Atlanta Firebirds

ILB Joplo Bartu – 8f

OLB Audie Cole – 7c

ILB Jermaine Grace – 6aa

ILB Sam Hurl – 7a

OLB Jarvis Jones – 8acf

OLB Cameron Lynch – 7a

ILB Donald Payne – 6aa

ILB Luke Rhodes – 6aa

OLB Alex Scearce – 7a

OLB Telvin Smith – 10

ILB Justin Tuggle – 7a

He’s only going to be a one-year rental, but Telvin Smith is a game-changing linebacker who can take over the Firebirds defense and make them a playoff-caliber unit. Telvin Smith’s is matched by very few, making him a tremendous coverage guy with the ability to get sideline-to-sideline when playing the run. Joplo Bartu returns for his fifth season with the Firebirds. He is the unquestioned signal-caller in the middle of the unit and another strong run-stuffer. But the pass rush will need to be helped by Jarvis Jones. The NFL flameout is looking to get his career back on track in the place he had so much success in college. Jones is only 28-years-old, so it would be foolish to think he is finished, but he has something major to prove. Audie Cole is an experienced SFL guy who tested the NFL waters but ultimately has returned. He has limited upside, but is a solid backup. Sam Hurl is a CFL signing who can contribute as a backup as well. Cameron Lynch is entering his third season with the Firebirds and has had another solid camp. He is on the side and could push Jones for a starting spot if Jones struggles to bounce back. Justin Tuggle wasn’t a bad backup for the Firebirds last season as a veteran combine addition. Luke Rhodes, Donald Payne and Jermaine Grace all have potential, but D-League Defensive Player of the Year Alex Scearce has really stood out as a supreme pass rusher.

Birmingham Predators

OLB Beniquez Brown – 6a

OLB Don Cherry – 7a

OLB Jay Elliott – 8aa

OLB Doug Parrish – 6aa

ILB Joshua Perry – 7a

OLB Tim Williams – 6aaf

Jay Elliott was the best of the group last season and has had a strong camp and stepped up even more this season. He’s not the best top linebacker, but he is their best linebacker and a quality starter. But after him there is a lot left to be desired. Don Cherry and Joshua Perry would be better as backups, but will likely start in Birmingham. Doug Parrish is a nice prospect who joins the team through a trade with New York after they switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. Tim Williams has disappointed in camp, but has loads of potential as a pass rusher.

Carolina Generals

ILB Beau Bell – 7

OLB Tyre Glasper – 7

OLB Fredrick Henry-Ajudua – 6a

ILB Mike Hull – 7aa

ILB Nicholas Morrow – 7aa

ILB Hardy Nickerson – 6aa

Mike Hull has finally found his home after jumping around early in his career. The 26-year-old took positive steps forward last year but now has to further prove himself as the man in the middle of the defense. And he’ll have the challenge of fighting first round draft pick Nicholas Morrow. The Greenville University graduate looks like a really nice player, though he could slide outside to solidify the opening out there. Tyre Glasper is a natural outside linebacker but is just a solid veteran and nothing special. He’s actually much better suited to be a backup, but may have to start. Beau Bell is a similar type of veteran who is just okay. Rookies Hardy Nickerson and Fredrick Henry-Ajudua both disappointed in the D-League and have more development to do.

Charleston Dragons

OLB Keion Adams – 6aa

ILB Micah Awe – 6aa

ILB Ben Boulware – 6af

ILB Miles Burris – 7d

OLB Kyle Emanuel – 8aaf

ILB D’Qwell Jackson – 7d

OLB Alex McCalister – 6aa

OLB Connor McGough – 6a

OLB Ryan Mueller – 6a

OLB Craig Roh – 8a

ILB Brandon Spikes – 8.d$

ILB Zach Vigil – 6aa

Kyle Emanuel and Craig Roh are nice edge-setters in the Charleston Dragons 3-4 defense. Neither guy is much of a factor in the pass rush, however, which is not a good quality in 3-4 outside linebackers. Until they step up in their efforts getting to the quarterbacks, it will be hard for them to garner attention as elite players, but both are very solid guys who stop the opponents from establishing the run. Playing in between those two are two older inside linebackers with a lot of NFL experience in their history, but both are well past their prime. D’Qwell Jackson and Brandon Spikes both has poor camps, but both are better than anything else the team has right now. Miles Burris is also an older veteran showing his age. Micah Awe has shown good clashes of potential, as has Zach Vigil. They need to be more involved this year. Alex McCalister and Keion Adams are showing solid ability on the edge, but still need to develop. Ryan Mueller was solid in the d-league, but nothing really special.

