2024 Sophomore Strides

Today we’ll be revisiting and regrading (if they were graded in the first place) the 1st round of the 2023 CFA draft class before they head off on their sophomore voyages, and seeing what lies ahead in their future. We’ll see if we can make this a yearly thing.

1. LB Michael Eddy (Houston) – The 1st overall pick tore through the league his rookie campaign leading the Houston defense with 18 sacks. His elite speed also proved valuable in the pass game knocking down 15 passes. With a fantastic drive to improve, Eddy will be the center of the Houston defense for years to come. The sky is the limit.
GRADE: A+

2. DE Matthew Lewis (London) – London was looking for the other bookend to 6 year veteran DE Marvin Roberge and boy did they find him. The 6’2″ 274 Lb. speed-rushing end found his way into opposing backfields with little effort, totaling 18 TFLs along with 10 sacks and a safety. Few OL can keep up with him and at his size, that’s quite the combination. Expect more of the same for a long while.
GRADE: A+

3. RB Robert Dubois (New York) – Dubois was drafted in the hopes of revitalizing a New York backfield that was growing long in the tooth. Featuring elite elusiveness and good speed, Dubois came in and put together a solid, if unspectacular rookie season compiling 1,451 total yards including a Knights season record 1,347 rushing yards. He also reached paydirt 6 times but will be looking to improve on his 3.6 ypc. With an elite work ethic, he should find plenty of room to improve.
GRADE: A-

4. FS/CB Charles Pounds (Nebraska) – The FS turned CB was chosen to lead the CB core of the Plainsmen into the future. With elite speed and all the trademarks attributes of a promising DB, and a great tackler for the position, Pounds showed his prowess in locating the ball and knocking down passes. 13 deflections in an abbreviated 12 game rookie season. As long as he can remain healthy, there’s a lot to like in this young player, something Nebraska will look to lean on in the coming years.
GRADE: B+

5. LB Brett Wood (Philadelphia) – The Bombers selected a strong tackler and a solid all-around LB here. He saw just limited snaps his first year however, learning behind a veteran LB core. There will be more to come, but for now the jury remains out on this selection.
GRADE: C

6. DT Kevin Marlowe (Colorado) – The top DT off the board was seemingly selected to replace veteran DT Claude Bradley. Tipping the scales at 300 Lbs, Marlowe will look to gain more experience this upcoming season after playing just 6 games last season, with little to show for them.
GRADE: C

7. CB Christopher Smothers (Ohio) – The first true CB off the board came the way of the eventual CFA Champion Ohio Cardinals. Smothers was a huge piece of the puzzle on defense in his rookie year. The blazing CB swatted down 15 passes and scored a defensive TD. He also showed his versatility in limited return game work taking back the longest kick return in Cardinals history for 6. Smothers and opposite CB Milan Mason look to be arguably the best CB duo in the CFA for at least another couple seasons.
GRADE: A

8. RB Richard Drake (Las Vegas) – The 2nd team to break recent RB trends, drafting one this high, were the Scorpions who selected Drake here. The ideally sized RB had an incredibly similar season to his counterpart Dubois, racking up 1,372 total yards from scrimmage, also with a franchise record 1,274 rushing yards. He contributed heavily in the return game, racking up 975 yards on the season. Given the extreme similarities between the two aforementioned RBs, it is only appropriate that they receive the same grade.
GRADE: A-

9. OT Steve Abrams (Costa Rica) – One of the biggest shocks of this draft was how far Abrams slid. Originally pegged as a surefire top 3 selection, Abrams found himself getting taken by the Howlers at #9. While he missed half the season due to injury, his time on the field proved those top 3 projections correct. In 8 games started, he pancaked 28 defenders while allowing zero sacks. With a great work ethic and pretty much all the skills to be great already in place, Abrams should find his way to multiple Pro Bowls as long as he can stay on the field.
GRADE: A+

10. CB Ryan Parish (Frankfurt) – Frankfurt selected arguably the best size/athleticism DB in the draft here at 10. Parish comes in at an imposing 6’4″ and a sturdy 203 Lbs. The impressive part is his 95 speed and extraordinary tackling (77) for the position. He proved his reputation as a solid wrap-up tackler, bringing down the ball carrier 62 times, while showing his length knocking down 13 passes. He also contributed nearly 600 return yards on the season. Almost acting as a 3rd safety with his tackling ability, Parish should be a solid part of the Vamp’s defensive backfield for some time.
GRADE: B+

