Top 25 AFL Prospects – July 2017 – Numbers 1 – 10


In December 2016 we released our top 25 prospects of the AFL. Just past the midway point of the 2017 season, we have now updated our rankings to reflect the progression of the AFL’s youngest and brightest.

Six players have graduated from prospect rankings, three have fallen out due to middling form while nine prospects have made the list for the first time. We have also had every other existing player either move up or down the ratings list.

Of note, are the form slumps of Aaron Francis (13), Patrick McCartin (14) and Matthew Scharenberg (25) with each player falling out of the Top 25 due to an average-to-poor season, with Francis and McCartin’s fall particularly worrisome considering that they were both meant to be primed for big years. Further, entering the ranks at high positions are Eric Hipwood (2), Ryan Burton (4) and Caleb Marchbank (7) whose impressive years have seen them come from outside of the rankings to firmly entrenched within the top 10.

How it works

To be eligible, a player:

  • must have played 30 games or less; and
  • be under 22 years old at the start of the year.

Note, if a player has played more than 30 games but is still under 22 years old, he will not be considered in this ranking

December 2016– top 25 prospects

  1. Darcy Moore
  2. Callum Mills
  3. Jacob Weitering
  4. Darcy Parish
  5. Andrew McGrath
  6. Christian Petracca
  7. Josh Schache
  8. Hugh McCluggage
  9. Jacob Hopper
  10. Will Setterfield
  11. Peter Wright
  12. Tim Taranto
  13. Aaron Francis
  14. Patrick McCartin
  15. Jack Scrimshaw
  16. Jack Bowes
  17. Sam Petrevski-Seton
  18. Ben Ainsworth
  19. Clayton Oliver
  20. Matthew Kennedy
  21. Charlie Curnow
  22. Sam Weideman
  23. Rhys Mathieson
  24. Liam Duggan
  25. Matthew Scharenberg

July 2017 Rankings:

    1. Andrew McGrath

Previous ranking: 5

Movement: +4

Games played: 15

Average fantasy score: 72

Strengths: Football intelligence, speed and leadership

The number 1 pick in the 2016 AFL Draft, McGrath has dominated games this year and looks set to become a 300-game, possible premiership captain for the Dons. Averaging 19 disposals this year across the half-back line,  McGrath has shown a willingness to run and carry as well as clamp down on small forwards, showing why he was rated so highly.

McGrath was a Rising Star nominee in Round 4, following a superb performance which saw him win 28 disposals, lay four tackles and have five scoring involvements in a loss to the Crows. Tipped to win the Rising Star award, McGrath is a clear first in our prospect guide and will likely become a 300-game, possible Brownlow medalist for the Dons.

  1. Eric Hipwood

Previous ranking: Not ranked

Movement: More than 25

Games played: 25

Average fantasy score: 45

Strengths: Marking, agility and competitiveness

From out of the top 30, to number 2 on the list, the rise of Eric Hipwood has been simply outstanding for the former pick number 14 of the 2015 National Draft.

An AFL fantasy average of 45 does not do justice to the sheer talent of Hipwood who has kicked 24 goals in 17 games this year. A top end prospect, Hipwood has the hallmarks of a future multiple All-Australian, with his marking and athleticism his key traits.

Averaging 1.6 goals and 8 disposals this year, Hipwood was nominated for the Rising Star award following round 5 where he kicked four goals against the Bulldogs. Expect him to continue to build each year until he is comfortably situated as one of the games preeminent tall forwards.

  1. Clayton Oliver

Previous ranking: 16

Movement: +16

Games played: 29

Average fantasy score: 102

Strengths: contested disposal and power 

Oliver has taken his game to the next level in 2017, with his AFL fantasy average of 102 highlighting his magnificent year. Add that to an average of 29 disposals and 6.7 tackles per game, and it is clear Oliver is having a breakout season for the Demons.

If he could curb his off-field behaviour and keep his head down, Oliver has the potential to be a Melbourne great. Will likely feature in the top 3 for the Melbourne B&F, highlighting his importance to the Demons.

  1. Ryan Burton

Previous ranking: Not ranked

Movement: More than 23

Games played: 18

Average fantasy score: 86

Strengths: composure, kicking and decision making

Burton’s clean ball use and foot skills have been a hallmark of his this year, where he has consistently been among the best players for the developing Hawks. Burton has further shown recruiters that high-risk prospects often mean high-reward prospects, with the Hawks benefiting from a horror-leg break Burton suffered in his draft year to allow him to slip into their nest at pick 19 in the 2015 AFL Draft.

Burton averages 19 disposals, 6.1 intercept possessions and 5.6 marks per game, which has seen him come into equal favouritism for the Rising Star award, alongside McGrath and Powell-Pepper.

