April 27, 2023
By Adam Ruffner
WATCH EVERY GAME OF THE 2023 SEASON AT WATCH.AUDL.TV
The 2023 season starts tomorrow, with every game available live on watch.AUDL.tv. And while I will be watching every single event—yes, I’m that much of a nerd—this rankings list is a fun attempt at a watch guide so that even the most casual fan has something to tune in for.
These are not my normal “Power Rankings” that try to map the best teams, but instead an imprecise ladder about the most eye-catching teams to follow.
Some of the measurements for this list include:
- “IT” FACTOR: The Breeze and Aviators going bonanza with offseason additions, for example, makes their games high profile events out of the gate; New York chasing another perfect season.
- HIGHLIGHT METER: Basically how often am I suddenly standing up when I watch a given team.
- PLAY STYLE: Watching the Empire seamlessly weave through offensive sets in the red zone (great, soothing) versus a team attempting to jump start a lack of scoring with bad huck attempts (bad, why are you doing this to me?)
- HEAD-TO-HEAD: Does the team’s schedule have a lot of exciting matchups? Do they have games versus established rivals?
- ALL THE SMALL THINGS: All of the pesky details and intangibles that go into making someone an AUDL.tv diehard, right down to if I like the jerseys or not.
24. Detroit Mechanix
Joe Cubitt has the skills and audacity to try basically any throw—from left hand or right hand side—at any time on the field. Jack Havey, Jake Kenniv, and Justin Winn all have splash to their receiving games. And there’s a certain thrill at the distinct possibility that the Mechanix’s opponent in any given game might set the scoring record. But with their winless streak reaching the six-year mark this Saturday (April 29), most of Detroit’s games are a foregone conclusion.
Eyes on: Any upset alerts late in the fourth quarter if the Mechanix have a chance at ending the streak.
23. Dallas Legion
Any lineup featuring Kevin Richardson as a primary option is going to have some pop to it, and Connor DeLuna had his moments in last fall’s All-Star Game. The defense is still figuring out its rotations, but individual defenders like Alec Wilson Holliday and Griffin Miller have the speed to track down discs in the open field. The problem is that Dallas struggles with one of the most fundamental aspects of the game—throwing—and finished second to last in team completion percentage in 2022.
Eyes on: Breakout season potential for Emmanuel Bilolo in Year Two.
22. Montreal Royal
The hammers of Kevin Quinlan have range up to 60 yards, and Christophe Tremblay-Joncas was headed for a career year last season before an injury derailed him in June. Montreal gets extra juice at home in front of their crowd, and their matchups with the rival Rush are always must-watch broadcasts. Offensive drives can be a grind for the Royal, as they finished with the fifth worst offensive efficiency last year.
Eyes on: CTJ towering over the pack in end of quarter scenarios.
21. San Diego Growlers
San Diego might embody the phrase “hard nosed” more than any other team, as Travis Dunn and company simply show up and compete every single weekend throughout every summer; the six-goal loss the Growlers sustained at Colorado last June was the franchise’s largest loss in six years; Growlers have had just one losing season in franchise history, and just seven losses during their last three regular season campaigns. But for as consistent as their results have been, there is a certain methodical play style for SD that can lack explosive plays and highlights.
Eyes on: Paul Lally leading the league in completions.
20. Portland Nitro
Almost the cardinal opposites in terms of play style (and results) as the team above them in this list, the Nitro enjoy the benefits of rostering one of the most electric scorers ever in Leandro Marx. Even if Portland loses by double digits—which they spent most of the back half of last season doing—there’s an undeniable draw to watching Marx simply outrun everyone in one-on-one matchups. When Eli Friedman and Raphy Hayes are available, the Nitro can potentially score with anyone in the West.
Eyes on: Can Marx become the third player ever to crack 1,000 total yards in a game?
19. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
With four straight seasons of 60-plus combined assists and goals, perpetual green light thrower and roadrunner receiver Max Sheppard is already 10th all-time in total scores, and doesn’t turn 30 for another two years. Pittsburgh averaged over 22 goals per game in their final five games of the season last year, and the return of Jonathan Mast alongside Clint McSherry gives them a stable throwing core on offense; McSherry has some of the best outside-in flick throws in the division. But T-Birds are susceptible to self-inflicted wounds and giving up runs—over the same five-game stretch to finish 2022, Pittsburgh allowed over 24 goals per game to their opponents.
Eyes on: There are few things as pure as Sam VanDusen backhand throws.
18. Houston Havoc
According to Head Coach Bex Forth, it sounds like Houston has been practicing many different schemes and running free lines (read: no formal offensive or defensive rotations) throughout their spring training, which hints at a very unorthodox and exciting approach for the first year franchise. Ben Lewis has been productive no matter where he has lined up the past two seasons, and operates like a big pass catching tight end. The Havoc seem ready-made for the spoiler role in the South Division playoff race.
Eyes on: Rookie Jordan Salazar has been turning heads in practice all spring, and could be a leading scorer for the team.
