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The Pokémon Draft 2018: Who goes No. 1?

The talent pool is much deeper than the NFL’s

OLM, Inc./The Pokémon Company
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The NFL holds the first round of its draft tonight. It’s possible, even likely, that none among the 32 men chosen today will end up worthy of any of the hyperventilating appraisals and heavily qualified breakdowns of their shuttle-drill times, vertical leaps and pancake blocks. These are guys who have had nice runs for some big-time colleges, but it’s a crapshoot. It’s unlikely any team changes the course of its history tonight.

The most memorable drafts are the ones where teams are picking from a great cast of characters, not numbers on a chart. They need performers people have been following for years and care about having on their side — or at least not going to a rival. They need a talent pool as diverse and exceptional as Pokémon’s, in other words.

Today, Polygon is teaming up with our siblings from SB Nation to deliver a draft with a lot more star power than what’s coming out of major college football. Eighteen of us have come together for the inaugural Pokémon Draft — given the chance of having any of more than 800 monsters to anchor a gym. It may not answer which is the best, which is the most dominant, which has the most tremendous upside of Pokémon’s roster, but it should deliver an argument more interesting than whatever is on TV tonight.

Without further ado, here are our choices, including their relevant traits and physical information.

Charizard Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Cass Marshall, site lead, Heroes Never Die


5-7, 199.5 lbs., fire/flying

Pokédex says: “Charizard flies around the sky in search of powerful opponents. It breathes fire of such great heat that it melts anything. However, it never turns its fiery breath on any opponent weaker than itself.”

Cass says: Polygon’s first pick needs no introduction: We’re picking the legendary Charizard. The final evolution of one of the first starters, Charizard has gone through the gamut of cuddly salamander to awkward teen to awesome dragon. There’s a reason it keeps coming up again and again in anime or in new games with Mega Evolutions or other updates: It’s a classic.

This unit is a powerhouse. It’s big, can fly you around and is capable of shooting vast amounts of fire. If you think its orange-and-blue exterior is a little dated, BAM, it’s got a stylish black-and-blue mega evolution in Pokémon X. If you want the same sweet-looking Charizard but with extra wings, just give it some Charizardite Y. That’s right: Charizard’s a two-in-one pick. Yeah, OK, it’s a little weak to water-types, but there’s a reason it’s such a memorable starter: Dude can survive getting doused once or twice.

Rayquaza Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Graham MacAree, editorial engineer, SB Nation


23-0, 455.2 lbs., dragon/flying

Pokédex says: “Rayquaza is said to have lived for hundreds of millions of years. Legends remain of how it put to rest the clash between Kyogre and Groudon.”

Graham says: Scouts universally agree that the 2018 Pokémon Draft is stacked, with impact talent available through the first round and beyond. But few have mentioned the obvious truth: The best Pokémon available, by a laughable distance, is Rayquaza. Yes, there are character concerns. Yes, it’s technically illegal to field under many (most) jurisdictions. Those concerns, however, fail to hold when one realizes that the complaints all come down to fear.

We’re looking at the most versatile and powerful offensive force in the draft. In the pros, you always go for the best Pokémon available, so if Rayquaza falls to me, I’m going to count my blessings and take it.

Charmander Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Allegra Frank, deputy news editor, Polygon


2-0, 18.7 lbs., fire

Pokédex says: “The flame that burns at the tip of its tail is an indication of its emotions. The flame wavers when Charmander is enjoying itself. If the Pokémon becomes enraged, the flame burns fiercely.”

Allegra says: I know what you’re thinking: Why Charmander, when Charizard is already taken? Charmander is a hidden treasure in plain sight. Charmander may be green (figuratively speaking), but it’s ready to take any position you need it to, and unwilling to be scared off by a fumble or one too many tackles. It’s a kid that just wants to learn — and sometimes, that’s exactly what your team needs.

Considering that, yeah, it does evolve into the surly, swole Charizard, Charmander also has a lot of potential behind it. That superstar future makes Charmander the strong, obvious choice.

Suicune Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Whitney McIntosh, MLB writer, SB Nation


6-7, 412.3 lbs., water

Pokédex says: “Suicune embodies the compassion of a pure spring of water. It runs across the land with gracefulness. This Pokémon has the power to purify dirty water.”

