In a similar vein to recent counts, this year's AFL National Draft is set to be seen as a 'compromised draft', as a range of father-son and Academy selections prepare to land toward the top end of the draft order for 2023.

In what is viewed as a top-ended draft class, with close to a dozen prospects seen to have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, those that hold a selection for the first half at this year's opening draft night will be hoping they make the right choice.

But if you're a club like Geelong or Essendon, who respectively finished seventh and eighth-last on the ladder this year, you might not be on the clock until Pick 12.

As many as three of Gold Coast's Academy prospects could earn bids in the opening 10 selections for this year's draft, while a further two teenagers can be expected to be drafted under the father-son rule.

After starting the year with 18 slots, the opening round of the draft has now ballooned out to 22 selections following free agency compensation and further AFL assistance for North Melbourne.

Carlton, currently last in the queue for the opening round after acquiring the Kangaroos' 2023 assistance package pick, might not enter the draft until Pick 27 due to the influence of priority access selections.


If that scenario is to eventuate, then a total of nine first-round draft selections have been manufactured through multiple mechanisms under the AFL's watch.

So who are the names, and clubs, causing this significant shoving in the selection sequence?

The Suns enter the 2023 draft season like no club has before, with three Academy graduates among this year's leading crop of young stars.

Headlining the three-piece is Palm Beach Currumbin tall forward Jed Walter - a hulking 195cm spearhead who has perhaps flown under the radar among draft discussions given his links to Carrara.

Gold Coast talent Jed Walter in the 2023 Coates Talent League (Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos)

Had it not been for Gold Coast's access to the highly-rated talent, then Walter might be among the conversations that surround West Coast's plans for Pick 1.

In addition to Walter, versatile ruckman Ethan Read - who stands at 202cm - could land in the opening half-dozen selections at next month's count, while hard-nosed midfielder Jake Rogers might round out the top 10 as the third and final Suns Academy bid for the night.

To get access to all three? Pick 4 and change.

The Suns parted with their early first-round selection a week ago to the Western Bulldogs, and have since brokered deals with Melbourne, Adelaide and North Melbourne to now have 10 spots for this year's draft - none earlier than Pick 24 - to have close to 4000 draft points at their disposal.

A bid for Walter at, let's say Pick 2, would force the Suns to cough up 2014 of those points in matching a bid following a 20 per cent discount afforded to clubs with tied prospects in the first round.

Further hypothetical bids for Read and Rogers at Pick 6 and 10 would tally to 2517 points (1401+1116 respectively) to bring the grand total of 4531 in what is likely a worst-case scenario outcome for the Queensland club. But with clubs able to move into points differential, all three of Walter, Read and Rogers would still be able to remain with the Suns.

Clubs can also through live trading at the draft, meaning the Suns might even hand over 2024 selections to add to their hand next year ahead of expected bids for their Academy players.

So once we've made it out of the opening 10 picks - which might only be the first 37 per cent of the first-round - we're then likely left to deal with a pair of father-son selections over the next dozen or so slots.

The Western Bulldogs have announced Calder Cannons tall forward Jordan Croft will pull on the blue, white and red as a father-son selection at November's draft, with the son of 186-gamer and ex-Dog Matt Croft set to join the likes of recent top draftees Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy in walking to Whitten Oval.

Looming as a top 15 prospect at the draft, Croft's bid would then slot in close to the middle of the first round before Hawthorn prepares to match a bid for their own father-son talent Will McCabe.

While McCabe is yet to commit to Waverley, the son of ex-Hawk Luke is expected to tie to allegiances to the Hawks ahead of the draft.

South Australian draft prospect Will McCabe (Image by Rookie Me Central)

The intercept defender has quickly emerged as a late first-round chance among his draft class, with rivals potentially lodging bids in the vicinity of Pick 20.

That pair of father-son selections, on top of the Suns' early moves, create a total of five new draft selections in the first-round to add to the current 22 selections for the opening night of the draft.

With days left in the trade period, coupled with further allocated exchange windows solely for draft selections ahead of and during the National Draft, the order of the opening round is set to significantly shift from how it was first presented.

A large factor at play is the widespread interest in the Eagles' place at the front of the queue, and more specifically Bendigo Pioneers talent Harley Reid.

While there's seemingly a drop between the top dozen or so selections, many view the gap between Reid and the likes of Walter, Tasmanian midfielder Colby McKercher and Gippsland ace Zane Duursma almost as wide.

The electrifying midfielder entered this year as the standout prospect and has only strengthened his case across the course of 2023.

Melbourne, North Melbourne and Hawthorn are each likely to make a play for Pick 1 ahead of the draft, but a decision will ultimately come down to West Coast.

The Western Australians will support their history of being able to retain east coast products, but the opportunity in bring in triple the amount of first-round selections through an early phase of their rebuild will be tempting.

It's unlikely the Eagles will want to fall too far down the order if they are to agree to a deal surrounding Pick 1, with any offer from North Melbourne likely needing to consist of Picks 2, 3 or both.

Vic Country talent Harley Reid at 2023 National Championships (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos)

The Roos have five first-round selections for this year's draft as well as their own for 2024 - which would be valued as a top-five selection for next year.

The 2024 count is another that clubs will be mindful of given the emerging Academy and father-son prospects on the horizon. The Suns will again have access to one of the leading figures for next year in midfielder Leonardo Lombard, who featured in Gold Coast's recent VFL premiership win as a 16-year-old.

Brisbane father-son talent Levi Ashcroft is also among the top names for 2024 and is likely to join his brother Will in Springfield, while Woodville-West Torrens key forward Tyler Welsh is tied to Adelaide given his father Scott played 129 games for the Crows.

Carlton will have a pair of names on their radar for next year as Camporeale twins Lucas and Ben look to impress next year in the SANFL with Glenelg.

Mitch Woods and Joel Cochran (both Sydney Swans Academy), Rome Burgoyne (Port Adelaide father-son) and Sam Marshall (Brisbane Academy) are also among the 2024 draft class with links to AFL clubs.