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Best 22 and draft needs: Essendon


Essendon will look to build on its strong second half of the 2018 season after narrowly missing out on a top eight finish.

A 2-6 start cost the Bombers dearly, but they will take solace from their barnstorming finish to the campaign, highlighted by five interstate wins from their last six trips.

The recruitment of GWS speedster Devon Smith was a resounding success, while the emergence of high-end draft pick Aaron Francis will excite Dons fans.

With a fully-fit Joe Daniher set to return and the addition of Giants gun Dylan Shiel, Essendon are well placed to break a 14-year drought without a finals win, but can they genuinely contend for next season’s premiership?

Below is what Essendon’s best 22 looks like pre-draft:

B: Conor McKenna, Michael Hurley, Aaron Francis
HB: Andrew McGrath, Cale Hooker, Adam Saad
C: David Zaharakis, Dyson Heppell, Devon Smith
HF: Jayden Laverde, Jake Stringer, Darcy Parish
F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Orazio Fantasia
FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel
I/C: Kyle Langford, Patrick Ambrose, David Myers, Marty Gleeson

Long-term needs

Another ruckman would be high on the agenda of Essendon’s list management hierarchy after the shock retirement of Matthew Leuenberger.

Apart from number one bigman Tom Bellchambers who turns 30 next year, the club's ruck stocks look thin, so a long-term replacement for Bellchambers will be required, either through a trade or via the draft.

Former Fremantle ruckman Zac Clarke has been linked with a move to Windy Hill to boost the club's ruck conundrum heading into the 2019 campaign.

Another tall forward could also be on the wish list if the likes of James Stewart, Shaun McKernan and Mitch Brown fail to convince in their secondary tall role.

Short-term needs

The acquisition of Shiel addressed Essendon's need for another bona fide star midfielder to compliment their current crop of onballers.

Apart from the ruck situation, the Bombers look to have all bases covered and don’t seem to have any glaring weaknesses to speak of.

The rise of Francis ensures they have a ready-made defensive replacement for departed veteran Brendon Goddard.

A lockdown small defender to compliment their rebounding types could be a target of theirs.

Draft picks: 34, 66, 84

Who could they target?

After trading heavily over the last two years to bring in the likes of Adam Saad, Jake Stringer, Smith and Shiel, Essendon have minimal picks to play with heading into this year's draft.

Father-son candidate Mason Fletcher will look to become a Bomber next year after opting not to nominate for the draft due to an injury-interrupted campaign.

Essendon have priority access to Matt Neagle (father-son) and Daniel Hanna (academy), but will both need to time to crack it at senior level.

Murray Bushranger Ely Smith and South Australian Tom Lewis are two inside midfielders who could deepen John Worsfold’s options, while VFL talent Nick Hind is another gem who has been on the club's radar.

best 22 and draft needs Essendon

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