May 3, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
21. Detroit Mechanix (21)
The undersized backfield duo of David Innis and lefty break kid Joe Cubitt continue to give the Mechanix a steady pulse on offense. Together they do a good job of initiating the Detroit offense quickly, and getting the team into opposing territory for optimum attacking. The team's 92.30 percent completion rating, if it holds for the season, would be the highest mark in franchise history.
20. Atlanta Hustle (19)
The Hustle are dead last in blocks per game after the first month of play, averaging just over six a contest in 2019. Their defense as a whole has been solid—they're allowing just 20 goals per game, which is right at the league average—but their inability to pressure opposing teams and produce takeaways leaves Atlanta a bit toothless. The Hustle got within two goals of Raleigh last Saturday night, but couldn't erase the deficit down the stretch.
19. Seattle Cascades (17)
The Cascades fell hard in their SoCal road trip last weekend, going from a potential upset in San Diego to dropping both games and ending up 0-4 as the calendar flips to May. Young players Shane Worthington, Peter Geertz-Larson, and Kodi Smart are all playing like emerging talents, and the team has cut down dramatically on turnovers since last season. But without All-AUDL bomber Mark Burton in the last three games, and the third worst scoring defense (24.25 goals per game allowed), the Cascades are in a tough spot.
18. Ottawa Outlaws (18)
Faced with a blizzard and one of the league's most tenacious defenses, the Outlaws fought admirably but had a hard time catching any breaks, completing just 84 percent of their 174 throws as a team. And after trailing by just three at halftime, Ottawa went scoreless in the third quarter, giving Toronto an insurmountable lead with the prevailing winds. The Outlaws now have four games in the next 15 days, so they will have ample opportunity to bounce back.
17. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (20)
Still without their full lineup, the Thunderbirds went down to the wire for the second straight weekend on the road against a perennial playoff team, this time falling to Minnesota in overtime. Pittsburgh still has yet to face a team with both of their two top throwers in the lineup; Sam VanDusen missed the team's game against Madison, while Thomas Edmonds was out against the Wind Chill this past Saturday. With the Thunderbirds being one of the most throwing-dominant teams in the league this season—they are averaging 295 completions per game, second in the AUDL—a fully powered Pittsburgh backfield could have tremendous upset potential as the schedule heats up.
16. San Jose Spiders (16)
Through the first month of the season, the Spiders defense ranks in the bottom five in the league in both goals allowed (23.8 per game) and takeaways (8.25 per game). Rookie defender Keenan Laurence paces the team with six blocks, but three of the next four top block getters on the Spiders have played more offense than defense in 2019. San Jose hasn't been a premier defensive team since their title run in 2015, and even then, largely relied on their stellar offense to outscore opponents. Now that the Spiders attack has slowed and they can't just outpunch opponents, the team's defensive shortcomings are quite glaring without another lockdown cover defender or two.
15. Philadelphia Phoenix (15)
Bamboozled by the wind through their first two games, the Phoenix are one of the harder teams to gauge heading into May. With 10 games remaining on their schedule following a tough 0-2 start, there's still a lot of playoff possibility for a team deep on both sides of the disc. Sean Mott and Himalaya Mehta are once again leading the scoring for the Philly O-line, and the defense caught a bit of a bad break last Saturday facing a tuned up Empire team riding wind shots downfield to the tune of 25 goals. The Phoenix host Ottawa on the second day of a back-to-back this Sunday, and could build a lot of momentum off a convincing home win.
14. Tampa Bay Cannons (14)
Another enigma, Tampa Bay has earned two wins, both at home, both against the same winless Atlanta team. The Cannons clearly have more fight, especially defensively, than in years past. But for the immediate future, this team will go as far as Andrew Roney can throw them. It's hard to imagine a player with a more complete throwing arsenal than Roney right now, and with 14 assists on 117-of-122 (95.90 percent) throws, he might be the MVP frontrunner at this point in the season.
