I disagree. If you prove yourself while you're at your AFL club, you get more opportunities.
I don't disagree with the fact that you can prove yourself regardless of draft position. Also -I don't think that draft position is viewed negatively once you have established yourself. Nobody cared that Dane Swan and Robbie Gray were pick 50.
Not even close to a hard-and-fast rule that higher draft picks get more opportunities and liberties by default. Plenty of examples of such
Gallucci, our first round pick in 2016, spent less years on our list as the guys drafted 51st (EH) and 75th (Davis) in the same draft, and as many years on our list as Poholke.
Rookie pick Charlie Cameron got almost as many AFL games in his first year as our first pick (Matt Crouch), while Knight didn't even play.
Terrible examples that work against your point.
Galluci was gifted 27 average games (rightly so) over the first three years on the list due to him being a first round draft pick. Davis/EH were both long term projects that combined for 21 games in those first three years. I will tell you right now that if Galluci was a pick in the 40's he wouldn't have played 27 games.
Charlie Cameron and Matt Crouch - I am not sure what the point is. Sure one was on the rookie list and the other was pick 23. Both played the same amount of games in their first year and turned into All Australians.
Hell, our top 2 pick, and arguably the most talented prospect to come into the club in years (Thilthorpe), was only our third 2020 draftee to make his debut this year
Not sure you want to use Thilthorpe as the example here. Our highest draft pick played more games in his first season than 18 of the other 19* first round draft picks we selected since 2000. Its even more impressive considering he is 200cm and big boys notoriously take more time to adjust to AFL level. *The 19th is Brodie Smith who played the same amount of games (14).
Sure, there's the occasional example of draftees being played earlier than they should be based on 'hype', but form once you get into the league, both in training and in reserves games, is what mostly counts
Well yeah - Your ability to play football is ultimately what counts in the end.
However - Draft stock does not mean diddly squat. It is important. It always has been and always will be.