SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 25: (L-R) Aaron Naughton of the Bulldogs, Hunter Clark of the Saints, Adam Cerra of the Dockers, Paddy Dow of the Blues, Cameron Rayner of the Lions, Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers, Luke Davies-Uniacke of the Kangaroos, Jaiyden Stephenson of the Magpies, Nicholas Coffield of the Saints and Lochie O'Brien of the Blues pose during a media opportunity at Hickson Road Reserve on November 25, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The hype surrounding the AFL draft is bigger than ever before.

Some are calling the upcoming class of players the best since the ‘Super Draft’ of 2001.

The likes of Sam Walsh, Izak Rankine, Jack Lukosius and the King twins are set to become household names.

All this build-up overshadows something very important; the AFL draft system does not work as it is supposed to.

Before they are even drafted, prospective draftees have their skills and performances analysed, their strengths and weaknesses scrutinised and their potential discussed.

These young players are expected to come into the AFL system and make an impact within at least three years.

Very few players have had such an impact and this has resulted in players like Jack Watts and Jimmy Toumpas being considered busts for not living up to their potential.

The NBA draft system runs in a similar fashion to the one currently used by the AFL.

First-round picks are heavily coveted and teams that end up with selections in the top five rarely trade them, as the fortunes of the club could change with the right choice.

Players like Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving have been drafted at number one and become perennial All-Stars and MVP contenders.

In the AFL, the same type of potential is touted, but rarely ever delivered.

Since the 2000 draft, 18 players have been selected with the number one pick.

Of these 18 players, seven have made an All-Australian team, four have played in a grand final, two have won a premiership and only one has won a Brownlow Medal.

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The NBA number one picks from the same time frame have fared much better, with ten players playing in an All-Star game, six appearing in the Finals, three winning titles and two winning league MVP awards.

It’s not just individual success that is lacking from the draft.

The same teams are consistently making early draft picks and not improving as a result.

Of the 16 teams that have been in the league since the draft in 2000, the three teams with the most top five picks have only qualified for two grand finals.

Both of these came when St Kilda, who have made ten top five picks, played in 2009 and 2010. Melbourne and Carlton have both made eight top five picks and still regularly fail to make the top eight.

Beyond those three teams, Brisbane have made six picks in the top five, all coming after their ‘01-’03 three-peat, Fremantle have made six picks for one grand final loss and the Western Bulldogs have made six, which culminated in their historic run to the 2016 flag.

In fact, since 2000 only two teams haven’t made a pick inside the top five. Adelaide and Geelong.

Between them, they have only missed 11 out of a possible 36 finals series, With Geelong missing five and Adelaide missing six.

In that time, the two sides have made five grand finals, winning three.

Despite what draft experts may lead you to believe, having high draft picks and getting the best young players year on year will not necessarily lead to on-field success, as Carlton and Melbourne can attest to.

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Instead, more often than not, it is smart drafting and understanding the attitudes of players that will lead to success in the draft.

In recent years, Hawthorn and Sydney have been able to identify players later on in the draft that have been able to come into their respective sides and contribute right away.

Tom McCartin, James Worpel and Harry Morrison are all extremely promising players, and all three were taken outside the top 30.

Historic examples of successful late picks include Brent Harvey, who was selected at number 47 in 1995, and James Hird, who went at 79 in 1990.

All these factors pose the question; why do teams desire early picks so much when there is a distinct possibility that a quality player can be found at any point in the draft?

Why have teams in the past been found guilty of tanking in order to get high picks?

The answer comes from the perceived influence that draft picks bring.

The media will describe these young men as future superstars without them stepping foot into an AFL system and having very little experience against fully-grown men.

It’s all well and good saying that players have the skills to succeed but to say that an 18-year-old is the next AFL superstar is overly presumptuous and can be detrimental to their career.


  1. It’s not a fair comparison to nba nor nfl. Players have at least 3 more years to compare performances. AFL draftees compare teenagers at different development stages. That aside, nfl teams are prepared to trade up for need

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