11. OG Melvin Malone (Orlando) – Malone was one of the youngest players in the draft class, coming into his rookie season at just 20 years old. With the highest work ethic in this draft class, he should turn into a human bulldozer with some dedicated training. He came into the draft with some of the best footwork of any O-linemen. He saw limited action his first year starting just 3 contests, but against the Warhawks in week 3 last season, he made an immediate impact laying 9 defenders on the turf. If that is a preview of things to come, there is a lot to like here.
GRADE: B

12. LB Andre Byrd (Birmingham) – With an already stacked LB core, this pick by the Bulls was more of a luxury pick than anything else. The fastest LB in the draft class, Byrd is a jack of all trades in the athleticism department. Being stuck behind so many quality LBs allowed him to mostly sit and develop his first season, so there wasn’t much to see from him in just 3 starts in 7 games played. There is potential here when…if, he finds the field in any significant playing capacity.
GRADE: B-

13. WR Miguel Landis (San Francisco) – The massive 6’5″ Landis landed on a team that can afford him the time to develop his then 20 year old frame while playing behind the likes of future HoF’er Jason Ludwig and Israel Lopez. Landis’ first year saw some solid highlights, pulling down 13 balls of at least 20 yards, but it was also marred by inconsistencies, including 13 dropped passes. Landis will again have little pressure this season as defenses focus on Ludwig and Lopez, we’ll see if he can command more attention this season from QB Oliver.
GRADE: B-

14. WR Leopoldo Wells (Wisconsin) – If Wells were a track athlete, he’d be everything you want. Great speed, great agility, great acceleration. It is all checked off. As a WR in football however, he definitely has some pieces to improve on. While coming into Wisconsin with a 99 SPD and AGI rating, his hands could use some de-stoning, and his light 204 Lb frame could afford to add some beef. This is not to say he cannot be great. He actually shines in big games, burning the eventual CFA champion Cardinals for a season long 79 yard catch, and putting up a season high 122 yards against perennial contender Hammerheads. If he can improve on his hands with his high work ethic, he could develop into a more complete threat yet.
GRADE: B-

15. C Wilmer Downey (Tampa Bay) – Downey found himself jumping into an immediate starting role after being shifted out to offensive guard. The solid all-around OL played fairly if a little underwhelming putting together 16 pancakes while allowing 2 sacks in 9 starts, but the injury concerns coming into the draft caught up with him, costing him some time on the injury list at multiple times throughout the season, along with 7 starts. He will look to provide a strong, healthier performance this season, playing the guard spot opposite 4x Pro-Bowler George Nakamura.
GRADE: C+

16. DT Harley Abney (San Francisco) – At pick number 16, Abney found himself stepping right into the feature role along the interior of the Hammerhead defensive front. He didn’t waste the opportunity. Though undersized at 6’2″ 289 Lbs, the speed/strength combo of Abney rung him in 10 sacks on the season, also allowing the likes of Tyree Wallace and Charles Dixon to flourish with less attention on them. Abney will look to expand on his great rookie season.
GRADE: A

17. QB Michael Preston (Manchester) – The Maulers invested their first pick with an eye toward the future in QB Preston. This pick provided an alternative style backup to star QB Trevor Abernathy should the team need it. Preston’s best feature (so far) are his legs. He provides a solid all around QB in the other key departments which should develop a bit more with time. As the scenario played out, his rookie year was mainly for development, and as such saw minimal playing time. That will continue as long as Abernathy remains the guy calling the Manchester offense.
GRADE: C+

18. LB Bruce Blankenship (Trinidad) – The Sharks seemed to be looking for their 3rd start at LB here. With a LB core featuring two outstanding starters (who both ended up with 100+ tackles last year), Blankenship seemed a solid all-around player who could use some time to beef up. He certainly got his chance at the starting position last season, but very little came from it. In 9 starts, he piled up just 11 tackles and a sack. Surely, Trinidad was hoping for more. Luckily, he came into the league at an ultra-young 20 years old, so there is still plenty of time to improve.
GRADE: C-

