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By Christian Pundt, Merrick Itera, Noah Gebert and Matthew Slinn

Loyal SFL Fans – Here we are again! We’re officially through 2/3’s of the season and the stars (both new and old) are hard at work distinguishing themselves from their peers. Our initial projections from Week 4 have had mixed results through the last 4 games, some flaming out while others continue to burn brightly on their way to the finish line. After crunching numbers and debating stats with my fellow luminaries, what follows is a statistically-backed opinion on the Players of the Season thus far. Once again, we’ll give you some insight into how we went about it, and then we’ll get to the good stuff – Strap in!

Offensive Player of the Season 

The Process
I went through and picked out the 3 best active offensive players at each position (so far) this year to start off. From there, I racked and stacked each one to determine which player led his or her respective position group and then compared the standouts to each other to determine who deserved the crown. Seeing as this was just on the offensive side of the ball, position groups were classed as follows:

Quarterback
Running Back (HB/FB)
Receiver (WR/TE)

Suprisingly, after analyzing the data for the season, I’ve got quite the compelling argument from 3 individuals, a 3-way Mexican Standoff pitting a 2nd Year starter, a crafty veteran and a hard-charging rookie phenom against each other for offensive supremacy. They’re all gunning for their spots at the top of the stat sheet, and it falls to me to decide (based on statistical evidence and my infallible personal opinion) who walks out of Season 12 alive…

Here’s who came out on top.

QBs
Xander Gold is the clear frontrunner in the QB position. Leads the league in TDs, 2-1 TD-INT ratio, Leads the league in QBR. Luyindula is the only competition for now, and even though he balled out in his last game (which made up a lot of the ground between the two) he can’t erase the 5 additional picks he’s thrown, or the sacks he’s taken in comparison (Gold has 7, Luyindula has 14). Xander Gold is sitting at a 106 QBR, which is insane for the amount of use he gets and the teams he’s played against. He’s my choice for this group, and I expect him to continue to do well through the end of the season.

Merrick’s Pick – Xander Gold

RBs
Jarrod McChesney seems like the right choice here – but Zack Sandlin made it really close. 50 more carries than most of the other RB’s in contention, and while that might justify the discrepancy in total rushing yards, it doesn’t change the fact that even with the extra attempts, he’s still averaging 5.6 yds/carry and leading them in TDs (11), all without losing a fumble. I had Colin Hart #2, due mainly to the fact that he hadn’t turned the ball over vs. Zack Sandlin, who had…. But then the Sandman shut the lights out in his Week 8 game, overtaking the TD lead (15 Total, 14 Rushing) and the Yardage lead as well for good measure. In my eyes, though – it wasn’t enough. All Mac has to do is maintain his average and he’ll have the Yardage lead again, and he’s still 2nd in TDs for the season… right?
… I mean, I can attribute the yardage and the TD’s to the extra game, but how do I account for the fact that Sandlin is averaging an insane 7.1 yards per carry?! Maybe Mac has the catching up to do now…
Merrick’s Pick – Zack Sandlin

Zach Sandlin, #32, finding space against Tulsa

Rcvrs
Deezer Powell, here for me. Even accounting for averaging another game in for those in the running with less than 8 games played, Deezer’s just BETTER. He leads in TDs (12 on the season, 4 more than the other guys on the list, with the exception of Stephen Hacker) and Total Yards – 1129. Now, Junior Senior III did crack 1k by the end of Week 8, and so did Siege Falco… and Hacker could catch up in TDs if he maintains his average production so far, but we’re talking about 2 different receivers COMBINED before we’re talking about overthrowing Powell’s reign on this season. All while averaging 20.9 yds/catch?! This guy is killing it, hands down. Also – Special Shoutout to Mike Daggs (the only TE on my list) and to Trevor Ferril (leading the league in receptions – hard to do with all these RB’s and their swing passes).

