By Various Writers
Each season, the NFL Website releases it’s list of the ‘Top 100 Players’ in the league at that current time. This list is often divisive in its very nature, however it remains intensely popular amongst fans every year. So, inside the Beat Room we put our collective minds together and wondered how we would replicate such a list for the SFL. What we found out was that we would have to go through a number of tricky steps to finalise the best list possible. Firstly, we decided on how long the list should be. Obviously, we couldn’t justify choosing 100 players as that would be nearly half of the league. We wanted the elite of the elite, so we did a quick calculation and ended up with a ‘Top 20’. First step done. Next, we assembled a group of 7 writers to choose who would be in the Top 20 and eventually take on the daunting task of ordering them. The players were chosen based on strict criteria.
- The players would be chosen due to their performance over the last 3 seasons of the SFL (Seasons 10-12)
- Players who were chosen had to be still active on a team roster at the time of writing (Sorry Ryan Michaels and E.Z. Tempel)
- More recent seasons weighed more heavily than earlier ones (E.G. A player who had a good Season 10, but awful seasons 11 and 12 would be unlikely to make it)
We were set and ready. We had our criteria, we had our selection committee (Matthew Slinn, Christian Pundt, ‘Mighty’ Max Paul, J.W. Doyle, Merrick Itera, Chris Colon and Ray Bentley). Little did we know how much time and effort and discussion would go into procuring the list we have ready to be released. Initially, we all decided who would be in our Top 20, in no particular order. As there was some agreement and much disagreement, we totalled up the votes and came to a final, unordered ‘Top 20’. The players who just missed out or who received at least 1 vote will be mentioned in the Honourable Mentions segment. Once we had our ‘Top 20’, we had to somehow put them in an order. To tackle this, we once again all shared our own versions of the list and averaged out the results. Even once the averages were taken into account, some players were extremely close, however, we managed to settle on an agreed ‘Top 20 Players in the SFL’. Now, we know that many of you will disagree with our decisions, so please feel free to discuss amongst the community. Healthy discussion and debate is what articles like this are all about. Now I’ve taken you through the extensive process, let’s get to the good stuff. This article will list the honourable mentions, those who just missed the cut and the first 5 players in our Top 20. You’ll have to be patient if you want to find out who is #1.
Kicking off our honourable mentions is Queen City Corsairs quarterback, AJ Caswell. The veteran passer has successfully led his squad to the playoffs in every season he’s been in the league, and always performed his best when the lights are at their brightest, Seasons 10 and 11 being no exceptions. Season 10 was an especially good year for Caswell as he backed up his great playoff form with a good regular season, something that hasn’t been his strongest attribute, as seen by his Season 11. Caswell’s average regular season performances are what may have kept him off our list, however he still deserves a mention. Next, we turn to the defensive secondary and young Aztecs star, Jeffrey Daggs. The free safety started his career as part of a young London Knights squad, alongside his brother Zack, before moving into Mexico City’s formidable secondary where he has flourished under the coaching of Ramos Lynn. Daggs has always proved himself as one of the most complete safeties in the league, being sure in the tackle whilst also having ball-hawking’ capabilities (he has 20 total INT’s over his short career). The speedster has also shown elite level athleticism in the return game, bringing the ball back for 6 on more than one occasion.
We take a look at the big men in the middle who nearly made our list now, in the rather sizeable shapes of defensive tackles, Chris Colon and Chad Takkul. Both standing 6’5 and over 300lbs, Colon and Takkul have led the line for their respective teams manfully since debuting at the start of Season 10. Colon’s time in Carolina has seen him drastically improve season by season, going from 4 sacks in S10 to 12.5 in S11. His current Season 12 total of 13 sacks has him on pace to more than eclipse his best season ever. Whilst it took the Skyhawk a season to showcase his true potential, Chad Takkul realised his from the very first game he played in Houston. The Hyenas’ lineman record double-digit sack totals in both Season 10 and 11, and is well on pace to replicate that feat in Season 12. Takkul’s biggest strength however, is his destructive presence against the run. Takkul has stopped opposition rushers behind the line of scrimmage over 30 times during his career, using his natural size and aggressiveness to great effect. Sticking with defense but on a player with a slightly smaller physical stature, we look at the only cornerback to receive any votes, BJ Armstrong. Fairly small for a corner in the SFL (5’11, 190lbs), the Denver player has constantly shown that anticipation and ball-tracking to be his greatest assets, routinely shutting down much bigger and stronger receivers with sheer mental prowess. Nothing sums up Armstrong’s career better than his return TD against a soaring Alaska Storm team in Season 10, in what was the SFL’s first front page game on Twitch (as far as I know). This game would also be Armstrong’s debut (again, if my facts are correct) and that play would engrave his name in the minds of many, including myself.
