After an intense trade period of clubs haggling over first-round picks in order to select the best 18-year-old’s in the country, some teams may be lucky enough to find value in later selections.
Here at Zero Hanger, we thought we would look at the Top 10 steals of the National Draft over the last decade.
While the Rookie Draft often finds hidden gems and mature age stars, we have limited this list to players selected in the National Draft ahead of the 2019 edition in a matter of hours.
This list will take into account both how late a player was taken in the draft as well as their ability.
So while a player such as Nathan Broad may not be an All-Australian level player, getting him at Pick 67 constitutes a fair bit of value and gives him a shot at making this list.
Orazio Fantasia (Pick 55 in 2013)
Despite a rough second half of 2019, Fantasia’s goal sense and line-breaking ability makes the small forward excellent value for such a late pick.
A member of the 22 Under 22 team of 2017, Fantasia’s 2017 and 2018 campaigns proved the match-winning abilities of the South Australian.
While staying on the park has been an issue for the injury-prone forward, Fantasia offers a good combination of defensive pressure, speed, disposal efficiency and an eye for goal.
While his 1.3 goals per game was down on his career-best 1.9 majors per contest in 2017, the young Fantasia still has plenty of time to hit his peak over the years to come.
Tom Phillips (Pick 58 in 2015)
The Pies midfielder may not be an All-Australian contender as of yet, but considering Collingwood picked him up in the fourth round of the 2015 National Draft, the output of Phillips represents amazing value.
Phillips is just 23 years of age and has 74 games under his belt in a strong Magpie midfield.
The Oakleigh Chargers product played every game for the Pies this season and racked up an average of 23 touches per game on the wing.
Phillips has a good tank and a potent left foot as he ranked 14th in the AFL for total time on ground % as well as 15th in the league for total kicks.
His 29 disposal performance in this year’s Qualifying Final against the Cats was a highlight for the 58th pick of the 2015 draft.
Named on the interchange in the 2018 22 Under 22 team, Phillips has the potential to become an elite midfielder for a long time.
Elliot Yeo (Pick 30 in 2011)
Pick 30 is not an incredibly low pick, yet finding an All-Australian like Elliot Yeo fall to the Lions at this point in the draft still represents incredible value.
Despite never reaching his peak with Brisbane, Yeo’s last few seasons for the West Coast Eagles have been as good as any player in the competition.
The Perth local is already a two time All-Australian and premiership player with the Eagles in 2018.
The two time Eagles Best and Fairest winner averages a tad over 23 touches per game and is one of the most damaging players in the competition.
Yeo ranks 5th in the competition for total inside 50’s as well as being ranked 7th for average centre clearances per game.
The 26-year-old has a defensive game as well, leading the entire league in total tackles in 2019.
Of the 10 players picked before him, only one is still on an AFL list today.
How Yeo slipped through the cracks remains a mystery to many recruiters and makes him one of the steals of the draft, even if the Brisbane team who drafted him didn’t get to see his best.
Jarryd Lyons (Pick 61 in 2010)
Lyons has long been an underappreciated and undervalued player.
After falling to the fourth-round in the 2010 National Draft, Lyons began his career at the Adelaide Crows with a Showdown debut against Port Adelaide in 2011.
The Sandringham Dragons product gradually found his place in the Crows side and enjoyed his best season with the club in 2016, averaging 21 touches per game.
The 61st pick took his game up another notch across the course of the 2017 averaging 25 disposals per game and racking up a number of clearances per contest, despite the turmoil of having a coach sacked during the season.
Although Lyons continued to rack up disposals with new coach Stuart Dew at the helm, he was out of favour with the Suns’ coach.
Despite being equal third in the AFL for clearances, Lyons was delisted at the end of the season with a year to run on his contract.
The 27-year-old found a home at the Lions this season, making the Suns pay for their decision by having a career-best year and polling 13 Brownlow votes.
For pick 61, Lyons is proving to have a better than expected career.
James Sicily (Pick 56 in 2013)
The Hawthorn backman was drafted just one pick after Orazio Fantasia in 2013 and is proving to be a dynamic backman with the Hawks.
Sicily’s kicking and ability to read the game sets him apart from a lot of the competition at halfback.
The 24-year-old has proven himself to be the perfect fit down back for Alastair Clarkson’s side after shifting between attack and defence over his first few seasons with the club.
Off half back, Sicily racks up 21 touches per game as well as ranking 9th in the AFL for total marks and rebound 50’s per game.
