Aaron Cadman, Will Ashcroft and Oliver Hollands - AFL Phantom Draft 2022.

The 2022 AFL Draft has finally arrived.

One of the biggest trades in league history has seismically altered the complexion of every round. North Melbourne sent the 2021 number-one overall selection packing along with its prized Pick 1, and GWS bundled a suite of picks to gain the top selection – and with it, peace of mind.

Richmond will enter the draft last of all clubs after brilliant deals for Giant midfielders Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper. The Lions may not select a player for the entirety of the draft, instead matching bids for star father-sons Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher.

Upwards of five father-sons are likely to make their way to the club that their fathers represented, and a host of NGA prospects will keep clubs nervous as they hold out for bids after Pick 40.

Expect live trades to come as early as Essendon’s Pick 4, with Sydney and Melbourne determined to move up the order. Other clubs including GWS will be looking to trade into next year’s draft, where the top handful of prospects already have recruiters salivating.

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

This is The Inner Sanctum’s AFL Phantom Draft for 2022.

The Giants traded up to the first overall selection in trade week with one man in mind. Cadman has become the best key forward in the draft after a sensational campaign with the Rebels and Country, kicking goals in a variety of ways and moving up the ground to show off traits akin to Jeremy Cameron. He will form a partnership with Jesse Hogan in the Giants’ forward-line early in 2023.

GWS may yet bid on Ashcroft at number-one, but Cadman is all but assured of becoming a Giant.

Ashcroft has been the best performing player in the country all year. The son of Lions premiership player Marcus, his work-rate combined with football smarts, cleanliness and desire has made him a prolific and damaging midfielder. He has leadership aspirations for the Lions and is keen to play with younger brother Levi in the years to come.

After dealing Pick 1 and bringing in 2 and 3, it didn’t take long for North to reveal its intentions. Sheezel is a mercurial forward, able to generate goals from half-chances and stay ever-present in a game regardless of the quality of opportunities he gets. His innate goal sense will be invaluable for a club that will struggle to generate more scoring opportunities than their opponent in 2023.

Wardlaw had a campaign crueled by injury, but the signs at the beginning of the year were that it was a two-horse race between the Chargers midfielder and Ashcroft for the first pick. He’s a competitive beast with athletic traits to be an effective player on the outside of contests as well. Wardlaw is the perfect long-term Ben Cunnington replacement.

The first ‘live’ pick of the draft. Whichever way Essendon goes between Tsatas and Mattaes Phillipou will have huge implications on the rest of the top-10. Tsatas is the premier outside midfielder in the crop, accumulating and creating space like no one else. His pace and positioning make him a nightmare to nullify for opposition sides, and he models his game on Sydney’s Chad Warner with his acceleration out of packs and impact in the forward half.

In the mix: Phillipou is the other option here. If the Dons go with the big-bodied South Australian it could see the Hawks, Cats and Saints selecting different players.

Humphrey is a dynamic prospect in the forward half, dominating aerially despite not being overly tall and then buttering up at ground level with elite contested proficiency. He’s so damaging as a forward that he may never become a full-time midfielder despite his capacity to go into the engine room.

In the mix: Reuben Ginbey is the other option here, and he’s a genuine chance. The WA midfielder lives a coastal lifestyle in Dunsborough already and is open to the cross-country move.

Phillipou has steadily risen into top-10 calculations throughout the year, showing flashes of brilliance as a hulking midfielder that extracts the ball and hits the scoreboard. There’s no one like Phillipou in the Hawks side, and Sam Mitchell will love his confidence and honesty. He thinks he’s the best player in the draft, and he has the ability to back it up at AFL level.

In the mix: Cam Mackenzie has been interviewed by the Hawks four times now, and remains a hot contender for this pick. Jhye Clark will come into consideration with his leadership traits especially desirable, while Elijah Tsatas will be heavily considered if he is overlooked by Essendon.

Clark has been linked to the Cats ever since they struck the deal with the Suns to acquire Pick 7. The Geelong Falcons captain plays a similar brand to Joel Selwood with his courage in the clinches and clearance work. He can also hit the scoreboard when he rests forward and plays above his size.

