A History of Top Picks in Pro Field Lacrosse

When thinking of some of the most successful professional lacrosse players in recent history, several names are likely to make most lists — Paul Rabil, Tom Schreiber, Rob Pannell and Lyle Thompson, just to name a few.

All four have earned MVP honors. All four have won professional championships. All four were No. 1 overall picks.

There are a lot of expectations placed on the top pick, and those four didn’t disappoint. The list of other former top picks is a “Who’s Who” of icons like Mikey Powell, Kyle Harrison, Joe Walters, Ned Crotty, Myles Jones and Trevor Baptiste.

It’s an established group that the latest top draft pick, Logan Wisnauskas, is honored to join.

“Those guys, they are guys I looked up to growing up,” he said. “I remember Rob Pannell going off against Duke in the Final Four. Paul Rabil, I’m from Baltimore, so I always watched the Hopkins and Maryland games. It’s cool being mentioned in the same sentence as those guys.”

Wisnauskas found out he was going to be the first pick like many other fans: by watching the draft on ESPN+. He had a watch party with his Maryland teammates, and he said it was an honor to be taken with the first pick.

It’s the same feeling Schreiber felt eight years prior when he was selected by the Ohio Machine in the MLL Collegiate Draft.

“I’d been a lifelong MLL fan and had season tickets to Lizards games, and my uncle had reffed in the MLL. It was always my goal to play,” Schreiber said. “It was a big deal to me. I ended up in a great spot, and what we built there was pretty special.”

While that elation can be shared by many top picks, the situation they then walk into can vary greatly.

In Schreiber’s rookie season, the Machine also added two other first picks to the roster in Harrison and Peter Baum. Other rookies aren’t surrounded by the same talent and are asked to carry a larger load, making their jobs more difficult.

“You look at when Lyle [Thompson] was drafted to the [Florida] Launch, we weren’t good, but we had the makings of it to ease that pressure,” said then-Machine head coach Bear Davis, who twice drafted from the top spot during his coaching tenure. “At that time, they were bringing in Lyle to be the main ball carrier. For a guy to come in and be the guy, at least in Tommy’s position, people were trying to figure out, ‘Can we pole him or Peter Baum?’ When Lyle comes in, it’s like, ‘No, we’re poling him.’”

Schreiber remembered feeling pressure associated with being the top pick, and he felt that caused him to defer more as a rookie and not play to his potential.

“I look back to my rookie year and definitely have some regrets around not forcing the issue a little more and shying away a little,” he said. “I try to tell rookies any chance I get, ‘You’re there for a reason. Do what you’ve done the last four years. It’s a higher level, sure, but be confident from day one.’ I wish I was a little more my rookie year.”

“I’m not looking at mock drafts. I just do what I do and go about my business.”

— Logan Wisnauskas

Despite joining a Chrome team that finished last in 2021 and lost Crotty, Jordan Wolf, John Galloway and Joel White to retirement, Wisnauskas noted that he is surrounded by a group of talented players like fellow rookie Brendan Nichtern and former top pick Dylan Molloy, which helps alleviate the pressure.

Through the first five weeks of the season, Wisnauskas sat fourth in the league in points (14 goals, four assists), while Nichtern (nine goals, eight assists) and Molloy (eight goals, eight assists) were sixth and eighth, respectively.

“I’ve been playing the game since I can remember, so it wasn’t pressure. It was just getting used to the PLL rules,” he said. “[Nichtern and Molloy are] both super cerebral players. They see the field really well. I’m playing more off-ball as a shooter, so that’s who you want to play with. Those guys are awesome at what they do.”

Despite his success, being the top pick doesn’t come without critique.

Many mock drafts did not have Wisnauskas going first. Chris Gray was the popular pick by many fans and analysts to head to the Chrome. Despite eventually winning the Tewaaraton Award, Wisnauskas going first elicited plenty of surprise.

But none of that bothered him.

“Honestly, I don’t look at that stuff,” he said. “I’m not a big social media guy. I’m not looking at mock drafts. I just do what I do and go about my business.”

At least since he made his debut, he has proven the Chrome right and the doubters wrong.

But for another top pick, his team essentially gave up on him before his rookie season ended.

The buzz surrounding Myles Jones heading into the 2016 MLL draft was palpable.

The draft was held in January, prior to the start of Jones’ senior year at Duke. Jones was already a two-time USILA All-America selection coming off a 77-point junior season (40 goals, 37 assists). The expansion Atlanta Blaze held the top pick, and Jones, who called himself a “super competitor,” said he strived to be the best player.

After the team selected him, then-owner Peter Trematerra issued a statement in a press release saying, “The Atlanta Blaze is thrilled to welcome Myles Jones to our team. Myles is an outstanding lacrosse player and a proven winner. Players like Myles do not come along every day, and it was a unanimous decision by our organization to select Myles number one in our first-ever MLL Collegiate Draft.”

That sentiment was echoed by then-head coach John Tucker in the same release:

“We are excited to be able to add a player like Myles Jones to the Atlanta Blaze. Myles is not only an outstanding lacrosse player but an outstanding person. Myles has had a great career at Duke University, and we look for great things to come with him in a Blaze uniform as we enter our inaugural season in the MLL.”

It wasn’t long, though, before the excitement from the front office and the shared feelings about Jones wavered.

Jones made an immediate impact, scoring two goals and adding an assist in his professional debut. He expressed interest to management that he would move to Atlanta to be in-market and help with promoting the team in the community.