Whitney says: Suicune is the perfect draft pick to build a team around. At 6-foot-7 and 412 pounds, it falls right in the middle of the height and weight charts across the Pokémon spectrum and will be a versatile asset on the field. With no evolutionary capabilities, Suicune is a steadfast and reliable piece that will remain at the core of team strategy without any noticeable drop-off for years to come.

Not only is Suicune a multifaceted addition to the team that could be a leader on the field, it is also a powerful and inspirational presence in the locker room as well. Suicune is notably cerebral and compassionate, purifying springs of water and at times even encouraging the North Winds to blow harder. Have you ever seen leadership at that level from such a young talent? Suicune will be an immediate star as a rookie because of these inherent traits, and it has already shown interest in charitable involvement in the community, something very important to the team.

Metapod Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Jenna Stoeber, video producer, Polygon


2-4, 21.8 lbs., bug

Pokédex says: “The shell covering this Pokémon’s body is as hard as an iron slab. Metapod does not move very much. It stays still because it is preparing its soft innards for evolution inside the hard shell.”

Jenna says: I know what you’re thinking: Metapod? But all it knows is Harden; what can this photosynthetic cudgel do to me, you eloquent fool? Within that hubris lies the strength of this silent killer. As Sun Tzu says, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable.”

Everyone forgets that Metapod is the evolved form of Caterpie, a creature with an array of attacks. “Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant,” Sun Tzu instructs. “Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” Metapod fortifies until its opponent becomes complacent — and then attacks. Metapod plays a long game, a war of attrition, the death by a thousand bug bites; it’s the only pocket monster that can go all the way.

Genesect Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Marc Normandin, MLB editor, SB Nation


4-11, 189 lbs., bug/steel

Pokédex says: “This ancient bug Pokémon was altered by Team Plasma. They upgraded the cannon on its back.”

Marc says: Sure, Genesect isn’t a legendary, but it’s still uber-tier — these nerds know what I’m talking about. Genesect is well-balanced, its move set diverse, and the Download ability means Genesect is also able to adapt to the competition in order to get an edge.

Genesect isn’t the strongest steel-type Pokémon, but it’s the combination of steel/bug-types and the moves you get from that crossover, plus Genesect’s elite speed, that makes the armored bug with a cannon attached to its back worthwhile. Only two Pokémon can match Genesect’s speed, and they just happen to be susceptible to Genesect’s attacks.

And no, I’m not telling you which Pokémon those are. Do your own homework, Polygon, yeesh.

Zangoose Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Julia Lee, site lead, The Rift Herald


4-3, 88.8 lbs., normal

Pokédex says: “Memories of battling its arch-rival Seviper are etched into every cell of Zangoose’s body. This Pokémon adroitly dodges attacks with incredible agility.”

Julia says: I pick Zangoose, the beloved “cat ferret” of Hoenn. It’s very obviously supposed to be a mongoose, as it has a canonical rivalry with Seviper, and that already makes them super cool. In addition to this, Zangoose is badass as hell, has a high attack stat and is super fluffy.

Do you need a Pokémon to use Swords Dance and then one-shot most other Pokémon? Do you need a fluffy friend to cuddle with? Zangoose is the answer to both of these questions. Its red-and-white color scheme is amazing. Its shiny version’s blue-and-white color scheme? Also amazing. I love a Pokémon with an amazing fashion sense. Zangoose might be No. 335 in the Pokédex, but it’s No. 1 in my heart.

Ninetales Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Ryan Nanni, executive producer, SB Nation


3-7, 43.9 lbs., fire

Pokédex says: “Ninetales casts a sinister light from its bright red eyes to gain total control over its foe’s mind. This Pokémon is said to live for a thousand years.”

Ryan says: I know basically nothing about Pokémon, so when faced with the decision of who to draft here, I had two options: Do some research and try to make a well-considered pick, or punt and rely on Twitter.

While I can’t tell you anything about the Pokémon-related strengths of Ninetales, my initial assessment was, “Dang, this luxurious fox looks like it would love to invite you over on a Saturday for some broiled salmon and some sort of cucumber cocktail on the patio.” And I’m great with that! This pick couldn’t have worked out better for me.

Cubone Pokemon The Pokémon Company


Ben Kuchera, opinions editor, Polygon

CUBONE, #104

1-4, 14.3 lbs., ground

Pokédex says: “Cubone pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull the Pokémon wears are made by the tears it sheds.”