Columbus Explorers

ILB Riley Bullough – 6aa

OLB James Cowser – 6aa

OLB Dylan Donahue – 6aa

ILB Jake Doughty – 7a

ILB Justin Durant – 8i

OLB Avery Ellis – 7a

OLB Austin Gearing – 6aa

ILB Cody Heiman – 6aa

OLB Thomas Keiser – 7d

OLB Brennan Scarlett – 7aa

ILB Alex Singleton – 7aa

OLB Stephen Weatherly – 6aa

Justin Durant is a solid but not great inside linebacker who is by default the Explorers signal caller. Certainly they could upgrade over him, but he’s not bad, just nothing special. But watch out for Alex Singleton. He is in line to start after a very strong camp following a strong rookie season. Jake Doughty is a solid veteran backup. Cody Heiman had a very good D-League season and should contribute as well. The Explorers need to be patient with Riley Bullough. On the outside the Explorers lack any big pass rushers. James Cowser is a talented player who is flashing nice potentia. Second round picks Dylan Donahue and Avery Ellis may also push for a nice-sized role. Right now veteran Thomas Keiser is in front but could easily be taken down by somebody else. Brennan Scarlett stepped up well in camp after a so-so 2017 season. Stephen Weatherly is a guy whos been more one about potential than performance.

Dallas Six-Shooters

OLB Zaire Anderson – 6aa

OLB Victor Butler – 8

OLB Josh Carraway – 6aaf

MLB Will Compton – 9af$

OLB Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga – 6aa

OLB Taylor Reed – 8aa

ILB Dominique Tovell – 6a

Will Compton is a true defensive leader and Taylor Reed has done a great job for the Six-Shooters, but they will have to be patient with the rest of the group. Victor Butler is a reliable veteran and has very good pass rushing skill. He might start right away. The team loves Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, their second round draft pick. But he’s quite raw coming out of Maine. He could be really good, but may need a year to develop. Territorial draft pick Josh Carraway may be the most ready to start. Zaire Anderson has also done well in camp and has more experience than both guys.

Houston Wranglers

OLB Chase Allen – 6aa

LB BJ Bello – 6aa

LB Devante Bond – 7aa

OLB Larry Dean – 7

OLB Cory Littleton – 7aa

ILB Tyler Matakevich – 7aa

ILB Elandon Roberts – 7aaf

Trust the Process — that has been the message of the Houston Wranglers and they have the makings of a really strong linebacking corp. It will just take time for it to come together. Tyler Matakevich is their man in the middle and he did alright as a rookie, getting 49 tackles. He has plenty of room to grow and is on his upward progression. Elandon Roberts is a talented young player out of the University of Houston and is progressing well. Corey Littleton and Devante Bond were mid-round draft picks last year and also showing positive progression. Larry Dean bring the experience to the team and should be in the mix, but this is a young group who will have great moments but will also make mistakes. Chase Allen and BJ Bello are developmental rookie prospects.

Iowa Threshers

ILB Bryson Albright – 6aa

OLB Brian Brikowski – 7d

OLB Armonty Bryant – 8

ILB Steven Daniels – 7ac

OLB Darius English – 6a

OLB Cory Greenwood – 8.d

LB Marquel Lee – 7aa

OLB Jonathan Massaquoi – 7c

OLB Eric Striker – 7aa

Marquel Lee was drafted as the future of the position but he might be the present too as he’s outplayed both Steven Daniels and Bryson Albright inside. The Threshers will get their veteran presence on the outside with Armonty Bryant and Cory Greenwood. Bryant was actually pretty productive at Atlanta before being let go in the expansion draft. Greenwood is getting older but is still a capable linebacker. He’s no star, but he’s a reliable player. But watch out for Eric Striker. He struggled in his previous SFL opportunity but light it up in the D-League and looks ready to make an impact. He showed really good all-around skill as a coverage guy, sideline-to-sideline run-stuffer, and a blitzer. While Daniels might be being beaten out by Lee for the starting inside linebacker job, he’s only 25 with room to grow. Jonathan Massaquoi could contribute as a backup on the outside.

