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  • Hugh Mungus

MLR Draft Grades

Updated: Jul 18, 2020


Major League Rugby inaugural draft winners and losers. Each team has been graded based on how they performed in the draft.

Dallas

Grade: B

Pick 1: Conner Mooneyham

Pick 9: Tommy Clark

Pick 13: Levi Van Lanen

Pick 21: Bronson Teles

Not too much to fault here, seems like the organization had a very clear idea of who they wanted, and they executed. Dallas clearly saw the draft as a huge opportunity to sign young talent who they believe can bring their newly formed team success. However, as one of the newest teams on the block, why put all your eggs into a very young and unproven basket? If I’m Dallas, I am not trading an extra foreign player spot and salary cap to RUNY for the opportunity to sign four college kids. Keep your money, keep your foreign players and allow your team to get off the ground before placing all your eggs into one basket.

NOLA

Grade: B-

Pick 1: Brian Nault

Pick 10: Andrew Guerra

At first glance this does not seem like a bad pull from NOLA, they clearly wanted to add to their front row, and did exactly that by drafting Brian Nault, a prop who could be a force in the League alongside the likes of Dino Waldren. But their second pick is mind boggling, why are you picking a back row from Notre Dame College? A school who clearly are not taking rugby that seriously, NOLA would have been much better off picking a more experienced back row from a bigger school. It’s still the first round, why sign a guy you can get in the free agency? A guy like Bronson Teles may have been a much smarter pick in this situation.

Utah

Grade: C

Pick 3: Derek Ellingson

Pick 7: John Powers

Pick 15: Danny Giannascoli

Pick 19: Elijah Hayes

The first-round picks from the warriors can be understood, getting a guy like Derek Ellingson is a very smart move, as he is ready to play in the back three and in the center, possess great kicking skills, and has a hard working no quit kind of attitude. The Powers pick is a bit of a head scratcher, as I could have easily seen him falling to the second round or possibly even the free agency and still being available for Utah. The real reason for their C grade begins when looking at their second-round picks, two players who don’t compete in D1A rugby. Both players competed in the NSCRO, a huge step down in standard from D1A, these guys could have easily been picked up in the free agency. Money would have been better spent drafting better talent, or trading away these picks for foreign player spots or salary cap. It is beyond me what went through the small brains of the warrior’s staff and compelled them to actually trade away their starting flyhalf for two picks that would eventually be used for garbage.

Austin

Grade: B-

Pick 4: Lui Sitama

Pick 16: Mason Koch

This one is a bit of a toss-up, as the players the Gilgronis choices aren’t bad choices, but they may have pulled the trigger a bit early. Sitama had a lot of hype going into the draft, but I did not think he was a top 10 pick. His highlight tape was good, however I would encourage people to watch full games and get past the pomp and hype of a highlight tape. Before drafting a player, I would want to make sure they get enough work done off the ball, and don’t just come alive when a ball is passed to them and there is a defender in front of their face. Overall not much wrong with these picks, hopefully they can bring a winning attitude to the wonderful and totally not dumb franchise name of the Austin Gilgronis.

Seattle

Grade: B+

Pick 5: Aaron Matthews

Pick 17: Nicholas Taylor

A B+ may seem a little generous in this situation, but after watching the draft it was clear that Seawolves had a plan stuck to it. It is obvious they wanted to boost their midfield depth, making perfect sense with the departure of star player Shalom Suniula looming. Seattle grabbed two skillful centers who played at the topflight of college rugby, the experience and knowledge gained at schools like Lindenwood and Saint Mary’s is exactly what will push these two towards success come January.

New England

Grade: B

Pick 6: Justin Johnson

Pick 18: Spencer Krueger

The Free Jacks bagged a good one in Justin Johnson, a huge talent from Life University, and probably one of the few forwards who will be ready to play a role year 1 – if he will be able to handle the new cold environment. Krueger is an interesting one, as he seemed to be one of the best props in the draft but doesn’t have much experience. Hopefully his physical attributes can carry him while he learns how to play at a higher level.

