Ranking the NLL’s first-round draft classes: John Grant Jr. leads Class of 1999 to No. 5

John Grant Jr. was the No. 1 pick in 1999 and is a 2-time MVP in the National Lacrosse League. (Photo: Ward Laforme Jr.)
John Grant Jr. was the No. 1 pick in 1999 and is a 2-time MVP in the National Lacrosse League. (Photo: Ward Laforme Jr.)

We’ve finally cracked the Top 5 of our first-round draft class rankings and honestly, when ya get to this point, is there really that much separating each class? Probably not, and as much as we realize how subjective endeavors like this can be, it’s still fun to craft these lists. These are the kinda debates that can go around in circles like the dog chasing its proverbial tail. That said, the boys of 1999 bring some serious game. The problem for guys like Gord Nash, Scott Stewart and Gewas Schindler, who all were picks in this 1999 National Lacrosse League draft, is that the No. 1 overall pick is John Grant Jr. He’s the kinda guy who can make you forget who else is around him, especially if he’s coming off an MVP season the way he is.

The interesting thing about this class is that of the 9 picks, only 2 players remain active in the league and both play for the Colorado Mammoth. Grant, who originally was a 1995 third-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bandits but opted for college, would have been the No. 1 overall pick for the Albany Attack in 1999. But the Attack and Knighthawks made a trade to put Rochester in position to take Grant, and the Attack used their No. 6 overall pick to select Stewart.

Last season, both were integral parts of the turnaround in Colorado. But now, it’s time to break it down for the 1999 boys.

1999 first-round picks

1. John Grant Jr. (Knighthawks)
2. Gord Nash (Saints)
3. Mark Frye (Saints)
4. John Olson (Rock)
5. Greg McCavera (Wings)
6. Scott Stewart (Attack)
7. Gewas Schindler (Wings)
8. Chris Langdale (Rock)
9. Ben Hunt (Knighthawks)

Regular-season statistics

Games: 574
Goals: 731 (81.2 average per player)
Assists: 862 (95.8)
Points: 1,593 (177.0) (ranks No. 7 and No. 8 out of 24 classes)

Playoff statistics

Games: 36
Goals: 51 (5.7)
Assists: 40 (4.4)
Points: 91 (10.1) (No. 13 and tied for No. 12)

Overall ranking: 5

It’s hard to look past the No. 1 pick for the Class of 1999, because Grant continues to produce today at a very high level and last season set the NLL’s single-season points record to win MVP honors. Then again, why should we look past Grant?

There were 8 players taken after Grant and while none of them are at Junior’s level, there’s still plenty of talent in this class. Nash, who ranks in the top 10 for career saves and twice led the league in saves in a season, certainly can’t be overlooked as one of the NLL’s great goalies and Schindler had a sweet scoring touch thanks to his awareness of the floor and the crease.

Stewart won’t count for or against this class because he was drafted by Albany but didn’t play, waiting instead for the 2002 draft, where he was picked No. 3 overall by the Storm. Frye made headlines here and there for his play but it doesn’t really seem to matter for Frye or anyone else in this class because they’ll forever be noted as the guys who were picked after Grant. Then again, when Grant accounts for 1,093 of the 1,593 total points for this class, that pretty much speaks for itself.

Still, we’ve got a solid corps for the Class of 1999 and no matter who is putting up the points, it’s the body of work as a whole that counts and the boys of 1999 rank right up there with the best.

Previous classes

No. 24: Class of 1988
No. 23: Class of 1989
No. 22: Class of 1993
No. 21: Class of 1994
No. 20: Class of 1995
No. 19: Class of 1997
No. 18: Class of 1992
No. 17: Class of 1996
No. 16: Class of 1991
No. 15: Class of 2011
No. 14: Class of 2010
No. 13: Class of 2004
No. 12: Class of 2008
No. 11: Class of 2007
No. 10: Class of 2009
No. 9: Class of 2006
No. 8: Class of 2002
No. 7: Class of 1998
No. 6: Class of 2005

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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