2025 “Should” Draft

This is not a mock draft, this is a “should” draft.  In other words, this is who teams should be selecting with their picks – at least in my opinion. (updated 7/10/17)

 

1 – San Francisco – William Traylor, QB, Houston

Frank Oliver will be 33 next year, and the 2 QB’s they drafted last year aren’t anywhere near as good as Traylor. Use his great WE to bump up his INT and he’s good to go whenever Oliver calls it quits.

 

2 – West Texas – Michael Anderson, OL, Wisconsin

WTX gave up the 2nd-most sacks and had the 4th-fewest pancakes.  I’m listing Anderson simply as “OL” because he could literally play any position on the line and he would be an immediate help.

 

3 – Frankfurt – Conrad Bryan, WR, Ole Miss

Ashley Masters still has 1 or 2 good years left in him and even if he doesn’t, they still have Arnold Stillwell. What they don’t have is a superstar receiver. Bryan is lightning quick and has very good hands, he’d give this team a bonafide go-to #1 target.

 

4 – Colorado – Danny Maas, RB, Florida

Their defense is fairly solid, but they are near the bottom in terms of offense.  They need an offensive weapon, and Maas is exactly that.  He could line up at RB or WR.

 

5 – Manchester – Willie Rawlings, LB, Florida

Worst defense in the league, literally ranked 32nd out of 32 in 3 of the 4 defensive categories (and 26th in the other).  Their best LB’s are 29, 30, 31 and 31.

 

6 – Zurich – Andrew Reid, OG, Auburn

There is some young talent on this team, but the OL is so, so bad.  Reid has great blocking skills and good enough WE to bump up the speed or intelligence, whichever they choose.

 

7 – Washington – Amos Nutter, DE, Connecticut

Remember when I said Manchester was the worst defense?  Well Washington is 2nd-worst.  One of their DE’s is 214 pounds, and that may have worked in PFS but it doesn’t work in DDSPF.  Nutter’s WE is good enough to bump up the strength or agility.

 

8 – Carlisle – Xavier O’Reilly, SS, Notre Dame

Pass defense was a major issue for this team, 27th out of 32.  They’re still not getting anything out of Shearer (oh, but I guess teams just aren’t throwing towards him, right Mark? :P)  I really like this kid O’Reilly, outstanding INT and TCK for a DB and he’s only 21 so he’s got a ton of room for growth.

 

9 – Georgia – Michael Dent, DT, Ohio State

Their problem is the opposite of Carlisle’s – rush defense.  Dent would be a great compliment to Angel Cline, and would give the Gearheads 2 big, strong dudes in the middle of a 4-3 front.

 

10 – Philadelphia – Brian Turner, DT, Clemson

Some of their better D-Linemen are getting up there in age.  Turner is an interesting prospect to me, because he could play in the middle right now or you could minicamp his speed for a couple seasons and I think he could be a beast at DE once you got it up into the high 70’s.

 

 

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2024 Top 10 Mock Draft 2.0

1. Ohio – C Will Martel, Baylor

This #1 pick has bounced around 4 times in the past few months – from Trinidad, to San Fran, to Zurich, and now Ohio. Martel has already visited the Cardinals’ HQ in Franklin Furnace, and OSN reports say the name may already be on the dotted line.

2. Frankfurt – OT Anthony Fay, Notre Dame

They had the 3rd-fewest pancake blocks in the league, and they were in the bottom 10 in sacks allowed. They need to bolster their O-Line in order to protect their young offensive players.

3. Sicily – WR Kerry Banks, Duke

They need a burner to pair with WR Hoffman, Banks would give their very young QB Dyer a legitimate deep threat.

4. San Francisco – LB Edward Tanner, Georgia

Mock drafting for the Hammerheads is like trying to buy a gift for a friend who has everything. I’m going with Tanner here because sack king Charles Dixon is 30 and in the last year of his contract. Not saying he won’t be re-signed or franchise tagged, but why not groom an eventual replacement? Great work ethic too.

5. Philadelphia – DT Leroy Mount, Iowa

Their rush defense was really bad this season, allowing nearly 150 yards per game on the ground. Mount is a big, strong nose tackle who could collapse the pocket and minimize that running room.

