Written by Matthew Slinn
Images By Frank Wade
*All roster information gathered using the SFL Rosters spreadsheet pinned in Discord
Hello and welcome to the first of our Season 16 Draft previews here on the SFL Website. Over this week-long series, we will take a look at each SFL team heading into the draft, pouring in detail over their current roster, what holes they might be looking to fill and briefly, who may be the best SFLm candidates to fill those holes. Before we begin, I must stress that this IS NOT a Mock Draft. Speculation isn’t my strong point – mainly because I’m often completely wrong – and I’m not a fan of putting my neck on the line only to have it lopped off come draft night. Another caveat to this article is that I will not be covering the teams who have done well enough to have completely filled their roster. As they won’t be making any selections, it seems like folly to include them and somewhat of a waste of words. Well, with all that out of the way, let’s get started! For this first instalment, we’ll be travelling to the North Division.
The North division is a particularly intriguing one going into this draft and into Season 16 as a whole. This cold-weather division consists of an expansion team trying to recapture past glory, a franchise from across the pond that has had a major staffing overhaul in recent times, a former powerhouse that struggled through rough seas last time out and the reigning SFL Champions. Talk about an endless possibility of storylines! Now, there is one team in this division that we won’t be discussing, and they are the Baltimore Vultures. Rather unsurprisingly, the S15 winners have managed to retain their entire squad from the previous campaign, every player, young and experienced, keen to come back and have a crack at defending the title. With the Vultures dormant of any draft picks, we move onto one of the most disappointing teams of last season – Queen City.
The Corsairs struggled more than they have in recent memory during Season 15, falling foul to a tough schedule and a running game that was one of the worst in the entire SFL. Still, the unstable ship still has some life left in it, and the management over in QCC will be hoping this off-season can help to steady things. Most of Season 15’s squad have returned after underperforming last season, but QCC still have a couple of spots left to fill. The defense, probably the strongest side of the ball last season, is stacked full of good to great SFL talent across the board, so I only see this draft going one way for QCC – offense. Despite having one of the strongest offensive lines (on paper) last season, Jett Zero couldn’t really get much going from the halfback position – many do say this is partly due to a difficult transition from fullback. It’s quite poignant that the Corsairs have not retained any of their star OL players from last season, so the obvious place to go would be on the attacking side of the trenches. Talent is rather thin at this position in the SFLm, with only a few players plying their trade as dedicated O-Lineman, most notable of whom is Salt Lake City Rustler, Greg McDonaldson. McDonaldson is likely to be hot property, especially in the later rounds, so we could well see the Corsairs firing early to secure his services. Save that, they could select a run blocking tight end in the 1st and pick off a yet-to-be drafted defensive lineman who is capable of switching sides. The observationally astute of you will have noticed that I just mentioned a tight end. Well, running with a duo of str tight ends is becoming ever more popular in the modern SFL, and there is no reason to doubt Queen City jumping on that bandwagon – especially when you look at the pool of talent. Solid run blockers like Will Todd, Jason France and Stephen Walker may all still be there in the first. Personally, I’d go for France or Todd, purely down to their receiving ability which compliments the solid run blocking. No matter what happens, Queen City will be adding size this draft, and lots of it.
