ESPN's top 20 must-watch players for the 2023 AFL season: 20-11

Who are the players you just love watching? You know, not necessarily favourites from the team you support, but the players from across the league who stop you in your tracks and make you tune in anytime, anywhere?

Welcome to ESPN's fifth annual Top 20 Must-Watch Players list.

This isn't just a countdown of the competition's biggest names, but a ranking of the players we simply can't wait to watch in action in 2023. It's a mix of the game's superstars, big names who have switched clubs, young guns who look ready to explode, top draftees or basically anyone we will be watching with interest in 2023.

This is the players ranked 20 to 11. The top 10 will be revealed on Monday, March 13.

Click here to look at the 2022 edition.

Click here to look at the 2021 edition.

Click here to look at the 2020 edition.

Click here to look at the 2019 edition.

20. Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide)

Not many players (if any) took a bigger leap last season than Rozee, who was rewarded with a maiden All-Australian blazer. So it's only natural we're curious to see if the Port youngster maintains his level or takes yet another step into the ultra elite. The Power opened last season in horrific fashion, losing five straight games, but if it prompted the positional switch of Rozee moving into the midfield, it might be worth it in the long run. Rozee has great awareness and football smarts plus the skills to be equally damaging in the middle or forward.

19. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon)

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti playing footy. It just makes sense, and it was wonderful to see AMT make contributions for the Bombers in preseason. He officially retired from playing AFL footy early last season but hadn't played since Round 21, 2021, so it was a bit of an undeserved unceremonious farewell at the time. But, after some consideration and time to address his life outside footy, 'Walla' is back on the Essendon list - and we're intrigued to see what he can do in red and black this year. Need we remind you? He won the club's goalkicking tally in 2020 and booted 34 majors in 2021. Go well, AMT!

18. Oscar Allen (West Coast)

Another player on this list who didn't play at all last season, to say there are high expectations on Allen is an understatement. Since he last pulled on an Eagles jumper, Josh Kennedy called time on his illustrious career, and many tipped Allen to be the closest thing to a like-for-like replacement. That's a fair billing to live up to considering Kennedy booted 723 goals and played 293 games! In 2021, Allen kicked 28 majors before succumbing to a nagging foot injury late in the season which persisted without 2022. We'll be watching his season with earnest.

17. Jordan De Goey (Collingwood)

An inconsistent operator, but lethal at his best. That's probably the best way to describe Collingwood star Jordan De Goey after what's been a disappointing few seasons based on the lofty expectations that have followed him after a superb two years from 2018. But we expect that inconsistency to fade as it appears he'll enjoy more midfield minutes which have recently given us a better glimpse of what he can do in the middle of the park. In fact, just three players have averaged over 20 disposals and a goal per game over the past two seasons, and De Goey is one of them. His explosive, match-winning capabilities always make him an enticing player to watch and for a list like this, he just can't be ignored.

16. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

Last year was a relatively down year for 'the Bont' as he dealt with some nagging injuries yet he was still clearly one of the league's top players, averaging 23 disposals, five clearances, five inside 50s, five tackles and a goal per game. Does Bontempelli get back to his truly devastating best as the Bulldogs look to bounce back from a disappointing campaign? That's the question every footy fan wants answered and we'll all be watching on in anticipation. If he does, he's surely the man to beat for the Brownlow Medal.

15. Tom Papley (Sydney Swans)

Unquestionably the game's best celebrator, Papley is a guy you would love to have on your team, but when your team faces the song he can get under your skin. With an uncanny knack of finding the goals, Papley is also a consistent performer in Sydney's forward line - kicking majors in all but two of his 19 appearances last year an all but two of his 23 games in 2021. Now 26, in the prime of his career, and in a Sydney team expected to make a deep run again in 2023, eyes will be on Papley week in, week out.

14. Chad Warner (Sydney Swans)

Will Warner be regarded as a top 20 player by the end of the season? Top 10?! The potential is off the charts for the 21-year-old Swan who, last time we saw him, played one of the great Grand Finals - 29 disposals, 18 contested possessions, 10 clearances, six tackles and two goals. His line-breaking, high metres-gained and explosive style of play is already drawing comparisons to prime Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield. It's quite remarkable when you consider he has played just 39 games. How good is he going to be at 80 games?

13. Dustin Martin (Richmond)

Does the selection of Martin really need explaining? The three-time Norm Smith medallist might be over the hump but he remains, without question, one of the ultimate match-winners and captivating players in the AFL. Most would say 2022 was a down year for Martin, but he still averaged 18 disposals and 1.3 goals per game, albeit from nine appearances. The Tigers have bolstered their midfield stocks this off-season with the additions of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper; the plan being that Martin plays as a more permanent forward in 2023. If you're not excited at the prospect of that, you're not a footy fan.

12. Izak Rankine (Adelaide)

Izak Rankine entered the league as one of the most exciting prospects in 2020 and gradually developed his game at the Suns, putting together his most consistent season yet last year, averaging 1.6 goals per game and rating elite for score involvements, ground ball gets and contested possessions. He's only going to get better and has the ability to be the best small forward in the AFL, particularly if he can put all the pieces of his game together and take another step in 2023. Moving to the Crows in the offseason only adds more intrigue and makes him one of the most interesting players going into the season.

11. Charlie Cameron (Brisbane Lions)

There's few players who would excite you more when they enter the frame of your TV screen than Charlie Cameron, let's be real. His innate goal sense, electrifying pace, and forward 50 craft make him a near impossible and frankly nightmare matchup for any opponent. Including finals, the goal sneak has kicked 109 majors over the past two seasons and can turn a game on its head in an instant, making him arguably the most damaging impact-per-possession player in the league. One moment - it's all he needs.

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