Are the Demons betting on the weirdest draft ever?

For a long time, the public view of the 2020 AFL Draft is that it is the “most compromised draft ever“. With a number of players projected to be inside the top 40 either available for pre-selection or tied to clubs, the consensus media view is that the “free talent” will be thing on the ground.

At the same time, COVID-19 has severely limited the ability of recruiters to scout players in person, or at all. Players don’t have the opportunity of a stellar U18 championships to vault them into draft contention, nor do they have the traditional TAC Cup finals surge.

With a “limited” pool of players and little chance to work out who is good or not, who would want to buy into this draft?

Seemingly Melbourne.

The Demons have executed two pick swaps that collectively serve to improve their position in the 2020 draft while thinning their hand in the 2021 draft.

While some of that improved draft hand in 2020 may go towards a trade, such as for Ben Brown, it’s also worth noting that acquiring multiple picks in the middle reaches of this draft may be a sound move for an astute club with no notable tied players.

Melbourne move up in 2020, Brisbane move up in 2021

Melbourne gain ten spots from pick 53 to pick 43 this year, which comes at the expense of a larger but less certain downgrade next year.

This looks like a genuine swap based on draft reads, rather than academy points shenanigans.

The upside for Brisbane’s drop down the order this year occurs next year, with the Lions moving up by a round and a bit. Melbourne’s future third round pick, on current positions, is 23 picks ahead of the fourth round pick they gave up.

The Lions currently hold two late first rounders (18 and 19), so probably won’t miss the slightly later third pick.

Verdict: Fair trade

Melbourne swap further into 2020

Following the above swap, the Dees then moved more firmly into 2020.

For rebuilding Adelaide, who sat with eight picks inside the top 60, spreading their draft bounty into next year is a very obvious move. Picks 33 and 50 were the Crows’ fifth and seventh selections in the draft. According to Draftguru the Crows have 33 players for next year, suggesting about five spots to fill. The Crows also have academy prospects next year to worry about.

The picks swapped are of similar worth, so the trade on both ends is about the year the clubs prefer to take their picks.

Melbourne started with a weak draft hand this year, with their own first round selection sitting at North Melbourne. The upgraded selections of 43 from Brisbane, and 33 and 50 from Adelaide adds to their current pick 26.

If the Dees do indeed retain some of these extra picks by draft night, it could pay unanticipated dividends for several reasons.

Some clubs have indicated that this year’s draft pool is stronger than normal across the board, suggesting that there will be valuable players to be found in mid to later rounds.

Additionally, the lack of scouting may give an advantage to clubs that have started to adopt more advanced scouting and analysis methods and put in extra work in previous years. Clubs with tied players may also have had a narrower focus in the draft process.

Finally, club bidding behaviour also creates the opportunity for someone like Melbourne to engage in live pick trading arbitrage, to make profitable swaps and to manoeuvre towards the players they want.

The Dees may feel there’s opportunity for the less premium, but still quite useful, second and third round picks to pay unusually large big dividends this year.

Generally, where information is harder to come by, the accuracy of draft selections drop compared with the true order of players selected. In a potentially deep pool but with an uncertain order due to a lack of information, having several lower shots may be the smart move.

Verdict: Fair trade

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.

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