Los Angeles Stars

MLB Ukeme Eligwe – 7aa

LB Solomon Elimimian – 8a

LB Najee Goode – 7

LB Devon Kennard – 8aaf

OLB Deon Lacey – 8a

OLB Matt Milano – 7aa

ILB Jared Norris – 6aa

LB Hayes Pullard – 7af

Los Angeles has a very quality group at linebacker, from solid starters to very good depth. Solomon Elimimian finished second on the team last year with 76 tackles. He didn’t have a sack or hurry up last season, so he won’t play much of a factor as a pass rusher, but he is great in coverage, finishing with seven pass deflections. Devon Kennard, a USC graduate, has done very well too. He’s had a strong camp after a quality 2017 season. Deon Lacey is another returning starter from last year’s quality unit. Lacey is just 27 and is in his prime and getting better. But despite having three good starters the Stars did not keep that from letting them build on the unit to make it even better. Matt Milano was too good to pass up in the first round of the draft. He is showing a lot of promise and he’ll find a way to get on the field, but it might be tough for him to crack the starting lineup for a while. Ukeme Eligwe looks like a tremendous sixth round pick after a fantastic d-league and training camp. He should be in line for a nice role as a rookie as well. Hayes Pullard is just 25 and getting better. He may push out veteran Deon Lacey.

Louisville Cougars

OLB Brooks Ellis – 6a

OLB Darius Fleming – 7a

ILB Josh Forrest – 6aa

ILB L.J. Fort – 7a

OLB Alvin Ray Jackson – 8

LB Rey Maualuga – 10d$

OLB Antwoine Williams – 7a

Rey Maualuga joined the Cougars late last year and still managed 67 tackles. He just turned 31-years-old, but he’s still a very physical and gifted linebacker who knows how to play the game at a high level. He is the guy the Cougars need to set the tone. But they will be pleased by nice camps from a couple other linebackers too. Last year it was a troubled position but this year they acquired Alvin Ray Jackson through a trade with Omaha and he’s bringing some quality veteran know-how to the unit too. Darius Fleming, LJ Fort and Antwoine Williams are all younger developing linebackers who had good camps and should all make solid contributions this year. It is likely one of them will become the first starter. Josh Forrest is a developmental prospect who flashed potentia..

Memphis Bombers

OLB Kwon Alexander – 9a

OLB Thurston Armbrister – 9a

OLB Dexter Jackson – 7a

LB Jamari Lattimore – 7af

MLB Dillon Lee – 6aa

OLB Curt Maggitt – 7af

OLB Myke Tavarres – 6a

LB Ramik Wilson – 7aa

It’s year two for the organization with Kwon Alexander and Thurston Armbrister together. The two young, budding stars are on the cusp of breaking into the elite group of linebackers in the league. They do a lot of great things and both have pretty complete games. Last year the slight issue was that the third linebacker spot was a liability to teams attacked that vacant spot on the field. However, this year there is a lot more competition for it. Dexter Jackson is a good trade addition from Houston, but he’s been in a tough battle against Jamari Lattimore, Curt Maggitt and Ramik Wilson. All of those guys figure to get involved someway. There is so much more depth here than there was last season with many of those guys stepping up.

Michigan Stags

OLB Jatavis Brown – 9aa

OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill – 7aa

OLB Simoni Lawrence – 8a

OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin – 7aa

LB Jake Ryan – 8aaf

OLB David Talley – 6af

Michigan always has depth and quality all over their defense. The crazy part is that as good as this unit is, it might be their weak link. The Stags are loaded with talented, young linebackers. Jatavis Brown was great as a rookie and was the team’s third-leading tackler. He’s stepped up even more in his second training camp and could challenge for All-League honors this year. Simoni Lawrence tied him for the third most tackles on the team. He’s a very good veteran who just turned 29, but his experience is very valuable for the unit. Jake Ryan is another guy who isn’t fashy but is just a good player. He’s just 26-years-old and is now entering his prime and should continue to be a very valuable player for the Stags. Behind that trio Kamu Grugier-Hill and Jalen Reeves-Maybin stand out. Grugier-Hill was one of the best rookies in the league last season after being an eight round pick. Reeves-Maybin is a very athletic fourth round pick. Both have quick edge players who do a very good job stopping the run.

