August 25, 2022
By Adam Ruffner
20. Matt Jackson, Colorado Summit
With three prior Championship Weekend appearances under his belt—including a title with Dallas during his rookie season in 2016—Matt Jackson has been the epitome of a clubhouse leader in his first season in Colorado. That energy took center stage last Saturday in the West Division Championship, as Jackson blitzed the Salt Lake defense to the tune of six total scores and 600 total yards of offense, including a season-high 332 receiving yards; Jackson was involved in a series of huck plays, as both a thrower and a receiver, in crucial response points during the Shred’s second quarter run.
In his sixth pro season, Jackson has flashed elite athleticism all year long. And combined with his mistake-free play—Jackson has just 10 turnovers in his last 11 games as one of Colorado’s main throwers—he has stood out as a crunchtime performer for the Summit offense.
And as he’s done all season for the Summit, Jackson saved his best play for the biggest moment. Tied up with under a minute to play in the third quarter, the Shred defense had an opportunity for a break and their first lead of the game, and boosted a huck into space for a receiver in single coverage. Unfortunately for Salt Lake, that coverage came in the form of Jackson sprinting into position and outleaping the bigger receiver from the backside for a game-defining interception in the end zone.
19. Marques Brownlee, New York Empire
As the team’s primary puller, and often tasked with shutting down the opposing offense at the point of attack, Marques Brownlee has taken on a more foundational role in the Empire defense than ever before in his fourth season in New York. Brownlee was, is, and will always be a highlight-ready playmaker with a staggeringly deep arsenal throws—we know this. But in 2022 his technique and discipline as a defender—Brownlee has been the most consistent defenseman for the league’s top ranked defense in the team’s first 13 games this season—has reached a truly elite level. And the coaching staff has responded by deploying him as a handler guard, using his length and IQ to fluster some of the best throwers in the East.
Normally, switching from upfield to backfield would lead to a decrease in block numbers. But Brownlee still managed the second most takeaways on the Empire during the regular season; he came away with a huge interception-to-one-throw-break-assist in last week’s thriller versus DC in the divisional title game.
With the throwing talent in this year’s champ bracket, Brownlee's ability to blanket opposing handlers will become an especially valuable asset for New York.
18. Paul Arters, Chicago Union
Though his offensive efficiency numbers have gone down slightly since his sterling 2021 rookie campaign, Paul Arters remains one of the most dangerous players in the continuation game in the league, and occupies a featured role in a wildly explosive Chicago offense; Arters put up 10 scores and nearly 600 yards of total offense against a top tier Minnesota defense on July 16. It’s too hard to figure out a specific matchup to limit Arters for either his throwing or receiving skills, and he will punish you with both at the same time; there’s not three players in the league better at the turn-and-fire quick release huck than Arters.
During last season’s semifinals appearance, Arters expertly exploited the gaps in Carolina’s defensive coverage, and finished the game with eight total scores and over 350 yards of offense on just 18 passing attempts. Arters loves to engage the field vertically, which will be extra crucial as Chicago attempts to go toe-to-toe with Colorado’s league-best huck attack.
17. Henry Fisher, Carolina Flyers
In the playoffs where efficiency is paramount and turnovers are more costly than ever, it’s difficult to overstate the significance of Carolina’s 6’6” big man. And while Henry Fisher has been a standout goal scorer since his first pro start in 2019, he has polished his deep throws this season, and is now another weapon in the Flyers deep arsenal of continuation throwers; Fisher had just two throwaways in 10 starts this regular season, and finished 11-of-12 on hucks while doubling his throwing yardage total from 2021; Fisher has quietly been more of a Jacob Fairfax this season on offense than Fairfax himself, finishing with better throwing totals nearly across the board.
With his size and speed, Big Fish is built for a deep playoff run, and is the ultimate safety valve. In five career postseason appearances, Fisher has 16 goals and one throwaway. Even more importantly: he has been particularly effective against the Empire. In their prior three meetings, Fisher has 14 goals and one turnover against NY, including a perfect three-goal, 300-plus receiving yard performance in the 2021 AUDL title game.
16. Danny Landesman, Colorado Summit
From the moment Danny Landesman took the field as the “youngest Aviators player ever rostered” as an 18-year-old teen in 2019, he had “the look”. But in the back half of his first season with the Summit, Landesman is transforming from “The Kid” into “The Franchise” right in front of our eyes. In his last six starts, Danny Franchise is 231-of-234 (98.7 percent) on throws with 20 assists while averaging 294 throwing yards per game; his 17 hockey assists in his last three games speak to how close Landesman is to the disc on Colorado scoring drives. The now 21-year-old has a veteran’s vision and timing to match his already incredible touch with the disc.
