The Eighth Man

Draft Day Keys

Winter break is a tough time for a quidditch analyst –  I’m not getting new information, I’ve seen minimal of the elite teams and even less interregion play, and the piles of snow outside my window make the fields of Myrtle Beach feel a galaxy away.

Luckily, Quiyk was nice enough to pull me out of my writing funk with the ultimate fantasy draft, a chance for eight lucky general managers to pick hypothetical teams from amongst the entire current player pool of the IQA, while at the same time getting the clothing brand’s blog tons of hits (I’m not jealous, just disappointed I didn’t think of it first).

So, for the next four months or so, the staff of The Eighth Man will be monitoring the draft every step of the way, giving our analysis and opinions. And, with Alex Wilson on the clock and the first envelope ready to be delivered, I thought it be best to start with my general strategies for draft day.

 

Skill is Good, But Popularity is Great

When Ben Nadeau conceptualized this tournament, he stated one of its goals as giving “a lot of exposure [to] tons of guys that the country may not be familiar [with] yet.” But this idea was quickly torn apart by the decision to decide this tournament with a public vote. Suddenly, instead of eight general managers searching high and low for the most undiscovered talent in the league possible, they will be spending the next 16 weeks lazily regurgitating the same “big names” that have been recycled ad nauseam for years d with hopes of appealing to the masses.

How much should we expect this to affect drafting? In short, plenty. Take, for example, Mitch Cavender’s scouting report of Bowling Green State University star and The Eighth Man’s 2012 Sportsman of the Year Daniel Daugherty:

I think you can definitely make a case for him being a top pick in this draft structure. He’s probably the prime example of how this draft differs from a regular one. He made a huge name for himself at World Cup, and the Midwest has so many teams that they’ll be a huge voting bloc. Plus, you can pitch the Sportsman of the Year angle. It’d be a great pick to play to the popularity vote. On the flipside, if you approach this from a pure skill perspective…is he a top 16 male chaser? Until he shows that he’s more than a long shot and dunks in one on one situations, he’s not in my opinion. There are plenty of players who do what he does and more in this draft. The analogy id use would be: Would you draft Kyle Korver in an all-NBA draft?

While Cavender concedes that he should definitely be drafted, particularly with the expanded rosters, this  perfectly typifies what the general managers will be facing for the next four months. You can’t value players on skill alone, because what we’re looking for in this draft is the prom king, even if he’s the third-string quarterback.

For Mitch, how much you value 2012 Sportsman of the Year Daniel Daugherty is based on how much you value the popularity factor. Credit: Ali Markus

For Mitch, how much you value 2012 Sportsman of the Year Daniel Daugherty is based on how much you value the popularity factor. Credit: Ali Markus

Of course, many people, myself included, value Daugherty’s skill at a higher level than Cavender does, and most cases won’t have as much of a gap between skill and fame as Cavender argues exists here. But, my point is that, to some degree, name recognition and popularity should be figuring into every pick. Ideally, you’re finding a mix of both, but if one of the general managers knows of an elite level talent that no one else has ever heard of, that elite player isn’t even worth a sniff. You want Jason Street, not Matt Saracen.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the general managers will ignore this and truly try to build the most skilled teams. But if seven disregard popularity and the eighth embraces it, that’s who I’m betting on.

 

Seekers Don’t Win Fantasy Fantasy Tournaments

I know, I know, I know. I’ve spent years harping on the importance of seekers in fantasy tournaments, crunching the numbers to show their worth, and then valuing them highly myself when I’ve had the chance to sit in the general manager’s chair. And with merit, if I do say so myself: Just two days ago at Snow Cup, Steve DiCarlo and Keir Rudolph – both first round picks – were a combined 4-1 in SWIM situations against the rest of the field, helping their teams all the way to a matchup in the semifinals.

So why am I suddenly against picking seekers early? Well, let me rattle off some names: Steve DiCarlo, Keir Rudolph, Porter Marsh, David Moyer, Sam Roitblat, Harry Greenhouse, Billy Greco, Kenny Chilton. That’s eight names that I think, on any given day, depending on snitch build, beater talent, and luck, would produce marginally different results. Look no further than the World Cup VI quarterfinal between Lost Boys and Bowling Green, where DiCarlo and Roitblat mattered a fraction as much in the snitch game as the beaters around them. So, instead of jumping on one early, you could wait for the other seven to all go off the board before finally grabbing a player that will likely give you every bit of the same chance of a grab as the first seeker picked.

