2014 MLL Draft #FillTheFirst

Major League Lacrosse is having a contest to see who can “Fill the First” round of the 2014 Collegiate Draft. Here is my entry [in just 1,600 words!]:

1. Ohio Machine – Tom Schreiber (Midfield, Princeton)

Kiel Matisz (18 points), Greg Downing (6 points), Jeff Ledwick (3 points), Chase Carraro (3 points) and Will Harrington (3 points). Those were Ohio’s top-scoring midfielders last season. The Machine was forced to plug attackmen at the midfield. Logan Schuss, Steele Stanwick, Joe Cummings, Marcus Holman and Chazz Woodson were often all on the field at the same time. The result was a lack of size and spacing.

So far this offseason, the Machine has acquired Stephen Peyser and Bill McGlone. Both will bring much-needed size and offensive production to this team, but don’t expect the midfield renovation to end there. Schreiber is the top player in this class and an obvious fit. He should be a staple to the Ohio midfield for years to come.

2. Rochester Rattlers – Miles Thompson (Attack, Albany)

Watching last summer’s Rattlers play was painful. They were arguably more boring than the first half of Season 4 of The Walking Dead–when the first 300 minutes of television focused solely on characters we didn’t know [and didn’t care about] getting sick, staying sick, coughing a couple times and eventually being cured.

Boring teams, however, are not necessarily bad teams. Sure, the Rattlers’ offense [10.86 PPG] was constantly struggling to put the ball in the net. Defensively, they made opposing attacks look sloppy [and boring!] too. Their games might not be aesthetically appealing, but they get the job done. That’s the way this roster is built.

John Galloway, Mike Manley, Joel White and Dan Groot are excellent building blocks for a young defense. John Ranagan, Rob Rotanz and Dave Lawson are big, physical offensive midfielders. The Rattlers’ games will be low-scoring, gritty and–for lack of a better word—boring, but this team is only a few pieces away from competing.

For a long time, adding Miles and Ty Thompson in this draft seemed like an obvious next-step for the Rattlers. Lyle Thompson – brother of Miles and Jeremy – will be in the MLL 2015 Collegiate Draft. The Thompsons have an incredible sense of pride in their family and their heritage. I can’t see Lyle playing for a MLL team without Jeremy, Miles or Ty. Why not put yourself in position to win the 2015 draft now? Worst-case scenario: These guys increase the Rattlers’ MLL-low 1,991 fans-per-game attendance rate.

I’d like to hire the Thompson brothers of Albany for my next birthday party. Just come over & toss the ball around & what not.

— Matt Gibson (@ItsMattGibson) May 8, 2013

Drafting both Thompsons is definitely a possibility, even after the trade with New York. I’m just not convinced moving up was the right decision. Acquiring Turri makes sense – he’s a great two-way midfielder and a big body. But why leapfrog the Lizards? It’s fairly obvious the Lizards need defensive help, while the Rattlers need offensive [or faceoff!] help. The Rattlers gave up too much to the Lizards, once again.

With the addition of Turri, Rochester’s roster is now loaded with Duke players [Lawson, Rotanz, Manley and Tom Montelli]. All signs are pointing toward this pick being another Blue Devil – Jordan Wolf. Drafting Wolf would almost certainly rule out the possibility of a Thompson family reunion in Rochester, but I’m not giving up the faith. I want to live in a world where both the Rochester Rattlers and The Walking Dead are interesting again.

3. New York Lizards – Joe Fletcher (Defenseman, Loyola)

The Lizards defense was horrific last season. If that team had won 50% of its faceoffs [in other words, take away the Greg Gurenlian advantage], it would have allowed 16.79 points per game. Adding SSDM Steve DeNapoli and LSM Kyle Hartzell will help lower that figure. Adding Fletcher would help even more.

The two-year starter at Loyola is the only collegiate player currently on the US Men’s National Team training roster. I saw him shut down Wells Stanwick at Homewood Field in Hopkins’ homecoming game this spring. I thought he’d be the Lizards’ pick at #2 and I think [due to Rochester’s needs] he’ll still be on the board at #3.

4. New York Lizards – Jordan Wolf (Attack, Duke)

The Lizards’ need is at offensive midfield. Even with Rob Pannell, Ned Crotty, Tommy Palasek and Steve Mock on the roster, I can see the Lizards taking the best player available. They’ve always lived by the “hoard talent now, make it work later” motto. By adding Wolf, the Lizards can afford to invert Crotty at times. They will have to be creative with their personnel, but they can make it work. Coach Joe Spallina will have no problem finding ways to score with Crotty, Pannell, Wolf, Matt Striebel, Max Seibald, JoJo Marasco, David Earl, Palasek and Mock. Don’t worry about that.