Our final three elite players who received votes come in the form of an experienced running back, a hall-of-fame receiver and a legendary pass-catching tight end. I’m talking about BDG Hollewood, D.R. Sim and Tybeerious Bovine. Starting with the man in Atlanta, BDG Hollewood is probably the most stylish rusher in the SFL, substituting power for finesse when making mazy runs through hapless SFL defenses. The slippery back has so many tricks up his sleeve with a ball in his hand, defenders rarely bring him down in the open field. Questions over Hollewood’s legitimacy on this list? Well, since Season 10 (and for his whole career) BDG has totaled over 1200 yards and double-digit TD’s in every season…that’s some great running back play. Experienced campaigners (and legends) Sim and Bovine have together mustered 1290 receptions, scored 140 touchdowns and skewered defences for a ridiculous 19,518 yards over the seasons. Both have gone through a slight slow down recently, however that doesn’t detract from how dominant they’ve been as the league has transitioned into the Progression Era. The Doctor’s best season (one of the most productive of his career) came in Season 11 as he struck an instant connection with rookie QB, Kentez Johnson. That lightning hot combo hasn’t burned with the same fire in Season 12, which may be part of the reason Sim hasn’t quite made the Top 20. After a down Season 10, Tybeerious Bovine came back with a vengeance last summer and seems to be carrying that form through Season 12 too. The big tight end has long been the best at his position in the league, although some young bucks have rose through the ranks to potentially topple him off his perch. With Bovine, the Renegades know they are going to get near 100 yards each season and at least 5 scores. That consistency is what put him in a couple of the committee’s Top 20, but it wasn’t enough.
Just Missed the Cut
Finally, we look at three players who fell a chest hair short of making it into the official ‘SFL Top 20’. After the votes had been counted, these players (1 offensive and 2 defensive) had the same number of votes as some of the men on the final roster, however, after extensive discussion, they were left ‘just’ on the outside looking in. Aquantis Shyne, Colin Hart and Pablo Zamora are all names synonymous with quality, and they have been at the elite level of production in recent years.
Human tackling machine Shyne has been the lynchpin in Atlanta’s defence over the last few seasons, putting up back-to-back 100 solo tackle seasons last year – a total of 216 solo tackles over that time span. Shyne is a typical hard-nosed sideline to sideline pursuer, and has been battling with Jack Brown and Slinn Shady for the SFL’s best linebacker since Season 10. Although Season 12 has brought less production when hitting ball carrier’s behind the line of scrimmage (4 this season compared to 12 TFL’s in S10 and S11) the Swarm’s defensive captain has shown an improved ability in coverage, going so far as returning an INT for 6 points. If we were writing a ‘Top 25’, Shyne would have made it comfortably. As would the final defensive stand-out in this article, Pablo Zamora. The rangy Mexico City Aztecs star has always been a player to judge with the eye-test, rather than through just pure stats. One of the driving forces behind Mexico City’s title run in Season 9, Zamora has carried on his stellar play all the way up until the present day, in which he has having the best season of his career. The 6’3 strong safety has already doubled last season’s interception total, as well as nearly doubling his pass deflections aswell. In a saturated Aztec secondary which is packed with elite talent, it’s hard to shine, something Zamora does without flinching. Being a strong safety, Zamora is also solid in the tackle, something that probably improves when you have to hit5 Ray Bentley in practice every week. For a lot of our panellists, Zamora deserved a spot on our list, it just wasn’t quite to be.
We finish today’s run down with a player who burst onto the scene in a big way last season, after being passed on by a bevvy of teams before Sioux Falls picked him up in the second round of the SFL draft. Of course, I’m referring to Colin Hart. Hart has been a fresh air to the SFL; a player who’s combination of running and receiving capability is extremely rare. Hart’s physical and mental tools are elite, which shows in the fact that he has scored 38 TD’s in the last 1 and a half seasons. Just let that sink in for a second. The young guy is a 6-point machine – Hart actually scored 5 in one game against the Atlanta Swarm this season. The most exciting thing about Hart is that he is still so young. His combination of speed, power and skill is virtually unmatched amongst running backs currently in the league, which is a big reason why so many of us had him in our Top 20 lists, occasionally cracking the Top 10. Should we redo this list in seasons to come, I can’t imagine many reasons why Hart won’t have cracked it easily.
Tune in next time for the second instalment of this series and find out which players make up the places 20-16 in our SFL Top 20.