Finally! After the craziest offseason in pro paintball history, the NXL season opener is here! We fully breakdown all the offseason grades for every team, as well as give our full preseason rankings heading into the first event, the NXL Sunshine State Major in Kissimmee, Florida.
1. San Diego Dynasty (Previous Season Rank: 1) Offseason Grade: A+
Player to watch: Ryan Greenspan
It comes as no surprise to anyone that Dynasty tops the preseason rankings. After their wins last year at Chicago and World Cup, Dynasty spent the offseason adding one of the best players in the games history, Archie Montemayor. They also went out and signed one of the best young attackers in the semi-pro division, Damien Vazquez, from the Noobies. The depth of this team is unmatched in the NXL and their roster has incredible versatility at all levels of the field with the 2021 Offensive Player of the Year, Blake Yarber, and Defensive Player of the Year, Marcello Margott. This is the team to beat in 2022, and with Ryan Greenspan 100% healthy, we should see him in an interesting role this year. In past seasons the team has looked to Greenspan to be the glue of the team, but with so much talent around him, he has the freedom to play anywhere on the field he wants to.
2. Houston Heat (Previous Season Rank: 4) Offseason Grade: B
Player to watch: Tyler Harmon
Heat was characteristically quiet this offseason as always, making minimal moves or roster changes. However, keeping together a superteam is never easy, and the fact that they continue to field a roster with some of the best chemistry in the pro division is impressive in itself. A full offseason with the team now for Tyler Harmon means we may finally see him unleashed at all levels of the field, with many fans hoping to see him on the dorito side once again. In terms of pure talent, Tyler is maybe the most talented player in the World, and with a roster of superstars like Konstantin Fedorov, Chad George, and Mishka Kniazev led by Todd Martinez, this year feels like it may be Heating up a bit.
3. Los Angeles Infamous (Previous Season Rank: 2) Offseason Grade: C+
Player to watch: Harrison Frye
After missing the NXL Pro Season Title last year by just a single point in the semi-finals, Los Angeles went into the offseason looking to replace retiring star dorito player, Greg Siewers, and continue to develop rising star, Harrison Frye. They signed Tim Brusselback, a versatile 2, but were rumored to have missed on a few of their free agents targets. However, this is still a top-flight NXL franchise and the near unbreakable backline pairing of Kali Rudolph and Cody Mickowski will be critical for one of the best offensive teams in the league. Having the anchored pair to thrive off the chaos created by Frye, Zach Patient, and Thomas Taylor will be key this season.
4. San Antonio XFactor (Previous Season Rank: 5) Offseason Grade: B
Player to watch: LJ Parrish
XFactor was a team of consistency last season, but the weight of two second place finishes has to be looming over the Texas powerhouse franchise coming into 2022. This is a team that is built to win championships and season titles, and after watching long-time star player Archie Montemayor depart for Dynasty, XFactor was quick to fill the void he left. They signed one of the most coveted players in free agency in LJ Parrish, and his signing could be pointing to a team planning to build the best offense in paintball this season. 2021 Insert Player of the Year, Meter Ninios, has emerged as one of the league's best young stars, and with the experience this roster brings, they should be a threat to win events this season. The question still needs to be answered though, what does this team look like with Archie Montemayor on the roster? Can Jesse Stephens fill the void he has left?
5. Edmonton Impact (Previous Season Rank: 3) Offseason Grade: C-
Player to watch: Axel Gaudin
Over the offseason, Impact weathered one of the worst storms in recent memory in the pro division. Impact saw nearly their entire starting lineup depart the team for the Latin Saints, including Alex Goldman, Justin Rabackoff, Alex Rodriguez, and Kyle Spicka. Most programs would have folded, but Impact has some of the best leadership in paintball in Bart Yachimec and Dave Bains. They quickly went to work to retool the roster around star dorito players Justin Cornell and Brandon Cornell, as well as Nick Levial. They signed Matt Darula and Mike Zuppa from Revo, and landed one of the best players in all of Europe, Axel Gaudin. I may be in the minority, but I think this team will still be one of the top programs in the World. Bains has proved he is a master in chemistry and he can build proven game plans around his talent. Will Impact still have a chance this season?
6. Baltimore Revo (Previous Season Rank: 9) Offseason Grade: B-
Player to watch: Rob Velez
Baltimore Revo has always been a team built around determination and that classic East Coast grit. That grit was tested after two of their best players, Matt Darula and Mike Zuppa, decided to leave the program just weeks before the season kick-off. That being said, Revo was able to make one of the most underrated moves of the offseason in the signing of Rob Velez. Rob is incredibly talented in the 2 position, and is finally in a situation where he can shine. Combined with a healthy Stephen Omara returning to the team, and Dorito Player of the Year Chris Schehr, this is a team that may surprise this season. They have shown a consistent ability to win matches behind their strong chemistry, but can they overcome the loss of their entire snake side this season?