The Summit offense has been explosive since game one, but early on the expansion team lacked some stability. Yet during Landesman’s hot stretch, the team committed just under 12 turnovers per game, a mark that would lead the league for the entire season; the Summit converted nearly 73 percent of their offensive possessions over their last six games.
Landesman amplifies the abilities of an already stacked Summit O-line, and is already cementing himself as an elite playoff matchup.
15. Jeff Weis, Chicago Union
Since joining the Union in 2017, Jeff Weis has been lauded for his athletic abilities, often splitting time between offensive and defensive rotations as Chicago searched for ways to showcase Weis’ strengths. But Weis played just one game last season for the Union—and none during their playoff run—so he entered 2022 as a bit of a question mark. After a career year spent rampaging over Central Division defenders as a downfield striker, Weis has removed any doubts about his potential with this team.
Similar to Fisher, Weis has elite foot speed for his size, and an All-AUDL ability to identify his defensive matchup; if you put a smaller defender on Weis, he will bully them with his elite positioning and boxout skills; if you try to match Weis size-for-size, he will take big gainers underneath all day, fueling Chicago’s efficient attack with his much-improved throwing repertoire and workload capacity.
Weis made himself a matchup problem in open space for Minnesota all night long in last Sunday’s divisional title game, and finished with five total scores and 339 receiving yards. Chicago will need a similar effort against Colorado's deep rotation of sizable defenders tomorrow night.
14. Cody Spicer, Colorado Summit
The spirited leader of the Summit defense, Spicer has been both a premier matchup defender against the top players on opposing offenses, and maybe the best counter-attacking weapon off the turn in the AUDL this season. As both a defender and a receiver, when Spicer gets a read on the disc he becomes a freight train in the open field, and his size and ability to dictate action often create mismatches in transition, leading to easy Colorado D-line fastbreak scores. Even as a D-line specialist—Spicer has played 96 percent of his points on defense in 2022—he averages good offensive production numbers, accounting for nearly three scores and almost 200 yards of offense per game.
Spicer has all the physical tools necessary to lock up players downfield, but what makes him especially dangerous in coverage is his field IQ. Like a middle linebacker, Spicer will often sit just outside of a throwing lane and wait for the perfect poach opportunity to intercept the disc and initiate the counter in the same motion.
Colorado is a team that feeds off of energy, and Spicer and the Summit defense have been terrific all season long at generating breaks early in games to get momentum on their side.
13. Nate Goff, Chicago Union
Even without a block in last weekend’s Central Division title matchup with Minnesota, Nate Goff still has eight takeaways in five career postseason starts, and has an ability to impose his will in important games against good players. And with the amount of talented bigs at this year’s Championship Weekend, Goff’s presence will be extra vital for Chicago’s defense.
Obviously Goff excels as a one-man canopy downfield. But with the Union’s love of roller pull formations and double team traps, Goff has expanded his efficacy as a defender to include being a giant tarantula on the mark. Chicago runs some of the most variable defensive looks in the league, and Goff’s ability to tweak his coverage role has allowed the D-line to keep its ability to generate turns.
The Union defense knows Breese Stevens Field better than anyone in this year’s championship field of contenders, and they could use Goff in multiple roles to try to throw the Summit out of rhythm.
12. Jacob Fairfax, Carolina Flyers
Second on the team in scores and first in blocks—seriously, do not mess with this man if he commits a turnover—Jacob Fairfax is the embodiment of toughness for a Carolina O-line that is allowing the lowest opponent break rate in league history; the few mistakes the Flyers offense does make will be followed by tenacious matchup defense. I somehow left Fairfax out of last year’s list, which was a huge mistake given his championship game performance (seven scores, 25/25, 395 total yards) against New York.
Fairfax has been a prototypical continuation striker for the Flyers the past several seasons, and can punish opponents in transition with his flick hucks, as well as being a WR1 target in space. In end of quarter situations, Fairfax is a top five option in the AUDL, possessing both the hops, hands, and disc reading skills to dominate over packs of players.
There’s also his edge—Fairfax savors big matchups, and often brings a little added intensity for rivalry games like the one against the Empire in the semis.