17. Seattle Cascades
Much like Houston, the ‘Scades might not win many games, but could be an uptempo team with upside, and a monkey wrench for multiple playoff contenders in the West. Khalif El-Salaam is coming off a two-gold-medal summer in 2022, and will surely play with renewed vigor now that he’s back in his hometown. Jack Brown, Peter Geertz-Larson, and 2022 All-Star Zeppelin Raunig can all make plays in single coverage, and no team in the league has a more energetic bench mob than Seattle.
Eyes on: Post score celebrations, particularly when Raunig is involved.
16. Boston Glory
Few people can live up to a nickname as imposing as “Hulkyard'' like Tanner Halkyard did in his rookie season in 2021, producing 65 scores in just 10 starts and looking like one of the best pass catching bigs in the league; the 32-year-old is returns this season after missing all of last year with a knee injury. Offseason additions Tyler Chan, Jay Clark, and Rocco Linehan will add playmaking to both lines, and Ray Tetreault could break 50 goals (and possibly the ground speed record) this season. But you may want to look elsewhere for finely tuned disc: Boston led the league in 2022 with nearly seven huck turnovers a game, fully embracing the “huck and hope” philosophy.
Eyes on: Orion Cable being too big to handle for opposing defenders in the downfield space.
15. Madison Radicals
What Madison lacks in pure highlight potential—especially with recent news of Kevin Pettit-Scantling’s injury and uncertain return timeline—they make up for in division rivals, and lineup tinkering. Basically every regular season matchup save for their two games against Detroit will have heavy playoff implications for the Radicals. The offense has been remodeled around youth and speed, and could provide a much quicker attack than in recent seasons.
14. Indianapolis AlleyCats
Like the Playoff Jimmy Butler of the AUDL, Keegan North simply lights it up at the friendly confines of Grand Park; in four starts indoors last season, North averaged over nine scores and 691 total yards per game. They have some great receiving targets in Cameron Brock, Jeremy Keusch, and Levi Jacobs, and Xavier Payne plays big with both his throws and defensive playmaking on the ‘Cats D-line. Indy had the fourth highest team completion rating in 2022, and that was without Travis Carpenter as a primary distributor; the former All-AUDL selection is set to return for his 10th pro season with the AlleyCats.
Eyes on: It's legitimately a battle for who will throw the most hammers on this team between North, Payne, Carter Rae, and perhaps a new contender for the team leader.
13. Austin Sol
Look: Austin’s schedule is primarily responsible for sandbagging a team this good, and with this many playmakers, to this spot. The highlight tapes for Evan Swiatek and Kyle Henke speak for themselves, Mark Evans is an emerging star, and the defense is going to light up opponents all season long with layout blocks thanks to Joey Wylie, Matt Armour, Shane Worthington and company. But as tantalizing as their rivalries have been with Carolina and Atlanta in recent years, the Sol have just three regular season matchups combined against the other two prospective playoff teams in the South, and could be on the winning side of many blowouts in their other games.
Eyes on: Any time a swing pass goes up, there's a pack of Sol defenders who could jump the lane for a big layout interception.
12. Minnesota Wind Chill
Few players have a game that is so easily translatable to the screen like Abe Coffin, who manages to make both cerebral and athletic plays with equal ease and consistency. The Wind Chill defense has been one of the most disruptive units for years now, with Dylan DeClerck and Brandon Matis leading a deep rotation of high hustle defenders. Also: Minnesota’s home field had some kind of highlight play magic last season.
Eyes on: Bryan Vohnoutka's first step.
11. Oakland Spiders
One of the most skilled and most creative throwing rotations in the league; Justin Norden has an artisan’s touch with the hammer, and Evan Magsig could be one of the five best throwers in the division by the end of the season. Oakland’s scoring celebrations and general sideline enthusiasm is reaching Seattle levels of silliness, and they put up the most goals (36) in a single game last season. If they’re not in the playoffs, they’re going to cause chaos for those that will be.
Eyes on: Fully healthy Keenan Laurence could very likely become a full-fledged star in his fourth season.
10. Toronto Rush
With an upgraded arsenal of offensive weapons, and more support for last season’s league leading block getter Phil Turner, the Rush are going to turn some heads in 2023 after winning just seven games over the past two regular seasons. Oscar Stonehouse and Mike Mackenzie are both outstanding receivers and athletes, and probably the first and second picks overall in a league wide fantasy draft for hair. Luc Comiré and Geoff Bevan are going to throw a lot of deep balls
Eyes on: Ty Barbieri is going to put a lot of defenders on posters in his first season of pro play since 2017.
9. Chicago Union
No team is more committed to answering all the questions inspired by a long and arduous offseason than the two-time defending division champs from Chicago. Pawel Janas is gone, and what remains is a supremely interesting combination of team vets like Ross Barker, Nate Goff, Sam Kaminsky, Paul Arters, and Jack Shanahan who are inspiring the next great wave of Union talent. Jace Bruner and Asher Lantz combined for 30 takeaways in 2022, and have yet to hit their ceilings.