In the mix: The Cats are interested in what Ed Allan could become at the next level, having reaped the rewards of a similar selection with Mark Blicavs a decade ago. Elijah Tsatas would be heavily considered as best available if he was on the board, and Cam Mackenzie remains a chance.

Tough and relentless, Ginbey is an elite pressuring midfielder that extracts the ball from the contest at a high rate and uses his athletic ability on the outside. He dominated the midfield battle for WA in the State Championships and has spent time across half-back for the Royals in the WAFL.

In the mix: West Coast traded back with an eye on Ginbey, but it won’t all be lost if he isn’t there at Pick 9. Jhye Clark has been linked to the Eagles, and Ed Allan could be a chance if West Coast doesn’t think he will make it to their second selection.

Mackenzie is a St Kilda NGA prospect, so the club has intimate knowledge of the player he is. The inside midfielder is a bull at the coalface and has a burst of pace on the outside as well. He’s a consistent performer and has one of the highest floors in this draft.

In the mix: The Saints are holding out hope that one of Elijah Tsatas or Mattaes Phillipou could be available at Pick 10. It’s a genuine possibility if Essendon surprises at 4 and other clubs in the top-10 are set on their player.

Hollands is a mad Blues supporters, and the club didn’t disappoint in his interview, bringing in head coach Michael Voss to show him around Ikon Park. The Bushranger won the 2-kilometre time trial with a sub-six-minute effort, and his work-rate on the field is unmatched. Hollands projects to become an elite wingman that can play inside as well.

In the mix: The Blues will wait to see if one of the top-10 falls through to them, and they will heavily consider WA defender Jedd Busslinger with the key defensive injuries of 2022 fresh in their mind.

The Dogs are in a great position to pull a surprise at Pick 12 with draft bolter Allan. The 194-centimetre utility recorded the fastest 20-metre sprint at the draft combine and showed incredible potential in the WAFL Colts. He can play inside midfield, on a wing, or anywhere else he’s needed similar to Mark Blicavs.

In the mix: Expect Hollands’ name to be read out here if he makes it past the Blues. Jedd Busslinger will also be a real consideration – a key position group of Tim English, Sam Darcy, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Busslinger would be the best young core of talls in the league.

The Eagles won’t only look local here, but Busslinger is the best key defender in the pool and they wouldn’t have liked the glimpse into the future they got when Jeremy McGovern went down with injury in 2022. The Royal backs his intercepting ability and plays with real confidence out of the back half. A group of Busslinger, McGovern, Tom Barrass and Rhett Bazzo would have Eagles fans a lot more comfortable watching on next year.

In the mix: If both Busslinger and Allan are available, expect the Eagles to take the unknown upside of Allan. Matt Jefferson will also be heavily considered as a long-term forward partner for Oscar Allen.

Melbourne is doing everything possible to move up the order, offering three first-rounders to clubs in the top five. If they stay put, Jefferson presents as an ideal replacement for Sam Weideman as key forward depth. He’s had a fantastic campaign for the Chargers and Metro, and kicked six goals in a quarter against WA.

In the mix: If Jefferson isn’t on the board here and the Dees are unable to trade up, they may cut their losses and trade into the 2023 draft. Elijah Hewett remains an option as an explosive midfielder with some forward craft.

Like Melbourne, Sydney has been canvassing offers for both Pick 14 and 17. In an ideal world they package them and move into the top-10, but no club is biting up to this point. If they stay put, Weddle presents as a high-upside defender that can play senior football early – he’s got immense shutdown ability on a range of opponents and untapped rebounding potential.

In the mix: A host of players could be picked here for the Swans; Lachlan Cowan as a rebounding defender, Brayden George as an X-factor forward and Elijah Hewett as an explosive midfielder will all be considered.

The Lions will match a bid wherever it comes for Fletcher. He’s a classy midfielder that does his best work in space and hitting targets in the forward 50. Fletcher has flown under the radar as he’s tied to the Lions, but his best is compelling viewing.

