By Jeff Gagne, Images by J.R. Lawless
Editor’s Note: The following is the debut article of what will be a multi-part series, looking at the ins and outs of pre-draft build up from a team staff point of view. Intrepid reporter, Jeff Gagne, tracked down and interviewed three of the league’s premier minds to give readers a fly-on-the-wall look at what goes through an owner and GM’s mind leading up to the draft and post Free Agency. We shall start on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Drafting Across the Pond
Jeff Gagne sat down with Liam the owner of the London Knights. The team is one of the established SFL teams that will be drafting near the top of the draft this season. Looking for improvement while facing a new draft landscape is surely going to present a challenge to many teams this season. Due to this unique perspective, Gagne was interested in how the team is preparing for the largest draft class in SFL history.
Gagne: This draft is unprecedented in size and nature, can you tell us a little bit about how your team approaches the draft process?
Liam: “I think the way that the draft has been constructed this season from a procedural standpoint has been…‘difficult’ for teams…expansion teams especially are going to need to make compromises to their build to reach max cap value. I think in London, we’ve completely changed tack and are looking to get the guys we want from a personality standpoint in the main draft and putting the value on our supplemental picks to compensate for the lack of value that’s available on rookies in the main draft.”
Gagne: What is it you look for most in a prospect and what are some red flags?
Liam: “Activity is the main factor. Making a good impression in the interview is important. We want someone who’s not going to depart the league after we draft them and show the willingness to work hard for their team.”
Gagne: What has surprised you the most about the prospects in this draft class?
Liam: “SFL can be a bit impenetrable at times from a mechanics point of view but we’ve made good progress into making things as accessible as possible and I’m impressed by just how well the prospects have taken to the SFLm and understanding how things work.”
Gagne: What advice do you have for rookies coming into an established locker room post draft?
Liam: “Listen to your coaches. They will know what works for the position you’re playing in. It makes it more difficult to retain you if you decide to go against your team and go your own way without properly consulting your coaches first on what you want to focus on.”
London’s first pick will come at #3 in the coming draft. Gagne projects them to take DE, Billy Ray Valentine, the defensive end with 12 weeks banked currently. What we know for sure, activity and personality will play a large role in their pick evaluation. Those are of course two of the toughest things to mock, so be on the look out for what the Knights do on June 21st!
Straight from the Hive
You’ve just won the Championship, where are you going? The answer should be Disney Land, however Atlanta needed to jump back to the drawing board quicker than they would have hoped. QB Marcus Dunhill retired, going out on top. While that’s the dream for a player, I’m sure it’s a nightmare for the Swarm. Gagne sat down with the Atlanta Swarm’s GM Siege Falco, to talk about the QB spot, picking at the end of the June 21st draft and what their plan is for repeating next season using the draft to fill their roster.
Gagne: Defending champs, picking at the end of the draft, no QB on roster. Are you worried?
Siege: “With QB being the highest valued target for most of these newer teams and being last it’s definitely a priority of ours. But we have some things planned out so we don’t end up with a hairy situation.”
Gagne: How can you see a rookie walking into a defending champions locker room and becoming a leader?
Siege: “With Marcus leaving, and us having won a championship it definitely leaves BIG shoes for the next wave of rookies to come in. Especially if we end up drafting a QB, they’re gonna have to keep their head up through those first couple tough losses. It’s rough being a rookie in the first few weeks in the big leagues, but we might be drafting the next Patrick Mahomes – you never know.”
Gagne: What was your draft experience like as a player? Any tips for the prospects out there this year?
Siege: “My draft experience involved me reaching out to a BUNCH of teams, I remember Tulsa, Sioux Falls, Alaska, and Tallahassee. I came in the league a little late to the party, so there were plenty of higher value players than me. I knew I’d be going in the later rounds. I was actually on call with Marcus during the whole draft, we became friends our first day in the league, and then ended up actually getting drafted together to the same team and eventually became champs! Still a better love story than twilight…But tips for prospects – be active in chat. We love to see ya’ll interacting, even we aren’t talking, I promise we’re watching. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and I think the best piece of advice i could give a rook: don’t lose hope. You’ll find your home eventually here in the SFL.”
There is no doubt the Swarm are confident in the ability to create a championship roster. This may be due to the plethora of rookie QBs, and the outside chance they could even sign the big Rookie QB from last draft class, Jonny Pichler. The Simulation Draft Database team foresees the Swarm filling the QB depth position early in the draft. With the most banked weeks for a QB in the draft class at 28 weeks, Derrick Majors offers the team the best chance to mold a QB to their system should he be the right personality fight with the locker room.
Can’t stand the Heat, get out of the War Room
Last season didn’t finish the way the Arizona team hoped. We have had a lot of insight into the locker room of the Scorpions this off season. Owner Eddie Gauge is very open in clearing the air about his team this past season. It is clear they are approaching this year with a fresh slate, building a team first locker room for the coming season. Their locker room is full of veterans, as Arizona is one of the handful of teams who won’t pick until the supplemental rounds on June 21st. To understand how the team plans to build a strong locker room, find the right people and approach the supplemental draft, Gagne speaks with the Arizona Scorpions Owner, Eddie.
Gagne: Having a strong locker room is something every teams strives for in the SFL. What advice do you have for rookies coming in from SFLm locker rooms to the pros?
Eddie: “Monitor the pulse of the locker room and try to fit into that mode. That said, I’m not asking them to behave as someone they’re not. Approach the team with the mindset that they are there with a team first mentality. Get a feel for your surroundings. Some players talk more than others. You may even find yourself bonding with some more than others, and that’s okay too. In the end, we’re all here to have fun and win games.”
Gagne: How do you know you are getting the true answers in an prospect interview?
Eddie: “You don’t. The best thing you can do is interview prospects often. When doing so, don’t shy away from asking the tough questions. One thing I like to do is monitor their behavior in the general chat room and games. When players are comfortable is usually when they relax and show their true colors.”
Gagne: Your team valued veterans this year. How do you think you can use the supplement rounds to improve your team?
Eddie: My goal is always to draft with a long term goal in mind. There are specific positions I am looking to draft. If unsuccessful, I will draft in other areas with the hope that these players can see the long term vision that I have for both them and the team.
With no pick until the supplemental draft, it is hard to say what Arizona will do. What we do know is they will be looking for the RKG, the right kind of guy/girl. If you are a prospect willing to go in the supplemental rounds, I’d make sure to speak with Arizona to see if you may be a fit for their process and plan in this coming season. With that said, Gagne predicts that the team will look to address OL, with a chance they look for K early in the supplemental as well.
Editor’s Note: A huge thank you to roving reporter, Jeff Gagne, for getting in touch with some of the league’s best and brightest and picking their brains in an intelligent and insightful way. Better news? Well, there are plenty more ‘Draft Playbook’ interviews coming down the wire. Keep those eyes and ears alert!