Jack Brown, Jett Zero, Merrick Itera, Mike Improta, Ray Bentley
Banner Image by J.R. Lawless
Folks, it’s finally happening. After what felt like years of offseason ballyhoo, including the Simulation Football League’s first-ever live televised draft, we’ve finally made it. Season 14, spoken of by rookies and veterans alike in hushed tones, has arrived, and will kick off tomorrow at 5:00pm Eastern, 4:00pm Central as the newly rebranded, suddenly former champions the Florida Storm travel to take on the current title holder, the Denver Nightwings, on 11 Sports / For The Fans. But before our beloved Cameron Irvine starts the season with his signature KICK IT tomorrow night, we here in the Power Rankings squad want to help add a bit of spice to the slate of Week 1’s games, and we’re doing it via the new (some might say improved!) Pre-Season Power Rankings. Please note that this is not the ranking of teams based on their performance in the pre-season games held; but an overall ranking of the whole darn offseason up until this point. Without further ado, the Pre-Season Power Rankings!
|Baltimore Vultures||0 - 0(-)||What better team to claim the top spot in the first edition of the S14 Power Rankings than the Baltimore Vultures? I know what you’re thinking: ‘BuT BaLtImOrE dIdN’t EvEn MaKe ThE fInAlS lAsT sEaSoN’. Yeah, we were there too. But the Vultures retained basically all of their players from last season while adding top rookie talent on offense (WR Mac Chimah) and defense (DE Chad Roland). Maybe I’m crazy, but I fully believe this is the year that TJ finally takes home a title for this franchise. Baltimore’s Week 1 home opener against Seattle will either support or refute my claims above, but either way it will be a fun ride!|
|Seattle Tyrants||0 - 0(-)||Speaking of the S13 runner-ups, the Tyrants posed a compelling argument for the top spot in these rankings with their level of play last season, and they have a good chance of overtaking that position by start of Week 2. Seattle owner Crash Combs invested quite a bit in the Tyrant’s defensive line during the offseason, bringing in a competitive group headlined by reigning DPOY DE Gib Leedoo. That defensive boost combined with the returning star firepower on offense, this outfit is a force to be reckoned with. Can Seattle make it back to the big dance in S14? I believe they can.|
|Denver Nightwings||0 - 0(-)||Wha- huh?! What the blue blazes is going on here!? Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, we thought long and hard about the championship-winning Nightwings, and ultimately decided that this team, while still very impressive, is not the same. After the losses of Avery Allen, Justin Jones, Nicholas Warner (to Florida) and Mike Sawchuck as well as owner Jeremy Vega publicly stepping back from coaching, we're having a hard time ranking Denver any higher at the moment. Considering Hiapo Kinloha left after the third week of the previous season, though, we can't really rank the Nightwings any lower than this, considering what they ended up pulling off.|
|4||Jacksonville Kings||0 - 0(-)||An entirely restructured Power Rankings team, and somehow Frank Goodin's squad still manages to come in under the top five. The Jacksonville Kings have done an interstate move this offseason, retaining big name players like quarterback Christian Christiansen and wide receiver Ken Gossett while adding former Hyena Anthony Wyo and former Corsair Jared Willis. While the scenery might have changed, it doesn't feel like much else will. One of the most consistent squads in the SFL, the re-branded Jacksonville Kings will seek to prove once and for all that they finally deserve the crown - but will the circle of life take them in another direction? With one of the toughest schedules in the league, time will tell how history views the reign of these particular Kings.|
|5||Mexico City Aztecs||0 - 0(-)||Well, last season, for all intents and purposes should've been the one where they won it all once again. They finished 8-4 on the year and won not one, but two of the biggest awards of the season! Ray Bentley (who has instructed me to not-so-briefly praise him in the next sentence) broke an SFL record for most receiving TDs for a halfback with 11, gloriously winning Offensive Player of The Year after getting inducted to the SFL Hall of Fame. The man who threw those 11 TDs to Bentley, Matt Willson, also won Most Valuable Player for the year in one of the best seasons ever recorded by a QB. Lead by all time great OC Steven Mullenax writing the playbook. But then MXC went and lost in the Quarterfinals to Tallahassee at home, and then Steven Mullenax left. So all hope should seem lost. However, the Aztecs still have legendary HC Ramos Lynn at the helm of coaching and in traditional MXC fashion, kept everyone from last year, adding a few free agents and picking up some guys in the draft for the first time since Season 6. Overall, MXC looks just as prime as ever for another title run, they just need to get over the hump|
