By Jeff Melinyshyn

We are down to a couple of days before the start of Season 11 of the Simulation Football League. As preseason has come and gone, teams are quickly preparing for Week 1. Before the start of the season, I would like to introduce my picks for the top five rookies to watch after the preseason.

I wanted to have some parameters set while figuring out my top five. First, was to make this a challenge. I didn’t just throw in the top five rookies that went #1-5 in the draft because that would be way to easy and I want this process to require some thought. Second, I looked at the draft and tried to find variety when it came to who I was going to select. Thirdly, I didn’t talk to anyone in particular about these players and I have absolutely no insider knowledge. Fourth, I wanted to get a mixture of both offensive and defensive rookies. So, without further ado, here is my top five rookies to watch in Season 11.

1) Thomas Ramen, quarterback – Las Vegas Fury

Vegas’ receivers will be expecting alot from Ramen, and I’m betting he’ll deliver

For whatever reason Thomas Ramen is not getting talked about as much as the other rookie quarterbacks in this year’s draft; maybe that is how he wants it to be. We all know about Xander Gold, Marcus Dunhill, and Kentez Johnson but Ramen seems to be flying under the radar despite going number three overall in the draft. Ramen also has an outstanding running back in Robert Redford to lean on if needed which should only help his chances to shine. Ramen will also look to get contributions from his two fellow rookies at wide receiver: Brett Funk and John Blades. This 1-2-3 punch should be one of the most exciting in the SFL, putting Ramen on the map.

2) Hunter Jones, wide receiver – Oklahoma City Renegades

Deacon Nickens now has weapons. Hunter Jones will be one he’ll look to use frequently.

I am buying Hunter Jones’s stock. Hopefully, after the season, more people will too. This guy is very passionate and he has the qualities to be a great wide receiver. It also does not hurt to come into the league and onto a team that has an elite passer in Deacon Nickens. Jones will have the opportunity to make plays and if he can make those plays, Oklahoma City will be that much better this season. Jones can realistically aim for double digit touchdowns this season and who knows, maybe even top a thousand yards receiving. Although he was drafted 30th overall, I feel in the long run, he will be a steal.

3) Kody Hill RB – Vancouver Legion

Kody Hill was seen by many as the class of the Season 11 draft. Now he needs to prove it. He’s one to watch.

Although Kody Hill was bottled up most of the time in their preseason game against London, he was still able to show why he was selected 9th overall. In the second half, Hill turned it on. He was the ignitor that Vancouver needed to get by a taught London squad. It will be very interesting to see how he progresses through the season and see how defenses prepare for him. He will also need to show he can pick up the blitz in passing situations. There should be no reason why he cannot get double digit touchdowns although a heavy load of rushing yards I’m not sold on because defenses will be game planning for him.

4) Markem Lopez FS – Vancouver Legion

Lopez showed excellent ball skills during the preseason, something that will help him replicate the play of Vancouver’s ball hawk from Season 10, Mahmoud Ajlouni

Markem Lopez will look to make plays for the Vancouver back line. I believe he will. Being a rookie safety means teams are going to test you and test you often. On a defense that is up and coming, it is vital that Lopez stays in position and doesn’t get caught watching the backfield on play actions. If he can prove to withstand the tests he is going to face then that will bode well for a Vancouver team looking to make the playoffs. His tackle numbers should be high given the defense is still finding its identity.

5) Gib Leedo DE – Tulsa Desperados

Michael Martin is probably pleased that Gib Leedoo is hitting every other quarterback apart from him. Leedoo will be key in getting the ball back to Martin and his offence

Having only one draft pick, Tulsa needed to find someone with impact and they selected Gib Leedo at defensive end. He is a part of an outstanding defense that is only looking to get better, if that is even possible. Gib Leedo will look to get pressure and sacks on the opposing quarterback and with the defense behind him, I do not see why he can’t. Tulsa is looking for a championship run and they believe that with Leedo anchoring the defensive line, they may finally be able to get over the hump. Leedo will be opposite Griffin Brown, Tulsa’s veteren defensive tackle, an old head to steer him in the right direction. Opposing quarterbacks watch out; Leedoo will be breathing down your neck on every down.