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Five underrated AFL draft prospects: sons of guns, mature defender, highest ceiling

With the 2022 AFL Draft now just over a week away, ESPN's draft expert Chris Doerre has put together his picks for the most underrated prospects heading into the draft.

The prospect with the highest ceiling in this year's draft outside the projected top-4: Mattaes Phillipou

Set to feature in the 5-15 range in this year's draft, Phillipou's play most closely resembles Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli. Like Bontempelli, Phillipou is a tall and talented midfielder who not only displays highlight reel worthy plays on the football field but was also a talented basketball player before choosing to pursue football as his sport of choice.z

The son of Sam Phillipou, Mattaes is a weapon through the midfield as well as up forward with his acceleration with ball in hand, contested ball winning, overhead marking, and goals on the move from 50-55m among the features to his game.

A proven performer, Phillipou was very strong in the SANFL with averages of 33 disposals, 8.3 inside 50s and 3.3 shots on goal over his last four Under-18 matches, whilst in his last SANFL Reserves match he kicked a game-high three goals. Phillipou performed strongly for South Australia during the Under-18 Championships with his 24 disposals, 17 contested possessions, six marks (one contested), five clearances, two goals and two score assists against the Allies his most striking.

With his performances on the board, mix of attributes, influence on games across multiple positions, rapid rate of improvement, and a late December birthday only just making him old enough to qualify for this year's draft, Phillipou arguably possesses the highest ceiling in this year's draft.

The father-son prospect who should be receiving more attention: Cooper Harvey

The son of Brent Harvey, Cooper Harvey is a strong, contested ball winning midfielder who displays the strength to maintain his feet when tackled and the power to fend off opponents. Possessing good skills, Harvey displays smarts, class, composure, and sound decision-making with ball in hand and can also push forward and impact the scoreboard.

Harvey over his last three NAB League games averaged 25.7 disposals, 11.3 contested possessions, six clearances and 0.7 goals. While in his Under-18 Championships match for Vic Metro against Vic Country, Harvey had a team high three contested marks, kicked one goal and managed two score assists.

Taller than his father at 180cm and strongly built at 82kg, North Melbourne will be hoping no bids are placed on Harvey and that he makes it through to the rookie draft. Given Harvey was invited to the State Draft Combine, interest is believed to be restricted to a few other teams which makes it likely that he will be a late draft bargain late draft or a rookie.

The midfielder whose numbers are bigger against SANFL opposition than Jason Horne-Francis' in 2021: Kobe Ryan

A potential late or rookie selection, Kobe Ryan is one of 2022's most advanced midfielders and is a strong contested ball winner who does his best work at stoppages. Ryan is one of this year's premier first possession winners. He displays clean, quick hands at stoppages, neat and tidy skills, is a lively tackler, demonstrates a high work rate, and possesses good speed and agility.

Ryan has averages of 30 disposals and 0.8 goals in the SANFL Under-18s, 25.8 disposals and 0.8 goals in the SANFL Reserves, and 18 disposals and 0.5 goals against SANFL League competition. During the Under-18 Championships, Ryan averaged 22 disposals and a potent 10.3 contested possessions despite spending time stationed on a wing and across half-back. Ryan's best game for South Australia was their last one. Against Western Australia, he was unleashed through the midfield as an on-baller and secured 24 disposals, 13 contested possessions, five clearances, one goal and three score assists in a comprehensive performance.

The mature age key defender a club could secure first round performance from: Ethan Phillips

Winning the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the VFL's most promising young talent, Phillips has developed into the premier key defender outside the AFL. What makes the 23-year-old a difference maker is his intercept marking. An exceptional reader of the ball, Phillips always knows where to be, reading the ball early off the opposition's boot and intercepting.

A strong one-on-one key defender, Phillips rarely loses a contest with his early reading of the ball in flight allowing him to position himself so that he can protect the drop of the ball and thanks to his superior body strength, he often turns one-on-one contests into one-on-one intercept marks. Phillips is also a strong mark in pack situations, positioning himself at the drop of the ball, extending his arms and often securing the contested intercept mark.

Averaging 19.6 disposals and 9.8 marks per game, Phillips has amassed some ridiculous numbers this season for Port Melbourne, including 26 disposals and 16 marks against Richmond and 30 disposals and 14 marks against the Northern Bullants. He also led the VFL in marks, intercept marks, and intercept possessions. While Phillips is considered a likely National Draft selection, he should enter the draft mix after pick 30.

The son of a gun who performs to an AFL best-22 quality but was overlooked in last year's draft and again during this year's midseason draft: Casey Voss

The son of Michael, Casey Voss has now won Sturt's best and fairest and earned SANFL team of the year honours in successive seasons. He was also awarded the Fos Williams Medal for best-on-ground in the annual SANFL vs. WAFL match.

Having just turned 22 in September, Voss has developed into the premier general defender outside the AFL and has impressed with averages of 23.8 disposals, 8.8 marks, one contested mark and 5.3 rebound 50s in the SANFL. He led the SANFL in marks taken, and featured in the top-5 in kicks and rebound 50s. Voss also secured 29 disposals and 15 marks in this year's SANFL vs. WAFL match.

A consistent year on year improver, Voss possesses a ready-to-go and well-rounded game including intercepts behind the ball, generating drive by foot, and restricting the influence of his direct opponent. Voss displays a combination of competitiveness and smarts in defence seen in only the very best by position.