[Side note: I don’t want Rochester to draft Miles Thompson over Wolf because it’d make them better. I want the Rattlers to be watchable. Wolf is an excellent player – one of the best in this class – and would make Rochester an immediate playoff contender. But Rochester is just about the only team with enough holes offensively to add Miles, Ty and Lyle. I’m counting on them to make it happen.]

5. Florida Launch – John LoCascio (Defenseman, Villanova)

There’s a lot we don’t know about this team. With six tweets and zero websites, I’m guessing there’s a lot they don’t know about themselves. Are Cody Jamieson, Jeremy Thompson and Stephen Keogh willing to play in Boca Raton? What will Army graduate Garrett Thul’s availability be?

Currently, the hole on this roster is at defense. LoCascio is as good of an heir to Brodie Merrill as you’ll find in this class. He led the NCAA with 53 caused turnovers last spring in just 14 games. To put that in perspective, he caused 1.26 more turnovers per game than the next guys (Jamie Hebden of Detroit and Sean Meagher of Robert Morris). That’s not too shabby. This pickpocket ain’t too shabby either:

6. Denver Outlaws – Jeremy Noble (Midfield, Denver)

I could also see the Outlaws adding Maryland defenseman Michael Ehrhardt here. With no clear need in Denver, this pick can be used to add depth anywhere. Here’s why they take Noble: They have always loved stockpiling midfielders. They have always loved their local Pioneers. Lately, the Outlaws have had a bit of an identity change.

Since 2007, the Outlaws offense ran through Brendan Mundorf. After trading him to Chesapeake this offseason, the Outlaws are mixing it up. Look for Ontario natives John Grant Jr., Zack Greer and Cam Flint to dictate the style and tempo of the offense. Noble, another Ontario native, would mesh well with Coach B.J. O’Hara’s system.

7. Charlotte Hounds – Brendan Fowler (Faceoff Specialist, Duke)

Geoff Snider was a beast during Championship Weekend last summer. He won 32 of his 45 faceoffs after playing just two regular season games all summer. Charlotte won’t find production as good as that anywhere. They could use some more reliability, though.

Snider will be 33-years-old in April. He has played just three MLL games in the last two years. Every year he proves his priorities lie with the NLL. With Fowler, the Hounds get: a) younger, b) more commitment and c) 200 pounds of self-proclaimed sex appeal. The fact that he played his college ball in North Carolina is gravy.

[Note: I’m really hoping Charlotte lands Maryland midfielder Mike Chanenchuk later in the draft. He has an absolute beauty of a shot. Chanenchuk and Mike Sawyer would be the lacrosse equivalent of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – silky smooth.]

8. Boston Cannons – Rob Emery (Midfield, Virginia)

Hey, were you wondering where every Cannons’ draftee of the last five years has gone? You were? Well, take a look:

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 8.40.32 PMFive players [Jordan Burke ’09, Kevin Kaminski ’11, Martin Bowes ’12, Scott Ratliff ’13 and Will Manny ’13] are on the team. Two first round picks [Brandon Corp and Shamel Bratton] are in the LXM Pro Tour. Eighteen players are not in lacrosse [including first round picks Chris Boland and Max Quinzani].

Don’t get me wrong – the blame should not be put on the Cannons. Teams are not allowed to talk to players before drafting them, leaving executives with no gauge on a player’s MLL interest. Even if a kid is initially interested in the league, what happens when he lands job on Wall Street like Max Quinzani?

One of the toughest parts about MLL is that it is not a full-time job. Players have day jobs. Sometimes those jobs are more important than lacrosse. Sometimes a less intense option like LXM Pro Tour is the better choice for a player. With the draft in January, executives have to draft blindfolded.

Here’s why I guessed Emery: The Cannons addressed the need at attack through the supplemental draft. Now, the need is for shooting midfielders [and preferably two-way midfielders]. Emery has a smooth sweeping shot and has buried more than 50 percent of his shots-on-goal at UVA. He would complement Paul Rabil and Mike Stone wonderfully.

Plus, Emery is a Cali native. Can you think of any better candidate to ditch the Cannons for the LXM Pro Tour? I might just go ahead and print RSVP cards for my hypothetical Boston Cannons pity party now.

Have a question or idea for Joe? E-mail him at joekeegan21@gmail.com! Include your first name and hometown. You could be featured in his next mailbag column!