Introducing HPN’s 2018 Consensus Phantom Draft

At HPN we watch the draft watchers.

The draft experts who put their lists and mock drafts out there generally know their stuff, and collectively their wisdom tells us a lot about how a draft class is looking.

Watching these professionals and enthusiasts collectively refine their views and get closer and closer to predicting how the draft will turn out is one of the more fascinating aspects of the draft process. It’s equally interesting to see how players can rise and fall in the eyes of the pack without coming close to gaining a kick in anger.

HPN will publish at least one (and hopefully two) more versions of this consensus draft in the lead up to the night itself, and then we’ll give a washup post looking at who bolted and slid relative to expectations and how each draft expert did in their predictions.

Who knows, HPN may even do a different look at draft trends in the coming days (keep your eyes peeled).

We’re always on the look out for new draft watchers, particularly those at independent websites which we may not have seen. Some independent writers from past years have moved into established media, or to work at clubs, which is always very pleasing to see. Please let us know via Twitter or the comments below if there’s others that we should include.

For our first run, here are the draft rankings and phantom drafts we’ve used to collate our consensus view:

Some of the draft lists are “rankings” rather than actual phantom drafts at this point, but this will diminish as the draft draws closer and more of the experts move to predicting club selections rather than trying to directly rank the candidate players.

Here’s round 1 as it stands now:

The priority access selections impact the draft order, so for example we’ve removed the picks Sydney will use to match for Blakey based on his position, as can be seen in the second round where they have only two picks in 40s:

Some specific observations:

  • Midfielder Sam Walsh is the consensus number 1 with key forward Jack Lukosius just behind him.
  • Everyone seems to agree Max King is the better King twin, but a lot of the experts have them going one after the other.
  • The pick ranges tell us that Riley Collier-Dawkins (12th to 30th) and Liam Stocker (11th to 26th) are two of the hardest players to predict currently.
  • The position of North Melbourne academy prospect Tarryn Thomas is relatively well agreed on as between 9 and 15.
  • Luke Valente is notable as ranked 10th by Champion Data, and no higher than 16th by any of our draft watchers.
  • A couple of players positioned in the second round have been predicted as top 20 players by some experts, with the consensus 28th ranked Xavier O’Halloran rated as high as 17th, and the 33rd ranked Kieren Briggs at 19.
  • Collingwood can only just afford to pay for Quaynor and Kelly at their current consensus positions of 16 and 32. In the short history of market rate pick matching, we haven’t yet seen an instance of a club raiding their future picks for points value. If either player rises from here, the Pies will probably be using some of the value of next year’s second round selection to complete the transaction.

The club picks here are purely indicative, just to give a flavour of who might go where. With live pick trading on the night, there’s no guarantee that clubs will even take these specific selections. More significantly, the consensus view gained by averaging draft positions can pull players away from the club considered most likely to recruit certain players. An example this year is Bailey Smith, who a number of our experts have linked to the Bulldogs specifically. As a result, his “mode” pick is the 8th selection that the Dogs are likely to have. However, he has ended up ranked (barely) 6th rather than 8th and assigned to the Suns, who pick immediately before the Dogs.

Note that the back end of round 2 is relatively light on data right now, with only 2 or 3 expert views so far being incorporated in many cases.

The Elite Eight looks real

An interesting aspect of this year’s draft is the nearly universal consensus that the best eight players are a fair bit better prospects than the next group below them. The gap between the consensus position of the player available to the Bulldogs at 8, relative to the Crows at 9, looks fairly clear, with the Dogs likely to gain a player rated higher than 8th by the average view of the experts.

This is an example of player clustering, where a number of players are rated similarly but their exact order is uncertain. We’ve charted that below, comparing the average selected position of each player to where they rank overall. In fact the same clustering effect occurs a few more times down the order.

The 9th to 12th ranked players, Caldwell, Clark, Thomas, and Hately, are all pretty much agreed to look better than the group below them, and then there’s a bit of a gap between Rhylee West at 22nd and Curtis Taylor at 23 as well.

We’ve observed in the past that the expected value of picks across a wide range of draft picks is relatively flat. For example, history shows us that on average a club is not much more likely to have success with pick 8 than pick 20. The main advantage of picking earlier in that range would the greater choice available from similarly promising players. This chart tends to confirm that finding, showing that clubs are often selecting from similarly rated players. This year unless the Bulldogs or Suns do something unexpected, the sole value obtained by picking ninth rather than 12th might well be getting to pick from Caldwell, Clark or Hately rather than settling for whichever is left.

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