Afl top 10 draft picks 2020

ESPN’s Top 20 Must-Watch Players: 20-11

Every season, footy fans and experts alike compile lists of the AFL’s best players, either looking back at the previous season or projecting ahead to the new one.

And who doesn’t love a list, right? But ahead of the new season, we wanted to do something a little bit different.

This isn’t a countdown of the competition’s finest players, but a ranking of the players we simply can’t wait to watch in action in 2020. Be it superstars of the league, big-name players who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, top draftees or basically anyone who we expect to have us jumping out of our seats and yelling in excitement during the season.

Welcome to ESPN’s second annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list. Click here to look at the 2019 edition.

This is the players ranked 20 to 11. The top 10 will be revealed later this week.

Editor’s Picks

Each club’s list rated, for the short and long term

20. Nic Naitanui (West Coast)

Despite being one of the AFL’s most recognisable and exciting players, Naitanui is almost a forgotten man.

Injuries have cruelled the star Eagle during what should be his prime years, managing just 35 games in the past three seasons, but there’s no doubt he’s still one of the most watchable players in the league when fit and firing.

His highlights reel is as brilliant as anyone’s in this era, and his importance to a West Coast side primed for a premiership assault can’t be understated.

If he gets back to full fitness in 2020, look out.

19. Jeremy Cameron (GWS)

Last season’s Coleman medallist looked on track to be the first player to kick 100 goals in a season since Buddy in 2008, before slowing down to finish the regular season with 67 goals.

Cameron flourished with new found partner Jeremy Finlayson taking away some of the attention, while Toby Greene also attracted a top defender.

When Cameron is in full flight he is borderline unstoppable – there are few in the league who can stay with him for size, speed and power, all of which were on display while he was kicking bags of seven against Richmond, nine against the Gold Coast and six against the Saints and Collingwood.

Watch for Cameron to be hungry for even more this season after the Grand Final devastation of 2019.

Jeremy Cameron has his eyes on another Coleman Medal. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

18. Lance Franklin (Sydney)

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see Franklin turn back the clock and produce some more heroics for the Swans before his career winds up?

For more than a decade, the 300-gamer has produced highlights most key forwards can only dream about, with his freakish athleticism, booming left boot and big-game moments making him one of the league’s most exciting players.

Injuries have restricted him in recent seasons but every time ‘Buddy’ steps onto a field, the extraordinary can — and often does — happen.

Hopefully there’s much more to come not just for the sake of Sydney supporters, but footy fans all across the country.

17. Max King (St Kilda)

He may not “add 10,000 members at the St Kilda Football Club” as former Essendon great Matthew Lloyd — who coached King in his junior days — suggested, but there’s good reason King is one of the most hyped yet-to-debut youngsters in the league.

The former No. 4 draft pick, who stands at 200cm, was a contender for the No. 1 draft selection in 2018 before tearing his ACL but is seen by many as the next great key forward hope due to his size, agility and ball handling skills below his knees.

King didn’t play a game last season due to the pre-existing injury but fans and experts alike are desperate to see him in action at the highest level.

Had he not done his ACL in his draft year, Max King could have gone No. 1 overall. Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

16. Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

After making the move from Fremantle to Brisbane at the end of 2018, Neale quickly established himself as one of the competition’s premier midfielders. Last year, the 26-year-old average 31 disposals and eight clearances per game, playing a major role in the Lions’ surge up the ladder.

But the dynamic has changed a little. For the first time in his career, Neale enters a season as the best player on his team. How will he handle the constant attention? Will he record another 50 disposal game? And can he make another run at a Brownlow Medal?

There’s plenty of reasons to follow the fortunes of Brisbane’s No. 9.

15. Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs)

Is this the year of the Astro-Naught? Naughton exploded onto the scene last season as one of the Bulldogs’ (and the competition’s) must-watch players, and in 2020 all eyes will be on the young forward to see if he can continue his rise to stardom.

Everyone remembers his monumental effort against last year’s premiers Richmond, when he kicked five goals and took 14 marks (a record-equalling 10 of those contested) as the Dogs shocked the Tigers to snap a four game losing streak.

In addition, Naughton’s versatility means he can be thrown back in a pinch (after all, he spent almost all of 2018 in defence), meaning opposition players and coaches will need to be wary of where he is on the ground at all times.

It’s not unreasonable to say the 20-year-old could kick 50 goals in 2020.

Aaron Naughton took one of the marks of the year against the Tigers. Michael Dodge/Getty Images

14. Toby Greene (GWS)

When it comes to box office entertainment, Greene might just be the only player who comes close to Richmond superstar Dustin Martin.

The Giants forward, who can also move into the midfield, gives us the good, the bad and the downright ugly on the footy field and is worth the price of admission every single time he dons the Giants jumper.

If there’s one player to keep your eye locked on in 2020, it’s Greene – particularly given the Giants’ disappointing Grand Final effort last year.

13. Izak Rankine (Gold Coast)

He was arguably the most exciting prospect taken at the 2018 draft but footy fans were robbed of watching the exciting youngster in 2019, after a series of hamstring injuries derailed his first season.

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But the Suns have declared him fit and ready for selection in Round 1, which a mouthwatering prospect for fans of the game – many of whom will get their first real glimpse of what the 19-year-old is capable of.

According to ESPN’s draft watcher, Chris Doerre, “no one influences the outcome of games quite like Rankine”. He’s exactly what the Suns need right now, and is clearly a must-watch player for 2020.

12. Sam Walsh (Carlton)

Few rookies have come into the league and been able to stamp themselves on games the same way Walsh was able to in 2019.

The Blues youngster already has poise, footy smarts and an engine which allows him to run all day long. In his first year, Walsh recorded 20+ disposals on 19 occasions, playing an almost unheard of 86 percent game time as a midfielder.

We’re all eager to see how the Rising Star winner fares in year two. Will he continue developing at a rapid rate and provide Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps a solid midfield partner, or will he suffer second year Blues?

Sam Walsh could help Carlton to more Ws in 2020. Michael Willson/AFL Photos

11. Sydney Stack (Richmond)

The 19-year old with incredible skills and dance moves to match.

Stack captured the hearts and minds of the AFL last season with huge highlight plays such as ligning up Jack Viney with a huge hip and shoulder on Anzac Eve, a controversial handshake with Eddie Betts in a drubbing of the Tigers in Adelaide and a stirring war dance before the Dreamtime match.

Lost in all of the hype of pre-game dances and flashy celebrations is a genuine budding superstar. Champion Data ranked Stack as an elite defender in his first season and his deadly right foot was one of the most efficient kicks in the league before going down with a syndesmosis injury that saw him miss the finals series.

Expect more big hits, dances, celebrations and hangers from one the league’s most exciting talents in 2020.

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