11. Ross Barker, Chicago Union
With some notable throwing losses to their offensive rotation over the offseason, Ross Barker assumed a larger passing in 2022 and responded with a career year. Still a menace as a receiver in one-on-one coverage, Barker added a deep throwing dimension from his continuation spot on the field and became Chicago’s most reliable huck thrower; Barker is 19-of-22 (86 percent) on hucks this season, outpacing other talented Union throwers like Arters, Pawel Janas, Kyle Rutledge, and Jack Shanahan.
Barker had eight goals and nearly 300 receiving yards against the Flyers in last year’s semis matchup, but a series of late-game mistakes overshadowed an otherwise impressive Championship Weekend performance. And given his body of work, Barker is the type of player to want to respond given another chance.
Even against top defenders, Barker has an All-AUDL ability to make himself productive in the Union offense.
10. Anders Juengst, Carolina Flyers
Anders Juengst missed three months of regular season action and showed need for adjustment time in the South Division finale, notching nine scores and 283 total yards without a turnover against an athletic Sol defense. The reigning ROTY has been a primary scoring option since his first start, but his true value to the team has been as a distributor and decision maker; “[Juengst is] just so elite at getting us back on track with his legs and also with where he decides to put the disc,” Flyers teammate Sol Yanuck told Evan Lepler in the Tuesday Toss. “Takes a huge load off of me and Matt [Gouchoe-Hanas], lets us always play from a position of strength.”
His return could not have come at a better time, as Juengst has been one of the Flyers most effective pieces against New York’s formidable defense. In two games against the Empire last season, Juengst averaged 6.5 scores and 226 yards of offense, and committed just one turnover.
With Juengst in the rotation, the Flyers offense has proven itself to be a championship line.
9. Jeff Babbitt, New York Empire
A tight end if there ever was one in this sport, Jeff Babbitt has been the primary receiver and goal scoring option for the Empire during their undefeated run. In his first season starting on offense since 2017, Babbitt and New York are having the most efficient offensive in league history. And while he’s known for his physical gifts and leaping ability, what really makes Babbitt essential for this offense is his timing; on an O-line loaded with talent, Babbitt does a near perfect job of keeping the downfield space fluid, knowing how to balance when to demand the disc, and when to let other players run routes.
Babbitt has also been heating up down the stretch, posting 14 goals and 872 receiving yards in his last three starts. What’s become particularly daunting for opposing defenses is that even as space tightens, Babbitt has still found ways to leverage himself open and become productive on small ball possessions for New York.
8. Sol Yanuck + Matt Gouchoe-Hanas, Carolina Flyers
Separating Sol Yanuck from Matt Gouchoe-Hanas—how each player’s individual game and skill set galvanizes and shapes the other— is about as much folly as splitting the atom, so I just decided to lump in the best backfield in the league as a single entity. The Flyers won the 2021 title because they simply out-executed New York on offense, and that efficiency was and is always founded on the combined throws and decision making of Yanuck and Gouchoe-Hanas.
Currently the best possession handler in the AUDL, Gouchoe-Hanas is having what might finish as the most precise individual throwing season in league history for a volume passer, as he has just four throwaways on 546 attempts in 2022. Four! The ultimate connector, it often feels like Gouchoe-Hanas’s initiating passes on drives lead to the most optimal outcomes.
In turn, Yanuck is the deep thrower of the pair, able to activate Carolina’s potent deep game with his full field range on the flick side. When the Flyers need a quick-strike score, Yanuck is often the triggerman.
7. Jay Froude, Colorado Summit
2021 was the only time in Jay Froude’s seven-year AUDL career that he did not make Championship Weekend, which has seemingly inspired his all-star level play in his first season with the Summit. And despite all the impressive statistics and All-AUDL accolades over his illustrious tenure in the league, Froude has never won a title.
The playmaker still excels as one of the best receiving options in the league, but where he’s really found his niche on a roster full of athletes has been in his role as a team leader. Looking to set the tone early in the West Division title game, rookie Daniel Brunker found a streaking Froude for a quick hold on the opening drive of the game. Froude infuses an already swagger-prone roster of youngsters with even more confidence, and his sideline energy has been a sight to behold, regularly running onto the field as the first off the bench to celebrate teammates.
Froude has some of the most iconic Championship Weekend performances from years past, and could once again elevate to legendary status.
6. Ben Jagt, New York Empire
Once again, Ben Jagt proves his MVP pedigree in the divisional title game, this year with his first-ever walk-off buzzer beater, and on his 30th birthday no less. Even while remaining relatively quiet the rest of the game against DC, Jagt made his presence felt when it mattered the most—that’s who he is for this New York team, especially ever since his breakout performance in the semis at 2018 Championship Weekend in Madison.