He would only play one more game for Atlanta. A few days after Atlanta’s loss to New York, the team traded Jones and a 2017 second-round pick to the Chesapeake Bayhawks for Matt Mackrides and a 2017 first-round draft pick.

“I went to Warrior. I flew to Detroit. I was still figuring out my sponsorship deals, and then I remember landing home in New York, and I was going home to New York to pack up my stuff,” he said. “I had a phone call from Coach Tucker and a voicemail, and I had two voicemails from numbers I didn’t have saved in my phone. They were Maryland numbers. I didn’t think much of it. I listened to the voicemail. Coach Tucker called me and said, ‘Hey, Myles, I want to talk to you about something that transpired this morning. Give me a call back when you get the chance.’ I was like, ‘Whatever.’”

He didn’t check the other voicemails. He called Tucker back, who informed him he was traded to the Bayhawks, and Jones said he was told they thought he would be “a better fit” there. Jones admitted he was shocked.

Thinking about the comment about being a fit, Jones imagined the trade happened because the team had too many players in a similar ball-carrier role, namely attackman Kevin Rice, and that the team stuck with a player with a more proven track record and sent away the player with a higher trade value. In the years after, he never got a true answer as to why the deal happened.

“Every time I had an encounter with somebody who could have been responsible for the trade, whether it was the head coach, assistant coach, owner, everybody was like, ‘Oh, it wasn’t me who decided it,’” he said. “It was just funny how everybody would say, ‘It wasn’t me. It was so-and-so.’ I ran into that person, and they’d say, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know, it wasn’t me. It was this person.’ I ran into that person, and they’d say, “Hey, it wasn’t me. I’ll do anything to get you back on the team.’ At that point, I was like, it's behind me and onto better things.”

Jones was excited to play for the Bayhawks, with whom he would team up with former first overall selection Joe Walters, as well as All-Stars Brendan Mundorf and Matt Danowski.

He finished the season third on Chesapeake in points (34) behind only Walters and Mundorf despite playing in only nine games. He would go on to play in one MLL All-Star Game in 2017 and two PLL All-Star Games in 2019 and 2021.

“I was fueled,” Jones said. “Being traded gave me that motivation. I had a really good rookie season. … I was playing really well. I won some games for our team. I hit big shots. I really found my groove and developed really good chemistry with Joe Walters, really good chemistry with a lot of guys. I became a vocal part of the team.”

Despite the trade by Atlanta, something many are still baffled by, the top picks in professional field lacrosse drafts typically go on to have strong careers, if not legendary ones. Of the first 19 players selected first overall in the MLL draft (the 20th player, TD Ierlan, who was picked first by the New York Lizards in 2020, never played in the league, opting to play in the PLL instead), five players won seven MLL MVP awards (Rabil and Schreiber won the award twice). They combined to win seven Offensive Player of the Year awards.

Fourteen of the 20 top picks in the MLL draft would play in at least one MLL All-Star game, while two others — Baptiste and Ierlan — would eventually play as All-Stars in the PLL (Baptiste played in the 2018 MLL All-Star Game but did so as a member of the U.S. men’s national team). Five MLL top picks — Mikey Powell, Kevin Crowley, Pannell, Jones and Molloy — won All-Star Game MVP.


Grant Ament, the first pick in the 2020 PLL Draft, played in the 2021 PLL All-Star Game, while 2021 and 2022 top selections Jeff Teat and Wisnauskas were both selected to play in the 2022 PLL All-Star Game.

Why is it that top picks in professional field lacrosse have a much higher success rate than those of the NFL or NBA, where the word “bust” is part of the lexicon? There are several theories.

For Schreiber, the concentration of talent in lacrosse, with fewer teams meaning rosters crowded with recent collegiate All-Americans, helps players adjust to the new level in play and allows them a little more time to develop.

“The difference between the top team in the league and the worst team in the league isn’t that much,” he said. “I tell people all the time now in the PLL, it’s like you can look at these teams’ records, but any given day any of these teams can beat up on another team. There’s just so much talent out there, so I do think, even if you’re on a team that won two, three games the year before, you’re seeing it now with the Chrome. Oftentimes, they’re just a player away, and if you’re in a position to get that first pick, more times than not, you’re going to have a guy who can contribute right away. The talent pool is so deep that even the worst teams are full of studs.”

From the front office side, Davis said the way the game is played helps general managers in their scouting.

“From my experience, the top, generally seven or eight guys coming out of college, are pretty easily identifiable as next-level players,” Davis said. “I think a little bit of it is lacrosse is such a free-flowing sport. You can see guys that make decisions in a free-flow situation, where a sport like football where you talk about quarterbacks, they can be so system driven, and the success could be based on the system that is based on a collegiate style. Watching their game, you’re like, ‘Does it translate?’ It might be harder to tell.

“You watch Tommy Schreiber, his vision, you watch his left hand and right hand and his shot selection and you’re like, ‘Yup.’ It’s easy to tell. You watch Kyle Harrison split dodge, and no one is stopping it in college. It’s like, ‘OK, well, who’s going to stop it in the pros?”

Being the top pick comes with some responsibility and expectation, and in some cases, it also comes with a short leash. One thing the players will tell you is that being the top pick is not something they take lightly.

“There are a lot of really, really, really good players that didn’t go No. 1, and that just goes to show you how many great lacrosse players there are,” Jones said. “If you look at the No. 2 pick of every year, those guys could be No. 1 picks any year. That’s a big deal when you have that on your resume, being the No. 1 guy. That’s talent.”