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Knightmare's AFL Draft Wrap: Jack Bowes firms as possible No.1 pick

Each week, ESPN.com.au AFL draft expert Christopher Doerre - aka Knightmare - casts his eye over the country's best junior footballers to give readers an early insight into the next generation of AFL stars.

As well as attending live games, Doerre pores through match vision, analyses the stats and talks to industry sources to ensure he can offer the most insightful draft analysis.

Aside from the weekly wrap, Doerre will also unveil his power rankings at the end of each month, starting from April.

AFL Draft Power Rankings: June

And as we get closer to November's national draft, Doerre will also predict who goes where with his annual phantom draft.

Player focus

With division two of the National Under-18 Championships complete, early favourite for the No.1 overall draft selection Jack Bowes was one of the shining lights.

Coming into the championships, recruiters were all well aware of how well the Gold Coast Academy product can use the football by hand and foot. What Bowes made clear to recruiters is that he also has the all-important contested-ball winning ability and ability to win first possession at stoppages.

Bowes averaged an impressive 14 contested possessions, four clearances and four tackles over the three games, behind only team-mate and fellow Suns academy prospect Brad Scheer.

Bowes' most impressive game through the three rounds was against Northern Territory when he finished with 32 disposals, 17 contested possessions, five marks, four clearances, four tackles and two goals from four scoring shots. At stoppages, he consistently won first possession, giving recruiters insight into what he is capable of around the ball.

In the final round against Tasmania, Bowes showed how dangerous he can be when he gets the opportunity to play forward, finishing with four goals from seven scoring shots, 20 disposals (13 contested possessions) and five clearances.

Bowes also importantly stood up in Queensland's opening game against a deep NSW/ACT team as the only Queenslander to record more than 20 disposals. He finished with a strong 23 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven tackles and one goal.

Analysis

At 187cm, Bowes through the midfield has among the better skillsets in the draft. He has excellent decision-making ability, vision and composure with ball in hand. He is a strong mark overhead, is able to win some one-on-one contests and reads the flight of the ball well.

Bowes is versatile enough to play inside or outside through the midfield, or forward or back if required also. Another strength is his ability to win first possessions on the inside.

Overall, Bowes offers a very compelling argument for selection as the top overall choice.

However, he does have some weaknesses.

The one element Bowes relatively lacks is athleticism. He covers the ground well and moves fluently. He also has a timely sidestep that he uses effectively in traffic to get himself out of trouble and create more time and space for himself. While his game should translate fine to the next level, Bowes does lack explosiveness. He isn't someone who will burst away from stoppages at speed. With Bowes likely to put on more weight at 78kg currently, it is unlikely that he will suddenly develop explosive speed. Most likely Bowes will marginally improve his pace, with his growth to continue more in other areas, with a focus on adding more weapons and making his strengths more pronounced.

If Bowes can continue winning the contested ball at stoppages against the better division one competition over the coming weeks and using the ball as he has proven he can, he can retain the mantle of consensus number one overall selection.

Which players could your AFL team choose with their first pick?

Victorian prospect watch

TAC CUP

Zachary Guthrie was named Calder's best player for the third consecutive round. Guthrie has improved in leaps and bounds down back, capably shutting down opposing forwards and also offering good rebound from the back half. Like his older brother Cameron Guthrie (Geelong), Zachary also has proven a late bloomer, growing later and coming into his own in his draft year. He is firming as a possible first or second round draft selection and is rising up draft boards quickly.

Williem Drew, a 188cm inside midfielder for the North Ballarat Rebels, was again outstanding on Saturday with his ability to win clearances, tackle and put his head over the ball and win the contested footy among the reasons North Ballarat beat Eastern. Drew also made several highly impressive plays that do not show up in the stats sheet, such as courageously getting down low to smother the ball off an opponent's boot.

Naish McRoberts stood out for North Ballarat with his intercept marking ability off half-back and the quality of his ball use, launching some long kicks to targets for meaningful drives forward.

Joshua Begley was named Eastern's best with his ability to win centre clearances and contested ball around the ground. Given Begley has mostly played forward prior to this game, kicking 16 goals from his first four games, it was impressive to see him step into the midfield and perform to such a high standard. Begley at TAC Cup level is an intimidating figure. In one play at the weekend he intimidated North Ballarat Rebel Jarrod Korewha into not going hard enough to win a ground ball, which allowed Begley to swoop on a ball instead of Korewha. At 187cm, 87kg, Begley is physically intimidating. However, recruiters will be looking for Begley to drop some weight and continue working on his pace if he is to get drafted at the end of this season.

Dandenong power forward Josh Battle in his third game of the TAC Cup season lifted his goal-kicking tally to 12 in another four-goal performance. Battle will be one of the key forwards to watch in this draft as a potential first-round selection.

