Footy expert Will Cuckson helps you get to know the AFL Draft’s top prospects.
The dust has settled on the AFL Trade and Free Agency Periods, so attention now turns to the 2023 AFL National Draft, which will take place across Monday and Tuesday, November 20-21.
The top prospects have solidified their standings through both consistent and prolific performances throughout the year, while others committed to testing strongly at October’s AFL Draft Combine.
While there are consistent murmurings as to which club will pick first on Draft night, whether it’s West Coast, North Melbourne or someone else, there’s little debate as to who will go first overall — VIC Country and Bendigo star Harley Reid has been the overwhelming Pick 1 favourite all year.
But he’s not the only AFL Draft prospect set to turn the fortunes of certain clubs around.
So which other players will clubs have high up on their Draft board? Here’s all you need to know about the top 20 prospects in the 2023 AFL Draft.
Our user-friendly Guide to the top 20 prospects in the 2023 AFL Draft
1. Harley Reid
Midfielder | 187cm/85kg | DOB 17/4/05
Tongala/Bendigo Pioneers/VIC Country
If there’s one name from the 2023 draft class that you’re already familiar with, it’s certain to be Harley Reid.
Throughout the year, and even from mid-2022, his status as the likely #1 Pick has been as consistent and unanimous as we’ve seen in recent memory.
Reid is a powerful contested midfielder, renowned among recruiters and experts for his aggression, physicality and versatility, with his ability to hit the scoreboard consistently also a mark of his game.
Reid captained both VIC Country and the Pioneers throughout the season, winning the MVP Award for VIC Country as he averaged 19.5 disposals and 6.8 clearances, and booted five goals from four games.
2. Jed Walter
Key Forward | 194cm/97kg | DOB 8/6/05
Palm Beach Currumbin/SUNS Academy/Allies
As highly as Reid is renowned as a generational midfielder, Walter is equally as regarded as a key forward. Similarly aggressive in terms of his physicality, Walter’s aerial prowess and ability to crash packs is just one trait that has recruiters excited, but perhaps the most notable aspect of his game is his hunger and ability for tackling – something not often seen in key forwards.
The imposing forward hit the scoreboard regularly throughout the year, booting 29 goals in eight games across the AFL U/18 National Championships and the Coates Talent League, highlighted by a 19-disposal, eight-goal Talent League showing against the Northern Territory.
In addition to his forward-half dominance, Walter looms as a potential future AFL captain, leading the Allies to a maiden National Championships title. Tied to Gold Coast’s Academy, Walter is destined to become a Sun at the draft; expected to draw a bid from a rival club inside the top five picks on night one.
3. Zane Duursma
Midfielder/Forward | 189cm/80kg | DOB 28/8/05
Foster/Gippsland Power/VIC Country
Duursma has risen in many experts’ draft rankings throughout the year, with a strong finish to the Coates Talent League season, catapulting the midfielder/forward into Top 5 contention.
The brother of established AFL mid Xavier, who’s just made the move from Port to Essendon, led the goal-kicking count in the Talent League; booting 33 goals in the home-and-away season. He finished the season with a flurry, kicking 20 goals and averaged 26 disposals in his last six games.
Duursma’s aerial strength is one of the highlights of his game, evidenced as he finished second in the running vertical jump at the Draft Combine. When it comes to playing through the middle, Duursma was also able to have a big impact in his clearance work, displaying some great speed through stoppages.
4. Colby McKercher
Midfielder | 182cm/76kg | DOB 12/4/05
McKercher is unanimously the best pure midfielder in the 2023 Draft pool.
He recently joined the elite company of pro stars such as Hugh McCluggage, Clayton Oliver, Dyson Heppell and Lenny Hayes by winning the Morrish Medal — the Best and Fairest player of the Coates Talent League season.
McKercher averaged 29.4 disposals and 1.3 goals for the Tasmania Devils, with his speed, ball use and accurate left-foot kick some highlights of his game. He also averaged 32.5 disposals in the National Championships, highlighted by a 40-disposal performance for the Allies against Western Australia.
McKercher looms as a near-certain Top 5 talent, so expect to hear his name called early on draft night.
5. Daniel Curtin
Key Defender/Forward | 197cm/95kg | DOB 8/3/05
Curtin is one of the most versatile players in this year’s crop; capable in the forward line and through the midfield, but in last season played predominantly as a key defender. He was named the WA MVP after an impressive National Championships season, averaging 23.5 disposals and 8 marks.
Curtin played four matches in the WAFL seniors for Claremont, earning his debut after some strong performances for the club’s Colts side. He returned to the Colts to play in the Grand Final, gathering 23 disposals and taking 5 marks to help the side to a premiership.
Recruiters are evidently impressed with Curtin’s versatility; his precise left-foot kick and his aerial ability are traits that stamp his status as the pool’s premier key defender.