Minnesota Freeze

ILB Vince Biegel – 7aa

ILB Conner Harris – 6aa

OLB Marco Ojemudia – 6aa

OLB Joe Schobert – 7aa

OLB Aaron Wallace, Jr. – 6aa

OLB Eric Wilson – 6aa

OLB Paul Worrilow – 7a

Joe Schobert, Paul Worrillow and Marco Ojemudia all have experience from last season, but it was experience leading the linebacking corp. From a really bad defense. Schobert and Ojemudia were probably thrown in too early, but the potential is there. The potential is also there for rookie Vince Biegel, who has shined so far in camp and looks like he might be the best of the bunch. Conner Harris, Aaron Wallace Jr. and Eric Wilson also are showing some ability, but are just young and need time to develop. It might be another tough head for a group that has decent players, but nobody that can make a different yet.

Mississippi Cottonmouths

OLB Marcus Ball – 7

OLB Carl Bradford – 7aa

MLB Richie Brown – 6aaf

MLB Deron Mayo – 8a

MLB Kelvin Sheppard – 8

OLB Yawin Smallwood – 7c

OLB Ian Wild – 7

For an expansion team, Mississippi has managed to put together a pretty decent linebacking unit right away. Deron Mayo and Kelvin Sheppard are two really good veterans coming from different paths. Sheppard has had success in the NFL, but at age 30 had come to the SFL to lead a team with an owner that is loyal to LSU graduates. Mayo was a good CFL player who moved to the SFL a few years ago. After playing well in New York, he’s been acquired through the expansion draft and could lead the team in tackles after having a quality camp. And Houston might end up regretting giving up a quality young outside linebacker in the expansion draft. Carl Bradford has likely earned himself a starting job after a fine camp, following a pretty good rookie season. The Cottonmouths have solid depth too, with veterans such as Marcus Ball, Yawin Smallwood and Ian Wild. Richie Brown is a rookie showing potential as well.

New Orleans Nightmare

MLB Kendall Beckwith – 8aaf

OLB Samson Ebukam – 7aa

OLB Kennan Gilchrist – 6a

OLB Justin Hickman – 7

OLB Cameron Judge – 7a

MLB Casey Matthews – 7$

OLB Duke Riley – 7aaf

OLB Perry Riley – 8f

While maybe Casey Matthews is a disappointing player who won’t live up to the big contract, the New Orleans Nightmare certainly had a lot of other talent at the linebacker position. In particular, three rookies really stand out among the rest of the group. Territorial draft pick Kendall Beckwith might be the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s been a stud in camp, taking everyone down. Duke Riley has also flashed incredible ability and he too could end up on the All-Rookie team. Samson Ebukam is a small school guy, but he’s a gifted athlete coming off the edge who can get into the backfield. But don’t let the trio of rookies shining let you think they don’t have any good veterans. Perry Riley is a very solid veteran who might be the leader of the group until Beckwith eventually takes over. Matthews might be struggling as a starter, but he can be a reliable backup. Same goes with Justin Hickman. Cameron Judge is another rookie who might be a step behind the other rookies, but don’t be shocked if he makes an impact too. This group is young and hungry and very talented.

New York Marauders

ILB Arthur Brown – 7i

ILB Max Bullough – 6aa

ILB Brock Coyle – 8aa$

OLB Ryan Delaire – 7a

OLB Khaseem Greene – 7cf

OLB Steve Longa – 6aaf

OLB Avery Moss – 6aa

OLB Victor Ochi – 6aaf

ILB Shayne Skov – 7aa

OLB Chris Smith – 8aaf

ILB Anthony Walker – 6aa

OLB Bear Woods – 8.d

Telvin Smith is gone, but the Marauders spent big money on Brock Coyle to lead their linebackers as they switch to a 3-4 defense. Coyle has gotten better every year and is just entering his prime now. Chris Smith is the longest-tenured Marauder and is coming off a nice year in which he tied for the team lead with six sacks. With the defensive scheme switch Smith is moving back a few steps from a hands down defensive end to a standup outside linebacker. It’s not the most natural fit for him, but he is athletic and talented enough to make it work. Ryan Delaire, who had also been starting at defensive end for the Marauders, will be playing a standup position as well. He has not been able to provide the pass rush that the team has wanted, but he is solid against the run. Further showing the Marauders’ push to improve their defense was the signing of Shayne Skov. Skov was mostly a backup in Los Angeles but has improved and could push for a starting spot. Arthur Brown hasn’t been anything special, though a decent depth guy. Rookie Anthony Walker has nice talent and the team likes him. It could be an interesting battle. Max Bullough is capable as a developmental backup. Veteran Bear Woods can still get the job done, but is clearly slowing down. Khaseem Greene started for the Marauders when they won a title in 2015. He’s older now, but the only reason his NFL experiment did not work was because he indicted on gun charges. However, those charges were dropped this past summer after it was proven the accuser lied about Greene’s involvement. He could do well, but has a lot to prove right now.

