Written by Matthew Slinn
Images by Axel Raven/Hubba Kimbrel

The Talent Factories of the SFL

Glancing Into the Near Past

The SFLm was devised 4 seasons ago to accommodate new players to the SFL and to ensure that interest could be maintained within the league during the SFL off-season. The expected outcomes of this ‘Minor League‘ was a greater player retention, especially amongst rookies who eagerly awaited a shot in the pros. Little did we know that the SFLm would become rich with so much talent that the players who emerged from each team would shape the SFL into what it is today. Sceptics of the ‘Minors‘ were a rarity when it first kicked off a couple of years ago, but I can’t imagine that number being higher than zero now. The young players getting drafted onto pro teams increase in ability as each season passes, and I fully expect the S18 Draft to be no exception to this rule. For now, we will take a look back over the talent that has emerged from the first three seasons of the SFLm and assess each individual’s impact on the league whilst fighting for victory on the field. I have chosen five players from each SFLm franchise – a task that proved to be a darn sight tougher than I rather naively thought it would be. In this first edition, we will take a look at the Salt Lake City Rustlers – a team that has spent two seasons in the SFLm, winning it all a season ago. Considering the Rustlers have clinched the SFLm Championship, you would expect this list to be top drawer. Let’s see who made the final cut.

NOTE: It is important to know that I have not counted players who did not play in Season 17 of the SFL. Whilst a few retirees had excellent seasons in 15 or 16, I would personally like to honor those who are still prepared to take the hits on the field.

#5) Isaiah King II – Free Safety, Denver Nightwings (Season 17 Draft)

Free Safety Isaiah King II has only spent one season in the SFL but has quickly become a key member of the Denver Nightwings secondary as they try to recover from losing the spine of Season 16’s championship winning roster. King has settled in nicely as the third safety and his levels of production have stayed consistent with what he managed in Salt Lake City. The young defender has continually shown an eye for the ball, making 4 interceptions this season, good for 3rd on the Denver Nightwings defense. King complemented this with 8 pass deflections and a glimpse at how he performs in contact situations, making between 3 and 4 tackles per game whilst forcing a fumble. The future looks bright for King – Denver could have a league-leading safety on their hands a couple of seasons from now.

#4) Jahrad Brodie – Cornerback, Mexico City Aztecs (Season 17 Draft)

The next name on our list is also a former member of Salt Lake City’s championship-winning secondary – cornerback, Jahrad Brodie, an Australian whom has already experienced the bright lights of the playoffs. The 6’2 Brodie is another Rustler who carried traits shown in the SFLm to the SFL, and only improved their effectiveness. As part of a very green cornerback room, Brodie quickly established himself as the best of the bunch, taking the #1 spot enabling him to work against the best receivers in the SFL. The man from ‘Down Under’ showed his class all season, tying potential Hall-of-Fame safety Jeffery Daggs for pass deflections and interceptions (6 PDs and 7 INTs respectively) whilst also forcing a fumble. Clearly unafraid of the big occasion, Brodie excelled in Mexico City’s playoff run, intercepting the ball 3 times and proving to be a dangerous man for opposing QBs to throw to. Whilst Brodie did get beat on occasion, the sky is the limit. Next season could see him knocking on the door of the elite.

#3) Kris Magle – Strong Safety/Cornerback (Season 16 Draft)

Is it me, or have Salt Lake City ben great at producing excellent secondary players? Kris Magle, drafted in Round 1 of the Season 16 draft, certainly does his best to answer that question. A ‘do it all’ safety in the SFLm, Magle joined the Las Vegas Fury as a box safety/slot corner, sat behind perennial Pro Bowler, Max Jackson. Clearly the young, big-bodied safety learned a lot from Jackson as the difference in production between Season 16 and Season 17 is noticeable. In the jump between seasons, Magle made over 30 more tackles and his INT numbers went from a poultry 2 to a very impressive 7. What makes these stats pop more is the fact that 6’4, 230lb Magle needed to slim down and transition from box safety to #2 cornerback as Vegas shifted their secondary around. During both season, #34 helped Vegas to reach the second round of the playoffs in a secondary known for taking the ball away. The former Rustler has found himself a great home in Las Vegas and I can see him working those corners with veteran Merrick Itera for seasons to come.

#2) Tommy Utah – Quarterback (Season 17 Draft)

Finally, we come to our first offensive player on this list, quarterback, Tommy Utah. Utah was a stalwart in Salt Lake City, guiding them through 2 seasons including an epic and unlikely championship winning run. It was no surprise then, that Salt Lake City owner and GM of the Revolution, Ross Napoli, drafted Utah to Louisiana to replace departing QB, Jonny Pichler. Now, those of us whom have been around the league a while know that being a rookie QB is very tough. Even those QBs who lead their teams to the playoffs at the first attempt struggle during their formative season – we can’t all be as uniquely talented as Bryant Dynasty (who may make an appearance in a later article). Utah produced well however for his new coaching staff and home fans. It wasn’t perfect and the Revs didn’t make it to the playoffs, but promise surrounds Utah. If there is one thing you can say about the man – he’s extremely consistent. Utah’s numbers in his two seasons in the SFLm were remarkably similar, and that has translated into the SFL, albeit with slightly more interceptions. The signal-caller’s opening stanza ended with a QBR of just over 81, a TD-INT ratio of 18:25 and a completion percentage of over 70%. Everything about Utah’s first season was ‘middle of the pack’ compared to the rest of the SFL, but for a rookie, that is excellent production. I know that Louisiana are still more than confident they found the right man to lead them back to the promised land; the foundations are there, now he just needs to build on them.

#1) Greg Mcdonaldson (Season 16 Draft)

Surprise! Yes! The best player so far to come out of Salt Lake City is an offensive lineman. Disagree? Well, hear me out, listen to my reasoning and hopefully I can clear things up a little more. First off – the man has been to two Championship games in his first 2 seasons in the SFL. I know this a team sport, but you have to recognise winners when it is warranted. Secondly, McDonaldson has demonstrated that he is an excellent pass blocker. The Florida Storm allowed 33 sacks on Ron Cockren in Season 15, when McDonaldson was plying his trade in the SFLm. Fast forward two seasons, Cockren has been sacked 32 times – in Season 16 and 17 COMBINED. You could argue that the veteran QB is simply getting the ball out more quickly, but that comes with confidence that you have great blocking in front of you, and Cockren’s numbers reflect that. McDonaldson, as part of Florida’s line, only allowed 14 sacks in Season 17 – the fewest in the SFL. The 2nd-season player has also paved the way for Charlie ‘Bullet’ Biletsky to forge a fantastic start to his SFL career, the young RB rushing for over 1200 yards and 17 TDs this season at a clip of more than 5 yards per carry. Biletsky is a great talent, but you can’t achieve those numbers without world class run blocking. I know that McDonaldson is just part of a 5-man offensive line, but the tackle is the leader of that line and his elite level play says as much.

Make sure to keep those eyes peeled for more journeys into the near-past as we take a look at even more league-changing players to have ascended from the SFLm in recent seasons!