Radio and TV personality, Colin Cowherd, has a reputation for being a little bit of a blowhard and hot take artist. There was a time when we were both fans of Cowherd’s work, even if you knew he probably didn’t always stand behind all of his takes. One of Cowherd’s segments (we are not sure if he still does this) was “Where Colin was right and where Colin was wrong.” People love pointing out when pundits are wrong, something we are not innocent of either, so we figured why not do our own version of right and wrong for NML, MLP style. The season 2 MLP Draft is coming up on July 12th, so this felt like the perfect time for some 20/20 hindsight.
Here is the first installment of ‘Where NML was right and where NML was wrong’ for season 1 of MLP 2023. You can view our draft grades for Premier and Challenger to double check our work as we tried to hit the highlights!
Where NML Was Right
Everyone and their mother’s had Seattle as a contender after the season 1 draft. We gave them an A+ and that turned out to be correct as they won two titles and reached the semi-finals in the other. We thought Etta Wright was a steal as the last pick of the 2nd round and Tyler Loong a steal in the 4th round. Amazingly, we gave them an A+ grade and didn’t think Meghan Dizon was nearly as good as she has turned out to be.
Las Vegas Night Owls
We put an incomplete/C+ grade on the Night Owls due to concerns about chemistry with their team. Chemistry aside, we had wondered what their draft achieved. It was a balanced team with Dekel Bar, Vivienne David, Lauren Stratman and Kyle Yates, but the upside was questionable to us. This group ended up struggling to get wins and 75% of the team was gone before the final event. Is the idea of Dekel Bar being the foundation of an MLP team better than the reality of Dekel Bar as the foundation of an MLP team in 2023?
RIP Frisco Clean Cause
Frisco had our second lowest draft grade in Premier, and they ended up being by far the worst team in Premier. An un-engaged Matt Wright is not a good Matt Wright to have, and the teams that waited on taking women struggled. That may be less of a problem in season 2 as there is more depth in the women’s player pool after 7 months, but Lina/Yana were big culprits along with Zane/Matt being unable to sort it out.
Sam Querrey and the D.C. Pickleball Team
Sam Querrey has proven himself to be capable enough as a Challenger player. D.C. had some close, but no cigar, results in their first two events and then broke through with a semi-finals appearance in San Clemente. Although the D- draft grade may have been harsh, the fact is that Querrey still isn’t close to being worthy of the #1 pick in Challenger. D.C. went the publicity route and somehow it is one they may not regret considering their overall place heading into season 2 isn’t terrible. However, from a Premier in 2024 standpoint, the Querrey pick was still a major missed opportunity for a team that could be sitting close to the top of the overall standings had they drafted with only winning in mind.
Bay Area Breakers and Chicago Slice
The Slice and Breakers are two teams that drafted for upside and were rewarded for that in Challenger. We have Bay Area an A- and felt Ewa Radzikowska was a great selection despite how unknown she was. Susannah Barr being the veteran foundation for Connor Garnett and Emily Ackerman to grow was the perfect fit for Chi town. We gave the Slice a B on the draft grade, but we liked the potential that Ackerman and Garnett had to offer. Moreover, Ryler DeHeart ended up being a steady 4th round pick as a guy who had room to improve given his newness to the sport.
Atlanta Bouncers and Orlando Squeeze
Conversely to the Slice and Bay Area, the Bouncers and Squeeze were both teams that we saw with limited upside. Atlanta had a fantastic first event on the heels of a bunch of Dreambreaker wins, and Orlando made the playoffs in Mesa. Neither team got out of the group stage in the final two events as Orlando chose not to make any changes in season 1.
Miami Pickleball Club
It continues to be hilarious that Matt Manasse stills refers to himself as a pro pickleball player on social media. The closest he has come to being a legitimate touring professional player is by using his power as a General Manager to draft himself to the Miami Pickleball Club. We gave Miami an F grade and it appears the Miami ownership was not happy with Manasse’s self-belief/delusion. After going winless in the first event, albeit with some close losses, Manasse was dropped by Miami and seemingly his GM title stripped from him. Miami picked up Brendon Long and proceeded to make the semi-finals of the next two events in season 1. What a ride.
