Jimmy Leppert, Team Knuckle Puck
Offense: Matt Rehder, Peter Prial, Colin Camp, Cassidy Rassmussen, Matt Rebholz, Alex Thorne, Eli Kerns
Defense: Mac Taylor, Adam Simon, Tyler Kinley, Ethan Pollack, Byron Liu, Jay Clark, Tommy Lamar
Subs: Tommy Li, Elliott Erickson
I’ll admit it: I was way more prepared for my last fantasy hockey draft than I was for drafting ultimate players. When I get ready for a hockey draft, I have so many resources available to check in on for each player: their Yahoo! rank, which position they play, and hundreds of opinions on them that all pop up in a simple search. Not only are the basic stats all right there on the draft page, but I also have access to advanced stats that help identify top performers outside of goals and assists are all readily available as well.
In summary, I didn’t find it easy to prepare myself for this draft like I have for my fantasy hockey drafts. I’ve been closely watching club and college ultimate for going on four years now; hockey has been on my TV since I learned how to work the remote. I know a lot more about the depth players on the Edmonton Oilers than I do for Revolver, and unlike hockey, ESPN doesn’t have a fantasy guru for ultimate, or a segment on any of their shows dedicated to making the dream franchise. While the stats that Ultiworld has been working on are fun to look at, I don’t think the sample size is large enough yet that they should be used as a basis to justify any draft picks.
Talking with Bryan Jones and Zack Smith, who teamed up to make their roster, I often felt woefully underprepared for making each pick. They had a plan for each round, with a clear strategy going into each pick (or at least that’s what they told me). I didn’t really have the same kind of plan they did. The strategy I thought would be best suited here was to first think of the best players available at each pick, then worry where they would be slotted on my team. In short, the complete opposite of the Jones Smith strategy.
Then, I remembered to check The Huddle. The Huddle’s draft back in 2008 was our obvious influence for this entire project. Before we started, I went on a refresher read through each of their strategies, admittedly in order to learn better what could be valued by judges than how to conduct myself in the draft. I was partially inspired by the words of Mike Nash, who wrote how his thought was to target and value “versatility over specialization”, because of the 16-man rosters the draft permitted. I think I did that with my roster, picking guys who could play on both sides of the disc with ease if need be, and while there are certain players who I would like to handle (cough cough, Alex Thorne, cough) I wouldn’t be upset if others ended up in that position.
Now to defend the picks I made. Looking back, I reached with a few players, taking them a round or two above when I probably could’ve gotten them. That’s part reaction to falling towards the end of the snake-draft order and not wanting guys to slip away from me when I knew there were 12 other picks before my next one, and part bad habit in fantasy drafts (two years ago, I took a kicker six rounds in for fantasy football… that was a mistake). But even with the reach, I don’t think many can be justified as not deserving to be in the conversation of one of the best in the game right now (except for maybe some of my NexGen-based picks in the dying rounds of the draft).
In my opinion, the NexGen experience is one of the best places to look for how a player could perform in a team like this – playing with those who are among the best in a short notice situation. Players like Eli Kerns, Tommy Li and Elliott Erickson not only played very well most nights coming off the bus, but also had a strong showing at the U23 World Championships for Team USA. During U23 Worlds, a pre-injury Colin Camp was a game-changer on the level of Jimmy Mickle. And lastly, Tommy Lamar, who I think is overlooked on a strong Ring of Fire roster. These are players that may not make a big splash on a larger, greater team, but can perform in each position on the field, and do so at a level that allows the better players around them (see: Prial, Rehder) to excel. I’d rather have my team meet and match whatever the opposing team threw at them in this situation than try to create their own specialized strategy with such short time together.