7. Latin Saints (Previous Season Rank: –) Offseason Grade: A+
Player to watch: Justin Rabackoff
The NXL is debuting a new franchise in the 2022 season, the Latin Saints. This was a program built for the singular purpose of winning championships immediately. They had one of the most active offseasons in professional paintball history, adding nine top level pros, and one of the most sought after young coaches in the league, Brandon Short. However, building a team is about more than acquiring talent and they will need the chemistry and connection on the field to win. The history of this roster's top players like Alex Goldman, Kyle Spicka, and Justin Rabackoff will certainly help with their years together on the field. Diego Santos has rapidly proven that he will do whatever it takes to build a winning franchise, will the NXL’s newest team put the NXL on notice this year, or will they run into the same chemistry woes that many new teams do?
8. Tampa Bay Damage (Previous Season Rank:7 ) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Keith Brown
Damage has been underperforming over the last few seasons, and the 2022 season will be critical for this aging franchise. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a talented roster; Keith Brown, Jason Edwards, and Bryan Smith are some of the most experienced and talented players in all the world, but they have seemed to lack the synergy we have known this roster to have over the last year or two. Signing Mike Waring back to the program after his stint with the Red Legion ended is huge. He is an incredibly methodical and smart dorito player, and pairing him with Jacob Edwards will create much needed space on the field and take some of the pressure off Keith Brown in the snake. Will one of the longest tenured rosters in the league be able to pull together enough to make a finals this season?
9. San Diego Aftermath (Previous Season Rank: 8) Offseason Grade: C-
Player to watch: Thomas Kim
Aftermath had quite the interesting offseason; they kicked it off by signing the highly-talented and creative LJ Woodley, and then added dorito side attacker Frank Antetemaso from Baltimore Revo. But, after spending the offseason practicing and developing this new core, they saw Tim Brusselback leave the team just a month before the season to join Infamous, and then made the mutual decision to part ways with LJ Woodley. Thomas Kim and Cody Chong are great offensive talents, but this roster is lacking firepower on the offensive end, and as we have seen, the recent trends in layouts create tough situations for defensive minded programs. But, Mike Hinman has always endured in the pro division, and the talented coach is the best developer of players in the paintball world. Will he be able to continue to refine this roster and surprise the league this season?
10. Seattle Thunder (Previous Season Rank: 11) Offseason Grade: B
Player to watch: Corey Field
2021 was an up and down season for Seattle Thunder that ultimately led to the team merging with the Brooklyn Bears semi-pro team during the offseason. They played a disciplined and defensive style of paintball last season and had some of the best breakshooting success in the division through the first two events. But, they regressed over the final two events of the season and struggled to find the consistent laning and zone control they had earlier in the year. The merger with the Bears brings Seattle something they needed desperately, talented athletes at the 1 position. Combined with the stoic and poise defensive master, Corey Field, this will mean a more balanced Thunder roster, but can they put together a complete event?
11. Columbus LVL (Previous Season Rank: 15) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Dany Schonauer
A Cinderella team during the back half of the season in 2021, LVL rapidly simplified their style and played a fast and aggressive offensive style in Chicago and World Cup. They impressed, putting up solid wins against top level programs and making Sunday. Behind Dany Schonauer, this team should continue to find success in 2022; he is an incredibly talented snake player and with their first taste of real success last season, LVL should be on everyone's radar for 2022. Signing a veteran leader in the offseason would have been a great move for this program, but they decided to move forward with their core roster for 2022.
12. ac Diesel (Previous Season Rank: 10) Offseason Grade: B
Player to watch: Ben Challenger
Diesel has been a victim of roster inconsistency over the last season. Behind star player and team captain Mark Johnson, and young attackers Ben Challenger and Clint Johnson, ac has had flashes of great potential in the pro division. However, they have struggled to field the same roster event to event, and it has affected their chemistry a bit. They signed Grayson Gladstone prior to World Cup to bolster their attack and also added veteran player, Andy Horvath and Logan Dyer to round out the roster this offseason. This year we should finally see Diesel at full strength, but they still need to prove they can hang with the best. Losing Zack Hill to Impact just weeks before the opener certainly hurt this teams depth. But, Mark Johnson is a talented leader, and any success this team sees goes through Johnson and Challenger this year.