13. Montreal Royal (13)
A furious fourth quarter rally couldn't pull the Royal out of their eight-goal hole on the road against the Empire, but Montreal showed a lot of intrigue in their first matchup of 2019. Even though they don't roster the tallest lineups, the Royal are stacked with playmakers, as both Quentin Bonnaud and Kevin Groulx flexed for some big air grabs against a tough New York defense. And the French O-line looks promising and unorthodox in their field vision, using lateral space and upside down throws to gain advantageous positions. Rookie Quentin Roger displayed a lot of range and touch on his throws.
12. DC Breeze (12)
99 completions and a single throwaway is the one problem for Nate Prior through two near-perfect games in 2019 for the Breeze. Prior's proto-efficient center distributor game resembles that of Radicals legend Andrew Brown, as the game seems to come at Prior at his own pace. His reads are never rushed, and his steadiness with the rock is the perfect complement for Rowan McDonnell, Cody Johnston, and Xavier Maxstadt to be more aggressive and creative with their looks.
11. Indianapolis AlleyCats (9)
Perhaps it's a bit unfair to bump the AlleyCats from the top tier given that they've won two straight, but neither game has been won in convincing fashion. Last weekend they held an early and commanding lead on the Mechanix, only to allow Detroit to make it close late in the game. Last year's Indy team did a superb job of keeping their foot on the accelerator, racking up seven 7+ goal wins. You can't fault the throwers, though: Keenan Plew, Travis Carpenter, and Keegan North have thrown 33 assists on 314-of-328 (95.73 percent) throws combined.
10. Minnesota Wind Chill (11)
With 50 goals in their first two games of the season, the Minnesota Wind Chill are continuing their league-best scoring trend from 2018. The receiver-by-committee unit led by Bryan Vohnoutka and rookie Quinn Snider have been great at running their routes and finishing plays, but the success of this team has been driven by the dynamic one-two backfield throwing combo of Josh Klane and Cam Burden. After a fitful year in Montreal, Burden seems to have found a perfect role working off of Klane, using his incredible burst speed to initiate fastbreaks, and able to take quickstrike continuation looks. Klane has continued his evolution as a thrower, dropping 17 assists and over 100 completions already this season, and belongs in the same breath as Roney, Pawel Janas, Jon Nethercutt, and Mark Burton as one of the truly elite bombers in the league.
9. Austin Sol (8)
This weekend's road trip through Atlanta and then Raleigh could very likely make or break the Austin Sol's 2019 hopes. They sit precariously at 1-2 through the first four weeks of play, cobbling together a team identity out of chemistry and energy as much as skill. Texas winds can be unkind to throwers, and that has been true for the Sol as they are fourth from the bottom in team completion rate. If Austin can find offensive rhythm and scoring on the road and at least split their Week 5 back-to-back, they'll be in good position going forward.
8. Los Angeles Aviators (10)
The Los Angeles Aviators gain more and more confidence with each passing week, increasing their scoring totals in each game along the way and reviving the fastbreak offense that made them so potent in 2018. Tyler Bacon is launching missles and running like a madman, and is playing the best ultimate of his six-year pro career. But it's been the emergence of young performers Danny Landesman and Joc Jimenez who have the Aviators looking like a legit contender out West. Both players have an ease and smoothness to their game that greatly exceeds their age, and both possess that youthful vigor of running in the open field and just making plays. The two have combined for 24 goals already, and the team is just scratching the surface of their potential.
7. Chicago Wildfire (7)
How groundbreaking was the Chicago Wildfire's 26-goal outburst in their Week 3 road win over Minnesota? It was the first time since 2016 that the team scored 25+ goals in a game against a non-Detroit opponent, and the first time since 2015 they did it against a playoff-caliber opponent. And to do it without receiver Michael Pardo—and with offensive Swiss Army knife Ross Barker filling in on defense—really speaks to how improved Chicago is already over previous years.
