The Top 25 D-I Men’s Division Players in 2024

Ranking the best players in the D-I Men's division in 2024.

There’s no shortage of talent in the D-I college men’s division. We look a lot at team success, and often see familiar names and faces in those discussions. But who are the best individual players? Who brings the most value to winning a championship? Figuring out which stars shine the brightest is more art than science, but perhaps there’s democratic power in numbers.

So who are the best players in the division right now? To try to clear away as much of the white noise created by circumstance as possible and get to the heart of each individual’s value and contribution, we asked a diverse group of five members of our coverage team, as well as an anonymous group of elite players and coaches, to weigh in on the following prompt:

If you were starting a college team today with the singular goal of winning a theoretical D-I Championship this May, how would you rank the players within the division? You aren’t building a team of all of your selections, so don’t worry about how the players complement each other. Consider each pick the first pick of a team, drafting in order, only you can’t pick the players you’ve already ranked above. With regards to injuries an absences, we will include all rostered players unless there is confirmation a player will not be competing, or would not be able to compete, at Regionals and/or Nationals.

In order to improve how representative our rankings are of the opinions of our voters, we have iterated until arriving at this process. We each listed out our top 35 players to iron out some of the gradations on the fringes and then combined our lists to create a composite ranking. In addition, we included the ballots of a few anonymous elite players and coaches from different teams and regions. We used a weighted scoring system for votes, with Participants’ Ballots counting as 60% of the value of Staff Ballots.1

We’ll start with our top 10, and discussion about that group. Then we’ll reveal the entire top 25, followed by the complete ballots, and additional conversations about the rankings.

The Top 10

Overall RankingPlayer NameRanking Pts.StephensStegemoellerRubinHoltonRaynorNE1SC1SE1NE2SC2AC1NW1
1Jacques Nissen1532333231413162
2Henry Ing15192124171210243
3Ben Dameron14145486291032357
4Aidan Downey14058515641464725
5Calvin Brown134516853810278631
6Rutledge Smith131296475899610138
7Wyatt Kellman129312191413UR414117
8Calvin Stoughton1176249914735822584
9Dexter Clyburn11041222610105171114161110
10Kenni Taylor100171210121212UR13UR81015

[Editor: There are some sorting issues with the table that cannot be altered at the time. Our apologies for the inconvenience.]

After a unanimous #1 spot in 2023, Henry Ing (Pittsburgh) fell to #2 overall. While he was still #1 overall in the Staff Rankings, Wyatt Kellman (UMass) and Aidan Downey (Georgia) each got votes, while participants added Jacques Nissen (Brown) and Calvin Brown (Cal Poly SLO) to the list.

Who should be #1? Why did Ing lose the crown?

Edward Stephens (Senior Staff Writer): Ing didn’t lose it, Wyatt Kellman took it. I went through a lot of back-and-forth with regard to how most of the top 10 should play out, but there was never a doubt in my mind that Kellman deserves top honors at this moment in time. At least one voter (Alex Rubin) dinged him for injury concern, which is not unreasonable even though I didn’t personally have the same concern. If you set that aside, he has been an unmanageable force, a whirlwind of a player. No one this season has shown the same combination of ability and willpower to take over a game in every aspect. Easy decision.

Emmet Holton (D-I Reporter): I agree with Edward, and team results have to count for something, doubly so when you’re putting up the best individual performances of the year in the games that win you the tournament. Kellman all but locked it up for me at Smoky Mountain with the way he played in semis and the final. Ing is obviously still excellent, but he (and Pitt, as a consequence) often seem to run out of steam when the biggest games of the tournament roll around. [Failing to reach the] tournament final is just tough to stomach for a player of Ing’s level, especially on a fairly deep Pitt squad. He had to do more to actually win games, rather than just pass the proverbial “eye test” if he was going to beat out Kellman.

Keith Raynor (Senior Editor): You know, I’ve been so dead set on Ing #1, I didn’t weigh enough the lack of Pitt’s team success. I’ve been able to chalk it up to a lack of support, but I can’t do that with this iteration of Pitt.

But fortunately, I’ve seen enough Ing to be unshaken. And that actually was a big difference for me — he’s been so good at the highest levels of club and international play. The tools are simply too good. I’m still all in on his playing World Games one day. And I just can’t say that about Nissen, Kellman, Rut, Downey; maybe Dameron, though. Not that that is the exercise here, but as a datapoint.

