SFL Week 1 Power Rankings
1. Michigan Stags
The Stags defense is loaded with stars and their offense is going to be more athletic with Marlon Mack and Elijah McGuire officially taking over the backfield from Thomas Rawls. The question will still remain if Zach Collaros can get the job done in the postseason. He proved last year he can be more than just a game manager, but the postseason duds continued. With Tajae Sharpe, Marken Michel, Jehu Chesson and a pair of super talented tight ends, he doesn’t have any excuses anymore.
2. Orlando Rockets
Never, ever, underestimate the Rockets. They are still the premier franchise of greatness in this league, but they do have to overcome some major losses to their secondary. They officially transitioned to Trevor Harris last year after trading the long-time cornerstone Ricky Ray. He made Eric Rogers a stud while Robbie Anderson and Derel Walker are both capable of being elite receivers too. They Rockets were able to keep their elite back Devonta Freeman. If they slip a bit it will because of losses on their o-line and in their secondary and age to their front-seven, but never doubt this team’s ability to replace stars with new stars.
3. Dallas Six-Shooters
After coming close last season the Six-Shooters spent huge money on the legendary Josh McCown to be their quarterback. James Franklin was solid for the Six-Shooters, but to be a championship team with the squad they had, they wanted more than just solid at the most important position on the field. Now McCown isn’t what he used to be, but he’s still a top passer and this team has a great backfield running behind a tremendous line they might lean on to take some pressure off McCown.
4. New Orleans Nightmare
What Jack Del Rio did with this team was pretty remarkable. After an 0-4 start he just kept winning and took them all the way to the Grand Finale. They didn’t win the big one, but it left them very hungry for a title. Aaron Murray had a tremendous year, revitalizing his career in the Big Easy while Stevan Ridley had great success behind a tremendous offensive line, grinding down opponents. The Nightmare defense is also going to be a very tough one again this season. Del Rio will have the team be run first and defensively oriented, but Murray is definitely a threat.
5. New York Marauders
Is Vad Lee really that good? He took the league by storm last year, but it is certainly a worry that he was just a flash in the pan. If he was, the Marauders don’t have much of anything else at quarterbacks, but the team around Lee is still loaded with top-tier talent. Jacquizz Rodgers, Stefon Diggs, Brandon Coleman and Will Tye are some of the best offensive weapons around and their defense is stacked as it usually is with a very deep array of talent.
6. Atlanta Firebirds
Atlanta went into last year really thinking it was their year to win it all, but despite suffering some big losses to their squad, they might actually be more dangerous this year. DeMarco Murray was ready to retire by the time he showed up in Atlanta. That backfield just didn’t get the job done, but they turned things over to the much younger and more athletic Matt Breida and he did very well. Now, he’s ready to join Matt Barkley and Cameron Meredith to make for a very dangerous and balanced offense. Defensively, the switch to the 3-4 is taking shape and are past that awkward transition year where they have guys who are trying to find their role. Do they have slightly less top-end talent this year without guys like Albert Wilson and Telvin Smith? Yes. But are they more put together to succeed this year? Yes.
7. Seattle Orcas
Seattle once again proved they have perhaps the most dominant player in the history of the league as they saw Isaiah Crowell reach the impossible mark of 3,000 rushing yards, but they stunk it up in the playoffs again. Rushing for 3,000 yards is impressive no matter what, but those running lanes aren’t there as often against those top teams in the playoffs. Seattle still has Crowell at the top of his game, and a defense just loaded with talent, but their passing game is yet again a question. Ryan Griffin has been a great game manager, but just hasn’t had the explosive ability to carry the team to a win if needed. This offseason, they brought in Matt Moore to compete with Griffin. Moore is much more of a boom or bust kind of quarterback, but the bust is also more likely.