Playing across the halfback line, the AFL Rising Star nominee for round 2 has played with composure that bellies his years and has also seen him operating at a kicking efficiency of 82%.

  1. Sam Powell-Pepper

Previous ranking: Not ranked

Movement: More than 20

Games played: 16

Average fantasy score: 71

Strengths: composure, strength and leadership

The big bodied midfielder was drafted out of East Perth with the number 18 pick in the 2016 AFL Draft and has not missed a beat at the elite level. A contested bull, Powell-Pepper has cemented his name in the Port midfield this year and has at times shown his more fancied colleagues the way.

A Rising Star nomination following a round one performance which saw him have 19 disposals, seven clearances and five inside 50s, Powell-Pepper recently signed a contract extension which will tie him to Alberton until 2020.

Powell-Pepper is second favourite to win the Rising Star award behind McGrath and Burton, with his average of 18.2 disposals per game and 9.0 contested possessions a game (the second most of any Rising Star eligible player behind GWS star Jacob Hopper) set to be looked upon favourably.

  1. Tim Taranto

Previous ranking: 12

Movement: +6

Games played: 12

Average fantasy score: 61

Strengths: contested disposal, marking and competitiveness 

Injuries to key Giants players may have assisted Taranto in playing 12 games, however he has shown that he is more than comfortable at the top level, averaging 15 disposals for the season to go along with an AFL fantasy average of 61, playing predominately forward of the midfield.

The number 2 draft pick from the 2016 AFL Draft, Taranto was awarded a Rising Star nomination following a round 8 performance against the Pies where he won 21 important disposals to be a key player in the Giant’s nail-biting win.

Unfortunately injury may have now also derailed his season, with the young gun likely to miss two months of football following a late-June injury where he twisted his ankle against the Brisbane Lions.

  1. Caleb Marchbank

Previous ranking: None

Movement: More than 18

Games played: 21

Average fantasy score: 74

Strengths: intercept marking, consisted marking and leadership

Marchbank has been a recruiting masterstroke for the Blues, with his intercept marking and spoiling a hallmark of his game. Averaging 14 disposals and 74 AFL fantasy points, Marchbank has shown an ability to negate a range of forwards this year, with successful jobs on Cale Hooker, Justin Westhoff, Gary Rohan and Ben Griffiths.

Marchbank was awarded a Rising Star nomination following his performance in round 6 in the Blues 19-point victory against Sydney where he had 10 marks and 21 disposals. Looks set to become a lock in the Carlton defence for 10+ years.

  1. Sam Petrevski-Seton

Previous ranking: 17

Movement: +9

Games played: 13

Average fantasy score: 66

Strengths: contested disposal, speed and tackling

A surprise debutant in round one for the Blues, Petrevski-Seton has had an outstanding first season which has seen him rise up the top 25 list. Blessed with speed and clean possession, Petrevski-Seton has shown everyone why he was selected by Carlton at pick no. 6 last November.

Petrevski-Seton won a Round 7 Rising Star nomination following an outstanding game against Collingwood, where he kicked two goals from 21 disposals. His performance has dipped in recent weeks, however he is still averaging a solid 13.6 disposals and 66 AFL fantasy points.

  1. Hugh McCluggage

Previous ranking: 8

Movement: -1

Games played: 13

Average fantasy score: 60

Strengths: elite skills, decision making and composure 

Last season’s number 3 pick, McCluggage has had a decent first year for the Lions, highlighted by the round 14 Rising Star nomination which saw him collect 19 disposals, 8 marks and 9 score involvements in the Lions’ lost to GWS.

Unlike some of the other players on this prospect list who have benefitted from playing in a strong side, McCluggage has at times struggled by reason of the Lions’ poor performances and lack of protection he can sometimes be afforded, however that has not stopped him from showing off his high-ceiling potential as he averages 15 disposals and 4 marks per game. Following another year in the gym, McCluggage has a high-ceiling that will allow him to impact games more than others on this list.

  1. Jacob Hopper

Previous ranking: 9

Movement: -1

Games played: 16

Average fantasy score: 67

Strengths: contested disposal, composure and decision making 

The contested ball winning bull, the 186cm Hopper has had an injury-interrupted season with the Giants which may have affected his rise up the rankings. Still he has averaged 17 disposals to go along with an average of 4.6 tackles and 9.2 contested disposals in the 6 games he has played this year, clearly showing that he excels in close conditions.

Having injured both his ankle and finger, Hopper will be hoping he can return to play in the later stages of the year to further cement his position as a bona fide future star of the competition and help the Giants strive for their first premiership.

Numbers 10-25 will be published later in the week.

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