It’s nearly April, so time for another PLL Big Board update. This is our second update since the first edition dropped back in January. If you’re new to this, the concept of the Big Board is a listing/ranking of players who are current college seniors or grad students, making them eligible for the next Premier Lacrosse League College Draft. The draft usually takes place in April sometime, which is while these players are still in the midst of their season and likely wrangling for postseason position. A few rules about the Big Board:
1. This is NOT a mock draft. I don’t expect players to be drafted in this order and frankly if they are, it would shock me. This is just my personal ranking, both overall and by position, of what I consider the top PLL prospects. These are the guys I think have shown they can play at the next level, ranked based on how likely I believe it is that they have success. I’ve been right before and wrong before, that won’t change. Last year Chris Gray spent the whole season at number one for just about every expert out there, and then didn’t go first in the draft.
2. The Big Board will get updated on a bi-weekly or so basis to reflect players stock rising, falling, and allow new players who have excellent years to play their way into the list. Last year Brett Dobson wasn’t on the list at the start of the season and became the top goalie. There’s almost always a big mover coming from “nowhere” to shoot up the list and catch eyes.
3. COVID and Grad eligibility are still monkey wrenching this whole show. I try to be as consistent as I can from year to year. My approach is simple. The PLL says current college seniors and grad students can declare and be drafted. While some of the seniors can return to school, if they’re seniors that makes them draft eligible and worthy of consideration. Once I hear otherwise about a player (returning to school, not declaring, whatever), I take them off the rankings and move them to “Notable Unavailable Players” section, which already has a few occupants. Expect that to grow. Players have forgone eligibility before, as recently as last year when Dobson went pro, and Grant Ament before him, although many are finding ways to maximize their college years. Matt Brandau, for example, is one of a few Yale players who withdrew from Yale for the fall to preserve two spring semesters of eligibility, meaning he can play college ball in 2024 as well even though he’s a senior. A number of Princeton players entered the portal already for grad years as well, they’ll play outside the Ivy. For now, the list includes these Ivy cases and Ohio State defenseman Marcus Hudgins, who transferred from Army with two years of eligibility left. But this list will adjust as the college season rolls on. Many names on the Players To Watch lists are there because they have eligibility remaining.
4. I watch a lot of lacrosse. Maybe too much. But the college lacrosse world is an enormous place, and my backlog of games/possessions to watch is enormous. If you read this and think “Dan is clueless, he still has that guy on the list” or “Dan is clueless and doesn’t have this guy on the list” you can let me know which of those “Dan is clueless” situations apply via the Sticks In mailbag.
Without further ado, V3 of the Big Board:
1. Sam Handley, Midfield, Penn
2. Will Bowen, Defense, UNC/Georgetown
3. Gavin Adler, Defense, Cornell
4. Mike Sisselberger, Faceoff Specialist, Lehigh
5. Brett Makar, Defense, Maryland
6. Kyle Long, Midfield, Maryland
7. Owen Grant, Defense, Delaware
8. Tucker Dordevic, Attack/Midfield, Syracuse/Georgetown
9. Zach Cole, Faceoff Specialist, Saint Joe’s
10. Jack Myers, Ohio State
Notable Unavailable Seniors:
Matt Brandau, Yale Marcus Hudgins, Army/Ohio State Sam English, Princeton Jake Stevens, Princeton Beau Pederson, Princeton Graham Bundy, Georgetown
The Handley discourse will ratchet up a bit now. Handley first teased it way back on media day and apparently nobody noticed. But it also came up during the Penn/Cornell broadcast. Handley can stay in school another year; he just has to play outside the Ivy. As Anish and Quint said, Handley is a budding entrepreneur, already starting to develop products/businesses of his own. If that’s a major passion of his, the grad degree could come before the pro career. This would absolutely throw the draft conversation into turmoil, because Handley is firmly atop the list of players you’d expect to see taken at 1. Should he not declare, I’d expect the Atlas to take their preferred defenseman between Gavin Adler and Will Bowen. Right now, they are basically 1A/1B in the defenseman category for me. I give a razor thin edge to Bowen because he’s bigger, and that matters. This week we saw a moment where Adler was in great position, and Sam Handley just shot the ball over him. Granted, Handley is one of maybe a few players on the world who can do that. But all the players who can are in the pros. You can’t go wrong with Adler or Bowen, but the size factor, and Bowen being better as a transition player, gives him the narrow edge for me right now.