Rugby ATL

Grade: B

Pick 8: Michael Matarazzo

Pick 20: John Scotti

Atlanta went down the path of underdogs, picking two guys who had never been mentioned pre-draft. Matarazzo looks like a supreme talent, his rangy frame should serve him well in the backrow, although he could definitely pack on a few pounds before January. His athleticism is exactly what you want out of an 8. Scotti was in my opinion, a decent pick, looks like quite an athletic kid, but he’s lacking basic rugby IQ and skill. If it’s winger you’re looking for, a Scholz finalist in Cole Zarcone is still sitting on the board, I’m taking him. But you do you ATL, you do you.

DC

Grade: A

Pick 11: Casey Renaud

Pick 23: Matthew Gordon

The first A grade I am giving out, and it may be premature, I may be blinded by the 6’6 ft average of DC’s draft class, but damn those are some big boys. Old Glory seemed to have taken the ol’ size approach, drafting two second rows with Renaud standing at 6’8 and Gordon at 6’4. These are some absolute girth monkeys, two 23-year-old monsters are about to arrive in our nation’s capital. However, you know what they say, big body, small brain. Hopefully these two can show they are more than just a frame and there’s a strong rugby mind at the top of those mountains.

San Diego

Grade: C

Pick 12: Patrick Madden

Pick 24: Cole Zarcone

The Legion are one of the best teams in this league, and I hate to question their decisions, but come on… Madden was not going to go in the first round, could have easily snagged him from the free agency post draft. He is one of those guys who carries the title as a ‘Utility Back’, a title I hate as it essentially leaves the player positionless. It’s hard to pass Madden off as a 10, but even harder to claim he has the size play in the center. I think he could perform at 15, as he was a High School All American in this position, and certainly has the pace for it. The pick may have had to do with Madden’s very familial relationship with an employee of the Legion – but you didn’t hear that from me. Zarcone is a good player, a winger with electric pace and a knack for finishing, a possible candidate to replace a hole left from Mike Teo’s departure to London Scottish for the 2020-21 season. The future could possibly be bright for these young men with Ma’a Nonu and Chris Robshaw playing the daddy role for the Legion this upcoming season.

Los Angeles

Grade: a generous B-

Pick 14: Watson Filikitonga

Pick 22: Stephen McLeish

I don’t necessarily have an issue with who LA drafted, I have more of an issue with the team itself. The Giltinis (another totally not dumb or idiotic team name) have done a terrible job at marketing or even showing their team is somewhat real. They have not released any sort of social media statements since the draft, and their page is essentially these two young athletes faces, a daunting thing for two players who are just starting their career. They are the face of this franchise, has LA even attempted to sign anyone else? Their social media would suggest not. The two drafted players are actually quite talented, Filikitonga is a physical specimen in the midfield and has the size and capability to compete at MLR level. Currently the Giltinis website leads to a spinning graphic of the disgusting logo that is the LA Giltinis. Mark my words, no shot this team gets off the ground, I feel sorry for these two players and hope they can start their MLR careers in some fashion this year. Hey Adam Gilchrist, how about we lay off naming the teams after yourself?

New York

Grade: A+

Pick: Did not participate

RUNY had possibly the best draft performance, and funnily enough, they didn’t even participate. Head Coach Greg McWilliams had the last laugh over every single team in the MLR, as he traded away both his picks to Dallas in exchange for an extra foreign player spot and additional salary cap – two things that, in my opinion, are 10x more valuable than the addition of two collegiate players to your squad. Pulling off possibly the biggest troll in the MLR, RUNY signed their top prospect Connor Buckley two days after the draft. New York are the winners in this draft, and they didn’t even participate. Although hopefully they don’t mess all their success up by signing another Mathieu Bastareaud, what a wild success that guy was…

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