The Giants will likely trade this pick on draft night. They will also have interest in George, though, as a Country prospect whose 2023 will be wiped out with ACL rehabilitation. His immense capability as a goal-kicker with elite one-on-one ability and composure with ball in hand will appeal to a club that struggled to kick winning scores.

In the mix: GWS has a host of options here – Lachlan Cowan, Jacob Konstanty or a bid on Alwyn Davey Jr are all possibilities.

Michalanney is a no-nonsense defender that plays on a range of opponents. He can play above his size with his closing speed and vertical jump, can blanket smalls with his diligence and strength, and usually finds a way to clear the ball from danger. His stout defensive attitude has clubs within the first round willing to make a bid, but the Crows will be happy to match and go about finding a way back into the second round of the draft.

It might be a touch early for Ryan, but the Pies love him and they may not get him to their second selection. He’s a dashing defender with buckets of courage, routinely standing under high balls and peeling off his opponent to spoil in packs.

In the mix: Lewis Hayes will be considered as a high-upside key defender, and it may be a bit early but Harry Barnett could be the long-term answer in the ruck department.

This is simply best available, and a case where the young Swans are already in the premiership window and can afford to back in their culture and take a high-upside swing. Hewett is absolutely electrifying at his best, bursting away from packs and picking out targets in the forward 50. He has a wicked fend-off and hits the scoreboard up forward.

In the mix: Lachlan Cowan will be heavily considered if the Swans keep this pick, and they’ve been linked with Dragons midfielder Olli Hotton.

Konstanty is the best pressure forward in the draft, routinely forcing the opposition into mistakes and preventing clean exits from defensive 50. He didn’t have a huge impact in front of goals and doesn’t collect the ball like some other small forwards, but he’s elite at what he does.

In the mix: Henry Hustwaite and Harry Barnett are prospects that the Giants will consider at this point.

The first pick on night two is highly coveted, and a future first offer will see the Giants part ways with this selection. Regardless, they’ll have interest in the Tasmanian Cowan, who could be a designated kick-in specialist with his booming leg. It’s a weapon coming out of defence combined with his pace, and he has a mature body that could allow him to play senior footy early in 2023.

The Eagles will need to take Barnett here if they want the best ruck prospect in the draft to eventually replace Nic Naitanui. The South Australian is proficient at ripping the ball out of stoppages, and his work around the ground is sound as well. Barnett has really promising upside.

In the mix: West Coast would love Hewett to fall to them here after considering at Pick 12. Coby Burgiel will also be contemplated.

If the Dogs go with Allan instead of Busslinger with their first pick, Hayes will appeal as that defensive addition. The brother of Port Adelaide’s Sam has racked up the ball as an interceptor and rebounder in the NAB League, and is a reliable defender on his direct opponent.

In the mix: Dependent on the type of player they target in the first round, the Dogs could take running types Darcy Jones, Charlie Clarke or Lachlan Cowan here.

The Bombers are interested in trading up to get ahead of a Davey bid, and could offer this selection and their future second to acquire one of the Giants or Swans’ mid-first picks. That would give them an opportunity to snare Elijah Hewett. Instead, Hotton presents as an accomplished midfielder with genuine speed and sharp skills in the forward half.

In the mix: Lachlan Cowan is high on the Dons’ wishlist, while Henry Hustwaite is a unique player that would bring kicking talent to the list.

North has high interest in McCallum, who’s shown glimpses of brilliant potential as a defender. He has an elite vertical jump and speed for his size, and can play above the 192 centimetres he’s listed at. His growing confidence to intercept towards the end of the year for the Devils was exciting vision.

In the mix: North is locked on McCallum but could be swayed if Hayes or Weddle fell.

Rowston is a quality inside midfielder that the Giants are excited to welcome. He extracts the ball and wills it forward, and can also take a mark and hit the scoreboard up forward as well. He was sensational for the Allies in the State Championships as a pure centre-bounce midfielder.

Gruzewski has produced incredible highlights with his aerial exploits. He contorts his body and has sticky mitts, plus has shown ability to read the play and perform up forward and down back. His overall game is still a bit raw, but there’s exciting upside as a third tall at either end of the park for the Hawks.

