By J W Doyle

For the final part of our ‘Inside the War Room’ series, we take a look over the Eastern Conference. A conference that has probably had the biggest overhaul between seasons 10 and 11, the majority of the teams had picks very early in the draft (the average pick for the East was #7). In a way, this highlights how important it was for alot of these teams to have great drafts, and the pressure the Owners and General Managers would have felt to make the right picks. Let’s have a look at what they said.

Baltimore Vultures

Draft Picks: LB, Aman Takess #2; RB, T-Roy Gaines #22; CB, Hendrix Thornberry #38

Here’s what General Manager, Garren Malone said about the draft:

“First and foremost I want to thank TJ (Tim Johnston) for bringing me on as General Manager and trusting me with the draft. Going into the draft was a whirlwind of emotion. On one hand, I was nervous because I had many ‘what if’s’ floating around in my head. What if all of our guys get taken..what if someone falls that we didn’t expect..what if a trade comes through the wire…On the other hand, it was filled with excitement and relief, because at this point, all of the interviews, vetting and bit checking had paid off, and you get to welcome newcomers into the league as well as get a final picture.”

Carolina Wildcats

Draft Picks: CB, Jessie Vick #5

The thoughts of Wildcats Owner, Shann Varner:

“Going into our first draft as a relatively new organization, we wanted what was best; not only for our players but for the team as a whole. Someone who cared more about the team than themselves. Someone to bring a little fire into the lock room. Last year, we were a little stagnant in the locker room. People who have been in the league for a long time and sometimes get a little used to winning, may find themselves a little lost for words when things don’t work out as they think it should. We had several people contact us, but decided to go with a player based on loyalty rather than their experience and playing ability. We decided to go with a cornerback because we had a lot of guys coming back to Chicago. We feel like an extremely hard working and experienced guy on the outside like Blake Hamrac will be able to work with Jessie! He will excel quickly! As a Copper player, he will be able to progress quickly and help out on that weak side.”

Varner continued.

“We see ourselves doing great this season, knowing a little more about the progression system and making sure to adapt the playbook to the players’ abilities instead of forcing the playbook on the players.”

Carolina Skyhawks

 Draft Picks: DE, Julius Williams #7; DE, Jon Gregory #24

We spoke to Carolina General Manager, AJ Francis, about his thoughts on draft night:

“I was very specific about who I wanted. I wanted these 3 guys: Jeff Melynishyn, Julius Williams, and Jon Gregory. We always knew that they were either gonna slot in at defensive tackle, defensive end and were gonna be base copper.”

When asked about the fit the rookies will make in Carolina:

“All sides are really happy! I know we are ridiculously happy to have them and I know they’re happy to be here. They have a lot of team pride, already going out in the chat and repping us and trash talking our rivals. I love it, I’m overjoyed with the guys we got!”

Francis also weighed in with some predictions on how his team will fare in Season 11:

“I see us winning the championship and I speak for all of us, when I say that we will not settle for anything less. We have an amazing locker room, an amazing build, and an amazing coaching staff, so I’m very confident this season will meet our expectations.”

Skyhawks Owner, James Cline, also gave his two pence about the draft and the upcoming season:

“Going into the draft, I knew that my staff would land the players that we were targeting. I have complete confidence in AJ and Jarius. Both rookies will bolster our defensive line and be a huge addition in the locker room. I have a lot of faith and confidence that we will be a team to be reckoned with. Predictions, predictions…this season will be very competitive. From top to bottom, teams will fight for a playoff spot. I believe that we will be one of those to make it. As far as some of those that I see being contenders; Queen City, Tallahassee, Mexico City, Alaska, and Sioux Falls are my top five. I would also like to see some of the guys in this league that I enjoy talking to have success like London, Vancouver and Chicago.”

