With the AFL Draft just over 24 hours away, I've thought about which players the Bulldogs should have a look at drafting on draft night
What The Club Needs
The Bulldogs are really in no urgent need for any specific position as they've got most of their spots filled. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of depth in the midfield, and they've got their key position players filled in at either end of ground. Personally I believe that they should just go for the best available talent.
I do have some minor concerns though about this list. The Dogs might want to prepare for another key defender in the event that Marcus Adams requests to go home to Western Australia at the end of next year. If that scenario occurs, that leaves just Fletcher Roberts, Kieran Collins and Zaine Cordy as possible key defensive options. It's not a knock on these players, but it does leave the depth a little thin.
Could they also look to plan successors to Matthew Boyd, Robert Murphy and Dale Morris? All three are on the wrong side of 30 and all three men could see season 2017 as their last season. The Dogs still have Jason Johannisen, Shane Biggs, Matt Suckling and Easton Wood as defenders in their prime so another mid-sized defender option could also help.
Another point of interest that concerns me is the lack of ruck options on this team. With veteran Will Minson delisted at the end of this season and Rookie-listed ruckman Luke Goetz sacked mid-year, it only leaves Jordan Roughead and Tom Campbell as the ruckmen in this team, Tom Boyd also plays ruck where need be, but I think he should be used more as the back-up as he continues to develop as a key forward.
The Doggies' first selection in Friday night's draft will be the 18th overall selection, and with this year's draft full of talent, it's important for the Dogs to nail at least their first pick. Here's who I think the Bulldogs should consider with the first-round pick.
The Potential Draftees
There is a lot to like about Geelong Falcons prospect Alex Witherden (Pictured above - on right), but there's a fair amount of risk to selecting him as well. Witherden is seen as a half-back with excellent footy smarts and an ability to create plays from the half-back line and has got some polished skills. Standing in at 187 centimetres tall, I can definitely see him play and thrive in the midfield when he fully develops his tank.
My major concern with Witherden is his broken leg that he sustained early in the year. This forced him to miss the rest of the TAC cup season, the draft combine and the under-18s carnival, but remember, Jake Stringer suffered something similar before the Dogs drafted him early in the 2012 Draft.
I said earlier about looking for a running defender that can play somewhat as a successor to Robert Murphy, Witherden is an option that the Dogs should consider with their first-round pick.
I've heard a lot of rumblings throughout this past week about the Bulldogs expressing keen interest on mid-sized defender Cedric Cox. A mid-sized defender from North Ballarat, Cox has sweet foot skills and loves to take the game on, Cox would be right at home with a defence that loves to run and carry out of half-back.
The only negative I can take out of Cox is that he's not a proven ball-winner in contested areas, he very much loves to run and earn cheap possessions on the outside, but he makes up for it with his ability to hit targets consistently.
If the Dogs don't select him with the first pick, they'll be sweating that he gets through to their second-round pick, which currently stands at pick 26.
Gallucci is an athletic prospect that broke the all-time record in the standing vertical leap, leaping 89 centimetres as well as winning the repeat sprint test. Galluci's athleticism can allow him to play almost anywhere on the ground with his incredible work ethic and good character also catching the eyes of several recruiters.
The big concern with Gallucci – and it's hardly a concern – is the lack of polish in his kicks. I say it's hardly a concern because his ability to run, carry and break through the lines is top notch, and with his work ethic well documented, he should be able to develop it over time.
Gallucci should go late first-round which is in the ideal spot for the Bulldogs to take, but if they pass up on him in the first-round, I don't think he'll be around at pick 26.
Daniel Venables is an interesting prospect to read about. Earlier this year, draft experts had him ranging just outside the top 10, but now he could be taken as low as pick 25. Venables is a midfielder/half-forward player who possesses explosive power and a knack to find the goals, much similar to Patrick Dangerfield or Luke Shuey.
If he ends up half as good as either of those two then this is a massive get. Unfortunately a foot injury forced him to miss the second half of the TAC Cup and testing at the Draft Combine, but his upside is enormous. His tendency to fade out of games is almost as noticeable as his tendency to have a massive impact on games in such a short period of time.
Another one that the Dogs have to consider either as a first-round or second-round choice, West Australian Sam Powell-Pepper is a big-bodied midfielder/half-forward than can almost play straight away.
His ability to throw his weight around in the middle and then push down forward to hit the scoreboard puts you to mind of Dustin Martin or Luke Parker. Both men are renowned for this, and both are among the elite midfielders of the AFL.
The one genuine knock I have on Powell-Pepper is his decision-making skills. Players who attack the ball as intensely as him don't tend to assess the situation ahead properly, but he'll be given the time to mature and possibly loom as a future star of this competition.
The Long Shot
There have been strong rumours suggesting that Footscray player Ben Long will be drafted by the Bulldogs with their third-round pick, which currently stands at number 50.
A 19-year old prospect, Long was picked up by Footscray after going through last year's draft undrafted, and staked a claim to get drafted this year, featuring in the 'Scray's finals campaign, which ultimately led to their second VFL premiership in three years. He booted two goals in the premiership win over Casey. He also starred in Footscray's Preliminary Final win over Collingwood, kicking six goals – five of them coming in the second half in their 117-point demolition job.
He featured in the under-18 championships this year, without featuring on the stats sheet heavily, but his tagging job on potential top-five draftee Ben Ainsworth was worth noting, keeping him to only five disposals.
Should he get drafted, it'll be very interesting to see where he fits amongst the group, given that Jake Stringer, Stewart Crameri, Tory Dickson and Clay Smith are the main mid-sized forwards of this team.
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