AFL’s Future Stars: My 2023 AFL Round One Phantom Draft

I’ve been spending a lot of time checking out stats and watching the under 18s, and now I’m really excited to share my thoughts on the Phantom Draft for the 2023 AFL season.

This isn’t just a random guess from me. I’ve genuinely put in the effort, analyzing numbers and watching games to come up with these predictions.

In my draft, I’ve chosen players who are impressive not just on paper but also have what it takes to really make a mark in the AFL.

We’re about to explore the top 24 picks. You’ll see some names you know and some new ones, and here’s the deal – each pick is based on solid research about what each club is likely to go for. This is the draft order I’m expecting.

Let’s get started.

2023 AFL Phantom Draft: Top 24 Selections


1. Harley Reid (West Coast Eagles)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Dustin Martin/Patrick Dangerfield

Key Attributes: Explosiveness, game-changing ability, versatility

Club Benefit: Reid could revitalize the Eagles’ midfield with his dynamic play, reminiscent of AFL legends. His ability to impact various areas on the ground will be crucial for the team’s strategic flexibility.

2. Jed Walter (Gold Coast Suns)

Position: Key Forward

AFL Comparison: Tom Lynch

Key Attributes: Strength, aggression, scoring ability

Club Benefit: Walter’s qualities offer the Suns a dominant forward presence. His partnership with Ben King could make Gold Coast’s attack one of the most formidable in the league.

3. Zane Duursma (North Melbourne Kangaroos)

Position: Forward

AFL Comparison: Jeremy Cameron

Key Attributes: Goalkicking, aerial prowess

Club Benefit: Duursma’s Cameron-esque skills will enhance North Melbourne’s forward line, adding a new scoring threat and complementing their existing offensive strategies.

4. Colby McKercher (Hawthorn Hawks)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Zach Merrett

Key Attributes: Speed, kicking precision, consistency

Club Benefit: McKercher could be a pivotal figure in Hawthorn’s midfield, similar to Merrett. His speed and accurate kicking are set to transform the Hawks’ play dynamics.

5. Nick Watson (Western Bulldogs)

Position: Forward

AFL Comparison: Cody Weightman

Key Attributes: Agility, goal-scoring instinct

Club Benefit: Watson’s addition promises to bring a Weightman-style flair to the Bulldogs’ offense. His agility and knack for finding goals will be invaluable in breaking through tight defenses.

6. Ryley Sanders (Western Bulldogs)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Jason Horne-Francis

Key Attributes: Clearance ability, strength, consistency

Club Benefit: Sanders would bolster the Bulldogs’ midfield with tenacity. His strength in clearances and ability to impact contests could be crucial for the team’s midfield dominance.

7. Ethan Read (Gold Coast Suns)

Position: Ruckman

AFL Comparison: Brodie Grundy

Key Attributes: Athleticism, mobility, work rate

Club Benefit: Read could become the Suns’ future premier ruckman, bringing Grundy’s athleticism and mobility to the role. His versatility in playing multiple positions across the ground adds strategic depth to the team.

8. Daniel Curtin (Melbourne)

Position: Key Defender

AFL Comparison: Matthew Pavlich

Key Attributes: Intercept marking, versatility, decision-making

Club Benefit: Curtin’s versatility would be a major asset for Melbourne. His ability to read the play and intercept marking could solidify the Demons’ defense while offering flexibility in roles.

9. Connor O’Sullivan (Greater Western Sydney)

Position: Key Defender

AFL Comparison: Jacob Weitering

Key Attributes: Versatility, aerial ability, mobility

Club Benefit: O’Sullivan’s addition to GWS could provide a reliable and versatile defensive option. His capability in multiple roles would greatly benefit the Giants’ defensive strategies.

10. Darcy Wilson (Geelong)

Position: Wing

AFL Comparison: Josh Daicos

Key Attributes: Speed, endurance, transitional play

Club Benefit: Wilson could bring a dynamism to Geelong’s wing position. His exceptional endurance and speed would enhance the team’s transitional play, contributing significantly to both offensive and defensive phases.

11. Nate Caddy (Essendon)

Position: Forward

AFL Comparison: Jack Riewoldt

Key Attributes: Aerial ability, athleticism, goal sense

Club Benefit: Caddy’s addition to Essendon could greatly enhance their forward line. His strong aerial presence and goal-scoring capabilities will provide the Bombers with a reliable target upfront.

