Phantom Drafts – the washup and how the experts did #afldraft

The glorious subdued chaos of the AFL National Draft has come and gone, so let’s look at how the phantom drafts did.

And the winner is

To start with, let’s take a look at how the different phantom drafts did. We’ve looked firstly at the first round in isolation:

2015 first round

A big congratulations must be extended to Matt Balmer, a first-year journalism student who has managed to get closest to the pin in his phantom draft this year, beating the long established draft gurus at each of the major football publications in terms of cumulative positions away from the pin. The cumulative effect of his being close to the mark with academy bid predictions (eg Hopper and Himmelberg) and also of getting most other players near to the mark put him in front here.

In terms of getting players going to the right clubs, however, Knightmare and Cal Twomey took the honours with 17 correct predictions out of 23. We can assume that Twomey would have had 18 and the outright lead, but his 30-pick phantom draft didn’t have Himmelberg going top 30.

We then looked at the drafts that went longer and compared them on their accuracy in the first two rounds. For this measure, the “cumulative missed places” measure encompasses the first 40 selections, plus players who projected by consensus to be in that range but who slid (ie Johnson, Skinner, Rice and Crocker). Exact club positions covers every selection published by a mock drafter:

2015 full draft.PNG

Matt Balmer again performed extremely well but over the full distance, Bigfooty’s indefatigable phantom draft king Knightmare just pips him (in something close to an effective tie).

Where Knightmare shone was in getting players to their correct club, nailing a full 40% of his selections. Our shorter Mode draft got 19 of 40, a rate of 48%, but this is a less impressive achievement than getting so many later-drafted players right.

As with last year, phantom drafts even a couple of days early suffered in accuracy. Paige Cardona’s draft was published on the 18th, 6 days before the draft, and Josh Poulter and u/pigeonrat’s were even earlier. A late subtle shift in early team selections (such as Oliver to Melbourne, or McCartin to St Kilda last year) can have a cascading effect and move a lot of other picks around. Similarly, our consensus got closer as the source drafts got closer to the day itself.

How our drafts did

In terms of our two phantom consensus methods, the mode selection versus average selection, both performed as expected. Mode (ie, each pick allotted the most frequently selected player) was much better at getting players to their correct club.

The consensus based on averages of selection positions got a lot closer to the overall draft order (measured in terms of cumulative missed places), and in the first round was ahead of all except Matt Balmer.

This does suggest some emergent wisdom can be gleaned from the “average of positions” method that doesn’t necessarily come from any one individual expert.

The Phantom Consensus

Now, here’s a comparison of the first 40 picks to the phantom consensus draft, which we assembled as the average of our expert phantom drafters:


A mixed bag, really. Some picks were very close (Brandon White at 40 was an exact match) and the top players were mostly pretty close.

Risers and sliders

Compared to the expert consensus, Brayden Sier was the biggest riser. Summing all the drafts we had him ranked somewhere around 99, a meaninglessly low, “won’t get drafted” position, so his pick 32 was a full 67 places higher. Tom Doedee’s maximum projection was 40 and was often left undrafted, so going at 17 put him 39 places ahead of expectations.

Harley Balic, often predicted to go in the late first round, slid all the way to Fremantle at 38 (down 21 from a projected position of 17) and then Brisbane with pick 39 secured Rhys Mathieson, 18 picks past his consensus pick of 21.

In terms of clubs who “won” or “lost”, nobody can really say of course. However, we can note that compared to the expert consensus, Brisbane (Mathieson and Skinner), North Melbourne (Clarke and Hibberd), Fremantle (Tucker and Balic) and Port Adelaide (Bonner and Johnson) each secured two players who slid a good distance, mostly by over 10 picks past their consensus selection.

Essendon, by contrast, in the second round reached down the rankings for Alex Morgan and Mason Redman, but will not care at all having gotten Parish and Francis early.

Really though, Geelong wins, having secured this bloke.

The misses

Tom Doedee going to Adelaide was a much commented shock (we at HPN having watched the phantoms were as shocked as anyone) but there were a few other wildcards last night.

The highest selected player nobody mentioned at all was Mackenzie Willis (Gold Coast, pick 52), then it was Samuel Collins (Fremantle, 55). Also notable was Brayden Sier taken at 32 by Collingwood, a player only Brett Anderson mentioned at all and only in his final day publication. Liam Hullett (Melbourne, 46) was in an early cut of Anderson’s work but otherwise fell by the phantom wayside by draft day.