13. New York Xtreme (Previous Season Rank: 14) Offseason Grade: C
Player to watch: Tim Stelzl
NYX has been erratic throughout their last few seasons in the pro division. In terms of pure talent, they have a ton of it, but they have notably seemed to struggle with the mental aspects of the game. The return of a fully healthy Tim Stelzl will be big for this roster. They desperately need more talented attackers, and Tim brings a ton of athleticism and speed back to the New York offense. If Jerry Caro can stay healthy as well, they could have quite a potent snake side attack, and Pat Kraft should continue to shine on the dorito side of the field. Will the tough leadership of coach Rich Telford be able to enough to finally help this roster see a deep Sunday run?
14. NRG Elite (Previous Season Rank: 13) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Zak Giger
There were a lot of rumors swirling around the NRG Elite camp this offseason about a potential signing spree of top level talent, however NRG remained quiet in the offseason and actually saw some of their players step away. First Jared Lackey departed the team to join Tampa Bay Damage, then they took a hit to their depth with the release of Eddie Daws and Zak Freese. With that being said, the core of this roster has been finding what it takes to succeed, and had a relatively successful campaign in 2021 considering their start to the year. Zak Giger has been a big gun for this program and if he can bring consistent laning and breakshooting throughout the year, this team may be able to continue their bowling ball style of play. NRG is the league's true test on if a pro team can still be built from the ground up with homegrown talent, can they make a splash this year?
15. Sacramento DMG (Previous Season Rank: 18) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Shane Howe
DMG seems to be a team in limbo as of late; they put in all the time and work needed at the pro level, but the results just haven’t shown on the field yet. The Boyum brothers are talented players, and the gradual development of Ivan Gonzalez has been promising. You just have to wonder what this season holds for DMG though. Neglecting to add any additional talent in the offseason could prove to be a mistake, but the chemistry this roster is building is undeniable. Shane Howe continues to defy the aging process, and looks faster and more athletic than ever as one of the oldest pro players in the league's history at age 49. DMG needs to take the next step, and 2022 will be a battle to the finish to avoid relegation and elevate this roster.
16. Seattle Uprising (Previous Season Rank: 16) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Alex Gray
Seattle Uprising is a team that has a stable of talented players on the roster, but they have always seemed to come up just short of being in the conversation as a top pro team. They pass the eye test on the field, but have consistently been outplayed and outcoached against top level programs over the last few seasons. They made no moves over the offseason, but seem to be potentially getting Alex Gray back full time, which would be huge. Gray is a very skilled and poise offensive threat in the middle of the field, and his ability to take pressure off the team would be a critical step in finding success this year. This team needs to make a move for a top-level coach, with the right coach, this team could be dangerous.
17. MLKings (Previous Season Rank: 17) Offseason Grade: D
Player to watch: Luis Betancourt
The MLKings seem to finally be pulling together as a roster in the pro division. They looked surprisingly well at the World Cup, making their first Sunday in franchise history. They had a very quiet offseason, making no real changes to the core roster; some veteran star talent would have been big. Luis Betancourt has to be the player to watch early in the season. Playing division four just a few years ago, Betancourt has rapidly become one of the best young snake prospects in the pro division. If he continues to grow his game, this could be big for the MLKings. We should see some inspired play from team leader, Greg Montalvo as well, after he announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season.
18. New Orleans Hurricanes (Previous Season Rank: –) Offseason Grade: --
Player to watch: Andrew Bell
The New Orleans Hurricanes played their way into a pro spot last season, and are debuting a roster of rookie players for 2022. This is an intriguing team, with a core of players that has been together for quite some time. They tend to play a more aggressive style, which has benefited young programs in the past, and they have a surprising amount of experience in the game. Andrew Bell is one of New Orleans key players this year, and is a threat in the center of the field. He has great poise and should potentially provide some big plays through the center of this congested Sunshine State layout. Can they tally a few wins in their first event as a pro team, or will it be an uphill battle?
19. Los Angeles Ironmen (Previous Season Rank: 12) Offseason Grade: F
Player to watch: Nick Slowiak
The Los Angeles Ironmen are the longest running team in professional paintball history, with roots dating all the way back to the late 1980s. However, for the first time, the Ironmen have their backs against the wall with the real threat of relegation from the pro division looming. Nearly their entire roster departed from Los Angeles at the end of 2021, with just Nick Slowiak and Al Fernandez staying on board. They spent the offseason and had tryouts to fill the roster out, but this team lacks the pro experience really needed to find success. Maybe Nick Slowiak will be able to inspire and rally this young roster together in 2022, as his paintball IQ and talent on the field is undeniably high, but will the task be too much?
Catch all this weekends action at the NXL Sunshine State Major on GoSports.com, the number one source of live professional paintball in the World!
This is an opinion based power rankings and offseason grade chart. No statements or written word should be taken as fact.
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