Written by Matthew Slinn
Hello, and welcome back to part 2 of our deep dive into the pre-draft needs of every team in the SFL. Today, we take a look at the proud South Division. Why? Well, it’s the opposite of yesterday’s North Division and I like to work pragmatically. Sorry South, but that’s about as special as you get! Anyway, let me just remind everyone that this piece is NOT a Mock Draft. If you’re a wide-eyed rookie reading this expecting to see where you’re going in the first round then I’m afraid you’ll leave disappointed. Yes, I may mention the names of some prominent rooks, but this only serves to add detail to my work and if anything, to get your name more exposure. So, without further ado, let’s head on down south.
Out of all the divisions in the SFL, going into Season 16, the South division is probably the most difficult to pick a favourite for. This foursome all suffer form the same fate of being very good but not considered a true heavy hitter. Mexico City come the closest to achieving that status, but put them next to teams like Baltimore and Sioux Falls, and they appear to be a half-step behind. Now, what does this mean? This means that the South Division draws I in heading into this draft, as I rack my brains trying to decide how each of these teams will use it to get to that next level. We have the Fort Worth Toros, a team who missed the playoffs but showed flashes, putting the hurt on the likes of Sioux Falls and Louisiana last season. We have Houston and Lone Star, teams carrying strong Season 15 performances into this off-season, making the playoffs and both falling in epic games along the way. Lastly, we have the aforementioned Mexico City Aztecs, a franchise steeped in playoff history, trying to make it back to the Championship game after their Season 9 triumph. This draft could prove pivotal to the short-term success of every South Division team involved. First, let’s head down to Fort Worth and jump in the ring with the Toros.
Fort Worth’ Season 15 performances were based on stout defence (one of the stingiest in the SFL) and an offense centred around Jason Williams. If Williams had a great game, the offense had a great game. The make-up of this squad largely remains the same, with the notable different being SFLm Season 1 QB, Cam Curtis, replacing Xander Gold at the QB position, with Gold testing free agency this off-season. Curtis already looks SFL-ready, so expect the Toros to use the draft to help him out by adding to the two-pronged receiving corps. With so many good receivers on the board, and already possessing the talents of Stephen Hacker and Cade Stephens, Fort Worth may be able to wait on a WR, swooping in with their 3rd pick to take a more unheralded player like Kelsey Brown, or Chris Lee. I have heard whispers that a second TE in the roster might be part of the plan, but looking at what they have with Robert Garrett Jr, I don’t think that’s necessary. One area that could be a priority of the Toros is the Offensive Line, a position currently occupied by generics. For me, it’s a toss up between whether the Toros are looking for a defensive line player to make the switch or whether they want a second D-Tackle to partner Katherine Horrell in that hungry centre. One ‘area of weakness’ – if you can call it that – on this defense, is the safety position. Ben Stone and Delaney Nash are both good players, but they are still inexperienced themselves. Adding another piece in the box to sure up the secondary may be a smart move. Aggressive tacklers like Eric Gugger and Peanut Seay could well be high on the board. The Toros will be hoping Curtis can take them into the playoffs in this dogfight of a division. The mission of the front office? Give him the best shot possible.
We stay in the state of Texas (I think – I’m English after all) and head to the facility of the Houston Hyenas. The Hyenas are nothing if not ‘new-look’ going into Season 16, with a somewhat piecemeal roster mainly due to an issue that contravened the Signing Announcement Rules set out by the SFL. Nobody wants to see a franchise compromised in this way, but the Hyenas have dealt with it calmly and have papered over the cracks left by that mistake. The roster looks somewhat strange without the names ‘Johnson and Clarke’ populating it, and the defensive line also looks like it is missing a rather sizeable hole that would have been filled. As it happens, heading into the draft, ET. King is at the helm, and you know what? He needs a good tight end. The Hyenas are stacked with experience at wide receiver, but every group needs a quality tight end to compliment it. Houston need that big body across the middle of the field. Look for the Hyenas to try and grab one of the big threats of the SFLm, athletes like Will Todd and Ziggy Hronec, who will most certainly add bite through the air. Speaking of ‘through the air’, what about defense? With Everett Garrison heading over to Arizona, the Hyenas are looking extremely thin at the cornerback position. The outside pass defenders in the SFLm must be licking their lips as I predict at least two will be donning the reddish-brown jersey next season. First round talent includes the likes of Adam Leach and Marco Swift form the championship winning Atoms, whilst a later pick could bring in a talented #2 like Andrew Roush from Ottawa. The Hyenas have 7 selections at their disposal, and you had better believe a pair of cornerbacks will be in them. Elsewhere, depth is needed on the defensive line and at linebacker, whilst a star special teams player wouldn’t go amiss, although that may be tricky with few on the board. The Houston Hyenas’ front office have a lot to do if they want to return to the post-season in a few months time. They could well be in the weakest position pre-draft of any team in the South.