He looms as a pivotal Draft name, given that if the Eagles trade down from pick one, the club will want to remain in range to keep the best local talent in Western Australia.
6. Nick Watson
Forward | 170cm/68kg | DOB 24/2/05
East Ringwood/Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro
Watson is as electric and entertaining as they come in this pool, aptly nicknamed ‘The Wizard’ for his magical forward-line exploits.
He topped the goal-kicking charts in the National Championships for VIC Metro, booting 14 goals from four games to go alongside his 11 from nine starts in the Coates Talent League.
Watson rotated around the ground at times across 2023, playing on a wing and at half-back at different points. But it’s clear the has the assets to succeed as an AFL small forward; his speed, ground-level ability and goal sense are all traits that have recruiters interested.
7. Ryley Sanders
Midfielder | 186cm/85kg | DOB 21/1/05
North Launceston/Sandringham Dragons/Allies
Sanders earned his high Draft ranking and status after a dominant season in both the National Championships and the Coates Talent League, averaging above 30 disposals.
Originally from Tasmania, Sanders represented the Sandringham Dragons across 2022 and 2023.
Averaging 35.5 disposals, 5 clearances and 6.3 marks, Sanders was awarded the Larke Medal as the best player at the National Championships.
Evidenced by his dominant performances throughout the year, Sanders is highly regarded by recruiters for his clearance and contested work, as well as his sheer ability to win the ball.
8. Ethan Read
Ruck | 202cm/92kg | DOB 7/7/05
Palm Beach Currumbin/SUNS Academy/Allies
Another of the standout Suns Academy bunch, Read is certainly a special ruck talent, running an astonishing 5:56 in his 2km time trial at the Draft Combine.
His incredible tank saw him utilised all around the ground in 2023, with some recruiters believing his early career at AFL level will be as a defender, as he develops the contested side of his game to become a genuine ruckman.
Read averaged 16.3 hitouts and 20.6 disposals across the National Championships and Coates Talent League during the year, named as the All-Australian ruck. Aside from his mobility and aerobic capacity, Read is clean gathering the ball below his knees and is just as strong taking a mark overhead.
He shapes as a likely top 10 pick; the Suns will almost definitely match any bid that’s lodged for the 202cm prospect.
9. Nate Caddy
Key Forward/Midfielder | 193cm/88kg | DOB 14/7/05
Yarrambat/Northern Knights/VIC Metro
An undersized key forward, Caddy has impressed recruiters with his strong aerial presence and athleticism, which saw him record a top 10 finish in the Agility Test at the AFL Draft Combine.
Co-captaining the Northern Knights in the Coates Talent League, Caddy’s season yielded some impressive numbers; 25 goals from his nine games and an average of 16.3 disposals and 6.2 marks.
The nephew of dual Richmond premiership winner Josh, Caddy is likely to start his career as a forward, but has displayed the form at under-18 level – and possesses the frame – to suggest he could become a damaging midfield option at AFL level one day.
10. Connor O’Sullivan
Key Defender/Forward | 198cm/92kg | DOB 19/5/05
O’Sullivan is another member of this Draft crop who displayed his versatility this year, rotating through the midfield and forward line at times. But his primary home on the field is as a key defender, where he averaged 18 disposals and 8 marks on his way to winning the Allies’ MVP award – an impressive feat given his side’s undefeated, championship-winning season.
Throughout the year, O’Sullivan displayed his ability to play on forwards of varying sizes and displayed his impressive running capacity, with a time of 6:11 in the 2km time trial at the draft combine. At 198cm and 92kg, O’Sullivan’s mature frame means he could be ready for a debut early in his first AFL season.
11. Jake Rogers
Midfielder | 170cm/68kg | DOB 2/3/05
Rounding out the top-end trio of Suns Academy talent, Rogers is an undersized, speedy midfielder, who has excited recruiters with his intensity and composure throughout the contest.
As one of the older prospects in the pool, Rogers featured for the Suns’ VFL team on three occasions, and dominated for the AFL Academy in its two matches against State League sides.
He could be in the frame for a senior debut early next season, though due to his small height and slight frame, experts believe he’ll likely begin his career as a forward.
12. Darcy Wilson
Midfielder/Forward | 186cm/74kg | DOB 18/8/05
Wangaratta/Murray Bushrangers/VIC Country
Wilson’s stocks have risen substantially as the year has progressed, notably blitzing the Draft Combine where he recorded a number of impressive results.
The 185cm prospect won the running vertical jump with a leap of 98cm and placed second in the 2km time trial, with a time of 5:52. He also placed in the top 10 in the agility test and standing vertical jump. He’s a serious athlete.
Displaying his proficiency as an inside and outside midfielder, and pushing forward at times throughout the year, Wilson booted 16 goals and averaged 25 disposals from 11 games in the Coates talent league, maintaining his status as a likely first-round selection on Draft night.