Sicily also sits at 3rd in the competition for intercepts per game and enjoyed selection to the 22 Under 22 team in 2017.
With 82 games already under his belt, Sicily has already outperformed the expectations of a 56th pick and will likely have an impressive career going forward.
Tom Stewart (Pick 40 in 2016)
Discovered by Matthew Scarlett at South Barwon in the Geelong Football Netball League, the Cats surprised many by taking him with the 40th pick in 2016.
However, the play of Stewart over the last two seasons has proven the 26-year-old to be an absolute steal for Geelong.
Stewart personifies competitiveness and has had some memorable moments in the blue and white, including a lung-busting effort against the Swans in the semi-final of 2017.
— AFL (@AFL) September 15, 2017
Stewart now is the cornerstone of a Geelong defence that was arguably the best in the competition last season.
As well as being to match-up on both smalls and talls, Stewart is the fulcrum and pivot for Geelong in the back-half.
Stewart averages 23.2 disposals per game and ranked 1st in the entire competition for total kicks and 2nd in total marks.
Stewart also leads the AFL in total metres gained and rebound 50’s per game.
He is arguably the most important player for the Cats and joined at an absolute bargain in 2016, leaving opposition recruiters scratching their heads and wondering how they missed this bloke.
Luke Parker (Pick 40 in 2010)
Luke Parker is the stereotypical Swans player.
An inside midfielder with a battle-hardened nature and a strong leader, Parker typifies the culture of the Bloods.
Although the winning side of this culture waned last season, Parker still managed to rack up 25.4 disposals per game and polled 19 Brownlow votes in 2019.
In 2015, Parker was the youngest player to win the Best and Fairest for the Swans since Michael O’Loughlin in 1998.
A Jude Bolton clone, Parker’s tenacity in the contest makes the Langwirrin product a fantastic leader for the Swans.
A career total of 94 Brownlow votes for the 40th pick in 2010 is definitely more than what was expected of the third-round selection.
The 26-year-old still has a few years in the tank to further embarrass teams who passed on him during the 2010 draft.
Parker was an absolute steal for Sydney.
Ben Brown (Pick 47 in 2013)
The Coleman Medal runner up this season is now the centrepiece of a young North Melbourne forward line after falling to the Roos at pick 47.
Brown has been one of the faster-developing key forwards after he debuted in 2014 against Melbourne and had a strong finals campaign as the third tall in a North Melbourne team featuring Drew Petrie.
Brown has since taken out the goalkicking for the Kangaroos every year since 2016 with an accurate set shot run up and speed as a leading target.
The 26-year-old was passed on in favour of the likes of now-delisted Mitchell Harvey and Matt Fuller.
While it’s hard to say whether Brown would enjoy his current level of success had he not joined North Melbourne, he is still a steal for the Kangaroos at pick 47.
Harris Andrews (Pick 61 in 2014)
Although the Lions had an advantage in drafting Andrews as an academy player, his selection at pick 61 in 2014 has proven to be a steal.
Andrews has the honour of being the equal lowest draft selection on this list yet he plays like a first-round talent.
The 22-year-old is as courageous as they come and displays excellent ball-reading ability to go with it.
The tough defender set a record for most one-percenters in a single match in 2018 with a staggering 26 against Sydney.
This season, Andrews ranks 18th in the competition for total contested marks and intercepts and has proved to be a key leader in a successful campaign for the Lions.
At such as young age, Andrews is only going to get better and may well push to the number one spot on this list in years to come.
Lachie Neale (Pick 58 in 2011)
Neale’s career reached new heights in 2019.
The former Docker was a red hot favourite heading into Brownlow night in September after a stellar season with the Lions.
Despite ultimately missing out on the award thanks to a brilliant campaign from Nathan Fyfe, Neale cemented himself as one of the top midfielders of the competition.
Standing at just 178 centimetres, Neale has been up against it throughout his career.
Without playing TAC Cup football, Neale made the jump straight to senior football in the SANFL at a young age and has developed into one of the finest contested players in the competition.
The 26-year-old Naracoorte product displayed terrific inside clearance ability for Fremantle over several seasons and won the club’s best and fairest award twice in 2016 and 2018.
With 89 Brownlow votes since his debut in 2012, Neale’s midfield dominance has left many recruiters looking silly after passing on him as he slipped all the way to pick 58 in 2011.
As Neale is likely to maintain a similar level of play as he enters his prime, the South Australian was an easy choice to top our list of biggest draft steals.