1. Tucker Dordevic, Syracuse/Georgetown
2. Jack Myers, Ohio State
3. Dylan Watson, Georgetown/Jacksonville
4. Dyson Williams, Duke
5. Payton Cormier, UVA
Players to watch: Logan McGovern, Dylan Pallonnetti, Xander Dickson, Max Waldbaum, Sean Goldsmith, Tim Ley, Cross Ferrera
I was getting ready to add Dylan Gergar here, but his injury gives me some pause. Otherwise, I think this is the attack group you can expect. Cormier all but certainly is unavailable, but the top seems fairly locked in. Dordevic is still listed here because it’s where he is playing for the Hoyas, but he’s a pro midfielder. It’s his natural position and where he can be most dangerous. The Buckeyes are having a somewhat underwhelming season so far, but Myers has still been very good. Against Rutgers you saw a glimpse of what makes him an attractive prospect: he simply overpowered a double team with strength and a swim move and finished a goal in traffic. His adaptation to pro offense might be a little bumpy but I’m a believer in his ability. Dyson Williams will be the top pick in the NLL draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t return to school as well. He could take one more year despite being very pro ready. In other news, Logan McGovern has really put impressive play on tape this year for UNC. He also has another year of eligibility (don’t ask me how) should he want to take it. But if he’s available, he’s an interesting prospect because of his versatility, dodging ability, and explosive first step. He puts a new BTB goal on tape every week right now. Xander Dickson has also been outstanding, and the way he plays off Shellenberger has been a beautiful sight, particularly for PLL coaches. There is still a prevailing amount of prooffenses that have a ton of guys who need their touches, need to dodge, need the ball to have an impact. Dickson, along with guys like Watson or even Waldbaum, can do their damage without it. And I don’t want to sell him short because he’s a very good dodger. A natural attackman who will get a short stick in the pros, he’s an immediate threat from the invert. Dickson in an offense with Shellenberger is great, and teams with similar type QBs like the Waterdogs or Archers, can slot him right in as another weapon.
Midfield, Sergio Perkovic Division (Offense first options):
1. Sam Handley, Penn
2. Kyle Long, Maryland
3. Matt Campbell, Villanova
4. Thomas McConvey, Vermont/UVA
5. Garrett Leadmon, Duke
Players to watch: Levi Anderson, Garrett Degnon, Brandon Galloway, Patrick Skalniak, Brian Minicus, Cole Kirst
We talked Handley already. Kyle Long puts at least a few passes on tape every week that just make you tip your cap. His vision and passing ability are the best in this class, regardless of position. He could return to school, and if he does, it’s a major blow to the midfielder availability. This is not a deep group. Campbell has really elevated his play down the stretch this season. Personally, I am always a bit wary of volume shooters in the midfield. If you think Campbell can shoot for a high percentage, draft him, and you’ll get a very solid pro. It’s similar to Jack Hannah a year ago, who’s career percentage as a shooter wasn’t great, but now you see just how much he’s adapted to the pro game. Last year there were PLL coaches who loved his game for the pros more than for college and expected him to have an impact right away. I’d expect many come to the same conclusion about Campbell. And Campbell may be a 1st team All American. Garrett Leadmon doesn’t just join this group, he joins the top five. He’s played his way onto the list. With Duke’s personnel, it’s surprising to see someone not named O’Neill, Williams, or McAdorey stand out as much as he has. As a shooter, dodger, and offball player, Leadmon is showing pro ability right now, and has the physical attributes you want to see in today’s pro midfielder. Also on the list is Georgetown’s Brian Minicus. He gets to dodge against Will Bowen and occasionally Jack Rowlett at Georgetown practices. And word is, he wins his fair share. You can do that; you can hear your name called. Also on the list, Cole Kirst. The story of Cuse this year has been the freshmen, and it should be, they look very good already. But Kirst is a grad transfer who has been dynamic and an offensive leader. At times, he looks like the top dodging option, at least from a physicality standpoint. Like all the other Kirst’s, he has the athleticism to be a pro. Don’t read much into Skalniak dropping into players to watch, he’s still a top tier pro. His injury still has him sidelined, so for now, he’s just a name to know rather than someone you can watch every week. He’s absolutely a pro.
