By Mighty RX, Ross Napoli, Christian Christiansen, Merrick Itera and Matthew Slinn
Hello! Welcome back to the SFL Top 20! Yes, I know it has been a while…the ‘Honourable Mentions’ article was some weeks back…however, we didn’t want to steal any limelight away from the draft and the rookies getting excited about being picked. Now that the first season players are settling nicely into their new locker rooms, we feel that the time is right to revisit our list. The following is the ‘bottom half’ of our Top 20. All the names on this list were exceptional in Season 14, producing regular magicianship between the white lines for their respective teams. Shall we see who made this sought-after list? (Yes, Mighty decided he would illustrate with a GIF, rather than a still picture. Some would call him a visionary).
#20 – Josh Vasquez, Free safety, Denver Nightwings
When you think of the quintessential centerfielder, Josh Vasquez is whom you’re pondering about. Building on his great play of Season 13, where he had 8 interceptions and 5 passes deflected, he took it to the next level as he’s gotten acclimated to the Nightwings’ scheme, to the tune of 11 interceptions, 11 passes deflected and a touchdown. He was an eraser back there, covering up any teammates’ mistakes and baiting quarterbacks into turnovers.
#19 – William Davidson, Defensive Tackle, London Knights
With double digit sacks and tackles for loss the past 4 seasons, Davidson should be a household name when it comes to top defensive tackles in the league. Having amassed 5 multi sack games in Season 14, including two 3 sack games, you can understand why he belongs on this top 20 players list. Setting career highs in sacks and tackles for loss this past season with 17.5 and 28 respectively, he was a force to be reckoned with. While London is in the midst of a rebuild, that’s one area that won’t need to be addressed!
#18 – Hunter Norwood, Defensive Tackle, Jacksonville Kings
A mainstay on Frank Goodin’s defensive line, Norwood has become one of the leading sack artists in league history. In Season 14, he brought his normal inside pressure along with a more emphasized role in run defense. The thick, trunky 325 pound defensive tackle finished third in the league in tackles for loss with 26, indicating he was excellent at penetrating the backfield. Despite losing long-time partner in crime, Kevin Bane, mid-season, Norwood still put up a respectable double-digit sack season and anchored the middle of the Kings defense.
#17 – Clint Hendershot, Linebacker, Chicago Wildcats
Although Hendershot’s stats don’t stand out like most other players on this list, there’s no denying the excellent season he had. The linebacker played a critical role in Chicago’s #3 ranked run defense and averaged over ten tackles per game this past season. While he didn’t force any turnovers, he was among the leaders at his position in tackles for loss. Hendershot may have been the best pure run-defending linebacker last season. When it’s all said and done, he understood his role within Shann Varner’s defense and was one of the most consistent players in the league.
#16 – Christian Christiansen, Quarterback, Jacksonville Kings
Christian maintains his position in the QB hierarchy again this season, showcasing a return to form of sorts for his on-field production by leading the league in almost every single category that matters for a Quarterback in the SFL. Amassing 4200+ Yards throughout the course of the season while throwing 34 Touchdowns and taking the fewest sacks of his career. You might think you see a chink in the armor when viewing his INT numbers, but most offenses this year were playing catchup with the defensive side of the ball this season as defensive star players were more numerous, leading to a shift in defensive play-calling that forced all the teams to re-think their gameplans. Even more amazing, then, that CC was able to complete 430 passes in the most crowded secondaries that this league has ever seen. Expect Christiansen to come back next season better than ever, reloaded and ready to chase the SFL Championship once again.
#15 – Tank Bennett, Strong Safety, New Orleans Pharaohs/Louisiana Revolution
There’s a short list of Safeties that the entire league keeps an eye on from season to season, and Tank Bennet is DEFINITELY on that list. Noone expected too much more from Tank after last season’s eye-catching performance, and all he did was exceed his numbers in almost every single category, proving that we still haven’t seen the best of what Tank’s got to offer on the field. Setting personal bests in Total Tackles (which led ALL DEFENSIVE PLAYERS FOR THE SEASON) and Tackles for Loss, Tank was a force to be reckoned with in all facets of the ball, truly exemplifying Strong Safety play in the SFL. Now that the Pharaohs have rebranded, it’ll be interesting to see what Tank will outdo himself in playing for a different franchise for the 1st time in his young career – interesting enough to keep all of the Offensive Coordinators in the league keyed in to where they think he’ll be before calling a single play.
#14 – Michael Sprous, Cornerback, Jacksonville Kings
One of the top Cornerbacks in the game today ends up as #14 on our list. Sprous, a hard hitting, ball hawking corner helped make the Kings 1st season in Jacksonville a successful one. His 66 total tackles was 4th in the SFL among Cornerbacks. This 5 year veteran had more than a solid season with 5 or more tackles in 11 of his 13 games played (including the playoffs). He had 2 games with 2 Interceptions in season 14 to go along with 18 passes defended which was tops in the SFL. Sprous has made the playoffs every year since being in the league. With career post season numbers so far at 50 tackles, 4 interceptions and 10 passes defended it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Sprous climb this list in future seasons.
#13 – Siege Falco, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Swarm
One of the more dynamic receivers in the game, Falco finds himself as #13 on our Top 20 list. In season 14 he had over 1,100 receiving yards on a career high 85 receptions. Also a career high was his 13 TD catches, which was 3rd in the SFL last season. A solid season non the less with over 100 receiving yards in 9 of his 15 games played (including the playoffs). His best game of the year was in Week 10 vs Queen City when Falco caught 9 of 10 targets for 195 yds and a TD. With 17 post season receptions for 206 yds and a TD, Falco helped lead the Atlanta Swarm to the SFL Championship in Season 14.
#12 – Max Jackson, Strong Safety, Las Vegas Fury
Our #12 pick needs no introduction. He has consistently been one of the best safeties in the SFL during his 5 season career and is arguably up there with the greatest at his position to ever grace the turf of the SFL. Ofcourse, I’m talking about Max Jackson, #37 for the Las Vegas Fury. A tall, rangy safety considering he plays on the strong side, Jackson has always managed to perfectly blend stout defense against the run and game-breaking plays in pass defence. No season has demonstrated this more clearly than Season 14, arguably Jackson’s best since joining the San Francisco Sharks back in Season 10. The 6’3 Fury player recorded career highs in pass deflections and interceptions (double digit totals for both) whilst also returning one for a 6-point swing. Jackson paired this with 6 TFL’s on ball carriers in the backfield, including 2 sacks. The face of the Fury franchise is just hitting his prime. He’s well on his way to becoming a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer.
#11 – T-Roy Gaines, Halfback, Baltimore Vultures
Rounding out the first half of this Top 20 is the runaway mine train, T-Roy Gaines. At 240lb, Gaines has a physical point to prove each game – something he manages every weekend with aplomb. The Baltimore man runs hard and true, sometimes resembling a bowling ball ploughing through skittle-like defenders, who know what is coming but are powerless to stop it. He is a specimen. Physical attributes aside, possibly Gaines’ greatest trait is his remarkable consistency. Never failing to reach 1,000 yards in his 4 seasons since being drafted, #35 also managed 20 total touchdowns this season, the highest mark of his illustrious career. True, 2 fumbles lost may have him slightly further down this list than a couple of others in a deep halfback pool (mild spoilers) but there is no denying that Gaines is a huge reason why Baltimore consistently find themselves playing meaningful football after Week 12.
There we have it folks! The bottom half of our SFL Top 20! Make sure you check back in with us soon, to see who made the cut into the coveted top 10, and which player we chose as the best player in the SFL from Season 14.