Grow the Game®

The Fix is a series focusing on how to solve the problems of the PLL's bottom four teams this offseason. First up: Atlas LC.
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Atlas LC Offseason Plan 2021 – The Fix

The Fix is my latest series, jumping into the GM chair for the bottom four PLL teams, coming up with an offseason plan for how to fix the squad and get them back into contention. This includes strategy and targets in both drafts, plus some fantasy trades and other moves I think could help bring success. First up: Atlas LC.

Atlas forced me to rewrite a good chunk of this article after trading Rob Pannell to the Redwoods for a 2021 first round pick in the Entry Draft and a 2022 second rounder in the College Draft. So, with that now official, let’s fix Atlas LC.

What’s wrong with Atlas?

The best comp I can think of for the Atlas is the early 2010s Brooklyn Nets. Eager to make an early splash in their new city/arena/jerseys, the Nets mortgaged their future to secure Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics. Those guys ended up being old and not up to par rather quickly, the Nets fell apart, and they had to find ways to rebuild before landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving nearly a decade later.

This feels like the Atlas to roughly a T. Eager to be the first champions of the PLL, Atlas stacked its roster with a lot of older, more proven veterans, preferring those over younger players. Then, when those players seemingly took a step back, the team found itself at a frustrating crossroads. It doubled down on the veterans by picking up Rob Pannell in the Entry Draft and pushing out younger attackmen like Chris Cloutier.

It did not work. Atlas got worse pretty much everywhere on the field in 2020’s limited series, and for its troubles, Atlas now has the No. 1 pick in the 2021 College Draft. However, it appears a rebuild might now be on, as it traded Pannell to Redwoods for two picks, one of which is the No. 3 overall selection in the Entry Draft. With more draft ammo, Atlas could find some younger pieces to build around an extremely promising rookie class of Bryan Costabile and Cade Van Raaphorst.

How does Atlas’s College Draft look?

Atlas is extremely well set up for the College Draft. It owns picks No. 1, No. 10, No. 17, and No. 26 in the 2021 College Draft. It’s been long assumed that it will select Michael Sowers (attack, Duke/Princeton) with the top overall pick, and trading Pannell only makes that move that much more obvious. So, let’s assume Sowers goes at No. 1. What’s the rest of their draft look like? 

Well, the roster gives us some clues. This team could use some more defensive help, and that’s all over. The team could use an LSM upgrade, and some additional poles as well. That said, its defensive midfield is also one of the weaker groups in the league, so that’s a target, too. Finally, I’d say another young offensive midfielder would be a big win for Atlas, which is aging in that part of the field.

So, here are my mock picks for Atlas: 

Round 1, Pick 1 – Michael Sowers, Attack, Duke

Pretty self-explanatory. Sowers is a generational talent and might instantly be the best player on this offense. Also, he’s going to feed Ryan Brown approximately 15 legit shooting chances a game.

Round 2, Pick 2 – Koby Smith, LSM, Towson

Two birds with one stone, so to speak, as Atlas not only receive one of the best LSMs in this draft class but also a legitimate offensive weapon of an LSM at that. Koby Smith is a great player, a strong athlete, and a terror in transition. Love this pick for Atlas.

Round 3, Pick 1 – Jeff Trainor, Midfield, UMass

Trainor is a guy who, like Bryan Costabile, can play both offense and defense for the Atlas, which makes him a double value in a spot like this. I see him as like a left-handed, poor man’s Costabile, so why not throw them on a line together.

Round 4, Pick 2 – Kyle Thornton, Defense, Notre Dame 

Not a ton of defensive depth in this draft class, but Thornton is worth a flier in the final round here. The former Penn pole is a little undersized but has been a good defenseman in college. He also gets a season with Notre Dame’s excellent defensive staff to fine-tune him before the draft. 

What about its Entry Draft?

