Last week, Daniel “Dafran” Francesa retired from the Overwatch League after just 41 days of play. After taking the competitive scene by the reins and earning the love of fans and the respect of competitors, Dafran hung up the peripherals five months to the day after he signed to the Atlanta Reign last October.
Dafran left the professional Overwatch scene as quickly as he entered it. The Atlanta DPS player’s retirement signaled the end of a relatively short career – but one that had a massive impact on not just the Reign, but the OWL as a whole. He did everything in his power to spark a team that needed as much momentum as possible from its inception. From creating buzz to selling jerseys, Dafran became the face of a franchise that seriously needed one.
Each expansion team heading into the second season of OWL needed some sort of dramatic catalyst in order to get off to a hot start and earn the awe of fans across the world. Coming a year late to the party was certainly a disadvantage to the Reign and the organization needed something to get itself on the same plane as the original twelve teams. Additionally, it was imperative that the Reign found some factor that let them get a head start in front of the eight new teams that were introduced to the league.
For Atlanta, Dafran was that element.
Signing one of the most prominent and well-known names in the Overwatch community to a professional contract was one of the greatest moves in the young history of the Reign. Not only did Dafran bring an essence of starpower to an Atlanta lineup in its infancy, he quickly became a serious threat in terms of talent.
Throughout his 41 day tenure in the Overwatch League, Dafran played on stage for a total of 6 hours and 47 minutes while posting an E/10 of 20.37 – a mark which was good enough for 9th among all qualified OWL players and 7th among all qualified DPS players. Additionally, his DMG/10 of 10,831 was 6th in the entire league after just one stage. Needless to say, Dafran ranked among the elites in a statistical sense, making his presence known across the league with the caliber of his play. A bombastic personality and gameplay that raised him to the upper echelons of the league have already cemented Dafran’s brief career as one for the ages. Regardless of the fact that he only played the game of the professional level for a little over a month, his impact on his team and the scene as a whole will be felt for many stages after the one he played – and for many seasons after this second one.
And while it’s hard to ignore the mark that Dafran left on the league, Atlanta now faces a dilemma as the team is forced to move on while staying on its feet.
With Dafran’s departure in mind, it’s now time to start looking at who can fill the shoes of the biggest star to emerge in the 2019 season. Any player(s) the Reign manages to bring up throughout the course of the year to replace Dafran, whether it be Joon “Erster” Jeong, Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov or the newly added Andrej “babybay” Francisty stepping up into a more prominent role for Atlanta, they’ll most definitely have a difficult task ahead of them. Regardless, it’ll certainly be momentous to compare to the player who stood on what seemed like an entirely different plane from the rest of the league. He generated hype, he got fans intrigued, and he helped blossom a franchise from the bottom up – all while playing an incredibly clean game.
But now, as the franchise evolves and moves forward throughout the course of 2019, the issue of replacing Dafran will surely be a major storyline to keep an eye on. And after an opening 2-3 loss to the Boston Uprising on the first day of Stage 2, the Reign still has plenty of questions to answer going into Sunday’s matchup with London.
Even still, the team has a gaping hole where Dafran once stood and filling it will be a major task for the young franchise. However, be sure that the team has been springboarded by Dafran’s mere presence in Stage 1, bringing the organization to a level where they can easily rise above not only their fellow expansion teams, but the league as a whole. And although Dafran no longer wears the Reign jersey on stage, be sure that his legacy (and the momentum he’s provided) can be enough to propel Atlanta to greatness in 2019.
Photo Credit: Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment, Overwatch League