Essendon flew up the ladder in 2021 after a big AFL draft. It’s now readying to add to the group of Baby Bombers including 2020 top-10 picks Nik Cox, Archie Perkins and Zach Reid, who complemented the excitement that Harrison Jones brought to the table.
With Pick 11 and some murmurings of trading into the second round, can Essendon come away as big winners in the 2021 AFL Draft?
2021 AFL Draft: Essendon – no NGA or F/S plans this year
The Dons had the opportunity to claim some names from rich lineage, but will forego those nominations. Tex Wanganeen (son of legend Gavin), Josh Misiti (son of premiership player Joe), Alex Hird (son of premiership captain James), and Nyawi Moore (son of 145-gamer Nathan Lovett-Murray) are unlikely to be taken in the national draft.
There could be an opportunity for them to impress in the summer, with a possible pre-season supplementary selection list spot on the line.
Last season Cody Brand and Josh Eyre made their way to the Hangar from their NGA. That level of talent won’t be available to the Dons this year, with no players from their NGA set to be taken in either draft.Embed from Getty Images
2021 AFL Draft: Essendon – what does the list need?
The Bombers looked to the future last year with their selections, and the book-ends have more or less been taken care of. Adding to the rise of Cox, Reid and Jones is key position talent Kaine Baldwin who made a successful return from his second ACL tear and is looking primed for a big 2022.
With that taken care of, there’s a genuine argument for best available at Pick 11.
The departures of Adam Saad and Conor Mckenna were remedied through Dyson Heppell and Nick Hind, plus the rise of Mason Redman. But that running defender depth was tested when Hind missed the elimination final and it’s an area that may be a target for the Bombers.
The need for a big-bodied midfielder has been a talking point since the retirement of Jobe Watson, and the fruitless chase of Bobby Hill points to the need for another small forward with goal nous and pressure.
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2021 AFL Draft: Essendon – who to go with at Pick 11?
Essendon draft selections: 11, 51, 56, 87
Adrian Dodoro’s team will have a player or two they’re confident will be available at 11, but at this spot in the draft there’s also a chance that a highly-touted player falls. The blessing of taking care of future tall stocks in last year’s draft is that the best available can be taken, even if that comes in the form of a Mac Andrew, Jye Amiss or Josh Gibcus in the unlikely event they do tumble out of the top-10.
In a more likely scenario, Sandringham Dragon Josh Sinn will present as the best running defender in the draft. He’s daring and confident, tucking the ball under his arm and using his blazing pace out of the back 50, and has already stated his desire to join great mate Nik Cox at the Bombers. Darcy Wilmot would be next-best at this spot with his leadership and hard-at-it approach fitting in with the blue-collar system the club has adopted.Embed from Getty Images
The only small forward at the top-end of the draft is Josh Rachele, who could be the most ideal fit for the Dons. He’s freakish around goals and plays above his size in the air. There are shades of the showmanship of Orazio Fantasia mixed in with the lead-by-example nature of Toby Greene. His chances of slipping are becoming slimmer by the day, however.
The Dons recorded the highest disposal efficiency in the competition last season, and nephew of Gavin Wanganeen Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera could add to that with his exceptional ball use and running capacity. He’ll likely be available at this spot, but wouldn’t be expected to get further than Port Adelaide at the next selection.
If the need for a bigger body in that midfield group is pinpointed, then Josh Goater may be the player. He has extraordinary athletic traits at 190 centimetres and offers pieces of Elliot Yeo’s game. West Australians Neil Erasmus and Matthew Johnson will also be considerations, but there’s a chance this pick comes down to a choice between Josh Sinn and Josh Goater.
Dashing defender or inside enforcer – the Dons could have a tough decision on their hands.
2021 AFL Draft: Dons trading back into the second round?
Expect the Dons to try every avenue to get into the second round of this draft with their future second-rounder. With Alwyn Davey’s twin sons coming through in 2022, it’s an expectation that this pick will be traded out next year regardless.
The Tigers’ three selections in the 20s will be a target, as will the Dogs’ Pick 23 that will be moved at some point on draft night.
If the Bombers can get back into the second round, Calder Cannons midfielder Zac Taylor could be a real target here. He’s one of the best ball users in the draft going inside 50 and impressed in wet conditions at the Vic Metro training session on Monday.Embed from Getty Images
If Essendon doesn’t go with a running defender at Pick 11, they could have options in the forms of Tom Brown, Lewis Rayson and Alastair Lord who have all impressed with their running capacity and foot skills this season.
Dylan Clarke will wait and see if he is given a lifeline by the club in the SSP. The hard-nut has had a tough run with injuries but has shown great upside as a run-with player and has clean hands in the contest. His foot skills are the big detractor from his capabilities in the AFL.
The Dons are likely to take list spots into the SSP, as they did when they picked up Alec Waterman and Kaine Baldwin.
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