Jude Bolton's five most improved AFL players

We're now eight rounds through the new season which is a big enough sample size to start making educated calls not only on how clubs are travelling, but also individual players.

And just like in seasons past, this year a handful of players have lifted their games significantly from 2017. Some are youngsters who are enjoying 'breakout seasons', others are players who are thriving in a new role and there's also some who have just started the year in red-hot form.

But who has taken the biggest strides this season? I've narrowed it down to five, in no particular order.

Paul Seedsman

In the absence of Brodie Smith and the exodus of Charlie Cameron, Seedsman has been a revelation since coming into the Crows side late last year. Slight of build, fleet of foot, the vast improvement since his time at Collingwood has come through the confidence of more game time and the chance to settle into a position.

With six goals in 2018, Seedsman is averaging 617 metres gained -- No. 1 in the league by a whopping 75m -- 25 disposals and six score involvements a game. He's has become an important cog in a very short period of time.

Seedsman has formed a formidable backline partnership with Rory Laird and Wayne Milera. Together they have been able to slice through defensive setups, regularly showing enough courage to hit it up the middle from half-back.

For an Adelaide game plan that demands quick linking ball movement to a talent-laden forward line, Seedsman will need to continue to impact if the Crows are to head deep into September again.

Alex Pearce

The 200cm key defender has had some huge roles early this season on opposition key forwards and has performed incredibly well. After a terrible run with injuries, Pearce has emerged as a potential All-Australian.

With 47 intercept possessions from his eight games this year, Pearce looks to have elevated himself to new heights with his ability to win one-on-ones or stop his direct opponent from marking. This includes a list of tough matchups against players such as Jeremy Cameron, Charlie Dixon, Joe Daniher, Josh Kennedy and Tom Lynch, all of whom Pearce has successfully negated.

Blessed with pace and athleticism, Pearce -- who would simply love continuity on the field to capitalise on his marked improvement -- is displaying the qualities that led coach Ross Lyon to declare him a possible future captain.

Tim Taranto

While trying to cover a number of key injuries would be providing Leon Cameron with some headaches, not so would the form of former No.2 draft pick in Taranto.

The Giants have found a very special player who has taken massive steps and does not look out of place in just his second year of footy. Averaging 21 disposals (10 contested) and five clearances a game, Taranto has been given a number of run-with roles and starting at centre bounces.

His willingness to work both ways and apply pressure on an opposition prime midfielder (he averages seven tackles per game) has been evident. When the likes of Josh Kelly, Brett Deledio and Toby Greene return to the GWS line up, it will only further aid the development of this young star.

Charlie Curnow

There were huge wraps on him as a junior and now Curnow has taken some massive steps forward to regularly impact at AFL level.

Despite the lack of supply and a poor start to the year for the young Blues outfit, Curnow has increased his averages in key areas such as disposals, contested marks and inside 50s. However, it is on the scoreboard where things are taking true effect: Last year he kicked 20.17 but the 21-year-old already has 13.10 to his name through the first eight rounds.

However, the beauty of Curnow is he's not just a threat deep inside 50 - he can break games open much further up the ground. Influential in their first win of the year at the weekend, Curnow's athleticism and terrific hands makes him a match-up nightmare for opponents and has him well on his way to cult-hero status for the Blues.

Ben Brown

Such is the leap that Brown has taken again this season, the entire competition has taken notice.

The form of the current Coleman Medal leader has forced opposition tactics to centre around nullifying his influence. This was highlighted by North's Round 6 clash against Port Adelaide when Power coach Ken Hinkley had Tom Jonas alongside Brown and multiple defenders sliding across in support to quell his influence.

Jonas and his defence performed incredibly well and helped Port gain a valuable four points; however Brown was still able to break free and kick four goals.

His unique run up on approach for set shots is now so ingrained and autonomous that results have generally transferred under pressure -- Sunday's loss to Richmond aside. He is almost always deadly in front of the big sticks.

Brown has booted 26 goals for the season and a North Melbourne side that is exceeding expectations from wins against Sydney and Hawthorn in recent weeks -- not to mention pushing Richmond all the way in Round 8 -- means he should continue to get the supply needed to kick upwards of 70+ this year.