12. Jake Rogers (Gold Coast Suns)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Touk Miller

Key Attributes: Clearance ability, speed, competitiveness

Club Benefit: Rogers could inject energy into the Suns’ midfield. His speed and ability to win clearances would bolster their midfield dynamics, enhancing both offensive and defensive transitions.

13. James Leake (Adelaide)

Position: Defender/Forward

AFL Comparison: Jake Lever

Key Attributes: Versatility, intercept marking, goal-scoring ability

Club Benefit: Leake’s versatile skill set would provide Adelaide with strategic flexibility. His ability to play both in defense and attack could make him a valuable asset in various game situations.

14. Caleb Windsor (Melbourne)

Position: Wing

AFL Comparison: Andrew Gaff

Key Attributes: Pace, precise kicking, goal sense

Club Benefit: Windsor’s style could add significant value to Melbourne’s wing play. His pace and accurate foot delivery would enhance their ability to transition quickly and efficiently.

15. Jordan Croft (Western Bulldogs)

Position: Key Forward

AFL Comparison: Harry McKay

Key Attributes: Overhead marking, mobility, work rate

Club Benefit: Croft’s addition would provide the Bulldogs with a strong marking target inside 50. His mobility and work rate around the ground could add a new dimension to their attacking play.

16. Koltyn Tholstrup (Sydney)

Position: Forward

AFL Comparison: Tom Papley

Key Attributes: Toughness, work rate, goal sense

Club Benefit: Tholstrup could add a gritty and hard-working dimension to Sydney’s forward line. His ability to apply pressure and score goals would enhance the Swans’ attacking strategies.

17. Riley Hardeman (St Kilda)

Position: Defender

AFL Comparison: Nick Haynes

Key Attributes: Rebounding ability, intercept marking

Club Benefit: Hardeman’s defensive skills would be a valuable addition to St Kilda. His ability to intercept and rebound could strengthen the Saints’ backline, offering solid defensive reliability.

18. Will McCabe (Hawthorn)

Position: Key Defender

AFL Comparison: Jacob Weitering

Key Attributes: Athleticism, aerial ability

Club Benefit: McCabe’s style would provide Hawthorn with a strong and athletic presence in their defense. His aerial prowess and ability to intercept would be key assets.

19. Harry DeMattia (Adelaide)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Travis Boak

Key Attributes: Leadership, breakaway speed, versatility

Club Benefit: DeMattia’s qualities could bring leadership and versatility to Adelaide’s midfield. His speed and ability to play various roles would offer the Crows tactical flexibility.

20. William Green (North Melbourne)

Position: Ruck

AFL Comparison: Brodie Grundy

Key Attributes: Mobility, ruck craft, marking ability

Club Benefit: Green could be a long-term ruck solution for North Melbourne. His mobility and skills in the ruck would complement their young midfield group, enhancing their overall team dynamics.

21. Charlie Edwards (Greater Western Sydney)

Position: Midfielder

AFL Comparison: Marcus Bontempelli

Key Attributes: Size, breakaway speed, versatility

Club Benefit: Edwards could bring versatility to GWS. His size and speed make him a formidable presence in the midfield, adding depth and flexibility to the Giants’ lineup.

22. Ollie Murphy (North Melbourne)

Position: Key Defender

AFL Comparison: Darcy Moore

Key Attributes: Intercept marking, athleticism

Club Benefit: Murphy’s defending skills could strengthen North Melbourne’s backline. His intercept marking and overall athletic ability would be key in bolstering the Kangaroos’ defensive strategies.

23. Archie Roberts (North Melbourne)

Position: Defender

AFL Comparison: Adam Saad

Key Attributes: Rebounding, speed, consistency

Club Benefit: Roberts could add dynamism to North Melbourne’s defense. His ability to rebound and speed would enhance the Kangaroos’ transition play from defense to attack.

24. Lance Collard (Collingwood)

Position: Forward

AFL Comparison: Michael Walters

Key Attributes: Agility, goal sense, pressure

Club Benefit: Collard could add an exciting element to Collingwood’s forward line. His agility and knack for scoring goals would provide the Magpies with additional offensive firepower.


And there you have it, my take on the first round of the 2023 AFL Draft, put together after a whole lot of digging and analysis.

But the draft always comes with its share of surprises. The fact that clubs can trade picks on the fly just adds to the whole unpredictability of it all.

My predictions are just that – educated guesses about how things might go down. But draft day is always full of twists and turns, and that’s what makes it so thrilling.

At the end of the day, all we can do is guess and wait for the official word when those picks are finally announced

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