Ben says: Cubone is sad all the time but is also ready to fight all the time, and it’s wearing the skull of its dead mother. When it comes to ranking anything, it’s important to add “which option is the most goth?” into your methodology. And there’s nothing more goth than wearing the bones of your dead parents into battle.

Cubone is sad but rowdy, and I like any Pokémon whose description sounds like a Taika Waititi film.

Mewtwo Pokemon The Pokémon Company

10th PICK

John Ketchum, deputy editor, SB Nation

MEWTWO, #150

6-7, 269 lbs., psychic

Pokédex says: “Mewtwo is a Pokémon that was created by genetic manipulation. However, even though the scientific power of humans created this Pokémon’s body, they failed to endow Mewtwo with a compassionate heart.”

John says: Mewtwo is a strong pick for a lot of reasons. It has psychic abilities, can fly and has a special move that will ruin your entire world. One of its main moves is Pressure, which ups the power-point usage rate of other Pokémon — which a Pokémon needs to attack, recover, defend, etc. So, yeah, see how running out of that too fast might be problematic?

Mewtwo is also incredibly fast and has two Mega Evolutions that make it extremely hard to deal with. Already 6-foot-7 and 269 pounds, it Mega-evolves to Mewtwo X, and its size increases to 7-foot-7. So imagine a Pokémon that tall, already faster and more powerful than most Pokémon, and with psychic abilities.

Raichu Pokemon The Pokémon Company

11th PICK

Ashley Oh, social media manager, Polygon


2-7, 66.1 lbs., electric

Pokédex says: “If the electrical sacs become excessively charged, Raichu plants its tail in the ground and discharges. Scorched patches of ground will be found near this Pokémon’s nest.”

Ashley says: You thought Pikachu was going to be in this draft? No. Fuck that.

You want 66.1 pounds of pure rat muscle hurtling towards your enemies. Standing just 2-foot-7, this hefty rodent is all electricity and raw strength. Raichu is capable of storing more than 100,000 volts of electricity, and it will get aggressive if it keeps any more of that in its body.

Imagine a headbutt from this little guy. It’ll paralyze you and your Pokémon, and fry your phone. For god’s sake, the Alolan version of Raichu won something called the Pokémon Pancake Race. We need Big Boy Raichu in our corner.

Mew Pokemon The Pokémon Company

12th PICK*

James Dator, social media producer, SB Nation

*pick acquired from Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Shammond Williams and cash considerations

MEW, #151

1-4, 8.8 lbs., psychic

Pokédex says: “Mew is said to possess the genetic composition of all Pokémon. It is capable of making itself invisible at will, so it entirely avoids notice even if it approaches people.”

James says: Lemme tell you right now why I just got the steal of the first round by seeing Mew fall to me at No. 12. One word: coachability.

Give Mew a TM, and it’s gonna learn it. Got a spare HM? Mew’s learning that one too. With Mew, you don’t need to draft for position. Just turn it into whatever this team needs. Plus, Mew is going to be a great asset in my Pokélocker room.

Mew’s a first-in, last-out performer with high character and a selfless attitude. These other GMs can draft for power and take huge risks on Pokémon that might end up blowing up in their faces, but my team just drafted an absolute stud at No. 12. I had no business getting this kind of value in a high-talent psychic Pokémon this late in the round, but it’s everyone else’s loss. Ten years from now, my Mew is still going to be dominating.

Ambipom Pokemon The Pokémon Company

13th PICK

Simone de Rochefort, video producer, Polygon


3-11, 44.8 lbs., normal

Pokédex says: “They work in large colonies and make rings by linking their tails, apparently in friendship.”

Simone says: Why Ambipom? Why not? That’s what God apparently said when this Nipple Monkey was created. In a Pokémon battle — or any battle, for that matter — you can’t underestimate the element of surprise. Ambipom’s features are so, so surprising. Here is a happy purple monkey, and here are its tentacles.

The Pokédex says that these are “tails,” and that there are “hands” on the ends of the tails, but let me tell you what I think of that: Bullshit. These are not tails, and those are not hands, and that is what my enemies will be thinking when they are struck down by Ambipom’s powerful slaps.

Arceus Pokemon The Pokémon Company

14th PICK

Rebecca Toback, NFL director, SB Nation

ARCEUS, #493

10-6, 705.5 lbs., normal

Pokédex says: “According to the legends of Sinnoh, this Pokémon emerged from an egg and shaped all there is in this world.”

