The Game Haus

Laying the Groundwork for a Potential 2021 OWL Draft and Offseason Overhaul

owl draft

This past year’s Overwatch League offseason has left something to be desired by fans and content creators. While teams across the league have each made several moves, it has been hard to follow as a fan due to the sporadic nature of the announcements, the many roster leaks, and the anti-climactic 8-player minimum signing date in which no moves were announced (several of these moves still have not been announced 3+ days later). All of these issues beg the question, what could be done to make the OWL’s offseason more fan-friendly, exciting and conducive to the wealth of possible content that the offseason provides?

One possible solution: A yearly OWL Draft.

owl offseason
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Case for a Draft

One of the ideas that has been thrown around by many in the community is the idea of starting a draft, similar to that of most traditional sports. The biggest question concerning a draft, however, would be the potential restructuring of the Contenders/Open Division scene and just the general paradigm shift to the OWL offseason that it would entail. Not to mention what this may mean for expansion teams entering the league in 2021.

But, despite the hurdles it would inevitably take to set something like this up, the benefits may outweigh the costs in the long-term. Draft’s create hype, narrative and give up-and-coming players the chance to make their way to the biggest stage in their profession. For these reasons and the apparent need to make changes to both the semi-pro scene and the offseason structure, it’s at least worth considering what a draft might look like.

[Related: The OWL Needs its Own Fantasy App: Here’s Why]

Hypothetical Draft & Offseason Structure

To put more bones to this proposition, here is this author’s potential outline for a hypothetical draft in the OWL:

  • Each team would be given two/three draft picks in a multi-round snake-style draft. Teams would get picks in the reverse ranking from the previous year’s standings, as is typical of drafts in traditional sports.
  • Picks can be used on players in Open Division, Contenders or even on players who were on the ladder as long as they have “declared for the draft.”
    • This would be a new feature in this system and would likely be a form that proves SR and identity and a collection of clips. There would also be a fee for declaring, just as there is in most other sports.
    • Playing the majority of a season on a team that finishes in Contenders (in any region) automatically declares players for the draft. They would not have to pay any fee to declare.
    • Players cannot be under the age of 17 or over the age of 27 in order to declare for the draft.
    • Players who have declared for the draft cannot sign a free agent contract prior to the draft.
    • Players must have declared, at one point or another, to be able to play in the OWL.
  • Picks can be traded for cash, other players, or for other picks in the current or future drafts.
    • This could allow an OWL to stack picks in order to try and get several players from a single Contenders/Open Division team, as well as allowing good teams to save drafts for down the line or cash in on them.

owl 2020
Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

  • Prior to the draft, there would be a draft combine for all declared players to play pick-up games with other draft prospects. This could take place over a weekend, potentially at LAN, so that teams can see how players perform on-stage and give teams a chance to get to know these players.
    • For ladder or Open Division players who may be unable to make that trip, there would also be a window where teams can trial potential draft picks to ensure they want to draft that player.
  • Players drafted receive a bonus upon being drafted relative to their draft position, but do not have to be signed to contracts by the team that drafted them.
  • Players drafted in the first ten picks would be required to be signed for at least double the league minimum, the next ten would be required to be signed for league minimum + 50% and all drafted in the second round and beyond could be signed for league minimums.
    • If, however, the player and the team cannot come to an agreement by a certain date, that player would then become a free agent that can be signed to standard league deals.
  • Players drafted in the first round would be required to sign a two-year minimum contract, while all other drafted players could be signed to single-year deals.
    • OWL teams with Academy slots could be given a new form of contract that allows them to sign their draft picks to one/two-year deals on their Academy teams. This would be with the condition that they will either be allowed to be signed to their current team’s OWL roster or signed by another team as a free agent. This would, hopefully, incentivize teams to acquire Academy slots in order to manage future talent.
  • Expansion teams entering the league in 2021 would have an “Expansion Team Roster Acquisition Window.” This is a month-long period after Grand Finals and before the 2021 OWL Draft where they can negotiate with and sign players from the 20 OWL teams.
    • The 20 OWL teams would be able to “Protect” seven of their players from being signed by expansion teams. The rest would be able to be negotiated with as usual.
    • After this, the 2021 expansion teams would participate in the 2021 draft with the top picks in order from when they officially purchased their league spot.
owl 2021
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Hypothetical Draft & Offseason Schedule

Below are some theorized dates that this new system could roughly fit into. This pushes the current offseason schedule back, giving teams less time to prepare for the 2021 season, but more time to form their rosters:

    • 2020 OWL Grand Finals: October 3, 2020
    • Expansion Team Roster Acquisition Window: October 4-November 4
    • Draft Prospect Combine: October 16-18
    • Individual Trials Window: October 18-31
    • OWL 2021 Draft: November 7
    • Deadline for contract agreements for expiring 2020 contracts: November 21
    • Deadline for contract agreements for 2021 draft picks: November 28
    • Free Agency period begins: December 5
      • This applies to all players whose contracts have not been renewed from the 2020 season, undrafted players and drafted players who were not signed.
    • Deadline for teams to have a minimum of eight players signed for 2021: January 1
    • Start of 2021 season: February 6, 2021

Overall, it’s clear that a draft may be a dramatic change in how the OWL is structured, but considering how badly this OWL offseason has lacked narrative and the several Academy teams that are dropping out of Contenders, a dramatic change may be just what the league needs right now.

The Game Haus would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think a draft is feasible or, if not, what else do you think could be done to improve the developmental system in the OWL? Does it even need fixing at all? Feel free to reach out to the author of this piece on Twitter and/or drop your thoughts in the comments.

[This article was originally published on Nov. 19, 2019.]

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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul Blizzard Entertainment

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