Rookie players in competitive Call of Duty have been dominating the league since it began and teams have finally caught on to the idea of adding untouched talent to their franchise from day one.
Last year, DiamondCon, Fire, and Neptune all made their debuts at the start of the 2021 Call of Duty League season. Later in the year, Insight, HyDra, Standy, PaulEhx, Afro, MentaL, and Venom joined the class of ’21.
Going back to Modern Warfare, OpTic Texas’ Shotzzy won the MVP during his rookie season. Alongside Dallas’ other rookie in iLLeY, they both went on to become Call of Duty world champions during their debut seasons. That same year, we also saw CleanX, Mack, Owakening, Vivid, Louqa, Hollow, Spart, Drazah, and Exceed make their professional debuts in the league.
One of the most stacked rookie classes in Call of Duty history came during 2019’s Black Ops 4 season. That year, almost 20 players made their pro league debuts, including Simp, aBeZy, Cellium, Envoy, Skyz, and MajorManiak, to name a few.
Simp and aBeZy both dominated the league from day one. The pair went on to win the 2019 Call of Duty World League Championship and Simp also claimed the throne as the MVP that season.
Heading into Vanguard, seven players are expected to make their CDL debuts to begin the year, the most we’ve ever seen at the start of a season since the Call of Duty League launched.
Here’s how I’ve ranked this year’s rookies, with a little background on each player. This list doesn’t include Yeez and Hicksy, who are both substitute players to start the season and aren’t set to make their professional debuts just yet.
7) David “Davpadie” Maslowski: Florida Mutineers
Black Ops 4 is where it all started for Davpadie. He mostly played Search and Destroy tournaments but also attended the CWL Anaheim Open near the end of the season and placed top 24. A month later, he placed top 64 at the CWL Anaheim Amateur Finals.
Shortly after the Modern Warfare season kicked off, Davpadie was signed by Triumph Gaming with Standy, Royalty, FeLo, and Nagafen. He won three Challengers tournaments with the team but was eventually dropped for Censor, who was replaced by DiamondCon a week later. He finished the season with a top-eight placing in the North American Challengers Finals under UYU.
The next season, he returned to Triumph Gaming with Standy, Royalty, and General. But the team ended up disbanding and Davpadie took a break from competing shortly after. Once he returned, he reunited with Xotic, DiamondCon, and Royalty. The four of them won an Open tournament together and finished fourth in the North American Challengers Finals for Black Ops Cold War.
Going into free agency this offseason, the Florida Mutineers were already stacked with two solid AR players in Owakening and Skyz. But the franchise made the decision to move Owakening to an SMG role, shift Skyz to the flex position, and slot Davpadie in as the team’s main AR.
Throughout its first two Call of Duty League seasons, Florida has been known to take risks on amateur talent—and nothing changed for the franchise this offseason.
6) Joey “Gismo” Owen: London Royal Ravens
The London Royal Ravens is one of three teams in the Call of Duty League to have half of its starting roster feature rookie players this season.
During Modern Warfare, Gismo played under notable European organization Team Singularity with Insight, Bidz, Maple, and Detain. Gismo was brought in for Chain, who was benched midseason. The team went on to place third six times and second twice, which included a runners-up finish in the European Challengers Finals.
Gismo began teaming with Afro to kick off his Cold War season. The duo stuck together for half of the year and won three tournaments. Afro was eventually called up to the league by London and Gismo went on to play with Nastie, Harry, and Vortex.
Nastie, Harry, Vortex, and Gismo played nine tournaments together, as well as the final two Elite Stages. Out of those nine tournaments, they won three Challenger Cups, placed first in the Stage Four Elite and Stage Four Elite Playoffs, and took home the championship in the Challengers Finals.
Gismo’s natural role is the flex position and he’ll be playing that role this season for London.
5) Kenyen “Capsidal” Sutton: Boston Breach
Not much is known about Capsidal. He’s only been playing competitive Call of Duty since the beginning of Cold War and played with a new roster in almost every tournament. He struggled to place any higher than top eight, with most placings being top 32.
Capsidal played one Challengers tournament during Vanguard and placed second with Havok, GRVTY, and Scrappy. Shortly after, he found himself playing with Methodz, Nero, and TJHaLy, which ended up being announced as Boston Breach’s starting roster.
During scrims this season, Capsidal has looked solid so far. The franchise has been going toe-to-toe with most teams and is currently considered a top-six team, based on what we’ve seen in scrims.
Capsidal is an SMG player and will play that role with Nero this season. TJHaLy is Boston’s flex player, while Methodz will man the main AR position.