I might feel differently if we saw simply more Kellman, but the lack of breadth of play just introduces some sample size concerns, so to speak.

Holton: I’ve always taken this list as the players who play the best college ultimate, rather than a mock draft for club. Kellman has just completely mastered the pace and spacing of college in a way that Ing hasn’t. I also hesitate to ding Kellman for his limited body of work. He was getting his body right this summer as I understand it, and frankly it’s even more impressive he’s risen to this level without the typical track of reps on a Nationals level club team in the summers. It’s the college top 25, Wyatt Kellman is the best in the country at playing men’s college ultimate, simple as that.

Alex Rubin (Senior Staff Writer): I hear what you’re saying Emmet, but Downey has been the best college ultimate player. While he might be pigeon holed on a club team as a steady thrower, we’ve seen him do everything on offense for Jojah. He stays in the backfield, he initiates downfield. He also has leveled up on defense in a way we haven’t seen from him so far. I might be biased because I just saw him crush the Easterns field in person, but I walked away thinking he was the best player in the division while Kellman was wearing flip flops.

Part of this is function too. It’s really impressive that Kellman stood out so much despite playing on a balanced team. But ZooDisc’s success without him take me a bit of shine off of his ridiculously good SMI performance. Downey has had to be the guy a bit more and he’s risen to the occasion.

Patrick Stegemoeller (Senior Staff Writer): Ing lost the spot because these college kid ballots are wild.

When you watch Pitt play, Ing is doing stuff you just don’t see anywhere else in the college division. Sometime’s Pitt’s reset system is just throwing a big swing across the field and knowing that Henry will get it. He creates easy goals, he causes switches to breakdown, he plays both ways, he airs it out with his throws… he’s arguably the most dominant college player in the men’s division since Jeff Babbitt.

Pitt has gone from a team with a lot of depth to a team that relies a lot on a handful of top players, and without Ing they would be seriously mediocre.

Rubin: Sidebar because this gets off topic but low key Pitt has depth again. They certainly didn’t in 2023 and we saw that Ing couldn’t carry them literally by himself. But this year Tristan Yarter and Scott Heyman are their usual great selves and players like Will McGlynn, Maxwell Olesen, Duncan Reid, and Roger Zeng are all having career best years. Adding a ROTY candidate in Micah Davis also helps. Ing looks a lot better surrounded by this higher talent level and facilitating play through it rather than forcing up long balls like he had to last year.

Stegemoeller: That’s fair. I was mostly thinking of Pitt’s evolution from that run of teams around the ‘17-‘21 era to what they are now. To be slightly reductive, you can contrast the Michael Ing era (best player plays like a supersized role player) with the Henry Ing era (best player plays like a ball dominant star) and see why Henry has more of an outsized impact.

Seth Fisher-Olvera (SC Participant 2): I find myself needing to defend the participants’ crowning of Jacques Nissen at one. Henry Ing is my clear number two and I can’t really defend other ballots who put him as low as seven, but Jacques earned it for me. Henry is a prolific downfield cutter and deserves a Callahan Award in my book, but Jacques has been too special this season for me not to put him at one.

While Henry’s gravity forces errors through switches and poaches, Jacques nullifies handle-set defenses completely by being so unpredictable and quick. He does stuff on the field I’ve never seen and I can’t say the same for Henry. Downfield, Henry has the edge but I have to give credit to Jacques for how dangerous he has become as a cutter. Especially when Leo Gordon is on the field to throw, Jacques is fully capable of skying team’s best defenders. I won’t even mention his throwing ability because I’m pretty sure he’s the unanimous best thrower in the division.

Lastly, I personally think that Pitt has more depth than Brown this year, making Brown’s season results slightly more impressive at the time of writing this. Wyatt Kellman has been unbelievable and deserves a ton of credit, I knocked him just below these two guys due to injury concern.

Every staff member had at least one top 10 pick that did not make it into that elite tier. What’s the case for your snubs?

Stephens: I had two players in my top 10 who didn’t make it that far in the consensus. Adam Miller (Georgia) is on a heater — but I can’t get too worked up about his position at #11 overall when I ranked him at #10. That’s a hairline distinction.

