Draft Picks in the latter half of the first round are very important to nail as clubs go forward to attempt to forge an AFL dynasty. Most, if not all of the best young talent go within the first 10-12 selections.
The Western Bulldogs have two first-round picks in this year's National draft, and whilst I have explained who the Bulldogs should be aiming to get with the first of those two picks - that being the ninth overall pick, there's still a lot of debate about who the Bulldogs should get with their second first round pick, which stands at pick 16.
There have been a lot of solid players who have been taken late in the first round.
Last year's 16th overall draft pick Todd Marshall played the final three games of the home and away season for Port Adelaide - including the Elimination Final loss and looks likely to forge a solid career ahead of him. Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy was taken with the 18th pick in the 2012 AFL Draft and there will be no doubt that he will be an All-Australian ruckman by the time his career is done.
Other notable late first-round picks include Richmond's premier defender Alex Rance in 2007 (Pick 18), three-time premiership Hawk Isaac Smith in 2010 (Pick 19) West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey in 2008 (Pick 18), Adelaide veteran Richard Douglas in 2005 (Pick 16), Premiership Cat James Kelly in 2001 (Pick 17) and Former Adelaide and Melbourne veteran of over 300 games in Scott Thompson in 2000 (Pick 16).
Which is why today on Bulldogs Centre, I present to you five young hopefuls that the Western Bulldogs must consider at pick 16. As the Dogs prepare for another tilt for the flag in 2018 and for multiple flags beyond next year, recruiting players through the draft has always been a very important step in creating an AFL dynasty and with nabbing another quality talent in pick 16, it should prove another step in the right direction.
#5 - Oscar Allen
At 191 centimetres tall, West Perth product Oscar Allen looms to be the perfect third-tall option up forward, with Tom Boyd and the newly-recruited ex-Brisbane forward Josh Schache looming as the twin towers up forward next year, and with the departure of Jake Stringer this off-season, recruiting Allen could pay off massive dividends within a couple of years. He's got a very good work rate, has exceptional leading patterns, has the forward pressure which all AFL clubs crave for and has a reliable set shot on goal - which is something the Dogs' significantly lacked this year.
Allen puts me to mind of St. Kilda's Tim Membrey in terms of his abilities up forward as a third-tall option. Both have very strong hands, very good on the lead and both are very good shots on goal. Allen kicked 11 goals for Western Austraila during the Under-18s National Championships and was rewarded as the best player in this competition - boosting up his draft stocks a little bit. There's no doubt he will be taken in the top 20 this year, but where he falls will be the most intriguing to see.
#4 - Gryan Miers
When I look at young Geelong Falcons prospect Gryan Miers, I see a bit of Luke Dahlhaus in him and it doesn't just stem from the dreadlocks either. Miers is only 178 centimetres tall, but yet he is an energetic small forward who, like what Dahlhaus has become today, has the scope to become a midfielder in time, but until then, there's a lot to like about Miers as a small forward as you don't get many true small forwards hanging around in the AFL these days.
He has a magnificent goal sense and has proven to be a match-winner, as evidenced by his seven goals in Geelong's TAC Cup Grand Final triumph - yes that's not a typo. This kid kicked seven goals in an under-18s Grand Final and 50 goals for the entire TAC Cup campaign. Furthermore, he already has a very good tank and was in the top three in the 2km time trial at the Draft combine. Draft expert Kevin Sheehan has likened Miers to a former St. Kilda small forward, who was noted for kicking bags of goals in an article on the Geelong Advertiser:
"He reminds us of a Stephen Milne. He's just able to find the sticks from any angle. He was unbelievable in that game (The Grand Final) and he's been in form all year, he's been an exceptional small forward... He has a massive work rate and it topped off what has been a great year for him."
#3 - Joel Garner
Garner is widely considered as one of the top indigenous players coming out of this year's draft class. He has spent considerable time as a defender for the Eastern Ranges, but has the scope and the skills to become anything if he is prepared to work hard for it. At 184 centimetres tall, he has the capabilities to play any role around the ground, but with his greatest asset his kicking on the left foot, he is best suited to a role in the half-back line at the present time.
However, there is one trait that Garner certainly has which has been slightly overlooked, and that is his leadership credentials. Not only is he captain of the Ranges, he was named as the captain of Vic Metro during the under-18 National Championships and led the Metro to another championship victory with style, including best on ground honours against Vic Country, in which saw him pick up 24 disposals and nine marks from half-back. This prompted Vic Metro coach Martin Allison to compare Garner to this legendary Hawk:
"His footy was pretty good, I think he plays a bit like Luke Hodge, he reminds me of him. If he becomes half as good a player as him, he'll be a bloody good AFL player."
#2 - Matthew Ling
Not related to former Geelong captain Cameron Ling, but he is still a very interesting player for mine, as Matthew Ling has the speed and the potential to bust games open with his pace, continuous approach to take the game on and his elite foot skills and decision making abilities. Ling's drive off of half-back was one of many key reasons as to why the Geelong Falcons took home this year's TAC Cup premiership and was also a Vic Country representative during the under-18 National Championships.
The one small concern in Ling's game is that he doesn't get the ball enough, but this I don't think this will be a concern that will drive recruiters away, as Ling has the potential to become a very useful commodity in any side and the scope is certainly there to build on his consistency to win his share of possessions. Some have suggested that the Bulldogs could use some extra pace on the wings and a player like Ling can certainly fit the bill if the Dogs are willing to draft him late in the first round - It sounds like a gamble that has the potential to pay off big time.
#1 - Ed Richards
As 2017 rolled on, this young rebounding defender from the Oakleigh Chargers Footy Factory got progressively better with every game and looms as a huge chance to go inside the top 20. Has the pace to become an extraordinary rebounding defender in time, has a very classy left foot and has got very good decision-making skills. In addition, he also has football in his DNA, with his grandfather playing in a Collingwood premiership and his great uncle none other than the legendary Lou Richards.
Draft experts have likened Richards' rebounding abilities to both GWS' Zac Williams and Adelaide All-Australian Rory Laird, which is a massive wrap given how important both men are to their respective sides, however like both of these players, Richards will likely need the time to develop into an AFL star. Injury at the start of the 2017 season meant that Richards missed out on a chance to be selected for the AFL's under-18 National Championship, but according to those around the Oakleigh Chargers, there would have been no doubts that Richards could've made the Vic Metro side, but that only motivated Richards even further throughout the TAC Cup and his running ability and sweet skills by hand or by foot would make a handy addition to any side.