Omaha Express

MLB Josh Banderas – 6af

MLB Vontaze Burfict – 10f$

OLB Otha Foster – 8.d

MLB Tyke Kozeal -6a f

OLB Eric Martin – 6aaf

ILB Calvin Munson– 7aa

ILB Lucas Wacha – 6a

It’s so each to hate Vontaze Burfict because of his attitude, but it’s impossible to disrespect how good he is. He’s the best linebacker in the league, and there is little debate in that. He makes plays everywhere and automatically makes his defense a strong unit. While Otha Foster is getting older, he too can make a lot of plays. First round draft pick Calvin Munson is also doing a fantastic job in camp and probably will end up starting. But after those three the depth is lacking. Eric Martin shows potential, but he’s the only person who could be a reliable contributor it seems. The Express traded a 5th round draft pick for Lucas Wacha, who did nothing in the D-League. That move seems really questionable, especially after a poor training camp.

Orlando Rockets

LB Khalil Bass – 7aa

LB Adam Bighill – 8a

OLB Kentrell Brothers – 7aa

MLB Dylan Cole – 7aa

OLB Jelani Jenkins – 8aaf

OLB Henoc Muamba – 8f

ILB Terrence Plummer – 7a

OLB Jovan Santos-Knox – 7a

ILB Terrance Smith – 6aa

OLB Xavier Woodson-Luster – 6aa

It’s the Orlando Rockets way, get a lot of really good players, but maybe no stars. It works for them. The Rockets don’t have a star at linebacker, but it’s hard to find a weak spot on their unit. Adam Bighill was not really productive last season, but he’s still a very good player in there with the always-productive Jelani Jenkins and Henoc Muamba. Those three are the top three veterans, but there is a lot of young talent in waiting too. Khalil Bass and Kentrell Brothers have developed nicely and are waiting their turns. Dylan Cole is a talented first round rookie who has had a very good camp. Terrence Plummer and Jovan Santos-Knox both proved themselves in the CFL before making the jump to the SFL. Both could start other places but will provide great depth in Orlando. Terrence Smith and Xavier Woodson-Luster are nice prospect with potential.

Philadelphia Bulldogs

ILB Austin Calitro – 6af

ILB Ben Heeney – 8aa

ILB Gerald Hodges – 8aaf

ILB Harvey Langi – 6aa

ILB Jameer Thurman – 7aa

OLB Jacquain Williams – 7

Here we have another unit that lacks a star, but has a solid group of players. They aren’t overly deep, however, but Gerald Hodges and Ben Heeney get the job done. Jacquain Wiliams has long been a solid, but not exciting outside linebacker. He can still contribute, but rookie first round draft pick Jameer Thurman may take over his spot. However, Williams is the only natural outside linebacker on the roster and does give some nice experience. Harvey Langi had a so-so effort in the D-League. He’s got potential, though. It’s likely his car accident that left him in serious condition was too much to come back from that quick and that made it difficult for him to shine in the D-League.

Pittsburgh Forge

ILB Javicz Jones – 6a

ILB Nick Kwaitkoski – 7aa

ILB Elijah Lee – 6aa

ILB Antonio Morrison – 8aa

OLB Jonathan Newsome – 8a

OLB Dadi Nicolas – 6aa

OLB Ejuan Price – 6aaf

OLB O’Brien Schofield – 9d

Pittsburgh’s defense was actually much more disappointing than it should have been last year considering the amount of veterans they had, but maybe things will be better this year because they still have veterans and now a year working together. O’Brien Schofield was the bright spot at linebacker last season. He’s 30-years-old and is starting to slow down a bit, but he constantly got to the ball last year. Antonio Morrison is a very nice talent, though. He’s only 23-years-old and could take over as the unit’s top tackler this season. Jonathan Newsome is a quality veteran, who is in his prime. It’s a very good trio, but they also have to show it on the field more. Nick Kwaitkoski is a promising second-year player who has loads of potential. He should be able to find a good way to contribute this season. Elijah Lee, Dadi Nicolas and Ejuan Price are three young players who flash nice potential but need to be more consistent.

