In about a week, on Tuesday, the MLR will host its annual draft. This will be a chance for teams to claim the college game's brightest stars, and a chance for the college players to get a shot at playing at the pro level.
While collegiate rugby isn't the most visible sport, with very few matches being broadcast, that doesn't meant that there isn't talent. Last year's draftees saw a good amount of playing time, with some becoming instant stars. Derek Ellingson in Utah, Aaron Matthews in Seattle, Justin Johnson in New England, and more have been excellent additions to their teams. Connor Mooneyham in Austin and Andrew Guerra in NOLA were even selected for the USA Eagles.
Old Glory has done quite well from draft prospects as well. Casey Renaud, OGDC's first round pick last year, played in 9 matches for 184 total minutes. Sam Cusano and D'Montae Noble, two other draft prospects who came to be on Old Glory's roster, got 10 and 13 caps respectively, putting in a combined 1,138 minutes between them. Clearly, there is talent to be had in the draft.
The draft consists of at least three rounds, up from two last year, with each team picking once per round. The teams will pick in reverse order of the 2021 standings, with the Dallas Jackals, as an expansion team, picking first. However, teams are allowed to trade picks for salary cap space, other players, or foreign player slots. Last year, we saw the Toronto Arrows trade out of the draft entirely. We will likely see some movement this year as well, as teams decide what they value most.
Current draft order:
- Dallas Jackals
- Houston Sabercats
- Seattle Seawolves
- Toronto Arrows
- San Diego Legion
- Old Glory DC
- Austin AGs
- New England Free Jacks
- NOLA Gold
- Rugby United New York
- Utah Warriors
- Rugby ATL
- Los Angeles
Students at US and Canadian colleges in the 2020-2021 school year are eligible for the draft, provided that they have completed 3 years of college or are at least 21 years old. In a normal year, there would be a requirement of having played for a collegiate side in the past year, but that was waived in light of the pandemic. All US college players who are eligible have to sign up for the draft if they want to play in the MLR in 2022.
After getting drafted, the player and the team have until halfway through the next season to sign a contract. If they can't, the player becomes a free agent and can sign with anyone. All players who don't get drafted are automatically free agents.
Who will Old Glory draft?
It's difficult to say who the coaches are going to want to draft. Collegiate rugby doesn't have anything like the scouting infrastructure of the other major league sports, so even getting real game tape on these players is difficult. At least this year the MLR has published a list of draft entrants.
Last year, OGDC selected two players who they were already planning on signing. Both Casey Renaud and Matthew Gordon were prospects that the team had been training and developing. It was a strategy of defending what they already had rather than trying to find new prospects. We may see them follow a similar strategy this year.
We don't know what the coaching staff's plans are, obviously. Still, we do know what positions are particularly weak for Old Glory going into the off-season. Given what we know, we might see them go for a loosehead prop, an eightman, a flyhalf, and/or a center. The front office has also shown a preference for local talent, so we might see a focus on players from Kutztown, Penn State, and other regional institutions.
Here are some of the players with local ties:
- Aaron Gray: Originally from DC, Gray played on the wing at Kutztown. He's one of the more talked-about prospects in this draft, so while wing isn't especially a position of need, he might be too good to pass up.
- Anthony Adamcheck: A tighthead from Penn State, Adamcheck could be a good pick if the staff aren't satisfied with the state of the tighthead position.
- Peter Reyes: A loosehead from Kutztown, Reyes could be brought in to boost the shallow loosehead position for OGDC.
- John White: Also a loosehead, White is originally from Gaithersburg and went to Coastal Carolina.
- Connor Dellapina: A flyhalf from Penn State, Dellapina could be drafted to fill the massive hole at the 10 position.
- Labi Koi-Larbi: Outside Center at Penn State and originally from DC, Koi-Larbi could provide some much-needed youth in the centers.
- Michael Olshefski: Also an outside center, Olshefski is from Westminster, Maryland
- Dennis Munter: An inside center, Munter is from Elkridge, Maryland.
- Gerald Lowe: A flanker from Kutztown, Lowe could help backfill after the loss of both Mungo Mason and Callum Gibbins.
- Peter Jean: Also a flanker, Jean played at Penn State.