6. Chicago – OG Brian Frazier, USF

I never replaced Garry Blackman after letting him sign with New York as an RFA last offseason. Frazier is one of the strongest players in the draft, and already has good blocking skills.

7. Chicago – FS Joel Eddy, South Carolina

DB depth was a nightmare for us this season, we had so many injuries that I had to move a LB to start at CB for our playoff game against St. Louis. Joel’s brother Mike went #1 overall last year, hopefully the younger Eddy has the same kind of rookie season.

8. Washington – DE Derek Smith, Auburn

They had the fewest sacks in the league this season, and one of their starting DE’s is 214 pounds. That’s way, way too small.

9. London – QB Ralph Beeson, Clemson

Marvin Wright has retired and David McAfee has proven to be a bust. The Bulldogs desperately need a QB, and Beeson has potential.

10. Las Vegas – SS Arlen Henry, USC

The only SS they currently have is Eugene Chandler, who has just 6 career starts. They could use a big, fast, hard-hitting safety and Henry would be a good choice.

(Those listed in red indicate a change from my previous mock)

11. Nebraska – WR Michael Gale, Ohio St.

12. Iowa – DT Dan Shaffer, UConn

13. Costa Rica – CB Ricky Grady, Florida

14. Manchester – RB Ronald McNabb, UConn

15. Portland – LB Frank Roque, Texas Tech

16. Cincinnati – DE Sam Doughty, Washington

17. Wisconsin – OG John Ritchie, UCF

18. Orlando – DT Ryan Flaherty, Miami

19. San Francisco – CB Jake Atwell, Ohio St.

20. West Hampstead – OT Jose Gross, Alabama

21. Tampa Bay – SS William Lattimore, Ohio St.

22. Berlin – OG George Torrence, S. Carolina

23. Carlisle – DT Drew Houston, UConn

24. Birmingham – CB Henry Noyes, S. Carolina

25. Ohio – SS Hal Bishop, Louisville

26. New Jersey – WR Mark Valenzuela, Duke

27. West Texas – DT James Wilson, Stanford

28. Trinidad – FS Ernest Riley, Virginia Tech

29. St. Louis – QB Brandon King, Bowling Green

30. San Diego – LB Christopher Arnold, Duke

31. Houston – SS Kenneth Hamilton, LSU

32. Cincinnati – RB Peter Vargas, Ohio St.

 

2024 Top 10 Mock Draft

1. San Francisco – QB Ralph Beeson, Clemson

They really wanted William Traylor to declare for the draft, but he went back to Houston for his senior year. They traded up to get this pick, so trading back down would be very counterproductive. Beeson can be Oliver’s eventual successor.

2. Frankfurt – OT Anthony Fay, Notre Dame

They had the 3rd-fewest pancake blocks in the league, and they were in the bottom 10 in sacks allowed. They need to bolster their O-Line in order to protect their young offensive players.

3. Sicily – WR Kerry Banks, Duke

They need a burner to pair with WR Hoffman, Banks would give their very young QB Dyer a legitimate deep threat.

4. Zurich – C Will Martel, Baylor

They allowed the 2nd-most sacks in the league, and their ground game only averaged 3.6 YPC. Martel would improve both of those areas.

5. Philadelphia – DT Leroy Mount, Iowa

Their rush defense was really bad this season, allowing nearly 150 yards per game on the ground. Mount is a big, strong nose tackle who could collapse the pocket and minimize that running room.

6. Portland – LB Edward Tanner, Georgia

They need to be able to compete with San Fran & San Diego’s speedy LB’s since they see them both twice a year. Also, they have not yet re-signed LB Jeffery and may end up choosing not to.

7. Chicago – FS Joel Eddy, South Carolina

DB depth was a nightmare for us this season, we had so many injuries that I had to move a LB to start at CB for our playoff game against St. Louis. Joel’s brother Mike went #1 overall last year, hopefully the younger Eddy has the same kind of rookie season.

8. Washington – DE Derek Smith, Auburn

They had the fewest sacks in the league this season, and one of their starting DE’s is 214 pounds. That’s way, way too small.