In the mix: The Hawks also have eyes on a small forward and could bid on Alwyn Davey Jr here, or take Charlie Clarke.

Davey isn’t the same type of player as his father – he’s a smooth-moving midfielder with innate footballing smarts and crafty skills. He plays a damaging style of game on the outside of congestion, and could eventually be a full-time centre-bounce midfielder. Davey has enormous potential with his skills and athleticism.

Hustwaite drops a bit in this mock, but the Pies have a good reading of his ability given his brother captains their VFL side. The left-footer is a beautiful ball-user in space, and through the middle is able to find time and feed the ball to outside runners. At 194 centimetres, he’s a very unique player in this draft class.

In the mix: The Pies have eyed mature-age prospects Ethan Phillips and Joe Richards, and would swoop on Lewis Hayes if he fell this far.

West Coast has been heavily linked to Burgiel – the pacy midfielder has shone when given space in the forward half where he can take ground with his legs and draw defenders. His power and ability with ball in hand should translate well to the next level.

In the mix: It’s best available for the Eagles here, simply needing as much talent as possible in their rebuild. Hotton and Charlie Clarke will also be in the mix.

Richards might be one of the great stories of the draft. Playing local footy in Wangaratta, the mature-ager has stood out with his speed and aggression in the forward half. He has suitors well-and-truly in the second round, so the Pies would need to jump here.

In the mix: Ethan Phillips remains an option as a defender, and Isaac Keeler warrants consideration thanks to his elite upside.

The Saints have put a lot of time into Jones, who broke the combine record for the agility test. He’s evasive on the field and is a smart ball-user who loves to roam up the ground. He was one of WA’s best in the State Championships.

In the mix: The Saints need metres gained players, so Jaxon Binns and Jason Gillbee could be options.

The Forthergill-Round-Mitchell Medallist had a sensational year with Port Melbourne in the VFL. He was a standout key defender with his confidence reading the play and intercepting ability, and he could contribute straight away for the Blues. If they don’t go with Busslinger in the first round, Phillips would be the ideal second-round pick.

In the mix: The Blues are desperate for outside run which would bring Binns into the frame, and a project ruckman will be considered soon as well.

Fremantle has lost their best wingman in Blake Acres, and will be eyeing runners to cover the expanses of Optus Stadium. Binns is a gut-runner that creates time and space for himself and hits the scoreboard. His disposal needs to be tidied up but he has the work ethic to become a good wingman.

In the mix: Local products Darcy Jones and Kaleb Smith will be looked at here.

The Saints have an interest in Keeler, who possesses incredible traits up forward and in the ruck. He has elements of Paddy Ryder in his game, with soft hands in the ruck, and crafty inside 50 ability for a man of his size.

In the mix: The Saints will turn to talls if they cover their outside run earlier – expect James Van Es and Ethan Phillips to be considered.

Clarke is the big slider here – he could go as early as the Giants’ late-first rounders. He’s a confident type that makes a nuisance of himself, collects the ball at ground level cleanly and hits the scoreboard with regularity.

In the mix: Port want a key defender and some forward depth, so Ethan Phillips would be ideal and they have interest in Joe Richards as well.

Szybkowski hasn’t quite provided the exploits of previous years, but he’s still a premier contested midfielder with courage and intent. He doesn’t shirk a contest and his hands are lightning quick in traffic.

In the mix: Contested midfielder Adam D’Aloia is around the mark here, as is key forward Isaac Keeler.

Gillbee is an elite runner that plies his trade as a wingman and back-flanker. He’s at his best on the fringes of the contest where he can tuck the ball under his arm and run. His versatility and engine could allow him to play senior football early in 2023.

In the mix: The Dogs could consider Harvey Gallagher as a small defender, and have an interest in forward Jaiden Magor.

The son of legend Boomer, Cooper Harvey is a tough midfielder that can go forward and kick a goal. He’s consistent in his application without the ball and was the standout Knight from the 2022 season. North will take him with their last selection in the draft if he hasn’t yet been bid on.