19. FS/CB Frank Hobbs (San Francisco) – The Hammerhead’s 3rd pick of the round looked to add depth to an already strong secondary. The solidly built 218 Lb Hobbs provides a good, smart, all-around player who came into the league at just 20 years old. As such, he spent his rookie year in development and didn’t play a single game. He’ll look to contribute a but more his second season in.
GRADE: C

20. SS Joseph Rodrigues (West Texas) – Rodrigues came in and started his entire rookie season for the Wranglers. In a full 16 game slate he proved himself to be a far better tackler than was anticipated coming into the draft. By the end of the season, he had racked up 72 tackles, along with a triplet of INTs and a defensive TD. He will look to expand on his starting role this upcoming season.
GRADE: B

21. DE John Artis (San Francisco) – Like Hobbs, Artis was drafted for depth along an already elite D-line. The result was no games played on the season. The fact remains however that Artis is a big 300 pounder who can run like the wind for his position. The size/speed/strength combo will be difficult to beat once he finds his way onto the field.
GRADE: C

22. QB Douglas Dyer (Sicily) – Dyer was drafted to add some depth to ad very good QB core on Sicily. Another young 20 year old rookie, Dyer is a good all-around QB with a fair arm and accuracy. He found some brief time on the field, playing in 2 games, including a start early in the season. With fellow QB Paul Castleberry’s contract done at the end of the season, Dyer could potentially see himself shifting into the primary backup role as soon as next season.
GRADE: C+

23. FS/LB Brian Cotter (New Jersey) – Cotter was drafted as a FS and later switched up to LB. Featuring strong speed, especially at LB and a bright mind for the game of football, he found himself grabbing starts amid a weaker LB group in NJ, ultimately gathering 13 starts on the season. In those games, he added up 74 tackles along with 4 sacks. He’ll look to further improve this upcoming season, in line to continue where he left off.
GRADE: B

24. CB/FS David Lopez (Carlisle) – The massively sized Lopez (6’5″, 225 Lb) was drafted as a CB then quickly converted over to a FS. Lopez flies to the ball for his size, but will look to turn those 225 Lbs into muscle as he progresses in his career. He had the opportunity to start half the season last year, and totaled 27 tackles with an INT in those 8 games. With the highest work ethic of all defensive players in the draft, the now just 21 year old Lopez has plenty of room to develop into a star.
GRADE: B

25. OT Thomas Robinson (San Diego) – The Raptors went out and got protection for QB Russell Bradley in hulking OT Robinson. At 6’6″, 317 Lbs, Robinson was arguably the best pure pass blocker out of the draft class. While he didn’t get the chance to start in his rookie year, he was able to gather up 12 pancakes in 15 games as a reserve. If he can manage to add some more muscle, he could become one of the premier pass blockers in the CFA.
GRADE: B

26. DE/DT Owen Blalock (Trinidad) – Originally drafted as a DE, Blalock made the switch to DT, earning 3 starts in his rookie year, accumulating 12 tackles and a sack. With his extreme speed along the DL he will have the opportunity to slip under larger O-linemen and through gaps in the pocket. He should have the main job opportunity at DT going into this season, so a large jump in production is certainly something to keep an eye out for.
GRADE: B-

27. QB Fred Gonzalez (Tampa Bay) – With an eye ever toward the future, the Sentinels took QB Gonzalez here. It is interesting to note that Tampa’s current starter, veteran journeyman James Johnson is on his last year of his current contract, and both QB’s are very similar in key QB attributes. As it was, Gonzalez found himself grabbing 5 starts last season, performing decently, if not a bit TO prone with 8 INT’s over 7 games played. Gonzalez has as high a work ethic as anyone in this draft class, so he may very well be the future of the Sentinels. A name to keep an eye out for.
GRADE: B+

28. SS Victor Randolph (Berlin) – Berlin drafted a major need at 28, with Randolph starting all 16 games. He performed quite well, far outperforming his tackle rating, tallying 79 on the season with 2 sacks and an INT. A solid combination of speed and agility, Randolph looks to be right in the thick of things throughout this upcoming season as well, perhaps getting a bit more involved in pass defense this time around.
GRADE: B+

