There’s plenty of hype around Sam Walsh.
There’s plenty of hype around Sam Walsh.

AFL draft: Teen footy freak to take Australia by storm

The 2018 AFL draft kicks off tonight with some brand new innovations to be unveiled for the first time. Here's everything you need to know about it.

WHAT TIME IS IT AND WHERE?

The draft is expected to kick off at around 7pm AEDT tonight and will take place over two days at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium. The first round will be on Thursday while the rookie draft and later rounds will unfold from 12pm on Friday.

WHAT'S NEW?

Live trading has been introduced for the first time, meaning clubs can trade where they are in the draft order. It gives clubs the option of trading future picks on the night as well as moving up and down the draft order.

For example, Port Adelaide's first pick is at No. 5, but now they have the option of trading with other clubs to move up the order.

"Over the course of the two days, there will be some trading - the first night, I don't know," said AFL talent manager Kevin Sheehan.

"The beauty of this is the clubs may well have most of the same 60 or 70 players on their boards, but the order would be so different.

"When they see someone there that they rank (highly) … they'd be really encouraged to jump up and get that guy.

"They'll be dumbfounded he's still there … they'll give a couple of choices up for him, they might even give up the second round (choice) next year if they really value that player."

HYPE TRAIN GOES FULL STEAM AHEAD

Everyone seems to agree this is the best group of players on offer at a draft since the famed 2001 crop.

Luke Hodge, Luke Ball and Chris Judd led the 2001 draft, which also featured Jimmy Bartel, Nick Dal Santo, James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Leigh Montagna, Gary Ablett and Dane Swan.

This year, it is a given that Sam Walsh, Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Max King will be among the top five choices.

ACADEMY PLAYERS NOW ON THE TABLE

 

Sydney will be keen to hold onto Nick Blakey.
Sydney will be keen to hold onto Nick Blakey.

Rival clubs can make bids for father-son or talent academy players, which will force clubs to match the bids of other teams if they want to keep the players they've developed themselves or are hoping to acquire via the father-son rule.

This means highly-rated Sydney academy talent Nick Blakey will probably go to the Swans in the top 10 because Adelaide or Port Adelaide are likely to force Sydney's hand. If the Crows or Power make a bid for Blakey, Sydney will need to match the bid by giving up draft picks to keep him in the red and white.

Blakey is the son of two-time North Melbourne premiership player John Blakey, now coaching director at Sydney.

ALL EYES ON SAM WALSH

Walsh is widely regarded as a lock to go to Carlton with the number one pick. The gifted, hard-working midfielder from the Geelong Falcons has been described as a once-in-a-generation talent a club can build a team around.

He was named captain of this year's under-18 All Australian team and impressed everyone. Cats star Patrick Dangerfield likened the 18-year-old to Joel Selwood and said he could have played in the AFL this year.

"He's going to be a very special player for a very long period of time," Dangerfield said.

AFL draft expert Kevin Sheehan told Triple M this week: "He's a jet, absolutely."

TOP TALENT ON OFFER

 

Sam Walsh is at the top of a talented list.
Sam Walsh is at the top of a talented list.

Sam Walsh may be expected to go first up but there's plenty more talent on offer. Here are the most highly-rated prospects outside of Walsh.

Jack Lukosius (Woodville-West Torrens)

- Position: Key forward, height: 194cm, weight: 85kg.

- An outstanding athlete with speed and endurance who has been favourably compared to St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt. Clean overhead and an elite kick, Lukosius is capable of pushing up onto a wing and has also been used down back.

Izak Rankine (West Adelaide)

- Position: Half-forward/midfielder, height: 180cm, weight: 76kg.

- Regarded by some as the most exciting prospect in this year's draft pool, Rankine has a bag of tricks that will quickly make him a fan favourite. Oozes class, has pace to burn and has a nose for goal.

Max King (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Key forward/defender, height: 202cm, weight: 86kg

- Was in the conversation to go No. 1 before he underwent a knee reconstruction in April. But the big-marking forward's recovery is going well and his combination of strength and agility will ensure he doesn't slide too far down the pecking order.

Connor Rozee (North Adelaide)

- Position: Half-forward/midfielder, height: 180cm, weight: 76kg.

- The versatile youngster with footy smarts, pace and strong overhead skills pushed himself into top-10 calculations with an outstanding back half of the season. Impressed across half-back in the Roosters' SANFL premiership side.

Connor Rozee has impressed in the SANFL.
Connor Rozee has impressed in the SANFL.

Ben King (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Key forward/defender, height: 202cm, weight: 85kg.

- Like his twin brother Max, Ben King is an imposing tall forward whose power overhead is complemented with agility that keeps him in the contest after the ball hits the ground.

Bailey Smith (Sandringham Dragons)

- Position: Midfielder, height: 185cm, weight: 82kg.

- The hard-running midfielder has elite endurance and pace to go with his noted ball-winning ability. He was slowed by an Achilles injury late this year but showed more than enough early to earn his spot in this elite group.

Nick Blakey (Sydney Swans Academy)

- Position: Tall forward/midfielder, height: 195cm, weight: 80kg.

- The son of footy great John Blakey was eligible to go to North Melbourne or Brisbane under the father-son rule but elected to stick with Sydney - where John is the coaching director - who have nurtured his undeniable talent.

DRAFT PICKS FOR ALL CLUBS

Adelaide: 8, 13, 16, 21, 73, 83

Brisbane Lions: 18, 30, 35, 56, 78

Carlton: 1, 69, 71, 77

Collingwood: 41, 44, 57, 59, 60, 93

Essendon: 34, 66, 84

Fremantle: 14, 31, 43, 65, 81

Geelong Cats: 12, 50, 51, 87

Gold Coast Suns: 2, 3, 6, 24, 29, 80

GWS Giants: 9, 11, 19, 25, 52, 89

Hawthorn: 53, 90, 108

Melbourne: 23, 28, 54, 62, 91

North Melbourne: 42, 47, 48, 49, 55, 58, 86

Port Adelaide: 5, 10, 15, 85

Richmond: 17, 37, 64, 68, 75, 92

St Kilda: 4, 36, 46, 67, 79

Sydney Swans: 26, 33, 38, 39, 40, 70, 88

West Coast Eagles: 20, 22, 61, 72, 76, 94

Western Bulldogs: 7, 27, 32, 45, 63, 75, 82

With AAP