Moving on to one of the slightly more fractious franchises in the SFL over the last few seasons, we take a hop, skip and a jump across the Atlantic pond to London, a team famed for producing excellent players and staff without ever really shining themselves. The Knights have had a couple of overhauls in their six-season existence, but none more drastic than last season, with new faces in different positions across the board. Some may see this as a weakness, but I can’t help but find strength in the change. Experienced heads like Tanner Hendrix and Chad Roland will be invaluable to the running of the team, as well as the retention of reliable characters like Jeff Gagne, Dustin Zeck and Benji Mattson. Anyway, before I digress too much about my former team, we must take a look at what tales their draft may tell. The first narrative that jumps out is the inclusion of a punter on the current roster, but not a kicker. Punters are few and far between in the SFL, and I don’t think I have ever seen a team field a punter and not a kicker, even going back to the old days with only 12 star players on a roster. That trend has stood the test of time and I don’t perceive that London will have any thoughts of breaking it this season. Expect a rookie kicker to be donning the red jersey next season, joining more experienced legs like James Troll and Shark Tarkington. I’m not convinced the Knights will ‘do a Vegas’ and draft a special teamer in the first round, but considering there is only one star kicker in the minor leagues, I could be proven wrong. That kicker goes by the name of Jack Lewis, and I think every mock drafter and theirs mums think Lewis is headed across the ocean at some point. The remainder of the Knights’ roster looks fairly strong – going off topic, I especially like the combo of Gagne and Scarbro at linebacker. There is a chance that their could be a third addition to that room. Linebacker is one of the most talented groups in the SFLm this season, so a late-rounder could still prove to be a quality pick for the #3 tackling machine. Don’t be surprised if quality players like Syrok Black or Jonel Ritter are still there when London’s third and final selection comes around. So, with all that covered, where else could water find a hole to seep through in London’s roster? The obvious choice is in the blocking talent. Much like the aforementioned Corsairs, London’s rushing game wasn’t very effective last season, with RB/WR Robert Merrill struggling for consistency. Offensive Line may be slim pickings, but there are a few decent fullbacks out there to be had. Merill can only benefit from a rushing-mate in the backfield, and a player like Hubba Kimbrel could be just what the Lionheart’s needed.
Right, here we are, stood in the shadow of by far the biggest elephant in the room – the DC Dragons. Now, this is not because of any controversy, this is simply because the Dragons, rather uniquely, need a whopping 15 picks to fully populate their roster in this season’s draft. Being a GM myself and knowing the stress of drafting seven great players last season, I can’t begin to imagine what the Dragons’ front office are going through. Either way, let’s piece together the jigsaw of needs and come out with a clear picture. First off, let’s look at the pieces DC have put in place so far, because a couple of them are he most important. Veteren QB, Shabazz Psynergy returns to the helm alongside an extremely low-paid running back in Suge Targaryen, potential brother/sister of the famous family from Game of Thrones – we are yet to see if ancient magical powers will come into play on the field. Kanye Rockafella, Clint Hendershot and Jack Russell have moved the nation’s capital as well, forming an excellent base for that defense to build from, much like the trio of linebackers in Portland last season. And…that’s it! The Dragons still have fifteen pieces left to find. So, where do they start? Conventional wisdom dictates that the Dragons start to load up their receiving talent on offense to help out Psynergy, who is likely to be the lowest paid QB in the league. However, with the sheer amount of players at their disposal, and with a defensive line devoid of any talent at all, a player like Dan Tritz or Achilles Paptonis may find themselves on their way to DC earlier than most may have thought. Even if that happened, DC still need recievers, both out wide and at the tight end position. Obviously Riley Quintero is the stand-out, but Kingston Ellington, Kyle Finnamore and Nate Ritters have also stood out this season and would be great fits on any SFL team. Perusing over the other double-decker bus size holes in this roster, I see that cornerback needs addressing, as well as a good safety to partner Kanye Rockafella and Russell and a linebacker to play behind Clint Hendershot. Safety and ‘backer are positions you may see the Dragons hold fast on, focusing elsewhere before picking young players who are keen to learn from the seasoned vets at their position. Last, but not least, we look back at something that has been bugging me…why did DC decide to sign a running back at such a low value, when there are at least a dozen great rushers in the SFLm, some of whom are SFL-ready now? Could the DC Dragons be breaking new ground and fielding a back-up running back? Could Targaryen be in position to play behind the likes of Kevin Seay? I guess only time will tell. Either way, all it does is add another storyline to what I’m sure will be a novel season in the North Division.
Make sure to check back with me tomorrow, when we shall be looking at the teams from the South Division. It’s sure going to be another fun one.