8. San Antonio Marshalls
Don’t sleep on the Marshalls. Bo Levi Mitchell might just be the best quarterback in the league and he’s doing it all without really top-end receivers. But this year, he has some really great athletes to throw to in Ricky Seals-Jones, James O’Shauhnessey and Ricky Collins Jr. They also had a very strong backfield, perhaps the deepest in the league with a three-headed monster of D’Onta Foreman, Chris Carson and the touchdown machine Khiry Robinson. Defensively, the team isn’t very deep, but their top-tier talent battles each other for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
9. Pittsburgh Forge
If anybody is really going to be challenging Bo Levi Mitchell for top nod at Quarterback in the quest to dethrone Josh McCown, it is Jonathan Jennings. He had dominated the league statistically since coming in with a very, very deep group of wide receivers, tight ends and pass-catching running backs. Now, they have some real pop coming out of the backfield too. Devontae Booker was a very explosive back who was a big threat in the passing game, but he just wasn’t a grinder and late in games when the team needed to wear down a defense and run out the clock. Now, James Conner is ready to step up into that role. He got more and more time last year and is ready to take over as the lead back, freeing up Booker to just be an explosive weapon. Pittsburgh has slowly been building up their defense. If anything will hold them back, that is it. It’s better than last year, but they are all offense.
10. Birmingham Predators
When you talk about elite top-end talent, Birmingham has that. Dak Prescott is also in the conversation for best quarterback in the league, and honestly, he is the most talented quarterback in the league. Running behind him, you don’t get more athletic stars than Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. They could work together too, with Kamara being used more as a receiver while Hunt is the primary runner. And when it comes to pure ability, Justin Blackmon is an elite wide receiver, except he drops the ball a lot and has many mental mistakes. Josh Malone has skills, but is raw. Reggie Bonnafon is super athlete, but also very, very raw. And after that, we’re not sure what to think. Their o-line is a mystery, their defense has some guys who can rush the passer, but Tim Williams needs to step up. LaDarius Gunter is coming off a tremendous season where led the league in interceptions, but he isn’t an elite coverage guy, it was more opportunistic. Alterraun Verner is already thinking about retirement. If there is a rough patch, he could check out. Eddie Jackson and Josh Evans are great though, as long as the unknown pass rush doesn’t make life difficult.
11. Philadelphia Bulldogs
Jay Ajayi has been over-shadowed by the ridiculousness that is Isaiah Crowell, but he is definitely an elite back who has put up video-game (or computer simulation)-like numbers. Their defense is also going to be another rugged one. Their problem last year was quarterback. For half the year it was just miserable to watch Bryce Petty and Mark Sanchez try to go out there and efficiently move the offense. Finally, in the middle of the year they traded for Nate Sudfeld and he looked really good. That gives major hope to the Bulldogs trying to get back into the playoffs. Sudfeld still has to prove himself, but he should be stable and make the Bulldogs a complete team and threat to get back to the postseason after a hangover year.
12. Los Angeles Stars
Last season was a major disappointment for the Los Angeles Stars. There were projections that they could dethrone Seattle at the top of the division, but they were very disappointing and missed the playoffs entirely. But this year, things should be a lot better. While Case Keenum was better, they shipped him out and moved on to the guy who was the future of their team anyway, Cody Kessler. He looks like he could be a franchise quarterback in time. Joe Hills is still at the top of his game and with Jakeem Grant and Corey Coleman added to the mix, there are more weapons on that offense. The big addition, though, is Phillip Lindsay. Since Lamar Miller left, the Stars running game was misrable. Allen was doing almost nothing to help the running game. Lindsay is a very explosive player who should give some balance to a unit that was so unbalanced. Defensively, the Stars looked pretty good with some good pass rushers, particularly Tre Flowers, there to help out a secondary that has two of the top young players in the league, Brian Poole and Fabian Moreau.
13. Houston Wranglers
Owner Ryan Clark has done a ton of work in a short time to make this team his own and to make them a serious contender to make the playoffs, just two seasons after being the worst team in the league. This Wranglers team still has a few holes, but had a lot of talent and found their quarterback last year when they traded for the always-highly hyped Matt Nichols. He played very well for Houston, accompanying a tremendous rookie effort by running back Aaron Jones. The Wranglers don’t have the deepest group of weapons, but Aldrick Robinson has always been a threat and Duron Carter and Ricardo Lewis are great athletes. Up front, this team has Shaq Mason, just a dominant interior guard, playing next to a very quality tackle Seantrel Henderson. Their o-line is not fully settled after that left side, but they are a strong duo. Defensively, we’ll have to see what Jamaal Westerman does in a new city. He’s older and on the decline, but a step down from where he was is still a tremendous player. If he gives the pass rush, Corey Littleton is an elite linebacker, though he doesn’t have the greatest group of partners. In the seconary, we’ll have to see if Pacman ones still has a lot left in the tank, but Jeremy Lane is a quality cornerback and the trades for Miles Killebrew and Derrick Kindred solidifies their safety group.