13. Jordan Croft
Key Forward | 201cm/80kg | DOB 12/5/05
Maribyrnong Park/Calder Cannons/VIC Metro
Destined to make his way to the Dogs as a father-son selection, Croft boasts plenty to get excited about as a key forward.
His exceptional running capacity stood out at the Draft Combine, plus created plenty of headaches for opposition defenders throughout the year, booting 23.17 from 11 games in the Coates Talent League.
Croft looms as a promising prospect for the Dogs – where his father Matthew played 186 games – with his strengths including his aerial capacity and leading ability.
14. Ollie Murphy
Key Defender | 200cm/85kg | DOB 16/9/05
East Brighton/Sandringham Dragons/VIC Metro
Murphy’s stocks have risen as the year has progressed; the key defender’s rise was capped off by claiming VIC Metro’s MVP award. He also won the Coates Talent League premiership with Sandringham.
Murphy looms as a prospect who could develop into a commanding key back, with his intercept marking and left-foot kick among his standout attributes. But given his lighter frame, the Victorian will likely need time to physically mature before he’s able to have an impact at AFL level.
15. James Leake
Defender/Forward | 187cm/77kg | DOB 10/2/05
Leake has bolted into first-round contention with a consistent start to 2023 as a defender, followed up by a highly impressive second half in the forward line.
The Tasmanian prospect earned himself a debut for the Allies in the National Championships.
Leake’s versatility will no doubt be an attractive factor for clubs come Draft night.
16. Caleb Windsor
Midfielder | 185cm/74kg | DOB 9/6/05
Lysterfield/Eastern Ranges/VIC Metro
Windsor looms as one of the best Wing prospects in the Draft, with his speed and athleticism on display at the Combine — placing third in the 20m sprint with a time of 2.916 seconds, plus impressing with both his standing and running vertical jumps.
Windsor has cemented a name for himself as a goal-kicking midfield prospect, booting 11 majors from his 16 Talent League games in 2023. He booted at least one goal from his final eight games for Eastern Ranges, while also averaging 19 disposals throughout the season.
17. Will McCabe
Key Defender/Forward | 197cm/86kg | DOB 29/9/05
Tanunda/Central Districts/South Australia
McCabe is regarded as the best South Australian prospect in the 2023 Draft class, though he’s destined to begin his career in Victoria — tied to Hawthorn as a father-son prospect.
He’s set to bolster the Hawks’ key-position depth, with his capacity to perform at either end of the ground, highlighted by his athleticism and mobility.
McCabe plied his trade predominantly as a defender in 2023, averaging 22 disposals and six marks for Central Districts in the SANFL Under 18s among an injury-interrupted season.
The 197cm prospect has runs on the board, however, so is likely to hear his name called on the first night of the Draft.
18. Koltyn Tholstrup
Forward/Midfielder | 186cm/86kg | DOB 28/6/05
Newtown Condingup/Subiaco/Western Australia
Tholstrup has displayed some exciting traits across the 2023 season, with his physicality and pressure among the headlining aspects of his game as a medium forward, who can pinch-hit in the midfield or as a tagger.
On another hand, he also displayed his dynamic ability at the Draft Combine, with the second-best result in the agility test – an impressive time of 8.194 seconds.
Tholstrup got some strong exposure to senior football this year, featuring throughout the season for Subiaco in the WAFL, booting seven goals from his ten games at the level.
Tholstrup certainly possesses some ‘Kolt’ hero potential, but has the talent to back it up as well.
19. Riley Hardeman
Defender | 188cm/75kg | DOB 27/2/05
Caversham/Swan Districts/Western Australia
Captaining Western Australia at the Under 18 National Championships, Hardeman’s commitment and body of work throughout 2023 saw him rewarded with a late-season senior debut for his WAFL side Swan Districts.
Plying his trade as a rebounding half-back, Hardeman possesses no shortage of ball-winning ability, averaging 22 disposals across his seven WAFL Colts matches in 2023.
While already impressing with his speed and endurance, Hardeman improved his intercepting ability as the season went on, something that has seen his draft stocks rise favourably.
20. Archie Roberts
Defender | 184cm/77kg | DOB 18/11/05
Hampton/Sandringham Dragons/VIC Metro
Roberts sneaks into our top 20 rankings, but where he’s selected on Draft night remains a mystery.
The small defender is regarded highly by some clubs, a worthy reward for a consistent season where he won premierships with the Sandringham Dragons and his school, Haileybury College, where he was also named Best & Fairest.
Playing off half-back, Roberts averaged 20.8 disposals in his 13 games across the National Championships and Coates Talent League this year, with his ball-winning ability a trait of his game that leads some clubs to believe he could have a future as an AFL midfielder.
His ball use and running capacity have certainly served him well as a rebounding defender, and could certainly translate to a role at the centre bounce.