What I can get too worked up over is Anton Orme (Cal Poly SLO) falling all the way to 15 overall. Who’s watching the games? He’s the most consistent, most impactful player on that team by a mile. I don’ t think I overreached ranking him at #4, and I considered him as high as #3 before giving Nissen the edge.

Raynor: I really tried to squeeze Orme into my top 10, but I ended up with him at #11. There’s a world where SLO wins the title and he wins Player of the Year.

My differentiator was Declan Miller (Carleton), the same spot I was in last year (in 2023, I had him 10, he finished 14). Diamond hands, baby — I like the stock. He’s a five-tool player who carries the burden of a star very gracefully at his young age. I love the intensity he brings despite all the hooplah, as he never looks to be resting on his laurels. When he locks in defensively (and doesn’t try to do too much), he’s a wolverine out there. That’s on top of some absolute dastardly throwing flashes.

Rubin: Keith, you’re a bit too early on Declan Miller. He feels right at 14 to me for now, and is nearly a sure bet to be in next season’s top ten.

Y’all definitely missed on Orme. He might be SLO’s best player right now (and that’s saying a lot because Calvin Brown and Kyle Lew have both been fantastic). He’ll almost certainly get All-American consideration and should be closer to the top seven than he ended up.

Seems like the staff mostly have Orme in or just near the top 10 and the players ballots are bringing him down. Players gotta watch more film!

Stegemoeller: I will reiterate: these participant ballots are wild. Like, NBA All-Star fan vote level.

A couple of players — Wyatt Kellman and Leo Gordon — had varying placements (or no placement at all) based on approaches to health questions. How did you decide whether and where to rank them?

Rubin: I didn’t rank Gordon. We haven’t seen him at full strength yet and a top 25 player doesn’t play a small handful of points per game.

For Kellman, I hedged a bit. He’s a top three talent in the division undoubtedly. But, we’re also asked to consider current injury status and he sat out most of Easterns. He did a similar thing last season and ended up being a beast at Nationals. While that could play out again and my low ranking will look foolish, I know there’s a chance that he isn’t 100%. That he is even ranked given his injury status is a nod to how highly I consider his skill and effectiveness as part of a team.

Stegemoeller: The distinction between this list and the All-American awards are that the awards are strictly about actual performance during that season, and this list is more about establishing who the best players in the division are generally, for some hypothetical team you are creating to win Nationals this year.

So Gordon has no real shot at postseason awards at this point, but if he’s fully playing at Nationals then he’s got top 3 potential, which you can really only say about a handful of guys. To put it another way, if I was Brown, I wouldn’t trade Leo today for anyone other than the six guys I rank above him if I’m trying to win Nationals because his value is so high even when factoring in the risk of injury hampering him moving forward.

The Top 25 and Beyond

  1. Our experience has shown that participants’ ballots trend towards regional concentrations and emphasizing the strength of their teammates, as well as other quirks such as occasionally not ranking themselves, which is why their ballots are weighted in this manner. 

The Top 25 D-I Men’s Division Players in 2024 is only available to Ultiworld Subscribers

Subscribe to Ultiworld

Already have a subscription? Log in

Whether you visit Ultiworld for our reporting, our podcasts, or our video coverage, you can help us continue to provide high quality content with a subscription. By becoming a subscriber, not only do you receive benefits like exclusive articles and full article RSS feeds, you also help fund all of Ultiworld's coverage in general. We appreciate your support!

  1. Ultiworld

    Ultiworld is the premier news media site dedicated to the sport of ultimate. This article includes the work of a number of our staff or contributors that have been identified within the piece.

TAGGED: , , , , , , , , , , ,

More from Ultiworld
Comments on "The Top 25 D-I Men’s Division Players in 2024"

Find us on Twitter

Recent Comments

Find us on Facebook

Subscriber Exclusives

  • D-I College Championships 2024: Heartbreak Hotel – Six Teams Who Deserved to Make the Bracket
    Subscriber article
  • Out the Back: College Nationals Pool Play Rapid Reax
    Subscriber podcast
  • Field Pass: Pool Play Round 7
    Video for standard subscribers
  • Showcase: Massachusetts vs. Minnesota (Men’s Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers