The first round of the 2022 AFL Draft looks nothing like it did a week ago. Of the 18 selections, only seven remain with their original club post-trade period.
Picks 1, 2, and 3 were all moved in the biggest trade ever struck, with clubs trading up and down the board to wrangle their way into wherever they consider to be the sweet spot of the draft. The rankings of this year’s crop helps to contextualise these moves, especially for non-Victorian clubs as they navigate a new era of interstate drafting.
List managers will have very different big boards outside the top 10. It reflects a relative lack of depth in the pool compared to the 2023 cohort, with future picks valued highly up to this point.
2022 may be the first time we see a live trade in the first round of the draft – with different prospect rankings in the first round, teams will be quick to capitalise if a player at the top of their board slides.
There will also be trades if bids are placed earlier than teams are hoping for, with Alwyn Davey Jr. (Essendon), Jaspa Fletcher (Brisbane) and Max Michalanney (Adelaide) all expected to receive first-round consideration.
Full prospect bios and rankings: AFL Draft 2022: Top 30 Power Rankings – October
Six weeks out from the 2022 AFL Draft, this is The Inner Sanctum’s First Round AFL Phantom Draft.
The Giants have a choice of anointing Cadman the number-one pick, or bidding on Will Ashcroft as the consensus best player in the pool. Either way, they look set to bolster their key position stocks with the mobile goal-kicker who’s had a meteoric rise in the second half of the season. Jesse Hogan has been crying out for a partner up forward, and Cadman could feature early in 2023 for GWS.
Around the mark: Will Ashcroft
Brisbane has known Ashcroft is coming for years now. He’s been a standout across his junior career and took any lingering stress away from the Lions camp with an early father-son nomination this year. Prolific and classy with leadership aspirations, Ashcroft plays in the mould of Sam Walsh and Andy Brayshaw before him. The Lions have got their eyes firmly set on younger brother Levi in 2024, as well.
11 months since calling out Jason Horne-Francis’ name at Pick 1, North Melbourne is approaching one of the biggest drafts in its history. It will likely narrow down its options to two of Harry Sheezel, George Wardlaw and Elijah Tsatas. Sheezel is the forward-half specialist in this group, able to create a plethora of chances and make the most of his opportunities with mercurial talent in front of goal. He has elements of Josh Rachele and Zac Bailey with his timing and execution in the forward 50, threatening to kick goal of the year on any given day.
Around the mark: George Wardlaw, Elijah Tsatas
North’s decision at this point is difficult to split, but the best available on most boards will be Wardlaw. He’s a prototypical inside midfielder with his competitiveness, but has a penetrating kick and aerial ability around the ground to go with it. Wardlaw’s hard-nosed talent blends well with a young midfield brigade of Simpkin, Davies-Uniacke and Phillips for the next decade.
Around the mark: Harry Sheezel, Elijah Tsatas
The Dons are in an enviable position, able to pluck whoever remains of the top five. Tsatas adds elements to their lineup that they sorely lack – he’s an outside accumulator that swoops on loose balls with cleanliness, he links play together with his running capacity and acceleration, and he takes the game on with unflappable confidence. Tsatas offers meaningful drive to a midfield unit that struggled to move the ball with pace in 2022.
Around the mark: George Wardlaw
The Suns have Pick 5 after Izak Rankine’s departure to Adelaide, and may have an opportunity to replace his attacking threat with a different element. The Gippsland captain is dynamic in the forward 50 with a huge appetite for the contest in the middle as well. Humphrey is a fantastic clubman, but the Suns will be doing their due diligence on his interest in heading north.
Around the mark: Jhye Clark
The Hawks have gutted their midfield and are ready to fill it to the brim with young talent. That process began last year with Josh Ward and Connor MacDonald, and Jhye Clark presents as the ideal prospect at this point of the draft. He’s gritty and tough, has excellent leadership attributes and is team-oriented. The Hawks pinching him a pick before the rival Cats might be the cherry on top.
Around the mark: Bailey Humphrey, Cam Mackenzie
The Cats will be holding out hope Selwood-clone Clark falls to them here. If not, the next best on a lot of boards will be Mackenzie, a hard-running two-way midfielder with crafty skills and contested proficiency. He offers a lot of the same qualities Geelong saw in Mitch Knevitt last year. As a hypothetical, the Cats could offer up this pick and their future first for the Hawks’ Pick 6 and future second if they don’t think Clark will make it through.
Around the mark: Jhye Clark
The Eagles traded back from Pick 2 for 8 and 12, seemingly with local prospects in their sights. Ginbey is the ultimate competitor in an Elliot Yeo mould, adding elite pressure in the contest. The Dunsborough product has spent time as a rebounding defender where his pace and tenacity are on display, but his most eye-catching work has come as a brute force in the midfield.