Once again, we are staying deep within the state of Texas for our third preview, as we look at one of the most popular and well-marketed teams in the SFL, the Lone Star Glory. After taking over the well-decorated Seattle Tyrants franchise, it has been nothing but success for the Lone Star Glory. A maiden voyage to the playoffs, the defacto ‘winners of the Season 15 draft’ and a leadership team that gets results on and off the field, all have resulted in this 2nd-season squad looking like they have been in the SFL for years and years. As the teams in the South go, Lone Star are probably the easiest to preview, so we won’t take much time doing it. As it see it, with 2 roster spots left to fill, there a two areas the Glory will look to strengthen – passing offence and passing defence. Now, it’s no secret that the Glory unconventionally ran with only two star receivers on the outside last season, and the passing game remained effective because of the stellar play of tight end, Adam Williams. However, this receiving corps system does still leave you slightly restricted, so I see no problem in giving Ace Fenech another weapon to utilise in his second season. Players like Jeff Banfield and Maximus Blue could still be there for Lone Star’s second pick, so take a chance on discovering the next great SFL slot receiver. Some of the more knowledgeable amongst you may be thinking ‘Slinn! Deuce Fenech is a receiver in the SFLm! Why not choose him?!’. Well, what can I say? I don’t always like going for the obvious and I do like a healthy bit of family rivalry. Notice I said ‘second pick’ during that explanation. This because Lone Star’s more pressing issue is who will partner Mickey McGuire at the CB position this season? ‘Gunny’ had a good debut season and will have a lot to teach any new player coming in. AAs long as they are willing to listen and learn, I can see Lone Star taking a chance on a name that hasn’t been on the forefront of people’s minds. Players like Leo Morris and Cody Griffin could quickly find themselves playing every snap for one of the most-watched teams in the league.
And, last but not least, we come to the big boys of this division (that’s no disrespect to everyone else, but the Aztecs haven’t missed the playoffs once since I joined in Season 10). As I previously mused, Mexico City are looking for that piece or two to escalate them to the Championship game for a second time. This is an extremely important draft for the Aztecs. Much like the Lone Star Glory, this team looks easy to preview for, on paper. Why is it not quite as simple as first glance makes it seem? Ramos Lynn’s penchant for doing things a little differently. Just looking at the roster as it stands, the offense is stacked. Ray Bentley returns from his 1-season hiatus to fill the boots on the full back position, and talented second-season receiver Fox Highwind has flown thousands of miles from London for better weather and tastier food. The offensive line could use some talent to protect Matt Willson, but the Bronze-Bomber tends to have a habit of avoiding sacks simply by throwing to the best TE in the league. The secondary, once again, is stacked full of talent. It may not be the biggest names that fill those spots (save Jeffrey Daggs, a player I’ve been a fan of since Season 10) but it’s a solid unit that needs no improvement. The linebacking corps looks decent, but in front of them there is a huge hole that needs to be filled. The defensive tackle position. The Aztecs need a big body or two in the middle of that line, and they will need to get busy if they are going to get one. All of the DT’s in the SFLm are capable players, Dan Tritz proving to be the true quality player of the bunch, but there are only 5 of them. Save that, Mexico City may need to charm a defensive end across to become more of a run stopper. There are some players in this league that have succeeded at both, but they tend to be the very elite. Can the Aztecs find that diamond in the rough? It could be the difference between making the championship game and falling short.
Did you enjoy this Draft Preview? Make sure to let us know in the Discord chat, generally or through DM’s. We always love to hear positive support and constructive criticism from the community. Tomorrow we head to the Wild Wild West. Let’s hope the article is better quality than the film of the same name.