Merrick’s Pick – Deezer Powell

OPOTS
Quite a dilemma we’ve got here… who gets more credit for the production over in NOLA? Can Dallas continue to find ways to facilitate their touch-hungry rook’s offensive production moving forward? These are all great questions, and the answers determine who walks away with the glory. While stratifying 2 different players who are so integral to the other’s successful efforts, I tried to consider how much of Deezer’s success was attributable to Gold, and vice versa. For me, I think Deezer Powell gets the nod between the two. He’s the Primary receiver on the team, going up against the best teams from last season, and he’s still responsible for 50% of Xander Gold’s stat line. That’s not to take anything away from Xander, but more to lay the praise where I feel it’s most due. Powell is a big play threat every time he touches the ball, and Xander can’t make the same claim without including Powell in the explanation.
That leaves the rook – Zack Sandlin – as Deezer’s competition for the title. Sandlin has clearly demonstrated that he can take over a game in a way that we don’t normally see here in the SFL. His numbers speak for themselves… but, if you listen closely, they don’t always speak favorably when comparing him to Powell. Powell has him in yards per touch (20 to 7) and Sandlin has him in TDs (15 to 12). Overall yardage is a wash between them… but there are two key factors that I took into consideration in order to reach my final decision.
1. Touches – Sandlin has right around 100 more touches than Powell at this point in the season. Which means, much like Gold – he’s not an eminent threat every time he has the ball. While Sandlin has a great shot at a first down every time the ball goes his way, it’d take 3 plays to catch Powell in a straight up competition.
2. Turnovers – Sandlin has one, and Powell doesn’t.
What else can I say? At this point, as far as I’m concerned – Powell and Sandlin’s production so far this season have said it all… one’s just a LITTLE bit more convincing; and that’s why he walks out of the stand-off alive and well, carrying the OPOTS hardware.
Merrick’s Pick – Deezer Powell

Powell, #17, making yet another big catch against the Legion

Defensive Player of the Season

Projected Winner:

Nicholas Warner, SS, Denver Nightwings

It only makes sense that the best defensive player this season is playing on the best team. Through the first 8 weeks, Warner leads the SFL in interceptions, making a huge impact for a team that leads the SFL in takeaways (20). Warner has come down with multiple interceptions in 3 contests this season, including a 3 pick performance against St. Louis in Week 5. Coming into Season 12 with only 3 career interceptions to his name, Warner has nearly tripled that output through 7 games. Finding himself on the outside looking in for this award after 4 weeks, he has gone on a tear, coming away with 6 turnovers in his last 3 outings. With 52 tackles on the season, Warner may not be the strongest run defender on the back end, but his newly found ball-hawking ability has been a key difference maker in the Nightwings’ pursuit of perfection.

In the running:

Gib Leedoo, DE, Tulsa Desperados

Simply put, Leedoo has been the most dominant pass rusher in the SFL this season. Boasting a gawdy 15.5 sack total, Leedoo leads all players by 3.5 sacks and leads all defensive ends by 5 sacks. No one has come close to putting the amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks as Leedoo has this season. He’s not all flash in the pass game, though, as his 21 tackles for loss ranks second in the league and his 32 total tackles ties him for second most among all defensive lineman. Tulsa’s defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in terms of points allowed per game as well as yards allowed per game, but they have definitely found a pro-bowl caliber player as Gib Leedoo has officially broken out in his second season.

Jack Brown, LB, Mexico City Aztecs

Brown has been the most productive linebacker in the league through Week 8. His 79 total tackles ties him for second in the league, just 4 shy of his teammate Nick Daggs, but tied for first among linebackers. He has not only been tackling machine, but also has 9 pass deflections, which ranks second among his position group and is a number that only 2 safeties have surpassed to this point in the season. He also adds a sack and an interception to his resume. The fourth-year player is a star on a defense that ranks in the top 5 of the league in almost every recordable defensive statistic.

Jack Brown, #42, laying the wood

Special Note:

E.Z. Tempel, DT, Indianapolis Spitfire

A shocking move earlier this week caused me to make a change to my original projections. E.Z. Tempel was having a pro-bowl level season before he stunned the league and opted for an early retirement. Through 8 weeks, Tempel led all defensive tackles with 12 sacks and led the entire SFL with 23 tackles for loss. He was a force in the trenches and his performance stands out even more after realizing that he was the only star player in the Spitfire front seven. Indianapolis signed linebacker Brandon Haight in hopes to replace some of that production on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensive Rookie of the Season 

Front Runner

Zach Sandlin, RB, Dallas Lobos

In what is probably the easiest award to predict at the minute, Zach Sandlin is more than doing enough to live up to his selection at #2 in the draft. The Lobos’ prototypical power back has displayed scary downhill explosiveness, breaking tackles with alarming effect and leaving defenders trailing in his wake on his way to 7.1 yards per carry. Most of the argument for Sandlin’s case has already been mention by Merrick for the Offensive Player of the Season, so I won’t repeat the obvious. Sandlin is currently a sizeable step above the rest of the rookies. He’s a dead cert for the Offensive Rookie of the Season.

In the Hunt

Reggie Streeter, RB, London Knights/Stephen Hacker, WR, Queen City, Corsairs

A hop and a step behind Zach Sandlin is London Knights running back, Reggie Streeter, who by his own merit, is having a fantastic debut season. Streeter has transformed London’s once non-existent rushing attack, consistently putting up big numbers to make himself the main challenger to the ‘Sandman’. Streeter has broke into double-digit touchdowns for the Season, with 10; 8 on the ground and 2 through the air. The #5 pick has also backed up his touchdowns with 964 yards at 5 yards a carry, proving his effectiveness on every down. Streeter is a bellcow with big play ability; a dangerous combination for any offense.