4) Dylan “Nero” Koch: Boston Breach
Nero began playing competitively midway through Modern Warfare when he turned 18 but struggled to find a rhythm.
Heading into Cold War, Nero caught the attention of the Los Angeles Guerrillas and eventually ended up signing with the franchise as an academy player alongside Cheen, MentaL, and Exceed.
The academy roster stuck together for the majority of the season and only made roster changes when Cheen and MentaL were both called up to the league. Despite sticking together, they only won one Challengers Cup and finished top six in the North American Challengers Finals.
When Vanguard launched, Nero was set to start the season with Hamza, Zaptius, and GRVTY but was eventually replaced and went on to place top-six in the first Challengers Cup with KiSMET, General, and Breszy.
While all this was happening, Washington Esports Ventures was reportedly close to acquiring the 12th Call of Duty League spot from NRG Esports. But the deal quickly fell through and the Kraft Group came to the rescue and purchased the vacant spot.
The Kraft Group, in conjunction with Oxygen Esports, signed Zed as its head coach and Denz as its general manager. The two former pros scouted the Challengers scene for the best talent and decided on signing two rookies in Nero and Capsidal and pairing them with veteran players Methodz and TJHaLy.
Nero will start this season playing an SMG role next to Capsidal but is known to play the flex and could switch if needed.
3) Byron “Nastie” Plumridge: London Royal Ravens
During Modern Warfare, Nastie signed with the London Royal Ravens only a few months into the season and was expected to join the starting lineup once he landed on American soil. But he ran into visa issues related to COVID-19 and was unable to enter the country.
Nastie was sidelined for the remainder of the season but carried on playing in Europe. He won multiple events that year, including four Open tournaments, one Challengers Cup, and ultimately fell short in the European Challengers Finals with a third-place finish.
Much like Modern Warfare, he went on to win several Challengers tournaments in Cold War. But this time, he redeemed himself with a first-place finish in the European Challengers Finals with Gismo, Harry, and Vortex. Nastie was considered the No. 1 player in Europe by the end of the season.
Nastie is a flexible player and can run both an SMG and an AR but is more known for his SMG playstyle. He’s expected to play that role next to Afro this season, with Zer0 and Gismo as London’s flex and AR players.
2) Daunte “Sib” Gray: Seattle Surge
Sib’s Challengers career started during Modern Warfare, where he played for Atlanta FaZe’s academy team with GRVTY, JurNii, Venom, and Jimbo. The academy roster won five Open tournaments during that season, but they fell short in the North American Challengers Finals with a fourth-place finish.
Atlanta then signed Sib as the team’s substitute for the Cold War season. But due to the star-studded talent on FaZe’s starting roster, his chances of making his professional debut were slim to none.
Sib’s Cold War season started off slow, but by mid-season, his personal performances stood out enough to catch the eye of the New York Subliners. As reported by Dot Esports, the New York franchise was in discussions to buy out Sib from FaZe, but the deal never went through and Sib carried on playing in the Challengers circuit.
Less than a month later, Sib came in first place in the Challengers Elite Stage Two Playoffs with Davpadie, Decemate, and Drazah, taking home $20,000. Two weeks later, Sib joined GRVTY, Jurd, and John, and the four of them won the Stage Three Playoffs for another $20,000 and then Open No. 3 for $15,000.
Seattle Surge wanted to add the best available Challengers talent to its 2022 roster to pair with a veteran presence. And with Pred and Sib alongside Mack and Accuracy, the sky’s the limit for this team.
1) Amer “Pred” Zulbeari: Seattle Surge
Pred landed straight onto a top Challengers team at the beginning of his amateur career. He signed with Renegades and went on to dominate the Asia Pacific region throughout Modern Warfare and Cold War.
During Modern Warfare, Pred won all 15 Challengers events under Renegades, including the Asia Pacific Challengers Finals. Pred was considered the best player in the region that season by far.
Heading into Cold War, Louqa and Shockz were freshly released from the Paris Legion and returned home to Australia. Renegades wasted no time making room for the former Call of Duty League players. The org released half of its roster and formed an Australian superteam, pairing Louqa and Shockz with Pred and Fighta.
Pred continued his onslaught of the region with Renegades. They went on to win another 13 tournaments during Cold War and went back-to-back at the Asia Pacific Challengers Finals.
Fortunately for Pred, Seattle went into full rebuild mode and spent the past offseason scouting the best available talent in Challengers—and Pred was at the top of the org’s list.
Pred is expected to make his mark on the league from day one and was voted the player most likely to win rookie of the year at the annual Esports Awards in our 2021-2022 offseason survey.