Sier’s selection is a repeat of last year where Brett Anderson was also the only one to select Patrick McKenna, who bolted to GWS at 23.

Conversely several players went undrafted from our “most frequent selection” or Mode top 40 (Callum Moore, Nick O’Kearney, William Snelling, and Jesse Glass-McCasker). We would expect such players to be picked up in the rookie draft on Friday.

Dunkley declined

We were pretty surprised that Josh Dunkley was not matched by the Swans at 25. Sydney had the points to do so without deficit, so perhaps they did indeed make the call, as predicted by several journalists, to let him go as part of a side-deal to let him stay in Victoria (or even as a quid pro quo for getting Talia for free, not that we’re suggesting that such shenanigans ever occur).

As the Swans tell it, they wanted good accurate kicks and thus preferred to run with live picks at 51 and 56. That’s certainly plausible enough to head off any allegations of impropriety, and it’s where they once secured Nick Malceski, but it does raise the question as to why get him to nominate at all. The more ruthless approach would have been to draft him and then trade him home next year, presumably for a pick better than 51.

Academy generosity – mostly

Most of the Academy selections slid further than generally anticipated. Hopper, Kennedy, Hipwood and Keays all went later than projected. Mills may have been the best player in an open draft (if Hopper wasn’t) and went at three. Himmelberg is an anomaly having gone early, but Adelaide still used their last available pick with seemingly a clear left-field plan that also involved taking Tom Doedee out of nowhere.

In year one of the parallel draft pool era, it seems that we were quite wrong in our speculation about clubs playing some ruthless game theory with northern states who had showed their hand. We can’t say whether this was caution, fear of the AFL, not wanting to appear to slight their eventual selections, or just gentlemanly camaraderie in the cloistered world of AFL recruiters. But the trend was clear.

Who got Geelong’s picks?

Finally, to the sleepers of this year’s draft. We said last post that we’d look at the Cats and it turns out that Brett Anderson at SEN correctly predicted Ryan Gardner and Sam Menegola and was the only one to get two right (Riley Beveridge also had Menegola at Geelong). Nobody even had Matthew Heyball on their list at all and only Tom Baluch had Wylie Buzza (to Fremantle, at pick 26), so it’s fair to say Geelong blindsided everyone with their last couple of selections.


The Final HPN Consensus Phantom Draft #AFL #AFLDraft

With the main event almost upon us, the last phantom drafts have been released into the wide world and we are able to release the final HPN Consensus Phantom Draft of 2015.

At the end of the day, the heavy hitters who have dropped late mock drafts are in near total agreement on the first 15 picks or so, varying only on their predictions of academy bidding strategies.

The popular consensus at the top can be seen in our look at the most common club taking each player, with majority consensus on which club will take every player in the top 20 except for the wildcard of Jade Gresham, who is equally projected for St Kilda, Carlton and Richmond.

Without further ado:

phantom v3

Phantom Draft Pool

Please click through and read their work:


Since the last CPD, there has been significant movement for some players. Clayton Oliver continues to bolt with nearly all the newest phantom drafts going with the new consensus that Melbourne will select him at 4.

  • Aaron Francis to pick 6 (up 3);
  • Clayton Oliver to pick 7 (up 3, 7 since 5/11);
  • Jade Gresham to pick 16 (up 4, 5 since 5/11);
  • Daniel Rioli to pick 22 (up 4, 7 since 5/11);
  • Tom Cole to pick 27 (up 3);
  • Harry Himmelberg to pick 29 (up 3);
  • David Cunningham to pick 34 (up 9, 6 since 5/11);
  • Sam Skinner to pick 35 (up 3, 7 since since 5/11);
  • Mason Redman to pick 36 (up 5);
  • Alex Morgan to pick 39 (up 6); and
  • Brandon White to pick 40 (up 7).


On the other side of the coin, certain players have continued their fall down the predicted draft order, most prominently Charlie Curnow.

There has also been a steady decline in the anticipated bids for Brisbane’s two academy prospects, which is good news for the Lions and might actually leave them a live selection around pick 41 (we haven’t incorporated this into our consensus phantom above, but the 41st ranked player is Jesse Glass-McCasker).

  • Charlie Curnow to pick 10 (down 3, 4 since 5/11);
  • Eric Hipwood to pick 12 (down 3);
  • Ben Keays to pick 18 (down 3);
  • Rhys Mathieson to pick 21 (down 8);
  • Luke Partington to pick 31 (down 3);
  • Bailey Rice to pick 32 (down 5); and
  • Kieran Lovell to pick 37 (down 3).

The biggest slider of all has been Greg Clark, whose consensus prospects have tumbled from 35 all the way to 50 (down 15) since November 5th.


After some comments that we’ve received, we’ve decided to do an alternative phantom – one which is chosen by the most common selection (mode) at each draft position.

Where a player has already been allocated (for example Parish is the mode selection at 6 and 7), we’ve gone to the second most popular, breaking ties with the higher consensus ranking. In some cases such as Josh Dunkley this has left a player only chosen once.

We’ll examine this for accuracy alongside all the others after the draft is done.

most common position

Who will Geelong pick?

Of all the clubs in the 2015 draft, Geelong has been the hardest to predict, due to their late first draft choice coming in the 55 to 60 range. So far, the drafters have selected the following players going to Geelong:

Brayden Hackett, Callum Moore, Dale Hinkley, David Cunningham, Davin Ferreira, Gregory Clark, Jack Firns, James Parsons, Jordan Dawson, Jordan Lockyer, Joshua Schoenfeld, Kieran Lovell, Kurt Mutimer, Lachlan Walker, Matthew Allen, Nick Coughlan, Ryan Gardner, Sam Menagola, Sam Skinner, Thomas Jak, Tom Doedee, Tyrone Leonardis, Will Sexton, William Snelling.

Some are seen as sliders from the second round, others are unique selections with only one phantom drafter picking them anywhere at all.

Who knows what is actually going to happen there? Does one of the phantom drafters have some special inside knowledge? We’ll report back on this and more after the draft.

The Wrap Up

HPN will be back later this week to evaulate the success of the CPD, and to calculate which of our phantom drafters was the most accurate in 2015.

2015 HPN Consensus Phantom Draft V2 #AFL

With the draft drawing ever closer there appears to be movement in the predicted draft order, with a few later movers, and the requisite sliders.

For those who missed HPN’s first version of the Consensus Phantom Draft (and the methodology behind it), please check it out here.

Remember that this is a simple average of draft positions – we do not take account of projected needs or drafting strategy at all. A consensus phantom draft can be seen as identifying the expert consensus as to “best available” at each pick.

phantom 2

Phantom Draft Pool

We still await a few more, most notably Emma Quayle, last year’s most accurate phantom drafter.


The Power Rests With Melbourne

It seems fitting that the AFL’s recent draft experts, Melbourne, have the biggest role in shaping how the 2015 AFL draft unfolds. The Demons have a lot riding on this draft, having traded their 2016 first round pick to Gold Coast for better 2015 draft position, and then improving their position again by trading with GWS.

Right now, our phantom drafters seem split, or confused, about what the hell Melbourne will do with their first pick. All thirteen phantom drafts have Melbourne nominating Callum Mills, with Sydney immediately matching. Then it gets a little bit trickier. Many of our thirteen experts have the Dees nominating Jacob Hopper immediately after, forcing GWS to surrender some of their rich point bounty.

Until Friday, the wider assumption was that Melbourne was likely to then pick Darcy Parish, with the outside chance that Charlie Curnow would have his name read out. But the week before the draft is a long time, and in that time Curnow had a run in with Geelong’s finest, and Clayton Oliver’s name started getting kicked around in association with the pick. As we sit right now, only three drafters have moved onto Oliver to Melbourne, but they among the more reputable voices (Landsberger, Twomey and Knightmare).

As of Sunday night, Parish is still the CPD pick to go to Melbourne, but this might change very soon. Expect to see Oliver shoot up the next version of the CPD.


Speaking of Oliver’s rise, several players have seen their stock go skywards in the past couple of weeks:

  • Clayton Oliver to pick 10 (up 4),
  • Callum Ah Chee to pick 14 (up 3),
  • Ryan Burton to pick 15 (up 3),
  • Daniel Rioli to pick 26 (up 3).

The biggest riser of them all, however, is Brandon White. In the first CPD, White barely rated a mention, but since then he’s shot up up 9 spots to pick 38. Cunningham, Crocker and O’Kearney have also seen positive movement in the later second round, solidifying their spots in the predicted draft order.