|6||Florida Storm||0 - 0(-)||It feels weird to not see the Storm at the top of the SFL food chain heading into a new season of SFL football. But it's not to say last year was a complete failure for the Storm, who finished 8-4. They brought back fan favorites like Ron Cockren, Optimus Cline, Alex Dominguez, and others. However, with the expanded rosters, Florida found a way to pick up some hot players in free agency - most notably Stephen Bush from Tulsa, and Jeff Melinyshin from London at safety. Then they rounded it all out in the draft with a DE in Alessandro Tomaello, a punter with Marcus Agrippa, and a kicker in Ethan Sneed. Oh, and former SFL owner James Richards has signed on as their OC. On the whole, Florida seems ready to once again make a title push, whether or not they make it happen is up to them.|
|7||Atlanta Swarm||0 - 0(-)||Last go around, the Atlanta Swarm made it to the playoffs (and won a playoff game) for the first time since Season 9 - primarily off the back of Marcus Dunhill, who had an absolutely fantastic year. With him returning alongside most of their offensive core, and bolstering their wideouts in the draft by grabbing Dave Axis. That's not to say that's all they got out of rookies, obtaining guys like Mitchell O'Brien at FB to compliment BDG, Jay Miraculous at FS, Tim Cleland to sure up a mighty defensive front 7, and grabbing a kicker in Shane Short. With the 100% player retention and the myriad grabs throughout the offseason, Atlanta now looks primed to make at least a Top 6 push.|
|8||Chicago Wildcats||0 - 0(-)||It's okay Chicago, Season 13 and that 13-7 loss to a 5-7 Houston team are now well behind you. Look, you're still in the top 10 in the power rankings! There's a reason for that, too. Chicago was able to hold on to most of their returning players, only losing WR Buchanon Simons to Charleston on offense. They were able to patch that up with Davius Reid in the draft. Outside of that loss, Chicago maintained their roster from last season and seasons prior that had gotten them pretty far before, while adding rookies Gerald Giudicessi, Ron Hoff, and Mike Improta. Perhaps the energy of the new blood, combined with the UFDA signing of Raymond Jones III is what it takes to put the Wildcats over the top for the first time in league history.|
|9||Las Vegas Fury||0 - 0(-)||So Vegas, for the first time ever, missed the playoffs. It was not necessarily a bad season, though, as they finished juuuuust outside of the postseason at 12th! All in all, it was another year in the middle of the pack year for the Fury. They certainly need something to push them from OK to Oh, great! Like… something in the Front Office… Oh wait, I just got something on my desk.
Oh yeah! Steven Mullenax! Vegas got him as a coach from Mexico City! He has a legacy of greatness behind him, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So that will help the offense, that and bringing on Chris Braun after yet another stint in retirement. That and sticking a FB in the backfield, along with a Kicker both in the draft! Now look, the Fury have not locked up the championship yet. Having said that? The Fury are most certainly on their way up.
|10||Queen City Corsairs||0 - 0(-)||After an unsatisfying season for the Corsairs, missing the playoffs for the first time since Season 4 (when they were the Knights back then!) the Corsairs decided to cut their weak ends and commit to the air. Not signing a HB at all over the off season. Only picking up FB Jett Zero in the draft. They also bolstered their pass blocking with not one, but two linemen, Griffin king and Freddie Tubbs Jr. The Corsairs also retained the core of their passing attack with QB AJ Caswell and WRs Stephen Hacker and Chris Curtis, and adding hotshot rookie James Manzi in an absolute steal of a pick. But that’s not to ignore the defense, bringing in Kappa Jones from NOLA, and Chris Dodd from across the pond. Pairing up with a new D-line, headlined by absolute unit Benjamin Garcia. QCC has to prove now that last season was just a fluke, that they are still the constant contenders we know them as. They look primed and ready for another big year, but they just gotta put more Ws on their sheet.|
|11||Sioux Falls Sparrows||0 - 0(-)||Sioux Falls missed the postseason last year, and showed everyone what a mistake it was during the Pro Bowl by capturing the MVP title of the game with wide receiver Riley Porter. The Sparrows have retained a majority of their squad, and have added the rookies James Kelly, Jaylin Wells and Jonathan Kampfh - two defensive ends and a fullback - to round out their roster. It's hard to really pin down the Sparrows, because as seen above, when they shine, they fly higher than all the rest. When they don't? Well, we just experienced a season of that, which is what the Sparrows are hoping to move away from. To be fair, they very may well be the sleeper team of the season.|