6. San Diego Growlers (6)
No team enjoyed a better April than the San Diego Growlers. They're the first team to four wins in the AUDL, with wins over each of their divisional opponents already creating a comfy lead for them atop the West Division. They have playmakers at every position, with Jonathan Helton and Travis Dunn operating like MVPs on offense, while Scott Radlauer and Will Turner have been headlining a San Diego defense that is downright dogged in their pursuit of the disc. The only real drawback you could point to is that they haven't yet dominated a game, but that appears to only be a matter of time as they gain more momentum.
5. Toronto Rush (5)
The Toronto Rush have a very similar approach and winning consistency as Dallas. Toronto runs a no-frills offensive strategy that allows them to burn clock and convert possessions, and lets their pressure cooker defense simply grind opponents out down the stretch, which is exactly what happened in Saturday's blizzard in Ottawa. Five different Rush defenders netted two blocks apiece, while Jason Huynh and Isaiah Masek-Kelly anchored the counterattack. Their home opener tomorrow against Montreal should be one of the best early season rivalry matchups.
4. Dallas Roughnecks (3)
One of just a handful of day-one players from the Dallas Roughnecks inaugural season in 2016, Dalton Smith is really coming into his own as a captain of this team. Smith entered the pro scene as a brash playmaker and quick-trigger thrower, looking to stand out on a star-studded defensive line by making explosive plays but struggling to find consistency; Smith completed just 89.4 percdent of his throws during his rookie season. Now a few years more refined, Smith is one of the most reliable Roughnecks with the disc, capable of leading both offensive and defensive lines equally. He's completed 91-of-94 throws to start the 2019 season, and has become one of those "right place, right time" guys that is adept at exposing the weakest parts of an opponent's defense.
3. Raleigh Flyers (4)
Using their fourth different lineup in as many games, and absent an All-Star ballot's worth of talent including early season MVP candidate Noah Saul, the Raleigh Flyers went in to Atlanta and earned their third straight win, wire-to-wire. There's a lot of reasons for the Flyers 3-1 start, but chief among them is the play of their terrific (best ever?) class of rookies. Henry Fisher is leading the league in scoring, and looks like he was built to run on the AUDL field. But fellow college teammates Eric Taylor and Sol Yanuck have been almost as impressive in their own rights as distributors. Taylor leads the league in completions, averaging over 55 a game and showing zero hesitation at the pro level. Yanuck really found his rhythm against the Hustle, completing 46-of-48 throws and showing off his cannon arm.
2. Madison Radicals (2)
After just two games in the first five weeks of the season, the Madison Radicals schedule is about to pickup in a major way in May as they get set to host Minnesota in Week 6 before travelling to face Toronto in Week 7 in an epic Game of the Week rematch of the 2013 AUDL Championship Game. The defense has allowed just 37 goals in Madison's first two games, and it feels like that total could be even lower given how tight their coverage has been, especially downfield. And not to say there is a direct correlation here, but since Peter Graffy's move to offense midway through the 2018 season, the defense has arguably gotten better and more cohesive as a result. By having the same basic core of players intact for the last seven years, the Madison defense has an intuition for each other on the field that cannot be replicated.
1. New York Empire (1)
Don't force an Avengers referenceDon't force an Avengers referenceDon't force an Avengers reference...
Like Thanos flexing his bejeweled gauntlet, it is beginning to feel as though the New York Empire are grasping just how talented and powerful they can be. They traded early in Philadelphia before a series of Ben Katz poach interceptions and Ben Jagt downfield big boy plays blew the game wide open in favor of the Empire. The next day against a rested and vengeful Montreal team, New York never trailed, and held an eight-goal lead at the end of three quarters before trading in the final frame. The Empire have about seven players who could individually takeover any given game, but they all seem to understand that they will never truly have to on their own, which should humble the rest of the division. This sequence of Garvey-to-Williams-to-Lindsley just looks too easy.