29. LB Carter Johnson (St. Louis) – STL went hunting for a 3rd starting LB here at 29 and ended up selecting Johnson. Possessing a decent combo of all key attributes, he found ample time starting his rookie year and totaled 28 tackles with 5 sacks across 10 games, and even started both of STL’s playoff contests, where he tallied two sacks. We will see if STL sticks to the second year man this season, or if the uptick in playoff production he saw was enough to keep him on the field.
GRADE: B-

30. DE Bernard Berrios (San Francisco) – San Fran was obviously intent to restock their D-line, this being their third selection along the defensive front. When you keep giving yourself chances, especially 4 in the first round, you’re due to hit on some of them. Like DT Abney selected at #16, Berrios came in and had the immediate opportunity to line up opposite future HoF’er Wallace. He 100% cashed in on the opportunity, terrorizing O-lines all season long, totaling 10 sacks in 13 starts. The same opportunities will abound this season playing along the same cast on defense.
GRADE: A

31. LB/DE Donald Steele (West Hampstead) – The Miami product was drafted as an LB then switched over to DE. He found plenty of playing time…and success along the DL. In 15 starts, he earned 45 tackles along with 9 sacks. He also forced 2 fumbles and recovered 1. The speed Steele possesses will continue to serve him well as he heads the DE group of the Mercurials, and work his way into opposing backfields.
GRADE: A

32. QB Lloyd Robinson (Chicago) – Rounding out a strong string of selections to end the 1st round is QB Robinson. Clearly drafted as the intended successor to the Arthur Gallegos throne, Robinson came in as an incredible talent still available at this point in the draft. More than capable of walking in and starting from Day 1 for some clubs (based on attributes), Robinson got to develop his first year on the bench. We did get to see some glimpses at times where he performed decently for a rookie QB. With a solid arm and above average accuracy, once he gets a few more seasons of absorbing the playbook, he should be able to step right in as a top 10-12 QB. All that will depend on Gallegos quality of play and how much longer he chooses to.
GRADE: B+

-The Ferret

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The Ferret’s 2023 All-CFA Honors

OFFENSE
QB
1st Team – Samuel Henderson, WIS
2nd Team – Ryan Allen, BIR
3rd Team – Frank Oliver, SF

RB
1st Team – Alec Williams, CAR
2nd Team – Richard Truitt, SD
3rd Team – Aurelio Davis, STL

FB
1st Team – Loren Dawkins, WH
2nd Team – Charles Pittman, WIS
3rd Team – James Peter, CAR

WR
1st Team – Jason Ludwig, SF/Charles Fonseca, STL
2nd Team – Zach Wiggins, HOU/Walter Kenyon, LV
3rd Team – Gary Reyes, OH/Joe Estrada, STL

TE
1st Team – Edmond Chamberlin, SF
2nd Team – Wesley Sharkey, BIR
3rd Team – Leonard Scott, MAN

C
1st Team – Rocky Barrett, HOU
2nd Team – Curtis Shaver, STL
3rd Team – Michael Henry, CIN

G
1st Team – Ray LaCroix, OH/Tracy Abernathy, CR
2nd Team – Theodore Leeper, NJ/Paul Steele, WH
3rd Team – George Nakamura, TB/Norman Gore, STL

T
1st Team – Tommy Stubbs, IA/Anthony Sheldon, OH
2nd Team – Roger Lilly, ORL/Glenn Zeller, STL
3rd Team – Douglas Inman, WIS/Mark Norris, BIR

DEFENSE
DE
1st Team – Leandro Clemons, COL/Tyree Wallace, SF
2nd Team – Mark Horvath, NEB/Zach Bateman, STL
3rd Team – William Ayers, BER/Paul Shannon, HOU

DT
1st Team – Harley McClanahan, STL/Melvin Campbell, WH
2nd Team – William Peter, STL/Chris Ramirez, POR
3rd Team – Chris Whitley, NJ/James Moore, WIS