San Antonio Marshalls

ILB Emmanuel Acho – 7aaf

OLB Sam Acho – 10$f

ILB Dominique Alexander – 6aa

OLB Houston Bates – 7aa

LB Adrian Clark – 7aa

ILB David Mayo – 9af

OLB Alex Okafor – 9a$f

OLB Shaquille Riddick – 7aa

San Antonio’s linebackers have long been one of the better units in the league, even a few years ago when the team was struggling. They have build around nice local talent and those guys thrive with the Marshalls. Sam Acho has a down year rushing the passer in 2017, but is as dangerous as they come off the edge. Alex Okafor is also a very dangerous linebacker playing opposite him who can get in the backfield, but lead the team in tackles last season because of his run-stuffing ability. Between those two, David Mayo has gotten better every single year and is as consistent and reliable as they come at this point. Those three are all great, but they have some nice developing guys too. Sam’s brother Emmanuel works hard to keep getting better and finds ways to contribute to the team. Adrian Clark did not do too much last season, but might be ready for his opportunities to increase after a strong camp. Shaquille Riddick was a very productive backup in 2017 and might put for an even better role this year. Houston Bates tore it up in the D-League as a pass rusher. He’s older, but has a big chip on his shoulder and is playing like it. Dominique Alexander was a 2016 first round draft pick. He didn’t play much last season but is having a good camp and showing nice flashes.

San Diego Diablos

ILB Jordan Evans – 6aa

OLB Tau Lotulelei – 6aa

OLB Paul Magloire Jr. – 6a

OLB Sio Moore – 8c

OLB Andy Mulumba – 8c

ILB Chris Santini – 6a

MLB Ben Weaver – 6a

The Diablos need NFL veterans Sio Moore and Andy Mulumba to take advantage of the opportunities to revitalize their careers. They are both good players, but do very different things. Moore is your quicker coverage linebacker while Mulumba is just a nose-down, power edge-rusher. But they need to lead the group because after them there isn’t much there. Jordan Evans is a second round draft pick who may end up starting right away at inside linebacker, but he’s still a raw player who needs to develop more. Tau Lotulelei was a nice surprise in the D-League and earned an SFL contract. He’s the fourth guy, but after him nobody looks like they could or should be contributing this year.

Seattle Orcas

ILB Travis Feeney – 6af

ILB Nigel Harris – 6aa

OLB Robert Hayes – 7

MLB Jordan Herdman – 7a

LB Jeff Knox, Jr. – 10f

OLB Aaron Lynch – 9af

OLB James Onwualu – 6aa

ILB Avery Williamson – 9af

Last year’s dominant Seattle defense had stars at every level, and linebacker was no different. The Orcas have three of the best in the league in their unit. Jeff Knox, Jr. does a lot of everything. He led the team with 67 tackles in 2017, finished second on the team with seven sacks and showed off some nice coverage ability too. Aaron Lynch is a great edge-setter and was second on the team with 58 tackles while Avery Wiliamson patrols the middle of the field and takes down anybody who gets the ball. But Seattle, as they always do, has padded their team with some really nice depth. Robert Hayes is a consistent veteran coming from the AFL. Jordan Herdman shined in the D-League and has gone from a territorial pick they have taken a shot on to a guy who looks like he could make a good impact as a rookie. Nigel Harris and James Onwualu were first and second round draft picks, respectively, who have shown nice flashes in camp.

St. Louis Stallions

MLB Roper Garrett – 6af

MLB Geno Hayes – 8.d

OLB Carroll Phillips – 6aa

MLB JC Sherritt – 8a

MLB Blair Smith – 7a

MLB John Timu – 6aa

MLB Nyeem Wartman-White – 6aa

Geno Hayes and JC Sherrett are the veterans the expansion Stallions will be relying on. Hayes is 30-years-old, but can still play at a solid level. Sherritt is 29-years-old and while he’s only 5-foot-9, he’s a sturdy tackler who hits guys with power. Blair Smith should be the third starting linebacker. He was a territorial pick for the Stallions after a decent season with the Dallas Six-Shooters in 2017. Carroll Phillips, John Timu and Nyeem Wartman-White are developing backups.