Since becoming a defensive starter in the second half of this season, Jagt still remains an impactful scorer. But Jagt’s implementation as a matchup defender has helped take the Empire defense to a new level, as can be expected when you slot a 6’6” two-time MVP into coverage.
In both 2019 and 2021 Championship Weekend events, Jagt was exceptional at limiting turnovers. It’s hard to see New York losing if Jagt brings the same focus.
5. Jonathan Nethercutt, Colorado Summit
For as many jewels as the Summit have in their lineup, Jonathan Nethercutt is the gauntlet in which they are set; Nethercutt and his full-field range from anywhere on the field define this Colorado team in year one of their franchise. Yes, there’s a certain bit of risk when it comes to pyrotechnics—Nethercutt has two or more throwaways in every game this season, and has the third most throwing turnovers in the league this season—but you can’t really remain skeptical when you see the final show.
And in the fourth quarter during their closeout of the Shred last Saturday, it was Nethercutt punctuating many of the final Summit drives with his passes. Whether launching rockets through coverage to Jackson and Landesman, or flipping drum-tight scoobers in the red zone, Nethercutt quarterbacked the team to its first divisional crown.
If Nethercutt and the Colorado offense can keep connecting on the deep ball, they have the ability to trade with any team in this competition.
4. Pawel Janas, Chicago Union
It’s unfortunate that he despises individual stats so much, because I think Pawel Janas’s all-time passing numbers do reflect his most impressive feature: his historically great consistency and tenacity as a competitor. This is, after all, a man who set the specific goal to end Madison’s seemingly unbreakable dynastic reign over the Central, and did just that in the course of five seasons, capturing the last two divisional titles; Radicals Head Coach Tim DeByl once quipped that if he were to build a wall for various throwers, many would figure out ways around the obstacle, whereas Janas will just pulverize right through it.
And despite last season’s much-hyped Union team, this year’s model may present an even greater chance for Janas and the city of Chicago to win their first title. Ever the team player, Janas’s distribution skills have really helped emphasize the balance of this year’s Union attack.
Chicago is the dark horse in this year’s final four, and Janas has been confident for months that this team will peak when it matters most.
3. Ryan Osgar, New York Empire
In his first two seasons with the Empire, Ryan Osgar has established himself as the premier offensive scorer in the league, a ruthless combination of volume production and precision passing. Osgar’s ability to open up the field with his throws make him the ideal continuation striker, but it’s evolution as a mobile passer in small spaces that has fit so well in New York’s system; Osgar and Jack Williams in dominator sets is about as close to an offensive cheat code as there is in this league.
During the regular season, Osgar had just eight throwaways in over 400 touches, operating with Terminator-like efficiency with the disc. When in rhythm, Osgar is maybe the best pure thrower in the league, and makes the Empire the unbeatable favorites that they’ve been playing as all season.
Should Osgar limit his playoff mistakes—he has 13 throwaways in his past four postseason starts the last two years—the Empire will likely complete their perfect season.
2. Eric Taylor, Carolina Flyers
Right now, there is not a more balanced player on both sides of the disc than Eric Taylor. Between his defensive abilities, pulling, throwing, and playmaking, Taylor is truly, equally useful on either offense or defense for the reigning champs; Taylor leads the team in assists despite starting in just nine games, and played like Carolina’s best matchup defender in the divisional final against Austin.
Taylor’s deep bag and seamless ability to fit in on any line was quintessential to the team’s championship run in 2021. The team was able to win the battle of field position against playoff opponents due to ET’s deep pulls, and his big play potential continually added a spark in tight spots.
Ultimate is a team sport dictated by individual matchups, and ET’s dynamic play gives the Flyers the perfect adjustment piece for any situation.
1. Jack Williams, New York Empire
Were there any lingering doubts about Jack Williams being the most clutch player in the league, the star actually bookended the entire East Division final last Saturday with scores: Williams opened the game by picking off a DC pass and quickly converting the score, and then famously punctuated the end with another walk-off assist at the buzzer to send the Empire to Championship Weekend. Offense is still king in this league, and Williams wears a particularly large crown with his play.
Williams always comes prepared to make the game-breaking highlight play at Championship Weekend, but the reason he tops this list is for his composure. In seven playoff starts with the Empire, Williams is 315-of-325 (96.9 percent) on throws against defenses specifically designed to limit him. Even against the toughest defenses, Williams seems to always find a way to be better.
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