Gallagher rocketed into calculations after moving behind the ball and becoming the Pioneers’ ‘quarterback’ in the NAB League. He set everything up for them and showcased real improvement in his foot skills.

In the mix: Gallagher can play league football straight away, but the Hawks may be happy to develop West Australians Kaleb Smith or Sam Gilbey in the same role.

Magor is flying under the radar a bit this draft. The South Australian has a deep bag of tricks and can generate a lot of shots on goal each game. He floats through the middle and makes an impact, and is a nightmare to deal with one-on-one.

In the mix: Jason Gillbee and Cooper Vickery both make sense as hard-running outside midfielders here.

Smith had a great second half of the year – he takes the game on with reckless abandon and makes decisions well on the fly, often picking out the right option and linking up again further down the chain.

In the mix: A key position type also beckons for the Dockers if they don’t grab Smith, whether that be ruckman Jackson Broadbent or forward Isaac Keeler.

Broadbent has a lot of work to do to attain an AFL-ready body, but he’s also got a lot of natural talent. His ball skills are elite and Freo will like their chances of developing him into an effective ruckman in due course.

Gilbey is a forgotten man given he suffered glandular fever for the majority of the season. It wiped away his draft year, but his best is a marvel with his composure and execution out of the backline, plus his defensive capabilities.

In the mix: Ross may like another defender here, so James Van Es and Luke Teal may appeal.

The Hawks have Vickery under NGA rules and will take him at some point – he’s a live-wire wingman who can run all day and produce classy moments. He needs to build up his body before he can play AFL level football.

Tucker is a project ruckman who has grown and come on really well for Ranges. He averaged over 20 hitouts per game in the NAB League and manhandled some opponents.

In the mix: Key forwards Harry Lemmey and Tom Scully would be interesting choices here for the Blues.

Lemmey has fallen off the map since the start of the year, but the Tigers would be willing to take some chances with these late picks. He doesn’t show the physicality or strength required of a key forward, but he’s effective on the lead and is usually a good kick for goal.

In the mix: Tom Scully is the other key forward option, and Billy Dowling is a great wing option.

D’Aloia is a starring midfielder – he wins his own ball, makes life easier for his teammates and plays a winning brand. Clubs have been turned off by his outside ability and lack of athletic traits, but D’Aloia can play really good football.

In the mix: The Dons may not use this pick, instead opting to secure Anthony Munkara and Jayden Davey.

Scully is a punt that makes sense for the Cats. He averaged over three goals per game in the U18s and produced a huge first half of the season. He’s great on the lead and converts opportunities.

In the mix: The Cats have the best list in the league but they could use some talls so Harry Lemmey and Isaac Keeler will be looked at.

A significant athletic profile goes hand-in-hand with intercepting ability for Van Es. He’s slightly undersized and has been caught out of position at times this year, but there’s fun upside in his game.

In the mix: Port will take a key defender as some point, with Hugh Davies another option.

Davey is more like his father than his twin – he has innate goal sense and loves to snap whenever he gets a sliver of daylight. He will take a while coming back from his second ACL but the Dons have committed to his rehab.

Teal is on the radar of the Tigers as a really solid defender that can do a bit of everything. He wins his own ball, gets it moving forward and pays respect to his direct opponent.

In the mix: Noah Long and Hugh Davies are different types but both have been linked.

Dons fans will rejoice if Munkara makes it past 40. His skills on both sides of his body and aerial ability is exciting, but it’s the aggressive streak and mean fend-off that has supporters salivating.

A tough defender that doesn’t give up much, Davies is a chance to be drafted by Freo. He works hard up and down the ground following his opponent and has had really good days against quality opposition.

In the mix: Luke Teal and Sam Gilbey are real option for the Dockers.

A midfielder with one of the best names in the draft, Green has delivered some quality performances and took big strides this year. The Eagles have kept an eye on him, and may have a final spot to pick him up at this point.

The Crows will use their selections to match a Michalanney bid, but at the end of the draft Dowling should be a target. He’s prolific in and out of the contest, can kick goals and has generally dominated the U18s.

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

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