When Skyd asked me to grade the club player mock draft, I was happy to do it since my experience doing a similar project last year informed me for this task very well. The catch, however, is that I found out through the World Games process that there are countless extremely good ultimate players in the USA and choosing the best between them is a task of measuring small degrees of difference. In my mind, you could pick the second and third best team of players and have them likely beat the first team of players on a regular basis. So I knew judging the teams picked by the drafting captains would be a subtle art with lots of hedging. I decided to go about this pointing out some of the best decisions in my mind, some of the best lines assembled, and finally I will bow to the will of the editors and try to award an overall winner, though it will mean very little. On to the shout-outs:
The best individual picks award go to Neeley (Ryan Farrell, picked #28), Elliot (Russell Wynne, picked #33), and Jones/Smith (Jack Hatchett, picked #47). Shame on all of the owners for passing on these defensive stand-outs so many times. Take Ryan at the 28th pick, for example: in my opinion he is in the highest echelon of defensive players in the country, is very dependable with moving the disc as a handler (under the right conditions: not, for example, the semifinals of Lei-Out), and runs an open-space & give-go offense as well as anyone ever. So, congrats Neeley for landing him here – you must have been giddy. Similarly congrats to Elliot and Jones/Smith for nabbing the two other players I’d put in this defensive echelon. Where’s the respect for the best shut-down defenders? They are really nice to have on your team, FYI, and IMO should be close to the very top of the list of players drafted. Other great picks to note: Zach Purdy (Kiran Thomas, pick #84), Jones/Smith (Nick Stuart, pick #92), and Neeley (Mark Elbogen, pick #124)
Best Middle Draft picks (rounds 7-12)
These are the good rounds where a good in-depth understanding of the players available bears out. It is in these rounds when the “superstars” have gone and the owners are picking up the heart of their team. So I looked at the sum of these rounds and asked: did the owners pick the right role players and get value for each position? Here are some good ones: Tony Leonardo and Jimmy Leppert. On Tony’s team, the Schlag pick is great, he is one of the unheralded engines of Revolver’s offense. Getting Justin Foord, one of the best players on the 2012 Worlds Finals team is a good deal here too; Foord has all the tools of the best players in the world. And I like Frogger in the 12 round too; a dependable handler with the flexibility of having great height. But I think Jimmy Lepert gets the overall award, in particular with the Cass, Reb, and Alex Thorne trio picks in the middle. All three are great players and each are steals in these rounds.
Best Late Draft (rounds 13-16)
If you’ve got a good team already, these rounds capped it off with the right final touches. I think the teams that did the best job here are Zack Purdy and the Jones/Smith team. Jones/Smith nailed the Nick Stuart pick, a huge player in the 13th round and the best pick of the last half of the draft. Jones/Smith’s other picks: Ben Faust, Aaron Liu, and Chris Kosednar are all very solid picks – Liu and CK are players who fill their roles very well and Ben Faust is great last round pickup. The Zack Purdy team saw through the glitzy hype of the ‘big name’ Revolver roster and picked one of the best and most effective offensive players on the Champs’ team: Joel Schlachet. Never heard of him? That’s fine, he likes it that way. Markham is just what you need as a D team thrower (I’m ignoring that Purdy put him on offense), and Kapinos is tall, versatile, and dependable on O. All great last round picks.
With choices from players all over the world, two players did not end up on teams and these oversights are major mistakes by the team owners: #1: Nick Menzies – One of the best from Team Canada, in more ways than one. Versatile, a veteran, and a very very good athlete – this player could have helped some of the teams out here. Too bad he is on the sidelines as well. #2: Greg “Hollywood” Husak – the team leader of an underdog group from Santa Barbara that wins the most contentious bid to Nationals doesn’t get drafted? You can hardly ask for more veteran, versatile leadership from a guy who can still play with the best. This would have been a great late-round pick for any team.
Elliot Trotter’s D team doesn’t win this only because the 7 extremely different (and extremely strong) personality types on this line is too much for me to handle. How do these 7 players relate over a tournament, or a season? I would believe just about any story of a hypothetical interaction between these teammates. These players are so good individually, but as a huge believer in team chemistry I am wary: this D line seems like 7 different chefs cooking in the same kitchen. The Jones/Smith team doesn’t win this because the legs of Matsuno and Wiggins are edged out by those of Sam Kanner and Jon Cox. I think the best D team (also narrowly over Neeley’s team – note to Neeley: start Mark Elbogen) is Zack Purdy’s D. Great team of block-getting players, no weak spots on defense, and definitely has the strength to score the turn in a variety of ways.
Elliot Trotter – This one is equally tough for me but I’ll give to nod to Elliot who wins best O team. His O has great players, great balance, and the Beau trump card. I’m amazed at what Elliot could put together here. That said, very close behind them would be the Jones/Smith team and Neeley’s O line. These three O lines look like the cream of the crop to me, and it is no coincidence that the best three O lines are finalists for my pick of best team overall.
This is a really close call between all the teams (they all have such great players) but in particular 4 teams: Elliot, Neeley, the Jones/Smith team, and Zack Purdy’s team. I love Neeley’s balance of great players in different roles on offense, but there are more complete D teams in the mix. That spectacular he’s-on-you-like-glue defender is a must (see: Ryan, Russell, Hatchett, etc). On Elliot’s team, the best O line carries a lot of weight with me, but who leads the mix of personalities on defense? And can Brodie and KP play the whole tournament healthy? In a super close call I’ll pick the Jones/Smith team. But not by much – I’ve already second guessed it in fact. Though it’s a die roll between them all, I like the players filling roles on the O line and the D has the right mix of block-getting defenders and quick-strike scoring after the turn.
In conclusion, I suggest someone put this tournament together and sell tickets – it’s the only way to find out for sure.