14. Nashville Renegades
What will 2019 bring for the Renegades now that they are back in Nashville after one year in Memphis? Last year just seemed off in their temporary stay in Memphis. The battles with the Grizzlies for Television rights was a distraction and hurt the fan base, but they are back home now with an agreement for a stadium and the fans actually are hyped up to have them back. But will all their talent live up to the billing? AJ McCarron can be frustrating, but the talent is there. He’s disappointed to see Jameison Crowder trades close to the season starting, but he has Malcolm Mitchell and Weston Dressler to throw to. Mitchell, however, has had a lingering injury that is something to monitor. But the trade of Crowder said this team will commit to a heavy load of Jordan Howard. He is as good of a running back as any in this league and has a great offensive line to run behind. The team also really committed to improving their defense. In the trade of Crowder, the Renegades got Mike Hull, who has developed into a very good middle linebacker. We’ll just have to see what youngsters Chris Worley and Genard Avery can do next to him. In front of him they spent big money on Nick Fairly to pair with Watson Tautuiaki, which very well may be the best defensive tackle duo around. We’ll just again have to see what the edge guys do. Greg Hardy and Tobi Antigha are good players, but Hardy always had questions about his commitment and Antigha is new in the defense. The secondary was a major problem for the team last year, but a huge payday to perennial All-SFL cornerback John Ojo finally gives them a shutdown cornerback.
15. Carolina Generals
Colin Kaepernick was electrifying last year…with his legs. He’s still not the most polished passer around, though his potential is as great as anybodies. But the Generals really helped him out with the acquisition of Jameison Crowder and look to help him even more with the signing of Dez Bryant. He can be the best receiver in the league, but only if he wants to, and that is a big if. Their running game is supplemented well with Kaepernick, and Tarik Cohen is a special athlete, but as far as having a downhill runner, that is their biggest hole on offense. Defensively, the Generals should be tough as always, with Thurston Armbrister coming in to solidify linebacker behind a dangerous pass rush duo of Cleyon Laing and Jake Metz, but the secondary is very uninspiring.
16. Omaha Express
Omaha made it to the playoffs last year by way of winning a pretty bad division with just a .500 record. They might have that luxury of winning a mediocre at best division again. It depends on Terrelle Pryor. He’s been a very successful quarterback in the SFL, but last year he was moved around to wide receiver because of his athleticism. It didn’t really work, but now we have to wonder what the year away from playing quarterback has done to him. He also doesn’t have the greatest weapons to work with, but the Express will also focus on the ground with the remarkably talented Rex Burkhead. The strength of the team will be their defense with second-year pass rusher Kwaku Boateng looking to build off a dominant rookie season, Vontaze Burfict back for another year competing for Defensive Player of the Year, and TJ Heath and Tre Boston anchoring a veteran secondary.
17. St. Louis Stallions
While the Midwest might not have an elite team, it should be a very competitive division at least. The Stallions were questioned last year when they traded the No. 1 overall pick for Zach Mettenberger, but Mettenberger proved to be well worth it. They have their franchise quarterback and Brice Butler is as explosive as any receiver in the league. Alfred Blue is a grinding back and they have a solid line headed by Offensive Lineman of the Year candidate Brandon Fusco. The defense is certainly a worry for the Stallions but their secondary actually could be a pretty good one.
18. Boston Dragons
Andre Ellington revitalized his career in Boston last year. The former Rookie of the Year is showing he’s still plenty explosive and can make big time plays. Luke Tasker has also yet again proved he has some of the best hands in the league. Their defense is also going to be very tough. They don’t have any real stars after Nickel Robey-Coleman, but they have a lot of really good players like Kyle Emanuel and Tyler Matakevich. The Dragons got into the postseason last year, but is Cooper Rush going to improve enough to keep them there? He’s efficient but not very inspiring.