Indianapolis Red Devils

 Draft Picks: DT, E Z Tempel #14; RB, Keith Swearingen #32

We spoke to Indy Owner, James Richards, who weighed in with detail about his ‘War Room’ thoughts:

“Pre draft, Tom had explored options for trading up to an earlier pick in the draft. A lot of teams were hesitant to make a deal, and wanted to wait until draft day. We knew that we had a max silver Owner Player incase we didn’t feel good about how the draft was playing out, or if we actually made a deal to move up and forgo our second pick.
Ideally, we wanted to draft a defensive tackle first, and running back second. By doing so, we kept max silver -1 on the tackle and the -5 silver on running back: right where we wanted them to be. Our ideal draftee was someone who had been very active in the SFL Chat, and if they were doing extra stuff with the SFL that was the perfect combo for us. With that said, you (referring to J W Doyle) were our number 1 choice. When Oklahoma City drafted you, we had to look at our second pick. E.Z. Tempel. Having either one of you on the team was our ideal number 1. Second round, we just wanted a guy who was active in the community and fit that -5 or better slot. Swearengen fit all that to the T.”

Richards also spoke about how he thinks his draft picks will perform this season, as well as some of his returning veterens:

“So last year was mainly about finding our identity. We had some issues early on in the year, dealing with 3rd down conversions. It was killing us. I think teams were converting at like 70%. Think back to the first Renegades game. They converted several 3rd and 10+. It killed us. So we made some changes in the staff, and I really dug into how to fix our issues. It allowed us to come into our own defensive style. I think a lot of teams are going to give it a whirl this year, and that could lead to either some really good defenses, or a ton of offensive yards. After finding our style, our biggest issue was pressure on the quarterback and disrupting the pocket. I think we lead the league in generic sacks, and one game we had 5 or 6 sacks. We are anticipating Field, and Tempel, to have a tremendous impact on the defensive line and help our secondary pressure a bit more. Indy fans should see a better defense in Season 11. As far as Thad Castle goes, he’ll have to have a herculean effort as he and the generic linebacker will be our only second level defenders. We’ll need him to play big for us. On the offensive side, Bob and I are looking at how to get the halfback more involved in the system we run. We look pretty similar to last year, but our main goal is to get more production out of the backfield. If Swearingen can get over 1000 yards rushing, and a couple hundred in the pass game, that’s a solid year for a running back in our system.”

London Knights

 Draft Picks: SS, Jeff Melinyshyn #6; DE, Tyrone Zeus #25; DT, Milton Spivey #41

Knights Owner, Liam Crowter, gave his thoughts on the draft build up and how his team will do in Season 11:

“We filled all of the spots we wanted. We’re a few points off of the cap, which will probably raise some eyebrows, but our main aim was to get the right characters in our locker room. We’re confident that the three players we’ve drafted will end up as permanent fixtures from this season onwards. It’s always difficult to predict how successful your build will be but I’m confident that the players that we’ve got should take us to a playoff berth. We consider all of our players to be leaders. We drafted based on character first and value second. A few of the guys have expressed an interest in greater involvement in the league which is something we always encourage. When you look at the responsibilities taken on by Matthew and Gerald, it’s easy to see that I’m an investor in people.”

St. Louis Gladiators

 Draft Picks: SS, Ethan Kye

We managed to get in touch with co-owners, Duane Schindler and Colin Northrup who gave their opinions about the SFL Draft and their pick:

Duane: “This was our first draft as a franchise. Colin and I both got drafted when we started in the league and Season 7 was the last draft the league held. We knew we had the eighth pick for about three months, but we weren’t certain of which way we would go until the end of free agency and that determined the shape of our final build. We had also hired Matthew Martin and knew we wanted to give him a player spot. A pick st strong safety we felt gives our team the best bang for the buck.”

Colin added: “Yeah we really wanted a strong safety and we pretty much had our pick of the guys who we wanted at the 8th pick.”

Duane (on Ethan Kye): “Ethan will fit perfectly into that spot, has strong team player qualities and should make an impact immediately.”

Colin: “We feel that Ethan will mesh perfectly with the guys already in our locker room and is exactly the kind player were looking for.”

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, we were not able to collate a reaction from the Queen City Corsairs camp. We made contact the with front office, however a conversation about their draft never materialised.