ESPN's Top 20 Must-Watch Players: 10-1

Every season, footy fans and experts alike love putting together 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? We certainly do, 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 2019. 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 inaugural Top 20 Must-Watch Players list.

This is the players ranked 10 to 1.

10. Sam Walsh

There's no way Walsh makes a best 20 players in the competition list, at least at this stage, but Carlton's No. 1 pick from 2018 is a shoo-in for our most watchable. Like any top selection, there is plenty of intrigue and expectation. Will he perform? Can he handle the pressure? Will Blues fans be pleased? Early signs suggest the answer to all three questions is an overwhelming 'yes' with Walsh already impressing through the midfield during pre-season.

9. Dylan Shiel

Is Shiel the missing piece of the Bombers' puzzle? The recently-turned 26-year-old's arrival from GWS is one of the main reasons many predict Essendon can not just jump back into the top eight but challenge for a premiership. Shiel should strengthen the Bombers' key area of weakness as an explosive, big-bodied, clearance-winning midfielder who will lighten the load on Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis, Dyson Heppell and Co. In full flight, his pin-the-ears-back approach in congested areas is a thing of beauty. And as with any big-name recruit, it will also be fascinating to see if he can live up to the price the Dons paid for his services - not just his salary but the trade bounty of two first-round picks.

8. Joe Daniher

2018 was a frustrating year for Daniher, who was lashed with criticism for looking sluggish before it was revealed he was struggling with osteitis pubis. Having not played a senior game since Round 7, Daniher is being eased back in to AFL footy but it's easy to forget he was one of the emerging superstars of the league when he booted 65 goals in 2017. He also has his tear-your-hair-out moments, missing simple shots, while his wry smile and light-hearted interaction with teammates and rivals causes many to wonder if he takes the game seriously enough. But at his best, he's a genuine match winner - and a key piece of the Bombers' top 4 push.

7. Lance Franklin

Much like LeBron James in the NBA, after 14 seasons, Franklin is still the premier forward in the AFL. Franklin has an uncanny ability to change the momentum in games like no other key forward and will once again be a threat for the Coleman Medal - an award he has already won on four occasions. Franklin may be 32 but he can still produce jaw-dropping moments that leave fans, teammates and rivals in awe.

6. Patrick Dangerfield

How can you not love watching 'Danger' play? In many ways he epitomises the best of the sport - incredible running ability, explosive power in contested situations, strong overhead and an ability to kick team-lifting goals. The 2016 Brownlow medalist has been vying with Nat Fyfe, Dustin Martin and Lance Franklin for the mantle as the league's best player for the past handful of years and Dangerfield can push his name up top with another dominant season. As charismatic off the field as he is damaging on it, there is mounting pressure on Dangerfield and his Geelong teammates to secure a flag after his high-profile move from Adelaide. Can the Cats deliver?

5. Charlie Curnow

Curnow might be one of the most hyped players of the 21st century. Having carried the Blues' spluttering forward line for three years and now finally with some forward half support in Mitch McGovern and Harry McKay, Curnow is widely tipped to have a breakout year and stamp himself as one of the league's most damaging tall forwards. It's a lot of pressure on the 22-year-old, but he doesn't mind the big stage, as showcased by his bag of five in last year's season-opener against Richmond.

4. Dustin Martin

It was always going to be difficult for Martin to back up his record-breaking 2017 campaign which saw him become the first player in history to win a premiership, Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal in the same week, but the Tigers star remained one of the competition's absolute elite in 2018. He may seem to cruise at times but he will be smarting from Richmond's shock preliminary final loss to Collingwood last year and he could be priming himself for yet another all-time season.

3. Nat Fyfe

Early in his Brownlow Medal-winning year of 2015, Fyfe was just about unstoppable: He won the league's highest individual honour by polling 31 votes - an incredible 29 of which came from Rounds 2 to 14. Then injuries struck, robbing Fyfe of some of his insane power and athleticism. However, if he can gain confidence in his body again, Fyfe is every chance of becoming the undisputed No. 1 player in the AFL. As the prototype big-bodied midfielder, Fyfe can simply do things other midfielders simply can't. When he's not playing against your team, he's the player you hope turns it on and shows off his full range of weapons.

2. Jordan de Goey

We saw glimpses of de Goey's explosive capabilities last year and the expectation is that the young Pie will again step it up a gear in 2019. He kicked four or more goals on six occasions last season and proved more than once to be a genuine match-winner for the eventual grand finalists. Compared to Dustin Martin by some, de Goey is likely to split his time in the midfield and forward line this season, but will be more than a handful wherever he plays.

1. Tom Lynch

No player has more pressure on their shoulders than Lynch in 2019. Having made the much publicised off-season move from Gold Coast to flag favourites Richmond, and partnering up with three-time Coleman Medal winner Jack Riewoldt, Lynch simply has to perform.

Lynch is big, strong, imposing and can take huge pack marks and kick bags - all reasons why former Lions champ Jonathan Brown stated Lynch was the best player in the competition in 2016. It's been a while since he displayed his best form but Lynch is just about the complete package as a key forward and fantastic to watch in full flight. His assimilation into the Tigers' forward line will also be fascinating to watch - can the 26-year-old key forward make the Tigers virtually unbeatable or will egos collide and see Damien Hardwick's troops unravel?