Where NML Was Wrong
We gave a B- grade to the Mad Drops for their overall draft, but we also called Catherine Parenteau the biggest reach of the draft. While the 20/20 hindsight evaluation shows this was a clear miss, we don’t actually feel like we missed badly on this one. Catherine Parenteau has always been a strong player, but her results were trending the wrong direction by the end of 2022. We still think it was reasonable not to expect her jump in level by so many notches in 2023. She is a better player than she has ever been and that’s not something we anticipated for a player that has been at it as long as Parenteau. At this point, Catherine Parenteau will be picked right around that #5 overall slot for season 2. We had thought the Mad Drops draft was salvaged by getting Thomas Wilson so late, but picking Parenteau at #5 ended up being right around where she should have gone. We should note that Julian Arnold looks like he could go in the first round for season 2 when we had also said he a also reach in the 3rd round at #29 overall.*
Unlike the Catherine Parenteau evaluation, the AJ Koller evaluation is one we feel like we messed up big time. We had written in our draft grades that Frisco missed an opportunity to select a Dylan Frazer/AJ Koller combination if they were going to select back-to-back men. We gave the Hard Eights a B draft grade, but more so because we were unsure what the Mary Brascia/Lindsey Newman duo would provide. AJ Koller had a better final event in San Clemente but his overall play was erratic, which checks out considering his entire 2023 has been erratic.
The signs were there if you look harder at AJ’s results for 2022. We wrongly attributed some of Koller’s lack of success in 2022 to his partners, Thomas Wilson and Callie Smith. Callie Smith just isn’t a top level mixed player, but Thomas Wilson is a guy who he should have been winning more with. AJ Koller had a couple of good results with Riley Newman and Collin Johns in 2022, and we projected that ceiling on Koller while ignoring his other results. It seems that Koller is a sporadic high ceiling, low floor left-side guy who will be one of the more interesting evaluations for season 2.
St. Louis Shock
St. Louis got our worst draft grade for Premier in season 1 with a C-. St. Louis ended up being a slightly below middling team, but that overperformed our initial expectations. This appeared to be an example of a team being greater than the sum of its parts. Their gender doubles teams were both strong and they had more Dreambreaker prowess than expected overall. They also ended up being one of the more enjoyable teams to watch as well in season 1.
Florida Smash Women as Elite
We expected the Jorja Johnson/Jessie Irvine partnership to be elite and they weren’t able to put it together. It is possible Jorja Johnson’s up and down game may not fit quite as well for small sample size games to 21 in MLP and Jessie Irvine’s personality wasn’t the best fit for that either upon further reflection. Still, it feels like this team should have won more games together.
We gave Bay Area our highest draft grade of the Challenger draft, an A- , but the biggest question we had was Pablo Tellez as a #1 guy. He had some higher end results in 2022, but he also had some rough losses, which led to us having questions as to what he was. Pablo proved to be the best player in Challenger for season 1 and he is the #1 lock to make the jump to Premier for season 2. Bay Area ended up with 2 Championships and 1 semi-finals appearance. Questions asked and answered by Pablo Tellez.
Brooklyn Aces and Texas Ranchers
We thought both these teams had done a solid job with their draft, and the only concern we had for Brooklyn was Greg Dow’s ability in mixed and singles as a right-sider by trade. Brooklyn’s first round pick, Cierra Gaytan-Leach, was done after the first event due to her pregnancy that was unknown to Brooklyn at the time of the draft. This led to no flexibility on Brooklyn’s end to decide what changes they wanted to make as Corrine Carr’s known pregnancy meant she had to be dropped after the 2nd event.
The Ranchers were a team built on veteran experience with Pat Smith, Steve Deakin and Lee Whitwell. We overestimated what experience and steadiness can do at the Challenger level in 2023. They had a bad first event and dropped Steve Deakin for Scott Doerner. Deakin may still be a Challenger player in the right situation, but it wasn’t to be with this roster. After the 2nd event, they dropped Genie Erokhina for Tina Pisnik despite a playoff appearance. Ultimately, the foundation of Pat Smith and Lee Whitwell was not enough.
*Edited to add that not only is Julian Arnold a potential round 1 pick in season 2, but also that we said in our draft grades it was a reach to select him #29 overall in the third round.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook too!