On the other side of the equation, some players have suffered falls after not having played real football for a good two months. Football certainly is cruel sometimes:

  • Rhys Mathieson to pick 19 (down 6),
  • Eric Hipwood to pick 13 (down 3),
  • Bailey Rice to pick 30 (down 3),
  • Harley Balic to pick 18 (down 2).

Later “Sure Things”

Each draft there always seems to be picks where the intention of the given club seems to be pretty well known. This year is no different, with the following later picks having a majority high consensus:

  • Kieran Collins to Hawthorn,
  • Jade Gresham to Carlton,
  • Ben McKay to the Dogs, and
  • Brayden Fiorini to the Dogs.

Too Close To Call, Or Not

With such a large and diverse group, it’s often surprising how similarly they think:

Tight spread

  • Harry McKay 9 to 14,
  • Luke Partington 20 to 34 with pick 20 being a substantial outlier

Or how differently they can consider the same players:

Wide range

  • Clayton Oliver 4 to 16,
  • Ryan Burton pick 9 to pick 29,
  • Harry Himmelberg pick 20 to pick 54.

I guess we’ll find out who is right on the day.

The Josh Dunkley Mail

Not one phantom draft has Father/Son commit Josh Dunkley going to Sydney despite the  CPD having him being tipped between 18 and 36, mostly where Sydney can afford to match. This can be partially explained by the fact that most drafts are from before he nominated for Sydney, with rumours reported in the newspapers had him declining the option.

Sydney can match the consensus pick of 28 without deficit in 2016. Immediately after a Mills bid at 3 the Swans will have the points to match pick 26, but this will improve further after GWS and Brisbane use multiple second rounders to match for their talent, and Sydney’s picks slide back up. By the time Dunkley is selected, the Swans should be able to afford a pick in the early 20s for Dunkley.

This article at The Roar explains roughly how that works and projects pick 21 being matchable without deficit. Our calculations look similar – with the consensus selections listed above, Sydney end up with 713 points (picks 45, 56, 62 and 66), and able to match pick 20 with just 2 points of deficit.

Even if it works out that Sydney end up with less points, Sydney’s deficit would be minimal next season, probably costing just one or two 2016 draft positions for matching pick 20. Given the effort that Sydney has put into securing Dunkley, and the resonance that that surname has on the fanbase, we are firmly predicting that Sydney will match any bid for Dunkley in the 20s.

The Final HPN Consensus Phantom Draft

This isn’t our last effort for the 2015 draft year, as we hope to shoot another CPD out on draft day, around 3pm, which should include the final phantom drafts from all of our experts.

Introducing the 2015 HPN Consensus Phantom Draft #AFL

At Hurling People Now we do not watch a lot of under-18 football. While we love a good bit of local footy, we have neither the time, the money, or the interest to travel 600km to see the nations’ best juniors.

What we do have is a spreadsheet. Several in fact.

In different US sports we have seen the idea of the “Consensus Mock Draft” crop up now and then. It’s a format that combines multiple mock/phantom drafts to produce a result based on players’ average draft positions across the included drafts. The Consensus Mock Draft eliminates some of the biases and knowledge differences involved in assessing talent by assembling a wider pool of views, and attempts to mitigate for outliers caused by such biases.

A Consensus Mock Draft, being an average of predicted draft positions, doesn’t subjectively adjust the dataset for club needs, or for protection against the “go-home” factor. If most mock drafters think a club will reach for a defender or a Western Australian, it might be captured but the player still may not be shown as going to that club.

Put simply, the Consensus Phantom Draft is an objective analysis of relatively subjective data; and it pretends to be nothing else.

We will publish several versions of this Consensus Phantom Draft as more are published and get updated closer to draft day. Last year we ended up with over a dozen, and we anticipate closer to fifteeen this time.

The eight drafts so far included are:

And here are the first set of results:

Hurling People Now Consensus Phantom Draft Version 1

A note on method: Different drafts published go to different picks. To insert a value for undrafted players we’ve assigned the pick halfway between the first unpublished pick and the pick after highest number of drafted players in any draft (currently 64). For example, a draft that goes to pick 25 sees all undrafted players assigned pick 46 (halfway between 26 and 65). Undrafted players in the 64-player published draft are given pick 65.

Strong consensus at the top

Everyone seems certain that the defender Jacob Weitering is the best player in the draft, and that Carlton will take him. The same is true of Brisbane at pick 2 with Joshua Schache, whose surname we look forward to learning to pronounce.