Around the mark: Jedd Busslinger, Cam Mackenzie
The Saints are desperately in need of some excitement on-field after consecutive flat seasons. Phillipou offers just that as a ready-made goal-kicker that has spent time in the midfield, using his size to advantage around the ground. He has huge scope for rapid improvement and adds a completely different element to the forward half for St Kilda.
Around the mark: Cam Mackenzie
If Busslinger slides out of the top 10, the Blues should be quick to snap the interceptor up. The Royal closes distance on his direct opponent, flies for his marks and moves the ball with pace out of the backline. The Blues have looked to the State Leagues to lend Weitering added assistance, but it may be time to fully invest in their key defensive stocks through the draft.
Around the mark: Mattaes Phillipou
More AFL News:
The Dogs have a plethora of see-ball, get-ball midfielders that are brilliant at what they do. But they’ve struggled finding the right wing combinations to maintain their structure, and Lachie Hunter heading to Melbourne doesn’t help that issue. Hollands is a selfless midfielder that just took out the 2km time trial in an elite 5:54 minutes. He holds his width on the ground and uses the ball on both sides of his body well – despite his lighter frame he could play AFL early in the right role.
Around the mark: Jedd Busslinger, Elijah Hewett
The Eagles haven’t solely looked within WA in past drafts, but there’s good reason to here. If Hewett is available at 13, he and Ginbey would immediately energise their engine room. he uses his speed-endurance blend as a weapon, powering out of stoppages and generating meaningful drive. He mixed it with the big bodies in the WAFL and added some goal nous to his game over the year.
Around the mark: Matthew Jefferson, Reuben Ginbey
Vic Metro’s best tall forward was Jefferson this year. He’s springy and quick off the mark akin to Ollie Henry, but has genuine key position height. The Dees have lost Sam Weideman and struggled without Tom McDonald in 2022 – Jefferson could be the future focal point for their forward line.
Around the mark: Harry Barnett
Weddle has a lot of fans in the first round – he’s slightly undersized as a key defender but uses all of his attributes to thrive. He has a fantastic leap, uses his body to advantage, and takes the game on with his intercepting and decision-making. He has similar elements to what made Dane Rampe such a fantastic undersized defender.
Around the mark: Lachlan Cowan, Henry Hustwaite
The younger brother of Collingwood’s VFL captain, Hustwaite is a fluid mover that can play in the middle or down back with his height. His left foot is a weapon and he moves through traffic smoothly to distribute to outside runners. A Country teammate of Cadman, the Giants could use Hustwaite’s ball use and intercepting out of their backline, with further scope to move into the midfield.
Around the mark: Josh Weddle, Lewis Hayes
Hayes is a no-nonsense key defender that gives his absolute all and rarely gets beaten. The Pies have done tremendously with the combination of Moore and Howe, but they’ve dearly missed Jordan Roughead’s presence. Billy Frampton could be a stop-gap for now, but Hayes presents as a long-term solution.
Around the mark: Harry Barnett, Isaac Keeler
Cowan is a high-octane defender that takes the game on and lifts his team with courageous play. For the Swans, he would add metres gained out of the backline and a genuine shutdown defensive option to free the likes of Blakey, Lloyd and Florent.
Around the mark: Olli Hotton, Henry Hustwaite
Konstanty has delivered a fantastic small forward year, racking up tackles and goals for Gippsland. He latches onto opposition players and pressures everything out of the backline for his side. The Giants will welcome Toby Bedford and have Brent Daniels coming back in this year, but they’ve sorely lacked pressure in their forward 50. Drafting a trio of Vic Country teammates in Cadman, Hustwaite and Konstanty might help the club hold onto the talented youngsters.
Around the mark: Isaac Keeler, Lachlan Cowan
For full player bios and rankings: AFL Draft 2022: Top 30 Power Rankings – October
The Inner Sanctum’s First Round AFL Phantom Draft 2022
- Aaron Cadman – GWS
- Will Ashcroft – Brisbane (matched F/S bid)
- Harry Sheezel – North Melbourne
- George Wardlaw – North Melbourne
- Elijah Tsatas – Essendon
- Bailey Humphrey – Gold Coast
- Jhye Clark – Hawthorn
- Cam Mackenzie – Geelong
- Rueben Ginbey – West Coast
- Mattaes Phillipou – St Kilda
- Jedd Busslinger – Carlton
- Oliver Hollands – Western Bulldogs
- Elijah Hewett – West Coast
- Matthew Jefferson – Melbourne
- Josh Weddle – Sydney
- Henry Hustwaite – GWS
- Lewis Hayes – Collingwood
- Lachlan Cowan – Sydney
- Jacob Konstanty – GWS
Subscribe to our newsletter!