Midfield, Danny Logan Division (Two Way midfielders or true SSDMs):
1. Payton Rezanka, Loyola
2. Brian Tevlin, Yale/Notre Dame
3. Connor Maher, UNC
4. Piper Bond, Penn
5. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, Brown
Players to watch: Evan Zinn, Chet Comizio, Quinn McCahon, James Shipley, Troy Hettinger
Mostly unmoved. I think this is the group where the most movement could happen though. I still consider Rezanka a clear number one choice for me.. Another interesting note coming from Ivy Media Day deals with the number five player here. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie was asked if playing football with his grad eligibility was something he planned on doing, and he said it’s still in the works but doesn’t have a clear answer yet. I think his pro lacrosse ceiling is quite high, but we may have to wait if he decides to pursue the gridiron first. Should he not be available, Chet Comizio is easily the next man up here. He’s been an All-American level SSDM for a Villanova defense that’s been very good this season, and has shown he can guard multiple sizes/types of opposing midfielders. Shipley’s stock rises for me every week. Troy Hettinger, another Dolphin, joins the list for the same reason that Tevlin is on it. He’s doing everything for them. A two-way middie who is a jack of all trades, and maybe master of none, should get a pro look.
1. Will Bowen, UNC/Georgetown
2. Gavin Adler, Cornell
3. Brett Makar, Maryland
4. Owen Grant, Delaware
5. Kenny Brower, Duke
Players to watch: Eljiah Gash, Ethan Rall, Mike Grace, BJ Farrare, Alex Mazzone, Tyler Carpenter, Wilson Stephenson, John Geppert, Cam Wyers
Duke’s Kenny Brower jumps into the Top 5, and Cam Wyers drops out. Brower has won match ups recently with pro level players like Levi Anderson, he’s having an excellent season. The same is true of his linemate Wilson Stephenson. At the pro level, you need to be able to guard multiple types of attackmen. You might be asked to cover Grant Ament one week and Matt Rambo the next. If you can’t reasonably handle both, it’s tough to imagine being a regular pro. That’s one of the things that gives me a bit of pause on Cam Wyers, and it’s the reason I don’t list Chris Fake at all. Not to pile on, but I’ve seen Fake really struggle in coverage against Ament, Sowers, Teat, Shellenberger, and there’s more of those at the pro level like Pannell and Gray. Lateral speed and playing angles well are absolutely critical and if have a hard time with players that attack those in college, it won’t get easier in the pros. It’s a big part of the way I try and evaluate all defenseman as prospects. Lastly, Owen Grant is threatening to leap Makar. I wish I could just campaign to have him directly signed to the Chaos. He’s perfect for them. Aggressive doubles, wants to cause turnovers, wants to, and very much can, run transition. This is the perfect defender to plug in in front of Blaze Riorden. He’s been excellent.
1. Matt Knote, UMass
2. Chayse Ierlan, Cornell
3. Matt Garber, BU
Players to Watch: Liam Entenmann, Will Mark
Goalie remains a thin position and I really don’t expect one to be drafted. Not because they aren’t good, but because there just aren’t many teams with a goalie need, and some clubs are already signing their third goalie for camp. Will Mark, who has been maybe the top goalie in the country this year, moves down to Players to Watch as it turns out he transferred to Cuse with two years of eligibility left. It’s not a lock he comes out. Goalie opportunities in the PLL don’t come along often, so he may stay another year to further boost his resume in hopes of sticking with a pro team long term.
1. Mike Sisselberger, Lehigh
2. Zach Cole, Saint Joseph’s
3. Petey LaSalla, UVA
Players to watch: James Reilly, Luke Wierman, Nick Rowlett
Unmoved again. While I think Cole is having the better season, and likely is going to be the 1st team AA on my midseason ballot, I think Sisselberger is narrowly the better pro prospect. James Reilly has improved his stock this year a great deal as well.