Reggie Streeter showing he has moves after the play has finished

Joining the Knghts’ rusher as a firm candidate for this award is Queen City’s #14 pick n the draft, Stephen Hacker. Hacker has proven to be a redzone machine for the Corsairs, racking up 10 touchdowns (2nd in the SFL) and making 64 receptions off 84 targets. Hacker has done a good job of taking the load off veteren Chris Curtis, whilst outperforming him in nearly every way. Hacker has gained 760 yards in total, flashing big play ability on the way and his partnership with AJ Caswell is pushing the Corsairs back into the playoffs.

On the Periphery

Logan Jack, RB, New Orleans Pharaohs/Ashley Jackson, QB, Tulsa Desperados/ Jamaal Wooding, TE, Atlanta Swarm

These players are having great debut seasons but are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Offensive Rookie awards race. Logan Jack has probably been the most effective ‘receiving back’ this season, having a large part in a dangerous Pharaohs offense that utilises his skill for catching short passes and turning them to big gains. His 9 total touchdowns is 3rd amongst rookies. Our first quarterback on this list, Ashley Jackson, is doing her best to hold together a creaking ship in Tulsa that started out sailing so smoothly. The Desperados have faced adversity recently, but despite this, the #8 pick has remained composed and currently has a QBR of 89.1. Jackson will have to go some way to knock Sandlin off his perch, but if Tulsa can pick up their play, we could get see a shock. Finally, I can’t not include a player who has an average reception yardage of 27.1 yards in this list. Tight End, Jamaal Wooding of the Atlanta Swarm is proving to be the best ‘Big play’ receiver since Duke Wilson in Season 10…and he’s a tight end! Wooding’s athleticism and speed is perfect for Atlanta’s high powered offence, and his penchant for the endzone (7 td’s) goes a long way to putting him on the edge of award recognition. A pro bowl appearance is not out of the question for Wooding in a stacked position.

Defensive Rookie of the Season 

Front Runner

Denzel Maverick, DT, Dallas Lobos

8 games, 27.0 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss

Eight games into his career, Maverick looks like he may be one of the best defensive players in the entire league. He ranks third in the league (and second in his position group) in sacks, while providing more than adequate run support. His role as an inside pass rusher is particularly important for a team such as Dallas who likes to get into shootouts where they force their opponents to pass the ball. While the overall statistical production may not represent it, Maverick provides a critical role on a defense that emphasizes pass rushing to make their scheme work.

Runners Up

Han Tyumi, CB, Mexico City Aztecs

8 games, 38.5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 9 pass deflections, 4 interceptions

Everett Garrison, CB, Houston Hyenas

8 games, 34.0 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 5 pass deflections, 7 interceptions

The two most premier defensive backs from a rookie class that was very deep at the position. Undrafted rookie Han Tyumi handles the CB2 position for a Mexico City defense that has pitched a pair of shutouts on a defense that ranks third against the pass and fourth in scoring. Tyumi has been a shutdown perimeter player all season at a position that’s difficult to individually quantify success at. Meanwhile, who could forget about arguably the most exciting player from this rookie class in Everett Garrison. The Ryan Michaels replacement has recorded seven turnovers on a sneaky good Eddie Gauge-coached Houston Hyenas defense. It’s hard to imagine him not gathering hardware and accolades come season’s end and he can easily be the outright front runner in both the rookie of the season and defensive player of the season conversation.

Unbelievable hops on display by #44 Everett Garrison

Honorable Mentions

Mike Sawchuk, LB, Denver Nightwings

6 games, 48.5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 4 pass deflections

John Barnhart, CB, Sioux Falls Sparrows

7 games, 17.0 tackles, 1 tackles for loss, 11 pass deflections, 6 interceptions

Jonny Savage, S, Carolina Skyhawks

8 games, 50.5 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 3 interceptions

Gus Schultz, S, Vancouver Legion

6 games, 44.0 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions

Peyton Ellison, S, Indianapolis Spitfire

6 games, 59.0 tackles, 3 pass deflections, 1 interception

Sawchuk has began to see his stats trail off but has been the centerpiece of a defensive unit that has improved as the season has come along. Barnhart has been a wildly underrated cornerback and turnover machine that may be getting overlooked because Sioux Falls hasn’t gotten off as a dominant team out of the gate. Now that his team has turned it around, he should be getting the respect he deserves. Savage, Schultz, and Ellison were all undrafted safeties that have turned into huge contributors for their team and should hopefully have long careers ahead of them.

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