|12||Vancouver Legion||0 - 0(-)||Oh Vancouver, Vancouver, wherefore art thou, Vancouver? Ever since Season 9, this has been the refrain of the playoffs for the lone team in Canada. Enough is enough. Andy Hamilton made some bold moves this offseason, acquiring former Oklahoma City player Ashley Rose Finch at free safety, and former wide receiver Heath McDaniel. With Heath, we really mean former - the last time he's taken the field was Season 9, for the Skyhawks. But, once again, that's all part of the plan. He'll be playing alongside now-veterans Sudo Nakai and Rich Pratchard, and rookies Lee Adama (at defensive tackle), Rylan and Bobo Caudill (at offensive line), hoping to bring back some of that Season 9 magic - and without certain unnamed (coughcadsetephenscough) players on the squad this go round, they have a very real chance to make it happen.|
|13||Houston Hyenas||0 - 0(-)||Golly. I really hope this ranking isn't an omen for the Hyenas, who had one of the most amazing runs to the postseason in not just SFL history, but perhaps sports history. That run was cut short in the second round of the playoffs, but what really scares us is (yes, here comes the broken record) that the defense that helped eke the wins that got them there is now is now in the hands of former St. Louis DC Ethan Kye. They've also got rookie Jacob Clear as Assistant OC for Hyenas regular Kentez Johnson at quarterback and Warren Murray at halfback, but he'll help craft plays to his classmate Dax Lewis, an UDFA. The Hyenas are a squad that have made it deep in the playoffs before, and we know Demond Simien's squad, if given the chance, will absolutely have the last laugh in this situation.|
|14||Charleston Predators||0 - 0(-)||Charleston got one of the best free-agent steals of the offseason when they picked up Buchanan Simons from Chicago, which will hopefully shore up their average-ranked offense from last season. The Predators have retained most of their team, including linebacker Jack Brown and cornerback Kaladin Holley, and have added Yogi Barr, Lyriic Davinci and Joseph Sebolka to their squad to help add new life to their offense and defense. Will stormy tides send these Predators out to sea, or will they be feasting on their first playoff berth in team (well, insofar as it being in Charleston is concerned) history? Avast, ye salty dogs, the whales be watchin' ye!|
|15||Tulsa Desperadoes||0 - 0(-)||Where can owner, Dion Hawkins go from Season 13? Well, there is only one direction, and that’s back to the playoffs! His leader, Ashley Jackson (aka AJ Stryker) has left for Arizona, and Hawkins has given the reigns to the wagon over to the new Sheriff in town - Deacon Nickens. Will Nickens be a game manger, or will he take on the role of a gun slinger? Hawkins loves Western-style shootouts, and with Wide Receivers Khoury Jones, Mike Osayi, and rookie Jacob McCall running routes, there’s no doubt the bullets will be flying! On the defensive side, Tulsa drafted three rookie linemen, including DE, Berto DeMoura, DE, Chris Andews, and DT, Jaedyn Swift. If Tulsa expects to have other “Buckshot” QBs shaking in their boots, these three rookies will need to bring their guns, fully-loaded, if they want to corral the competition.|
|16||New Orleans Pharaohs||0 - 0(-)||If current GM and Quarterback, Xander Gold wants his tomb built someday, in the center of the Big Easy, he knows his Pharaohs are going to need to bring the power in Season 14! After all, he is the King of New Orleans! The pace for this team won’t be as gentle as many may think, and when the winter season starts, the SFL better be ready for war in the Bayou! The “viziers” for Gold are Wide Receivers Badr Ajlouni and Ermac Jackson. Ajlouni will be used to stretch the field, while Jackson will work as more of a possession receiver. The team’s first round selection in the rookie draft was Linebacker Bryce Lincoln who will join Levant Irvine in the middle of the defense. These two will serve to wrap ball carriers, taking the pressure off their Season 13 leader in tackles, Strong Safety Tank Bennett to roam the field and focus on defending passes. Most historians know that the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were the supreme leaders of the land. They were like kings or emperors. A dynasty was when one family-maintained power, handing down the throne to an heir. If the New Orleans run-game lets Reggie Streeter become the ruler on the ground, you’ll see this royal runner with the ball protecting the Pharaoh’s “Great House.”|