19. Minnesota Freeze
It was just brutal for the Minnesota Freeze last year. They had ownership instability, youth, question about guys being fully invested in the team; it was a mess. But now, under a new owner, this team should be much improved. The legendary Josh McCown is no longer around, but they replaced him with a guy who might be just as good in Mike Reilly. He’ll have a tremendous receiver to throw to as well in Jaron Brown and an offensive line that should be improved through both key additions and more experience. McCown was sacked 64 times last year. That terrible o-line play just killed all of the Freeze’s hopes. With some improvements, second-year running back Corey Clement also should see improvements. Defensively, the Freeze have some decent people, but nobody really great either. Reilly is going to have a lot on him. He is the best quarterback in the division and the bottom of the Central does look week. Maybe, just maybe, they sneak enough wins to get into the playoffs as one of those final seeds by beating up their division.
20. Iowa Threshers
And again, this is another team in a muddled Midwest Division that could finish anywhere from the bottom to the top, it’s going to be a very competitive division. CJ Beathard showed some nice flashes last year and he has a tremendous weapon in second-year tight end George Kittle. He already might be ready to take over the title of the best Tight End in the league. Troy Niklas is also a quality tight end looking to spark his career in the SFL. They could be a good duo in the middle of the field. They will need somebody to step up outside, however. In the backfield, the Threshers started to get things figured out when they brought in Orleans Darkwa last season. Now as the featured back he brings some stability to the backfield behind an o-line with some good veterans. The defense has a great mix of up-and-comers and proven veterans and really doesn’t have a weak level. But we just aren’t sure if any level will really be all that great yet.
21. Utah Raptors
What do we think about this team? It’s hard to know really. They lost Mike Reilly, a top-notch quarterback. They replaced him with Ryan Nassib, who is a very limited quarterback, but has won a title for this same owner across the country in New York. Their defense is very talented up front, but their secondary is very young and is looking for guys to take that next step. Their o-line is also like that. Dede Westbrook and Jesse James make for a very dangerous duo of weapons in the receiving game, but how is their running game going to be? They never really got their running game going last season, but Jamaal Williams is now a second-year back and looked more comfortable in camp. This team could make the playoff again, they could be last in their division. They are such a mystery.
22. Washington Wave
A few seasons ago when the Wave went defeated everybody expected them to focus entirely on their offense, but they shocked a lot of people when they focused on their defense. Now, that defense looks to be where they want it to be. Blake Martinez could have been Defensive Player of the Year last season and has established himself as one of the best linebackers in the league. De’Vondre Campball, Ben Gedeon and Cory James certainly give him some great help at linebacker as well. Up front, they have some athletes, most notably, Yannick Ngakou, who has all the ability to be a total force in the trench. Kingsley Opara and Will Geary are big space eaters who will free up those linebackers as well. The secondary is where the most work can still be one, but Dashon Goldson is still a hammer and Maurice Leggett, Courtney Stephen, Chris Randle and JC Jackson are just good defensive backs. They won’t light the world on fire, but they are deep with quality. The offense is the problem they have, though. Tyreek Hill is perhaps the most explosive player in the league and is a threat as a receiver, runner and return man. He needs Keelan Cole to take another step forward and Samajae Perine has to be better out of the backfield. And if that all happens, they need one of their quarterbacks, whether it’s the athletic Robert Griffin III, the Cannon Cardale Jones of the rising prospect Kyle Lauletta to step up and play well under center. Otherwise, it’s going to be rough in one of the best divisions in the league.
23. Oklahoma Roughnecks
If any team low on this list is rated too low it is probably the expansion Oklahoma Roughnecks, but they do appears to clearly be the best of the four new teams. James Franklin is a proven starting quarterback and Thomas Rawls has been a good grinder on the ground. Up front, they have made some nice investments on the offensive line and rookie Orlando Brown, Jr. looks like a real star in the making They just lack great weapons. Tavarres King and Marquess Wilson are okay veterans, but only just okay. Rookie tight end Mark Andrews is a tremendous prospect who should be very involved, though. But then you get to the defense and on paper it’s not very good. They have a few decent veterans, but that’s about it, and no truly top quality guys except Kenny Vaccaro, who won’t be able to do it all by himself.
24. Oakland Odyssey
The Odyssey have a good young core group of players with some really talented veterans mixed in. They have a top-notch quarterback, some really talented running backs, some tremendous edge defenders and pass rushers and quality defensive backs. They have some holes on their team, mostly worries at their offensive line and at linebacker, but the thing that might be the most worrisome is the attitude of their owner. It seems that as an expansion team he wants to force victories year one, which is fine, but it could be at the team’s detriment as the season and years go one. It will be something to monitor.