Utah Raptors

OLB Trevor Bates – 6a

ILB Blair Brown – 6aa

OLB Jayon Brown – 7aa

MLB Nicholas Grigsby – 6aa

OLB Alonzo Highsmith Jr. – 7c

OLB Tre’Von Johnson – 6aaf

LB Adam Konar – 7a

OLB Prince Shembo – 7a

OLB Pita Taumeopenu – 6aaf

MLB Scooby Wright – 7aa

The Raptors prepared well last year when they new Kaluka Maiava was going to retire at the end of his contract. Maiava was a very sturdy inside linebacker, but Scooby Wright got worked in quite a big and now looks to seamlessly take over as the team’s starting middle linebacker. He’s not overly athletic, but he has a knack for getting to where the ball is. Sixth round draft pick Blair Brown has been solid in camp, but hasn’t really pushed Wright. Nicholas Grigsby was plucked from an NFL practice squad, but also hasn’t been able to really push Wright. It also looks like one of the team’s starting outside linebackers may retire even before the season starts. Alonzo Highsmith, Jr., whose father is the team’s Vice President of Football Operations, has expressed interest in moving into coaching. He’s not the greatest player but has done well the past two years. He was fifth on the team with 63 tackles a year ago. Prince Shembo has done a great job with his second chance and had 64 tackles last year, though certainly he could be upgraded over. Last year, the Scorpions had one of the worst defenses in the league. That led to them using a high draft pick on Jayon Brown. He’s a big undersized but is incredibly fast and athletic and could be great in coverage. He has already put himself in a starting spot. If Highsmith does retire then the second starting job will be out of Shembo and Adam Konar. Konar was a CFL addition midway through last season. He’s solid, though nothing special. Pita Taumeopenu was an upside draft pick out of Utah. He’s got work to do before he can really become a factor. Tre’Von Johnson is a local small-school guy who also needs some time to work. Trevor Bates was acquired in a trade. He had a solid rookie year with Carolina and might be able to stick on the team as a backup.

Washington Wave

OLB De’Vondre Campbell – 8aa

OLB Ben Gedeon – 7aa

ILB Joe Goosby – 7

MLB Justin Herdman – 6aa

OLB Cory James – 8aa

ILB Blake Martinez – 9aaf

OLB Adrian Tracy – 7

It was very interesting when the Wave decided in last year’s draft to focus on their linebacking unit instead of offense following an 0-16 season, but that decision could really pay huge dividends this season. Blake Martinez, De’Vondre Campbell and Cory James were three rookies last year, and all of them played, and all of them did well, and all of them had tremendous camps this year. This group might have three future stars in it. They are certainly the most interesting group in the league because they are all young. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Martinez end up as an All-SFL selection in his second season. But the team did not stop after last year’s commitment. They added Michigan’s Ben Gedeon in the draft and he could probably start for a number of teams in this league. In Washington he’s a great fourth option. Joe Goosby and Adrian Tracy provide solid and consistent veteran ability. Justin Herdman is an interesting developmental prospect who played well enough in the D-League to get a contract.

SFL Top 5 LBs

1. Vontaze Burfict, Omaha Express

He’s not a likeable guy, but he’s a great football player who hits hard, makes stops all over the place and has led some of the best defenses in the league.

2. Sam Acho, San Antonio Marshalls

Maybe his 2017 season was a little down, but we’ve seen Sam Acho’s ability. He’s a dangerous edge player both as a pass rusher and run-stuffer.

3. Jeff Knox, Jr., Seattle Orcas

Seattle’s do-it-all man on the defense, Jeff Knox Jr. stuffs the run, rushes the quarterback and matches up very well in coverage. There isn’t much he can’t do.

4. Telvin Smith, Atlanta Firebirds

Perhaps the most athletic linebacker in the entire league, Telvin Smith had been great for New York but now looks to take the Firebirds defense over the top in a run for a title.

5. Rey Maualuga, Louisville Cougars

He’s older and might be slowing down, but there is no question that he’s still one of the game’s best. Rey Maualuga is the heart and soul of the Cougars defense. He signed in the middle of last year and still managed to finish with 67 tackles to rank third on the team.

By The Numbers
Total LBs: 209
10 Rating: 5 (2.4%)
9 Rating: 10 (4.8%)
8 Rating: 37 (17.7%)
7 Rating: 81 (38.7%)
6 Rating: 76 (36.3%)