|17||St. Louis Gladiators||0 - 0(-)||Last season set 3 unfortunate 3-peats for the Gladiators. 3 straight 2-10 seasons, 3 straight First Overall Draft Picks, and 3 straight seasons of needing a new quarterback, this time after letting go of Noah Johns. However, St. Louis is looking to rebound and they have made moves to show it. Starting in Free Agency, they brought over sack magnet Franco Sonatti from San Francisco, former London CB Evan Arthur, and WR Shaun Harrelson from Charleston among others. In the draft, they got promising QB Johnny Pichler with the first overall pick and a WR for him to throw to in Chase Earl in the 2nd round, and got a LB with Mark Gronek. But of course I can not forget the biggest change, bringing Gerald Smith in as GM and Head Coach who made London into a formidable team week after week and he is looking to do the same in St. Louis. Even with all these positive changes, you don’t get ranked highly here off raw potential, you have to show it on the field, hence why we have to place them here at 17th. And with the loss of Maur Rivers, the defense will need another playmaker to step up to help them rise further.|
|18||Carolina Skyhawks||0 - 0(-)||Two players to be very excited about in Carolina this season: Second overall pick in the season 14 rookie draft, DE, Riley Combs, and cornerback, Davidson Joseph. Combs will be expected to make a significant impact joining an already strong defensive line to apply pressure on opposing QBs and Joseph is going to be counted upon to be that shut-down corner the Skyhawks have been searching for. They're teaming up with the Free Agent from Houston, Trystan Hatley, who is moving over from Free Safety to Strong Safety [EDITOR: I... don't know how I missed that; Hatley is a Carolina mainstay. Apologies - a fat Christmas goose has been sent to his house as compensation for this error]. The Carolina locker room has kept itself solid with bringing back Rachelle Colston who is looking to build on her 5 interceptions from Season 13. Expect Colston to pick up right where she left off. Under Offensive Coordinator Harish Prasad and with QB Sully Richardson manning the helm, the Skyhawks are a good-looking team, and are going to score points. If they can coach up that D, Carolina could surprise some people and make it back to the playoffs for their fourth time in franchise history.|
|19||London Knights||0 - 0(-)||What happened to the Knights during Season 13? -- but that was part of the plan. Owner, Liam Crowter’s idea is that a complete teardown in the short-term will allow this franchise to return to prominence in Season 14, and the long-term. The Knights put their change-movement into overdrive, allowing the dynamic rusher, Reggie Streeter and Defensive Rookie of the Year, Linebacker, DeAndre Washington leave for free agency. London will enter Week 1 with the highest rated player in the SFL, Gabriel Manning at WR, along with newcomers TE, Robert Garrett, Jr and HB, Jason Williams. Williams only had two games rushing for over 100 yards in S13, so the offensive line will certainly have it’s work cut-out for them. They’ve also signed a league high, 9 Rookies with 7 on the defensive side of the ball! Can the Knight’s front office be trusted with an assortment of new riches? New GM and starting quarterback Angus MacLaine, who comes over from the former San Francisco Sharks, had more INTs than TD’s in his rookie year. Now, MacLaine is like the new teacher in charge of a class that knows he's gained the knowledge for a strong turn-around season. Hang in there, Knights fans.|
|20||Arizona Scorpions||0 - 0(-)||Eddie Gauge is about to make his SFL debut running a team that will look nothing like the days in Oklahoma City. There's plenty of reason for optimism, but there are also plenty of unanswered questions. If you want to be excited about the unknown for Season 14, then this is the team to cheer for! How about wins? How about so many new names in new places? How will the addition of AJ Stryker lead this offense? How will former Kicker, turned into Defensive End, Mark Melo fair with durability in the trenches? What will the sudden retirement from the Defensive Rookie of the Year, DeAndre Washington mean for the middle of this defense? Gauge knows how to coach on defense, and Chad Takkul looks as strong as ever, but you wonder if this Arizona team will melt teams in the unbearable heat, or will the unfamiliar grounds look more like a deserted dessert? Let the games begin.|
Always remember, the Power Rankings team accepts e-mails here and that if you feel that your ranking does not suit you, we here on the team give you explicit permission to use it as motivation for your on-field performance the next week. Good luck, everyone, and welcome back to SFL action!