By Shea Carroll
A note from previous ‘Rookie Watch’ writer, Matthew Slinn:
Previously on ‘Rookie Watch’, we ran through the performances of every drafted rookie in the SFL, pick by pick. I’m this article, in his Beat Writing return, Shea Carroll takes a look at the highest performing rookies who joined a team as a UDFA (Undrafted Free Agent), those players who weren’t selected in the draft…the ‘ unwanted men’. Something that makes the players on this list stand out from the rookies taken on draft day is that they had to sign at a base level copper contract (with a 1-week progression signing bonus thrown in as incentive). These are the guys who were and always are on the bubble, those players who were an afterthought in the off-season, save for the teams that signed them. One thing I have learned from Season 11 – a debut for copper level players – is that these guys show up. They can play, and they can not only compete with, but occasionally outperform the higher value players in this league. Shea’s list starts in no particular order. Let’s get to it.
Shark Tankington, Kicker, Baltimore Vultures
Starting off with one of two kickers on this list, Tarkington has made some pretty important field goals for the Vultures this season. These include the game-winning field goal in Week 9 against QCC. Even though he has a .85 percentage of hitting them (making 13 of 15 attempts), we know he has a leg of steel, and without him, who knows where Baltimore would be. Other kickers have kicked more 3 pointers, but few have been as clutch.
Matthew Lee, Cornerback, Oklahoma City Renegades
The Renegades have had a tough time this season in pass defense, but Matthew Lee is an exception to that narrative. He might only have 2 interceptions, but his ability to stop the pass is unaccounted for in a lot of players’ minds. He should be given more credit than he is currently, and I hope this article brings him the recognition he deserves.
Matthew Sprous, Cornerback, Tallahassee Pride
Wow. Who would have thought that an undrafted free agent would have this much of an impact. Sliding in at 4th on the tables for interceptions, he has taken this pass defense to the next level. Seeing him on the stat sheet next to all-star calibre players like Max Jackson, Freeman Peltier, and Ryan Michaels is another reason as to why this guy is a big-shot. End of discussion.
Leroy Jenkins, Cornerback, Queen City Corsairs
“LEEEEEEEEROYYYYY JEEEEEEEEENNNNNKKKINNNNS!”. Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself, especially when this guy is putting up the numbers he is. With 3 interceptions, he has helped make this QCC secondary elite (even if they do get swept by yours truly #saltinthewound). He is 3rd on the team in interceptions, which is no mean feat.
Ermac Jaxen, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Pharaohs
With an almost rookie-filled team, NOLA was bound to end up on this list, and here we are. Despite a slow start, Jaxen’s receiving numbers have increased as NOLA’s play has gotten better as he gives Xander a solid 2nd option in the pass game. With 22 receptions on 267 yards, he has put up some of the best rookie receiving numbers this class has to offer.
Nathan Blake, Free Safety, London Knights
Really? Another secondary player? Yes, Nathan Blake has been a part of the ever improving safety duo consisting of him and fellow rookie, Jeff Melinyshyn. 4 interceptions for himself and 6 between the two of them, they are beginning to strike fear into the hearts of many quarterbacks around the league.
Shravan Prasad, Outside Linebacker, Carolina Skyhawks
The first and only linebacker on this list, Prasad has put up some impressive numbers. 2nd on his team in tackles with 68, he doesnt let much get past him. Out of those 68 tackles, 9 of those have been for a loss, which means he can cause problems for running backs all day long.
Matthew Martin, Kicker, St. Louis Gladiators
The second kicker on the list, Matthew Martin, has been automatic for St. Louis recently after a terrible opening game. Even though their team won’t be in the playoffs, it isn’t his fault. He has improved greatly over the season, and i would expect him to do so for seasons to come.
Kappa Jones, Free Safety, New Orleans Pharaohs
Shocker, a NOLA player AND another secondary player; I promise this is the last one. Kappa Jones has wuietly amassed 4 interceptions and 49 tackles to go with it, which is a good enough stat sheet to make any coaches who want a shot at winning to gameplan for this guy. I would very much expect him to be a part of the all-star team, and if not, at least all rookie.
Riley Porter, Wide Receiver, Sioux Falls Sparrows
The final entry on our list is a wide receiver who has helped his team become a playoff lock with a chance to thrive. He has quality numbers on a very talented team, so fighting for touches is a challenge. As we can see, though, Porter is ready for the challenge. I personally can’t wait to see what he can do in the post-season.