By Christian Pundt
While the SFL Beat Team’s very own ‘Man On The Inside’ has been writing about every team’s biggest off-season move, I’ve been asked to take the liberty to write an article highlighting the league’s most ‘under the radar’ signings. The following ten players are folks most likely to have an impact on and off the field; players that not many people are talking about. And please, ignore any subconscious mentioning of Tallahassee in here. It’s something I can’t control.
Kanye Rockafella, FS, Tulsa Desperados
Kanye Rockafella was one of the key members of the dangerous Chicago secondary and one of the most vocal leaders on a relatively crowded leadership committee for the Wildcats. He jumps to Tulsa to line up next to Season 10’s rookie phenom, Charles Ball, to play free safety and take over General Manager duties. The former Hyena and Wildcat makes an already elite Desperado back four even more dangerous.
His main impact should be off the field, however, and that’s the main reason why team owner Dion Hawkins promoted him to be his right-hand man. Tulsa is already a team with a commitment to progression, but Rockafella should bring a presence in the public channels and verbal leadership that perhaps was limited in some capacity, as would be expected by an expansion team.
Rockafella has a championship on his resume with a championship attitude and should be the key to an already-talented Tulsa Desperado team making a jump in both their on-field performance and off-field brand. Moving forward, Tulsa might boast the most talented pair of safeties in the SFL and should be ready to make a run at the championship in season 11.
Marcus Dunhill, QB, Atlanta Swarm
Atlanta had one clear issue last season: they could not pass the ball. The Swarm employ one of the league’s premier running backs in BDG Hollewood, who carried the Atlanta offense and nearly brought them back to the playoffs. The ‘Team in Green’ also holds one of the elite defenses as well, making Atlanta one of the league’s best rookie landing spots.
After going tenth overall, Dunhill signed a very reasonable contract and should be in line to orchestrate one of the most balanced offenses in the SFL, that should be able to dissect opposing defenses at a whim. Dunhill will be in line for immediate Offensive Rookie of Season 11 discussion and should immediately be able to make a jump into the elite conversation of quarterbacks, along with league MVP, Christian Christiansen. Being equipped with a capable set of receivers, Dunhill should lead a very good, if not great, passing attack that’ll also be able to gash teams on the ground with the spin cycle of Hollewood. Not much should or will be asked of him, but if he does in fact step up, Atlanta will be very much in line to make a deep playoff run.
Mike Daggs, TE, Mexico City Aztecs
After doubling his scoring total to six in a spectacular quarterfinals loss to the Sioux Falls Sparrows, Mike Daggs surprisingly left Queen City on his own accord and united the Daggs Family in Mexico City. It was expected that Daggs would take the next step to one of the rare leadership positions on the four-time champion Corsairs.
Instead, Daggs entered a very low-key state of free agency, where he was able to quickly land on one of the SFL’s classiest franchises in the Mexico City Aztecs. This gives Mexico City two of the league’s most dangerous redzone threats, boasting the league’s premier powerback,Ray Bentley, and now, the 6’7 Mr. Daggs. He is expected to be one of the Aztec’s core offensive pieces, replacing the now-retired Dijon Swann.
It wouldn’t be out of the realm of rational thought for Daggs to be the league’s most productive tight end in Season 11 as one of the most physically gifted players in the league and schemed-for mismatches.
But again, as will be the theme with many high-impact signings when we look back after the Tallahassee Pride take home the Season 11 Championship, Daggs is one of the most positive off-field influences in the league. He’s the Head of Broadcasting and one of the most mature people in the SFL and should be a stabilizing force in the locker room.
Garren Malone, WR, Baltimore Vultures
Baltimore thieved the slotman from the Houston Hyenas to be their X-receiver; ofcourse we’re talking about Garren Malone. The Houston native jumped ship to be the General Manager in Baltimore, where he has already spearheaded the construction of a playoff-ready roster.
Malone has been the funnel that has organized one of the most dynamic rosters in the league, from one of the most successful quarterbacks in league history in Mike Dazzo, to Season 10 Championship hero, Tony Willis, and, of course, polarizing rookie linebacker, Aman Takess. Malone, one of the most dynamic players on the semi-finalist Houston team, consistently gashed teams on the deep ball, having one of the best breakaway bursts in the entire league. Malone should be a 1000-yard receiver this season that could captain a rebirthed Baltimore team. Heck, Malone has done such a great job so far, that the Vultures have already captured the hearts of SFL fans across the globe. If anything, Malone has already been one of the most underrated signings of the season.
Levant Irvine, LB, Las Vegas Fury
Levant Irvine makes the jump from Sioux Falls to the expansion Las Vegas Fury and should be a team leader on and off the field. Irvine provided a consistent presence in the midfield for the ‘Yellow and Black’, and as his long-lost brother, Cameron Irvine (Ha! for overused jokes) said during a Sparrow playoff game, he might’ve been the best linebacker in the league down the stretch of the season.