Well, after the RP3 trade, the Atlas have picks No. 3 and No. 6 in the 2021 Entry Draft, meaning it can bring in two of the better MLL prospects. It will also have the No. 6 pick in each round thereafter. So, let’s look at what Atlas could do with its picks here. 

Round 1, Pick 3 (from Redwoods) – Zach Goodrich, SSDM

This is how you fix a defensive midfield. Goodrich, the final player to ever win Defensive Player of the Year in MLL, is one of the best SSDMs, if not the best guy, in the world. He’s a legitimate eraser that could help Atlas out a ton on that end of the ball. Plus, he’s got experience with Ben Rubeor, which probably helps his case. It’s not super flashy to trade up to No. 3 and select a short-stick defensive midfielder, but Goodrich is basically a shutdown corner, and that’s what Atlas needs most.

Round 1, Pick 6 – Ben Randall, Defense

Suddenly, that Atlas defense isn’t looking so bad, right? Randall is a massive get for this defense, a real-deal No. 1 pole who can help take on the best attackmen in the league. A starting close defense of Randall, a full season of Tucker Durkin, and the promising young gun in Van Raaphorst quickly becomes a top-half-of-the-league defensive unit. That said, there’s about a 50/50 chance that Atlas drafts Chris Hogan in this spot to corner the clicks market. To be clear, that’s not a knock. Atlas remains popular.

Round 2, Pick 6 – Colin Burke, Midfield

It’s a Lizards alumni party (I mean, minus Pannell), as Atlas gets yet another former Lizards guy in Colin Burke, who broke out quite nicely as one of the lone bright spots for New York in the 2020 MLL series. He’s another young, athletic midfielder to help rebuild that unit.

Round 3, Pick 6 – Matt Whitcher, SSDM

Does this team really need two SSDMs in this draft? Yes, it probably does, but even if it didn’t, I like this pick for Atlas. First, it means not having to play Costabile so much on defense, which feels like a win for its offense. Second, Whitcher has continually grown each season as a pro and could become a big-bodied dodging threat on the offense given time. Third, Whitcher was basically a one-man clearing unit last summer for the Barrage, and Atlas could use help on clears.

What trades could Atlas make?

Well, my original trades were all centered around Rob Pannell, so this is going to be less easy and perhaps a little less exciting now. Still, we can find a few trade options. How about these? 

Atlas LC trades the No. 3 pick in the Entry Draft and attackman Chris Cloutier to Archers LC in exchange for the No. 2 pick in the Entry Draft

Look, man, Atlas keeps forgetting to use Cloutier anyways. I think he’s a good offensive weapon for this team, but if it doesn’t feel the same, why not keep flipping that Pannell pick and see if you can get up to No. 2. Why? Because if there’s any player in the MLL pool who would best benefit Atlas offensively, it’s Daniel Bucaro. Go up and get your guy, Atlas.

Atlas LC trades the No. 10 pick in the 2021 College Draft to Chaos LC in exchange for Austin Staats

Go big (literally) and take a swing on a guy who, if fully healthy, could be a superstar. I’m not sure that Chaos would be willing to move him, but it sort of has too many guys in his mold and need help defensively, too, so maybe.

Atlas LC trades midfielder Paul Rabil to Cannons LC in exchange for 2022 College Draft 4th Rounder

I don’t know, it just feels fun to have Rabil back on the Cannons to finish his career. Plus, both teams need midfielders and faces of the league. Also, Rabil and Lyle together could be fun, in a nostalgia way.

What’s next on The Fix?

Each day this week, my offseason plan for one of the bottom four teams in the PLL will be released. Here is the schedule and where you can find The Fix for the lower half of the league:

Tuesday – Atlas LC

Wednesday – Waterdogs LC

Thursday – Chrome LC

Friday – Chaos LC

BONUS – Redwoods LC

Would my ideas improve the team? Am I completely and entirely clueless? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram what you think and what moves Atlas LC should make before the 2021 PLL season begins.