25 Columbus Explorers
Joshua Dobbs’ rookie season was very much a rookie season. He’s a good prospect with really good potential. In his first year he was thrown in as a starter and he made great plays, he made bad mistakes. He showed great flashes, he looked lost. Where is he going to be year two? The issue will be that yet again, it’s going to be all on him. He doesn’t have much help out there. Kenyan Drake could be a decent running back, but he’s proven he probably won’t be a true featured running back. Their wide receivers and tight ends are not totally inspiring either. Chris Williams has had some big seasons, but unless Dobbs really steps up he’s not a guy who can make his quarterbacks much better. They will only be successful because their very strong defense holds opponents down and their offense does just enough.
26. Louisville Cougars
Julian Edelman made the Louisville Cougars’ offense probably better than it should have been. He’s off to the NFL now, and that could be really bad for the team. Much more will be put on the legs of Karlos Williams, who is former Rookie of the Year and quality running back, who after some nice investments does have a better offensive line to work behind, but the passing game won’t take much pressure off of him. Jeremiah Masoli has done a better job than ever expected the last few years, and is able to make plays with his legs, but he won’t have an elite talent to throw to anymore. There are some guys who can be solid, like Mo Purify, Paul McRoberts and the newly-signed Naaman Roosevelt, but it isn’t an inspiring bunch. This team does, however, have a good defense. Gabriel Knapton is one of the toughest trench players around and behind him is a still elite Rey Maualuga and NFL veteran Taylor Mays has the secondary locked down. Their defensive line with Knapton, Mike Lewis, Red Bryant, Ryan Glasgow and Darius Hamilton is a pretty complete unit and will make the defense even better.
27. Miami Mustangs
The effort to build a really competitive team year one was there, but they have no depths and a lot of holes too. Now the question will end up being is all these NFL veterans at the end of their careers is worth starting over younger guys who would benefit from more time on the field. Brad Kaays should get plenty of time, though. He’s a young former first round pick of the New Orleans Nightmare. He might be a year or two away from really stepping up, but the Mustangs can afford to be patient with him.
28. Mississippi Cottonmouths
The Cottonmouths went for it all last year after a decent start to the season when they traded for the legendary Ricky Ray. At the time, they felt they were only a quarterback away as their strong running game got them off to a 2-0 record with a shocking win over the defending champion Rockets. But then Ray suffered a horrific injury that actually left his career in question. He’s back, but at what level. He won’t be the elite passer he once was, but the Cottonmouths are banking on a defense and running game team with Ray using his experience to elevate everybody. It could work, but we also see some areas of concern on the offensive line and on the defense that could make for some bad struggles.
29. San Diego Diablos
It’s going to continue being a slow build in San Diego. They love Luke Falk for the future, but they might not play him much as a rookie as he learns the game behind the more athletic and dangerous Trevone Boykin. Their young talent is improving and growing, but they are also still mostly young. The team also isn’t deep. The Diablos will still have some growing pains but they have plenty of good young talent. Don’t expect them to be down this far for long.
30. Virginia Admirals
While some of the expansion teams are going to big wins right away, this Admirals team appears to be fully invested in a slow build. There really isn’t a single player on the team you can look at and say they are an elite player. They have some veterans who will help out, mostly out of the backfield, but this is a team that is going to put their young players in positions to get better and better.
MVP: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, San Antonio Marshalls
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Stefon Diggs, New York Marauders
Defensive Player of the Year: ILB Blake Martinez, Washington Wave
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Phillip Lindsay, Los Angeles Stars
Defensive Rookie of the Year: LB Sam Hubbard, Columbus Explorers
Projected Playoffs Standings
1. Orlando Rockets – Southeast Champions
2. New York Marauders – Atlanta Champions
3. Houston Wranglers – Midwest Champions
4. Atlanta Firebirds
5. Pittsburgh Forge
6. Birmingham Predators
1. Michigan Stags – Central Champions
2. Dallas Six-Shooters – Mid-South Champions
3. Seattle Orcas – Pacific Champions
4. New Orleans Nightmare
5. San Antonio Marshalls
6. Los Angeles Stars