Irvine provides an active locker room presence and leadership to an expansion team that will very much need it. Dare I say, as great as he was with the Sparrows, the Fury may be key to unlocking the rest of his potential and stepping into the truly elite level of SFL talent. His change of area codes to Sin City has largely been overshadowed by Tallahassee Pride standouts, Fats Johnson and Anthony Wyo, who should each be in line for the Defensive Player of Season 11 race in their own right. However, Irvine will be the quarterback of Max Jackson’s first orchestrated defense and should repeat as a Pro Bowler, if not exceed that on awards night.
Tristan Carr, TE, London Knights
Tristan Carr signed the richest contract in SFL history for a tight end this last off- season. Let that sink in. Tristan Carr. For real though, Carr is a high value player on a team expected to air it out. How do we know this? Well, they are carrying a high value quarterback and a ton of defensive linemen, and they are the only other team with a lion in their logo…
Let’s think about this logically. Tristan Carr was one of the more spectacular vertical receivers last season and displayed himself as one of the league’s biggest mismatches and best vertical threats. Now he’s being given a true downfield quarterback to work with, which should maximize Carr’s strengths and put him in play to be one of the most dominant tight ends in the SFL…or at least… y’now… a Pro Bowl. As perceivably the other 6-7 tight end to make it to market, Carr joined a team where he should be displayed as one of, if not the, most effective at his position. Carr could be in for a higher volume season where he could even possibly maintain his exceptionally high yards per catch in what can be a very real aerial attack.
EK Vinson, LB, Dallas Lobos
As one of Season 10’s most underrated stars, I had to throw him in here. I still don’t believe I have done enough off-season pumping for him. Vinson was probably the most explosive safety in the league last season, yet he opted to leave Atlanta (who consistently produces some of the league’s most dominant safeties and brought last season’s interception leader in Mahmoud Ajlouni, back from the Season 9 team) for Dallas…to be a linebacker.
Vinson will likely be manning the “Will” spot for Dallas and covering the middle of the field. Vinson should enter as arguably the most capable linebacker in the coverage game, and should be a unique asset for the Lobos that virtually no other team should be able to replicate this season. While drawing initial interest, the league seems to have forgotten about the spectacle of the new Lobos. If everything goes right, Vinson could be the lynchpin in a revolutionized 3-4 defense and revive the linebacker position in the SFL.
Shea Carroll, WR, Baltimore Vultures
While very little glory has been given to the architect and #1 receiver of the Vultures, even less has been given to the engineer who has gone out into the fields to make it all come true… and the #2 receiver. Shea Carroll was one of the bright spots on what turned out into a pretty ruff season for Dallas, and now he finds himself aligning on the opposite side of the field as the Z receiver in Baltimore.
Carroll put up 700 yards last season (compared to Malone’s 500) and could be due for a massive increase. TJ Caggs and Baltimore could wind up having one of the better and more efficient offenses in the league this season. He was already one of the more dynamic, speedier receivers and should really be used as a mismatch weapon this coming season, especially early on. The new scout seems to be largely overlooked by the SFL community, but could very well wind up as one of the most dominating #2 receivers this side of Duke Wilson. I wouldn’t put it passed him to put up an 1000 yard season.
Matthew Sprous, CB, Tallahassee Pride
Sprous makes for a bookend on the boundaries to his brother, in what should be the finishing touches to the Tallahassee Pride defense. Bad cornerback play opposite of Michael Sprous was exploited on a regular basis last season in the Lion’s Den. While Sprous is the only one of two rookies to make this list and the only one to be undrafted, Sprous has largely been ignored thus far beyond a few “ooh”s and “ah”s in public channels. However, Matthew should provide airtight pass defense along with his brother, also-ready-for-stardom free safety, Tanner Hendrix, and Pro Bowler, Alex Bond. He’s expected to make it just THAT much more difficult for opposing offenses who found little success already. As soon as offenses look as their #1 receiver and see him covered by Michael, they’ll look the opposite way to their #2 receiver and see him blanketed by Matthew, leaving them to be—OOF—sacked… by one of Tallahassee’s many feared pass rushers such Hunter Norwood, EJ DeCue, Taqwuan Hale, and Kevin Bane.
A note from the Editor: For Christian, this is actually not that biased (see last season’s 18 in 18 Season Preview article for Tallahassee. You’ll know what I mean).
Ogun Zulu, RB, San Francisco Sharks
Ogun Zulu put up 824 total yards as the fullback in the San Francisco offense. Last season, they did not carry a contract running back, but Zulu will be fixing that. In a star-heavy Sharks offense, Zulu is not only expected, from my point of view, but needs to have success for the Sharks to reach the playoffs. Given how he put almost 700 rushing yards on 200 carries, it would not be a shock to see Zulu put up over 1200 rushing yards on 300 carries as the workhorse back for the Sharks (while possibly also being the team’s second leading receiver?). It seems that, in a very interesting Western Conference, the Sharks have been overlooked, and thus their star runningback has as well. He could very well be the engine behind whatever season the Sharks have.
Zulu could very well be in the spotlight this coming season and, if he finds success, or at least becomes a more efficient back, could be thrust into stardom, if the playbook is right.
A note from the editor: Stay tuned for more content from the ‘Man on the Inside’, aswell as upcoming season previews and more!