As Steve DiCarlo and Sam Roitblat showed at World Cup VI, seekers can only do so much when beaters are running the show. Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

As Steve DiCarlo and Sam Roitblat showed at World Cup VI, seekers can only do so much when beaters are running the show. Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

And that’s all before throwing in all of the elite athletes you could draft and convert into a seeker, a la August Luhrs. Until the overall level of snitching gets higher, a tall, athletic player with long arms and a little practice will generally make a strong seeker. Cavender has argued that he wouldn’t bother drafting a defined seeker in this draft, and I can’t really argue with him.

So, for once, lay off the seekers for a while. After all, they aren’t even the most important people to draft in terms of affecting snitch play. Which brings us to…

 

Get an Elite Male Beater, and Get Him Fast

We’ll get to chaser in a bit, but suffice to say, there are at least 50 of them in the country that can play physically, possess athleticism, and understand basic chaser strategy. Really, the only difference is how they are perceived based on the team around them. But a beater that gets the strategy, has the arm and the smarts and the experience? That’s a lot rarer.

Unfortunately, the rules changes have thinned out the male beating corps. JackthePhan and I agree that Asher Abramson would have been the clear number one pick – the perfect mix of talent, highlight reel capability, and popularity – and for me Colin Capello should have been very next off the board, with Andy Abayan only dropping further by virtue of his lesser-known name. But none of them are eligible, making owning an elite beater essential. Get one, and you’ll be able to win some debate in this tournament just by name dropping a single player and guaranteeing you’ll retain bludger control.

So who’s left to take here? Well, for me, Peter Lee and Chris Seto are the clear first choices. Both have plied their trade in two regions – with Lee impressively making a name for himself at Vassar College of all places – both are members of the nation’s number two team,  and both are immensely talented, with Lee’s slightly better grasp of the ins-and-outs of the game match by Seto’s impressive natural speed. Still, I think Lee wins out here by a landslide, and should be going in the first half of the first round.

Outside of these two, Boston University’s Max Havlin and Baylor University’s Chris Rhodes both have the right mix of talent and hype. And on the female side of the coin, Brittany Ripperger has a ton of value for the same reason. Suffice to say, I wouldn’t want to walk out of this draft without one of these five.

 

Playmakers Win Championships

Only about 30-40 male quaffle players have to come off the board in this tournament. As I said in the last section, there are at least 50 capable of playing some semblance of solid physical defense from past experience in another sport, if nothing else. Every team in this tournament should be able to hit like a Southwest team, or they are doing something wrong. It’s simple math really: there are eight rosters in this tournament, and there are more than eight Southwest teams.

So, what do you want in your players? You want those capable of pin-point passing or swift catch-and-releases. Those that can run an offense, not just run down the field and score. If they have spent their whole career in a system where they needed to play hero ball, you should probably pass, because they sure as hell won’t. And to break down the defenses in this tournament, it’s going to take a near perfect play, every time.

Simple enough right? All you need in draft picks is popularity, elite talent, and the ability to make plays. Which brings us to my final tip:

 

The perfect mix of skill and fame, you can't go wrong with Tony Rodriguez headlining your squad. Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

The perfect mix of skill and fame, you can’t go wrong with Tony Rodriguez headlining your squad. Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

Tony Rodriguez Should Be the First Pick

In terms of this draft, Rodriguez has it all. Elite talent? Check. Playmaker? Check. Hails from the most social media happy region? Check. 2012-2013 Second Team All-American? Check. Loving relationship with the Golden Snitchy? Check. If I stopped being lazy and ever got around to doing another Sportsman of the Year award, this guy’s candidacy would basically write itself.

But what’s most impressive about Rodriguez, and what makes him such a clear number one to me, is that no one has anything negative to say about him as a person or a player. He’s not going to lose you votes for being a social media troll or because one “analyst” watched him play once and has been talking him down ever since. In fact, his resume is nearly spotless. And to top it all off, the Lost Boys were generous enough to give us all the tape of him we could ever want. Even the numbers speak for themselves: He led the Lost Boys with 170 points at Western Regionals, but still found the time to tally double the number of assists of any of his teammates.

There are few sure bets in this draft. Things can backfire in more ways than any of us can imagine, especially since the picks will be spanning a time period that includes Diamond Cup, Southwest and South Regionals, and World Cup VII. But Rodriguez is as close as you’re going to get.

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