LB
1st Team – Charles Dixon, SF/Andrew Simpson, BER/Ken Christenson, WIS
2nd Team – Ryan Barnette, HOU/Michael Eddy, HOU/Maurice Martin, LON
3rd Team – Frederick Ferrer, NY/Josh Morrow, SD/Eric Ward, CAR

CB
1st Team – Alex Morrissey, CIN/Frank Hatchett, MAN
2nd Team – Mike Rawls, WAS/Milan Mason, OH
3rd Team – Derrick Knight, WIS/Aaron Fernandez, ORL

FS
1st Team – Daniel Sims, BIR
2nd Team – Victor Cook, TB
3rd Team – Darron McAlister, NY

SS
1st Team – Al Warden, SD
2nd Team – Ray English, NJ
3rd Team – Ignacio Voss, WAS

SPECIAL TEAMS
K
1st Team – Shawn Rubin, OH
2nd Team – Roger Treadway, SD
3rd Team – Thomas Bingham, CHI

P
1st Team – Earl Zamora, FRA
2nd Team – Michael Fritz, WAS
3rd Team – Daniel McBribe, IA

RET
1st Team – Lee Rodriguez, CHI/Andrew Gibson, HOU
2nd Team – Paul Torres, NY/Joel Hutto, BIR
3rd Team – David Antoine, SF/Jason Ludwig, SF

CFA 2023: What To Watch

With the 2023 CFA preseason about to kick off, and everybody at 0-0, it’s never too early to take a quick look at some of the intriguing matchups on a week by week basis this upcoming season.

Week 1: Raptors @ Hammerheads – These two division rivals face off opening weekend after having both reached at least the Divisional round last year. Early stakes with possible season long playoff implications.

Week 2: Bulldogs @ Pride/New York @ Las Vegas – These two matchups feature early glimpses of the possible future of the CFA. The first features the top 2 picks from this year’s draft, both defensive picks. Who can disrupt the opposing offense more? The second features the 2 highest drafted rookie RB’s in nearly a decade.

Week 3: Bulls @ Blue Demons – This is a rematch of a United Wild Card matchup from last season, where Birmingham came out on top 26-14. Can some revenge be exacted?

Week 4: Pride @ Bulls – An early season contest in what was the league’s most competitive division last year, with no team below .500. Each division match is huge here.

Week 5: Wolves @ Raptors – The defending champs visit a top 10 Raptor defense from last year, sure to be improved after spending 2 of its top 3 picks last draft on edge rushing talent.

Week 6: Wranglers @ Blue Demons – One of the most upstart teams from last season West Texas visits Carlisle in an early overseas road test against an elite home team. Can the Wranglers stake their claim as a new threat to the league?

Week 7: Stallions @ Wolves – In by far the most competitive week of the 2023 season, we are graced with a rematch of last year’s OT thriller Continental Conference Championship Game, which saw Chicago edging out a 38-35 win.

Week 8: Bulls @ Wranglers – Another mid-season matchup out of the difficult United Gulf. Who can put themselves in strong position as the 2nd half of the season commences?

Week 9 : Bulldogs @ Sentinels – Last season’s only winless road team heads to Tampa to face a defending division champion who has played decidedly average at home. Can they pull off the upset?

Week 10: Wolves @ Hammerheads – Defending champs face off against the perennial title contender out of the United in what could be a potential Continental Bowl preview.

Week 11: Sentinels @ Stallions – One of the elite road teams last season @ 7-1 heads to the midwest to face last year’s only undefeated home team.

Week 12: Dragons @ Howlers – Two of the Caribbean’s middle of the road teams look to jump ahead and get themselves into the wild card hunt.

Week 13: Maulers @ Bulls – 2 top 8 scoring offenses from a year ago face off in what looks to be a classic barnburner.

Week 14: Mercurials @ Blue Demons – Key division matchup late in the year between 2 teams who have represented the United Conference in the Continental Bowl each of the last 3 seasons.

Week 15: Sharks @ Blue Demons – Last season’s most powerful scoring offense vs. last season’s leakiest defense. Yikes.

Week 16: Wranglers @ Bulls/Gearheads @ Pride – The season finale in the United Gulf. One or both of these matches will likely make or break somebody’s playoff hopes.