelong forwardline. The talk is Harry Taylor will be the next player to be trialled there. He has five and six goal hauls in his career and has kicked 45 goals, 28 behinds. Time will tell if Taylor can be successful up forward, but the Cats need him, or anyone to successfully partner Hawkins if they are going to win a flag.

Related: How the Cats can form one of the most formidable forward lines in the competition.

The abolition of the third man up rule will hurt no side more than Geelong. The Cats were the greatest exponents of the third man up with Mark Blicavs accumulating 154 hitouts utilising the strategy. With the tactic now outlawed, Zac Smith is going to have to step up for the Cats this season. He is capable, but he has operated with the safety net that if he is getting beaten they can call upon Blicavs to help out. Not having that could hurt the Cats.

Projected Geelong 2017 round one best 22:

FB: Jackson Thurlow, Tom Longergan, Zach Tuohy

HB: Cam Guthrie, Lachie Henderson, Andrew Mackie

C: Mitch Duncan, Joel Selwood, Mark Blicavs

HF: Steven Motlop, Harry Taylor, Rhys Stanley

FF: Daniel Menzel, Tom Hawkins, Lincoln McCarthy

FOL: Zac Smith, Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Selwood

I/C: Sam Menegola, Nakia Cockatoo, Jake Kolodjashnij, Darcy Lang

EMG: Tom Stewart, Jordan Murdoch, Tom Ruggles