Rebecca says: Pokémon god, 1,000 arms, credited with shaping the Pokémon universe; there’s not much to critique when it comes to Arceus.

Arceus’ NFL comparison could be New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: great attitude, high IQ, extremely powerful and among the best at doing their job. And, like I said, it’s essentially a god, so how could you go wrong? It also helps that Arceus can change types at the touch of a plate (or Z-crystal), making it a great offensive threat. Arceus’ ability as a revenge killer solidifies the pick as the total package.

Porygon-Z Pokemon The Pokémon Company

15th PICK

Jeff Ramos, engagement editor, Polygon


2-11, 75 lbs., normal

Pokédex says: “Additional software was installed to make it a better Pokémon. It began acting oddly, however.”

Jeff says: While most people who are eager to pick a Pokémon adaptable to various situations might choose Ditto, I prefer Porygon-Z, the final evolution of the Porygon family. Its Conversion ability allows it to change its type at will, allowing it to nullify or become immune to the last type of attack it was hit by. Its current build might have some bugs, but I love the idea of a digital Pokémon that is an artificial intelligence that can patch itself on the fly.

The Pokémon Company

16th PICK

Matt Brown, college league manager, SB Nation


5-3, 286.6 lbs, fighting

Pokédex says: “Machamp has the power to hurl anything aside. However, trying to do any work requiring care and dexterity causes its arms to get tangled. This Pokémon tends to leap into action before it thinks.”

Matt says: Look, I’ll let the rest of these nerds dig into all the stats and move sets and min-maxing and all that advanced baloney. Me? I’m all about grabbing the Pokémon that looks the part. Look at this goddamn thing: It’s got four arms, and it’s ripped. It already has an elite, Pokémon tournament-level body. Machamp can probably throw a football over them mountains. It can probably throw a Pikachu over them mountains. In our system, I think we can teach things like footwork, or running away whenever somebody brings in an Alakazam.

But you can’t teach having four arms. Or having a winning attitude. Dude’s got CHAMP right in the name. I’m not drafting MaLoser. Gimme Machamp.

Dragonite Pokemon The Pokémon Company

17th PICK

Hector Diaz, social media producer, SB Nation


7-3, 463 lbs.

Pokédex says: “Dragonite is capable of circling the globe in just 16 hours. It is a kindhearted Pokémon that leads lost and foundering ships in a storm to the safety of land.”

Hector says: Dragonite defies physics. A rotund dragon with tiny wings is not supposed to fly, let alone be one of the strongest Pokémon. But Dragonite makes it all happen. If it can do that, then it’s basically equipped to overcome anything in its path. Plus, you have the bonus that Dragonite can travel across the entire planet in only 16 hours. You won’t be able to battle this elusive Pokémon if you can’t even see where it is. It can easily make everyone look like the Mr. Krabs meme.

Dragonite isn’t the tallest, but it’s still bigger than most of the Pokémon out there, so you have to like its chances (except maybe against Rayquaza). And sure, you can make the argument that Charizard is a better first-gen dragon-type Pokémon, but everyone knows it’s game over if Charizard’s flame goes out. Dragonite doesn’t have that Achilles’ heel. Dragonite wins.

Squirtle Pokemon The Pokémon Company

18th PICK

Owen S. Good, weekend editor, Polygon


1-8, 19.8 lbs., water

Pokédex says: “Squirtle’s shell is not merely used for protection. The shell’s rounded shape and the grooves on its surface help minimize resistance in water, enabling this Pokémon to swim at high speeds.”

Owen says: Are you kidding me? Squirtle’s still on the board? There are nine experts from SB Nation in this draft, and somehow all of them missed the advanced metrics showing that Squirtle is scientifically proven to be the best starter in Pokémon. C’mon, folks, we’ll buy you a subscription to Pokémon Prospectus.

When you can lock up the next decade of your franchise at a bargain rate, you gotta pull that trigger. Squirtle is a fast learner and can contribute immediately — the speedrunning community loves Squirtle because it learns type-specific moves faster than any other Pokémon. It’s also the only starter Pokémon that can learn Surf.

Squirtle may be a little undersized, like all-time University of Wisconsin great Russell Wilson. But when this monster evolves to Blastoise, you’ll see the Aaron Rodgers of Pokémon under center, and wonder how, like Rodgers, it could be taken so late in the first round.

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