With the PLL Draft quickly approaching, the top prospects in this year’s draft class and the needs that each team has are coming into clearer view. This offseason, Archers LC has experienced a major roster overhaul with club veterans Will Manny and Marcus Holman leaving in free agency and Scott Ratliff and Dominique Alexander retiring. With a younger core, the Archers will be hoping to get over the playoff hump to claim the club’s first championship this September.
To aid in doing so, Head Coach and General Manager Chris Bates will be eying next Tuesday’s draft with a few positions of need in mind. Looking at the Archers roster, these three spots are the club’s top needs before play kicks off this summer.
The most obvious need for Archers LC heading into the draft remains, as it was heading into the offseason, at the face-off spot. For years now, face-offs have been the club’s Achilles’ heel in the playoffs and drafting Justin Inacio in the third round last year didn’t solve the issue in 2022.
Inacio is also coming off major knee surgery in late November. With his return from the PUP list likely slated for late May or early June, there’s a major need at the position with un-drafted 2022 rookie Frankie Labetti the only other rostered face-off specialist.
The face-off position is the one which takes the most time to adapt to at the professional level because of the adjustment from standing neutral grip in college to putting a knee down and using the motorcycle grip in the PLL. So, there’s reason to believe Inacio and Labetti could improve on their first year in the league. Recent free agent short-stick defensive midfield addition Tim Edwards also provides another face-off option.
But, the Archers were also last in the league in face-off winning percentage in 2022 at 38.3%. Inacio’s 42.6% win rate and Labetti’s 37.3% prevented the team from reaching its goals in 2022 and the Archers will have to win more face-offs in 2023 to compete for a championship.
Additionally, because there aren’t many teams in the league that need to draft face-off specialists and far fewer that need one and pick before the Archers, there should be an opportunity for Bates to draft an immediate contributor with either the 5th or the 13th pick. Landing a player of the quality of the top specialists in this class such as Lehigh’s Mike Sisselberger, St. Joseph’s Zach Cole, or Virginia’s Petey LaSalla would, at the very least, provide an effective supplementary option to Inacio and, at most, give the team a foundational piece to battle against the best in the league for years to come.
Bates does have three stout players at close defense with 2021 Defensive Player of the Year Graeme Hossack, veteran leader Matt McMahon, and 6’3” lefty Warren Jeffrey (who spent last season on the PUP list) as the penciled in starters right now. Hossack and McMahon are both 30 years old and the depth behind them isn’t robust with no other close defenders currently on the roster.
With one of the best defensive draft classes ever available this summer, Bates will likely look to add a piece to the close defense to stabilize things should injury occur, while also potentially picking up a stalwart contributor for the future.
Even though top close prospects Will Bowen and Gavin Adler are projected to be two of the first three players off the board, there should still be many quality close defenders available to the club at the fifth pick, should Bates go in that direction. Delaware’s Owen Grant, Maryland’s Brett Makar, and Duke’s Kenny Brower are a few names to keep in mind in the first two rounds, while the Archers could also look to draft a defender later in the draft considering the depth of this year’s class.
Short-stick defensive midfield
Following the retirement of Dominique Alexander, Bates has added a few different pieces to his club to account for the significant hole that Alexander leaves behind in the defensive midfield. Latrell Harris and Mark McNeill return as pure SSDMs, while the recent addition of free agent Edwards and the two-way ability of players including Tre Leclaire, Ryan Aughavin, Reid Bowering, and Challen Rogers provides offensive versatility and the ability to push in transition.
The club could use another young guy to be a pure defensive midfielder. This SSDM class is deep as well with talented two-way players along with a solid core of defense-first options. So, Bates could pick a quality contributor with either his third (21st overall) or fourth (28th) round pick. Should the position be of greater priority, targeting Loyola’s Payton Rezanka would be an option for the Archers to add an elite defender early rather than relying on who’s remaining in the later rounds.
Altogether, the club is in a solid place from a roster construction perspective. Bates has his star players offensively with legitimate quality defensively. As a result, he can use the draft to fill areas of need to complete the roster rather than having to establish its building blocks with unproven talent.