Tomorrow is the 2022 MLR Draft, the third that the league has had in its history. Old Glory fans will want to take note, as a number of OGDC's future stars will be selected at this event. And this year, the draft will be particularly big for Old Glory. As it currently stands, Old Glory is slated to draft as more players this year than they did in the previous two drafts combined.
- When: Thursday, August 18, 7pm
- Where: FS2 for the first hour, then The Rugby Network
- Number of rounds: 3
- Number of picks: 39
- Number of prospects: 174
What is the draft?
The MLR Draft exists to formalize the pathway from collegiate rugby to Major League Rugby, much like drafts in other sports. Any college rugby players who played in the US or Canada last year, regardless of where they're from, and wish to play in the MLR next year must declare for the draft. The teams then select in reverse order of the previous year's standings, with the champions selecting last. They go through three rounds, with each team picking one player per round, although picks can also be traded to other teams for salary cap space, other players, and more.
Where is Old Glory in the draft?
After a disappointing 2022 season, fans can at least look forward to high draft placement. Old Glory has the 3rd pick in the first round, the 2nd, 6th, and 13th picks in the second round, and the 2nd pick in the third round. That works out to the 3rd, 15th, 19th, 26th, and 28th picks overall. Those five picks are good for the second most of any team this year, with only Dallas having more.
Who has Old Glory drafted before?
In 2020, they selected lock Casey Renaud and flanker Matthew Gordon. Renaud had a great rookie season, playing in 9 matches for a total of 184 minutes, before disappearing in the 2021 offseason to pursue other opportunities. Gordon, on the other hand, was completely invisible on the 2021 roster with not even a single appearance in a matchday 23, before eventually getting 2 caps, a start, and 90 minutes in 2022.
In 2021, Old Glory took two centers, Palema Roberts and LJ Koi Larbi. Roberts, unfortunately, got a season-ending injury during OGDC's preseason clash with the Free Jacks. Koi Larbi got just 13 minutes across 3 appearances. Neither player has had much opportunity to make an impact yet, but hopefully will in coming seasons.
Old Glory's two most successful drafted players came from the 2020 supplemental draft, an extra draft that was held to redistribute players from the Dallas Jackals after they pulled out, as well as six collegiate players who had missed the initial draft. The team took Sam Cusano, who played a whopping 595 minutes in 10 appearances and 7 starts, which are impressive numbers for a rookie out of college. They also took D'Montae Noble, a fan-favorite who played 543 minutes in 13 appearances and 6 starts, and also attracted significant attention for his speed and electric step. Unfortunately, both players left the team after their first season, with Cusano pursuing career opportunities in California and Noble joining the USA national 7s program.
Who will Old Glory select this year?
It's difficult to predict who Old Glory will opt for, especially given the uncertainty in the head coaching position. Without knowing the game plan, who's returning, and other key information, it's impossible to know what the gaps are that the team needs to fill. However, there are some players to watch out for.
Let's start with OGDC's first pick, which is third overall. This is a high-value pick, as historically the first few picks have been the most reliably successful, such as Austin's Connor Mooneyham or Seattle's Tavite Lopeti. This is OGDC's chance to pick up an instant contributor. I'm expecting them to go big on one of the top names on the draft board. They might opt for hooker KoiKoi Nelligan from the US Military Academy, a DC native who could make a big impact in a position that never really recovered after Sosene-Feagai left. They could also opt for flyhalf Mike Weir from Dartmouth to develop as a domestic option at 10, who is a bit small but has excellent game sense and passing skills.
After the first round, it's much rarer to find an instant contributor. Players in the second and third rounds generally need a year or two in professional setups to start reaching their potential on the field, so the calculus changes a bit. Finding players who have high upside and are willing to stick around until they've developed becomes more important than finding someone who can step onto the pitch on day one. Since they've been burned on non-local players leaving the program, I expect OGDC to focus on talent with local ties in the second and third rounds. For example, some local-ish players who have been mentioned on mock drafts:
- Ali Taha Brown - lock/flanker, Georgetown University, originally from London, England
- Kekoa Kauwe - scrumhalf, Kutztown University, originally from Orem, Utah
- Trent Rogers - prop, Kutztown University, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio
- Brian Stella - wing, Penn State University, originally from Doylestown, Pennsylvania
- Luke Teixeira - center, University of North Carolina, originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Of course, there are no guarantees that Old Glory will target local players. They may also expand to pick up some of the obvious talent from elsewhere in the country, although I'd imagine they'd prefer to stick to the eastern half of the country rather than the western half.
There are also two players from Mt Saint Mary's University, flanker Melkwon Dailey and prop Damon James. Both have strong existing ties to the team already, since Mt Saint Mary's is partnered with OGDC and hosted the Young Glory u23 team. On top of that, Dailey interned with the team as a gameday operation assistant, while James played with the aforementioned Young Glory team. Even if they go undrafted, we could see them join the team as free agents.
Ultimately, we don't know what Old Glory will do. Drafts are always fun, because no one can see into the minds of the teams doing the picking. A lot will depend on what the coaching staff is trying to build, as well as who gets taken off the board by other teams. Regardless, it will be covered here once the picks are made.