8. Atlanta Hustle
Austin Taylor has been at the heart of the best deep throwing attack in the league the past two seasons, and the addition of Bobby Ley last May only makes them stronger; the two combined for 42 huck completions at a 75 percent clip in their first year together. Full seasons of Max Thorne and Matt Smith will give the Hustle one of the fastest receiving corps in the league, and Jakeem Polk is likely to dunk on a lot of heads in his return from injury. Whenever Mischa Freystaetter is active in the lineup in 2023—like when Atlanta plays New York in a rematch of their epic 2021 playoff battle—the Hustle will feature one of the tallest rotations ever. When the Hustle make it to the playoffs, they will be battle tested by the second toughest schedule.
Eyes on: For a team as loaded with highlight potential as the Hustle, Jeremy Langdon might get lost in the shuffle. But Langdon was an MVP finalist in 2017, and is as tough nosed as they come in pursuit of tough discs.
7. Philadelphia Phoenix
Starting with their Week 1 matchup on the road against the Empire, the Phoenix will play three of their first four games against DC and New York, giving Philly an immediate test of where they rank in a strong East Division. The Hotbirds love to make it rain from deep on offense—no two teammates completed more hucks than Jordan Rhyne and James Pollard last season—and their defense has improved every season for three consecutive years. The Phoenix are in “prove it” mode, and that makes them a top draw.
6. Salt Lake Shred
With both Grant Lindsley and Elijah Jaime set to make their Shred debuts tomorrow night, and teen phenom Will Selfridge fully recovered from a season-ending injury that derailed a bright 2022 rookie season, the current Salt Lake team is going to have a nitrous boost of speed going into their second season as a franchise. The Shred led the league in takeaways as an expansion team last season, and despite losing a host of D-line starters, will still return some of the biggest playmakers in coverage, led by 2022 All Defense Team selection Chad Yorgason. And they’re a tough team to beat at home, owing to their raucous crowds and high energy atmosphere.
Eyes on: Back shoulder throws to the corner of the end zone for lefty Jordan Kerr.
5. Carolina Flyers
Much like their 2021 championship run, the Flyers will face a tough road if they want to make it all the way back to the top this season. And despite losing seven players that could form a playoff team’s starting line, Carolina will roster one of the most talented and deepest lineups in the league once again. Adding Joe White is borderline unfair for a team that already features Alex Davis, Anders Juengst, Terrence Mitchell, and others that can flat-out beat most defenders in a footrace. The Flyers suffered a tough exit at Championship Weekend, and could start the season on a revenge tour.
Eyes on: If there's a Carolina turnover on offense, odds are Jacob Fairfax is hunting down the block in the next few throws. Fairfax led the team in 2022 in takeaways with 11 despite playing 92 percent of his total points on O-line.
4. New York Empire
The Empire posted an average margin of victory of nearly eight goals per game last season, routinely turning many of their contests into runaway blowouts by the beginning of the second half. That’s basically the only knock on this NY team, as they perennially roster some of the top talent, and play the most efficient offense the league has ever seen. Freystaetter currently holds the single-season record for total scores (136), and it feels like Ryan Osgar has the firepower to challenge it in his third season with the Empire.
3. Los Angeles Aviators
Going from a four-win team to a dark horse contender for a spot at Championship Weekend is possibly the biggest offseason turnaround this league has ever experienced. Watching the integration of Janas, Sean McDougall, Jason Vallee, Daniel Brunker and other new additions will be particularly interesting in the first few weeks of the season. The core of existing Aviators made a lot of big plays last season, and now get back the big arm and athleticism of Calvin Brown to boot.
Eyes on: Week 2 when LA has their first game of the season hosting Colorado on the second game of a back-to-back. "I'm looking forward to becoming the sharpest thorn in their side," Janas said back in February of the Summit.
2. Colorado Summit
There isn’t another thrower like Jonathan Nethercutt, and his ability to wing the disc from any range and release angle makes him a one-of-a-kind attraction. But it’s a testament to the talent on this Colorado team that Nutt is just the tip of the viewing iceberg for the Summit; Quinn Finer might be the best player under six feet in the league, and Alex Atkins, Jay Froude, Mathieu Agee, and Alex Tatum all ooze swagger. Their defense already had eye-popping athleticism, and now they add 6’5” standout Kai Marshall and Noah Coolman. The Summit’s regular season melee versus the Empire in Week 12 could be a championship preview.
1. DC Breeze
Big name signings (Thomas Edmonds, Cole Jurek, Charlie McCutcheon, Joe Merrill, Gus Norrbom, Andrew Roy). A former MVP switching lines to give his team a new look (Rowan McDonnell). One of the best fastbreak teams in the league led by AJ Merriman. And one half of the best rivalry in the league. The Breeze have a myriad of storylines, big personalities, high impact players, and some of the most aesthetically pleasing offensive and defensive possessions in the AUDL.
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