We completed a 3-person Premier division mock draft for MLP season 2 with a drafter we will keep anonymous, who will go by Linker for the post. We each drafted for 4 teams and selected players the way we would choose to draft them. We did not draft these teams with contemplation of what their needs were in terms of results needed in season 2 to make Premier for 2024. Mock drafts are fun exercises to do as you get the opportunity to try different things with different teams. For example, going guy-guy at the #8 team with the Texas Ranchers does not appear to be a winning move. It’ll be surprising to see any team go male-male with their first two picks considering the lack of success the Hard Eights and Frisco had with that strategy. However, that does not mean it is a foolhardy strategy. We only have one genderless draft to base any optimal strategy on.
Linker had slots #1, #4, #7 and #10. Gritty drafted for #2, #5, #8 and #11. Slim picked for the #3, #6, #9 and #12 teams. We aren’t going to get into any in-depth commentary ourselves on this draft, mainly because of time. However, it does appear that those middle to later draft slots are less advantageous than the top spots. While it is obvious that a top pick provides a top player, the underrated part of those slots is to be able to take two very solid players close together in rounds 2 and 3. The teams in the second half of round 1 not only have a dicier choice to make with their first choice, but they also have to contend with the much less certainty with the players available later in round 3 and in round 4. Inevitably, some weird stuff is going to happen and there will be some players that have to fall farther in the draft than we expect, especially if we see a big run on women in the early to middle part of the draft again.
The new wrinkle to all of this is the tight turnaround between the Premier and Challenger draft for season 2. Last season, there were days in between the Premier and Challenger drafts, giving time to the Challenger teams to assess their options. For season 2, the Challenger teams will only have an hour and a half to regroup. We’ll be curious if this impacts the draft in any way but we will probably never know. ha
Enjoy the mock draft and let us know your thoughts about the picks! Below are some takeaways that our anonymous draft had about their picks and experience doing the mock draft:
Anonymous Drafter, Linker’s, Takeaways
Let me first quickly start by thanking Slim and Gritty for letting me participate in this MLP 2023 Season 2 fantasy draft with them. I consider myself an OG NML reader and have long appreciated their thoughtful analysis. It was fun nerding out over some fantasy with them.
Here’s a short primer on how our fantasy draft worked. Only the three of us participated in this fantasy draft. That means that each of us drafted four teams, and 16 players apiece. We structured it so that we each picked every third selection, which allowed us each to experience the different challenges of drafting near the top, middle, and end of the order. That being said, here are my post-draft takeaways:
(1) High-end picks got uncomfortable quickly – trickier after pick #4, and much harder after pick #9.
You’d expect the first-round pick of a fantasy draft to be easy. That wasn’t necessarily the case. A few were, but it got increasingly difficult until by the end of the first round, it felt like a crap shoot. Luckily, who is picked first doesn’t matter as much towards the end of the first round when you can plan for your second-round pick with reasonable certainty given MLP’s snake draft format.
This is not to say our late first round selections are not extremely high-quality players. They are, to be sure. However, out of a first rounder, you want someone who not only has immense talent, but someone whose results yield no uncertainty, is a phenomenal leader, embraces pressure, has a mental edge over their opponents, and ideally, can take over a match if need be. It wasn’t too far into the first round where the players drafted began to give me pause when considering factors such as these.
Teams with lower draft picks will probably need to be built a little more like the 2014 San Antonio Spurs, and a little less like the 2017-2018 Golden State Warriors. For teams with a high draft pick, my next takeaway could provide the recipe.
(2) The optimal strategy felt like taking an elite man, two women, then a fourth-round male.
Listen, obviously this isn’t a strategy everyone can pursue. Some teams have a low enough pick where they will be forced to get more creative with draft strategy. There are also some women who are simply too good to pass up on in the first round.
The prevailing theory throughout the 2022 MLP season seemed to be that having two strong women was the way to go. The tides seem to be shifting on this theory. Rumors have circulated that this season’s first round may be very male heavy. This makes sense considering the increased court coverage and pressure an alpha male can bring to the table.
Ben’s season one performance is the prime example of the dominant-male-first strategy. He was supplemented by two smart female picks and a rock in Tyler Loong. Clearly, they had immense success, winning two of three MLPs and making the Super Final. ATX’s season one performance also lends some support to this theory. With JW at the helm and the gritty Kawamotos picked behind him, ATX was able to completely turn their season around, thanks also in large part to Gabe Tardio developing into a strong fourth round male choice.
However, what constitutes a “dominant man?” Drafters need to be careful here because not everyone is fit for this role. In preparation for our draft, I ranked the top males and females by tiers. The tiers got increasingly wide after two tiers of men. Why? This is because player talent level becomes really hard to discern after just a few men who are clearly exceeding the rest at the moment. When drafting these mid-tier men, looking to the chemistry of pairings will often predict outcomes better than trying to make the prophet-like prediction of which man will single-handedly lead your team to victory.
3) While picking mid-tier men was tough, picking borderline women was tougher.
By my estimate, there are 4-6 Premier female spots that are up for grabs. There are probably a similar number of non-lock male spots, however, drafting those borderline males felt easier than drafting the borderline females. Most of the borderline males are known commodities. Some may have more upside than others, but you can’t really go wrong, especially when you’re likely pairing them with another male who can take a lot of court if need be.
On the female side, the talent drop from a lock female to an on-the-bubble female is noticeable. While I am a firm believer that chemistry is important in partnerships, I also believe that obtaining a markedly more talented partner will trump chemistry every day. I see that line being drawn between the locks and borderline women.
Getting to the on-the-bubble women, some of them are known talents whose ceilings appear to have been reached. Others are just getting into pickleball and are raw but clearly have massive potential and already show some flashes of greatness. Another subset doesn’t play a full slate of tournaments and their commitment may be unknown.
It was very tough to choose between these women. Within a six-month window, the length of an MLP season, a player’s level can change so rapidly. This is the beauty of pickleball, but perhaps a curse for MLP teams who don’t choose wisely. How do you balance present prowess with future potential return? It may be impossible to know. What I know, is that if I were an MLP team GM, I would try to avoid having to take one of those on-the-bubble females.
Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Threads!