The consensus here seems overwhelming but at this stage last year everyone was convinced Christian Petracca was going to St Kilda at pick 1 before the late revelation that they wanted Patrick McCartin. At this stage, there is probably an element of groupthink among observers and perhaps less clear information about what clubs are thinking.

Most mock drafters think Callum Mills will be bid on by Melbourne and go to the Swans at pick 3 and that Melbourne will then take Darcy Parish.

Curnow, Weideman and Francis: Essendon likely to pick two

Essendon are currently the club most tipped to take Sam Weideman and Aaron Francis, and equally favoured with Melbourne to take Charlie Curnow. Consensus among our draft observers suggests that Weideman and Curnow are the better players of the three, and Essendon would be safer taking them. Aaron Francis looms as a bit of a wildcard, rated as high as 5 and as low as 14 by different observers.

Will Josh Dunkley go to the Swans?

Josh Dunkley is a father-son candidate for the Swans but has not yet nominated for them, with the deadline being November 20. For the moment we have given him to the Swans as the plurality selection by mock drafters although several clearly believe he will not nominate for them.

Our consensus has Dunkley going at pick 26, with the highest selection being pick 21. This range means that the Swans will be able to match a bid for him with the points left over from getting Callum Mills at pick 3, with only a slight impact on 2016. Matching pick 20 or later only reduces the value of Sydney’s second-rounder in 2016. With the movement of late picks, pick 26 itself is within Sydney’s likely 2015 points budget alone.

However, this only matters if Dunkley decides he does want to go to the Swans.

Wildcards and known quantities

Along with Aaron Francis, some other players picked to go at a range of positions are Clayton Oliver (14th by consensus), Harley Balic (16th), and Ryan Burton (18th). Each have their champions rating them highly (8th, 8th, and 12th respecitvely) but others who see them sliding into the 20s.

On the other hand, everyone seems sure Wayne Milera is going near his consensus ranking of 11th (likely to Adelaide), and  6 out of 8 have Kieran Collins going to Hawthorn , probably at pick 19, where the Consensus Draft also puts him. Deeper into the draft, our mock drafters are pretty much in agreement on Brayden Fiorini going to the Bulldogs, but not on when, which leaves him ranked at pick 32 nowhere near a Bulldogs pick.

How will clubs approach academy bidding?

One of the biggest unknowns in this draft is how much clubs will try to use the bidding system for three highly rated NSW players to their advantage. We at HPN feel that perhaps clubs will be more aggressive in making claims on these players than the phantom drafters are predicting.

We suspect Melbourne stand a good chance of throwing successive bids at Mills, Hopper and Kennedy in some order with picks 3, 4 and 5, in order to maximise the price those clubs pay for these players. If not, we think Essendon will go for both GWS players with picks 5 and 6.

Our reasoning is that GWS, Brisbane, and Sydney have shown their hand with their trading strategy and by ditching their early picks have shown their intent to pay nearly any price. It would be impractical for GWS to leave Kennedy to go to Melbourne – after matching for Hopper they’ll have a bunch of late picks left that they’ll need to use or just lose.

In a similar vein, we’re not even sure Carlton won’t bid on Callum Mills at 1 – Sydney have to take him, their draft position is useless if they don’t. Brisbane also look quite exposed, having five consecutive picks in the late 30s and two players rated 10th and 15th by consensus but with a degree of variation. An early bid for one of Hipwood and Keays could allow a club to secure the other one later on, or at least to put Brisbane into an uncomfortable position in order to get both.

Sydney will pay pick 1 for Mills if they have to, and will clearly match pick 3, but what if GWS are forced to pay 3 and 4 for Hopper and Kennedy? How does their drafting strategy then look? Will they, for example, have to let Himmelberg go later on? That would leave him for a club like Melbourne or Essendon to take, or for another club to take leaving someone else on the table. Alternatively, they could force GWS into points debt and reduce their draft position the following year.

Such a move would also encourage academy clubs to strongly seek points via trades for bid matching in future years, which can also benefit southern clubs seeking to improve their draft position.

The risk to Melbourne of a very aggressive bidding strategy is that they end up with, say, Kennedy rather than Parish. This seems only a modest downside and only a low risk of happening anyway. For Essendon the risk is even lower – if Parish goes to Melbourne, the gap between Kennedy and other options is even smaller for them. Plus, they have two picks so even if they end up with Kennedy they still have a second pick to get their most preferred player.

We have no way of knowing how this will work out, but we hope some clubs have a game theorist on retainer.