VFL v SANFL

Williamstown midfielder Michael Gibbons boosted his draft stocks after another impressive display for the VFL in their loss to the SANFL. Gibbons won the Norm Goss Medal for best on ground in the 2015 VFL grand final, and then at the weekend was also named the Frank Johnson medallist for best on ground against the SANFL. Gibbons won the medal on the back of his ability to win first possession at stoppages - he finished with 34 disposals. In order to get drafted, Gibbons will need to continue working hard on his execution by foot, which currently is not up to AFL standard and requires some cleaning up.

South Australian prospect watch

SANFL v VFL

South Adelaide's Brett Eddy starred up forward for the SANFL team, kicking four goals against the VFL. He showed why he is regarded by many as the best key forward outside the AFL. Despite the close attention from ex-Docker Peter Faulks, Eddy showed his smarts and proved a handful with his ability to get out the back for easy goals.

Lachlan McGregor in the same game made a claim for the title as best small forward outside the AFL with 19 disposals, nine marks and three goals. He looked dangerous every time he went near the ball with his marking ability in the air, his cleanness at ground level and goal sense.

Through the midfield, experienced campaigners Zane Kirkwood (30 disposals and three goals) and Steven Summerton (29 disposals) also performed strongly with both not only winning the ball but also using it by foot to a high standard and looking a class above.

SA under-20s v SA under-18s

Medium forwards Henry Carey (five goals) and Josh Koster (three goals) led the under-20s to victory, proving too strong for the under-18 defenders. Brett Turner, playing mostly in the back half, also performed well, winning the contested ball when it was there to be won and using the footy well.

From the under-18s, bottom-age forward Jordan Houlihan showed some promising signs that suggest he may be a player to watch next year with his cleanness at ground level particularly outstanding.

Jordan Sweet through the ruck for the under-18s stood out with his tap work, displaying his leap and strength in the contest. Peter Ladhams when it was his turn through the ruck also made the most of his opportunities.

Through the midfield Jonty Scharenberg performed strongly winning his own ball. Scharenberg's use of the ball by foot was also very impressive with the cleanness and precision with which he found teammates.

Jack Graham through the midfield also had an impact with his work at stoppages, making clear that he will be one of the South Australians to watch during the National Under-18 Championships over the coming weeks.

Sturt's 198cm bottom-age key forward Callum Coleman-Jones finished the game with two goals and showed some good signs with his work overhead promising.

West Australian prospect watch

WA League

Exciting 19-year-old forward Liam Ryan kicked five goals in Subiaco's 99-point win against East Perth. Ryan is a high-flying forward with an incredible vertical leap and excellent goal-sense. He continues to improve and will be a state leaguer to watch over the second half of the season.

Ex-Collingwood rookie Jye Bolton was the catalyst behind Claremont's win over Swan Districts with 37 disposals, 14 marks and four goals.

Division two states (Tasmania, Northern Territory, NSW/ACT, Queensland and Northern Academy) prospects watch

National Under-18 Championships - division two, Round 3 summary

Gold Coast Academy member Scheer had a dominant final round of the division two championships. The midfielder collected 29 disposals (17 contested), nine clearances and six tackles, matching the strength of his performances through the midfield through the first two rounds.

Daniel Charlesworth who also is a member of the Gold Coast Academy, had a big final round through the midfield with 26 disposals (12 contested possessions), eight marks, seven tackles and one goal. At 189cm, 84kg, he has strong contested-ball winning ability, tackles ferociously and has the versatility to play multiple positions. Charlesworth, with continued strong play, could be a third Gold Coast draft prospect to feature in the first half of this year's national draft.

Declan Watson was a third Queenslander to stand out in their win over Tasmania. Watson, a 194cm key defender from the Brisbane Academy, played arguably his best game for the season, finishing 26 disposals and six marks while recording a disposal efficiency of 85 per cent.

For Tasmania Tarryn Thomas, who will be eligible for the AFL draft in 2018, was named Tasmania's best player through the three weeks of play. Thomas showed great signs with his freakish athleticism and run from the back half outstanding, showing a willingness to play on and take on the game at every opportunity.

Unfortunately for Tasmanian football, no players were selected to represent the Allies in division one of the National Under-18 Championships. Thomas and fellow Tasmanian Nick Dodge were two of the Tasmanians who could be considered unlucky to miss out, both showing promise over the three weeks of play.

In an even performance for NSW/ACT in their win over Northern Territory, Will Setterfield of the GWS Academy was the standout with a damaging 28 disposals and six tackles through the midfield. Setterfield stood out as he so often does with the quality of his ball use through the midfield.

Northern Territory's shining lights were running defenders Rohan Armstrong (21 disposals) and Jamie Hampton (17 disposals) who both provided meaningful run out of defence through the under-18 titles. They may be possible mid-to-late draft selections and are two of the Northern Territory players selected to represent the Allies.

*At the time of publication, this week's TAC Cup stats were not available.