9. London – QB Stephen Watkins, UConn

It’s hard to pinpoint a pick here, because they haven’t done their re-signings yet and only have 24 players under contract for next year at the moment. This all depends on who comes back, but QB Wright would be 33 if he does, and McAfee has proven to be a bust.

10. Las Vegas – SS Arlen Henry, USC

Their starting SS Jennings will be 30, and he hasn’t been re-signed yet. They could use a big, fast, hard-hitting safety and Henry would be a good choice.

 

 

Have They Stepped It Up?

Before the season began, I wrote a blurb about one player on each team who needed to “Step It Up” in order for their team to be successful.  As we get closer to the end of the season, I thought it would be interesting to see who did and did not do so.  Here is the first half of the league, in the order which the original articles were posted:

Berlin – QB Gerry Flanigan

Well, he’s hurt again, out for 1-2 weeks with a broken finger. Flanigan himself is playing very well (2,287 yards, 57% comp., 12 TD, 2 INT, 93.7 QBR) but his ability to stay healthy and the team’s ability to protect him has failed again.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – NO

Frankfurt – DE Henry Collins

6 sacks, 7 TFL for Collins thus far. The team is still near the bottom of the barrel in terms of sacks, but their defense as a whole has jumped from 28th in the league last year to 6th. That’s quite an improvement, and Collins has done his share to contribute to that.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – YES

Sicily – Whoever’s going to run the ball

Their run game has gotten a LITTLE bit better, but not much. Barker with his $15 million contract is averaging less than 4 carries a game, they traded with Ohio to get Miguel Woods but he hasn’t done much, and journeyman veteran Eric Samuel is leading the team with around 62 yards per game. The names may change but the crap stays the same.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – NO

Zurich – OG David Goodin

Oh good Lord, this guy gave up 11 sacks in 6 games before hurting his SPINAL CORD against St. Louis! But have no fear, he’s now listed as “probable” so he should be back letting defenders speed by him with ease this week. Oh and BTW, Zurich has allowed more sacks than anyone except Tankidad…I mean Trinidad.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – LOL

Carlisle – CB Stephen Shearer

He’s been moved to SS where he’s absolutely been lighting it up…around 4 tackles a game, no picks, no pass breakups, and no shots at returning kicks despite his 100 SPD & AGI. Guess who’s in line for a spot on my next draft bust list?

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – NO

London – QB Marvin Wright

The Bulldogs are 3-7, but Wright is playing better than David McAfee ever did (2,049 yards, 57% comp., 11 TD, 5 INT, 88.5 QBR). The team’s record this year isn’t his fault.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – YES

Manchester – Someone on defense besides Thomas Serna

The defense is still bad (27th in the league) but they’ve somehow won 5 of their last 6, with the only loss being by a field goal to Houston. Serna is playing well as usual (5 sacks, 13 TFL), and CB’s Hatchett & Hansen have combined for 5 picks and 22 pass breakups. That’s not too bad.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – KINDA

West Ham – The D-Line

This team has taken a huge downward swing since last season, but they have faced some very tough competition thus far. They’ve only played 2 games against teams below .500 (both wins) and just knocked off 7-3 Tampa Bay. As far as the D-Line goes, Melvin Campbell has 10 sacks and rookie Donald Steele has 5 sacks, 7 TFL & 2 forced fumbles, so the talent is there.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – KINDA

Birmingham – The Secondary

Umm…they were 27th in pass defense last season, they’re now #1. Not to mention #1 in total defense.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – HELL YES

Georgia – DT’s Angel Cline & Hayden Marvin

Georgia was 26th in rush defense last year, they are currently 7th. Cline & Marvin, despite both missing games due to injury, have 4 sacks apiece. This team is a very quiet but very dangerous 8-2.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – YES

Houston – LB Mike Eddy

The #1 overall pick has 65 tackles, 9 sacks, 12 pass breakups and an INT. He’s the odds-on favorite for DROTY and it’s already clear that this guy’s gonna be a special player for years to come.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – YES

West Texas – A running back…ANY running back

They are 30th in the league in rushing with 87 yards per game…but hey, they had 71 yards per game last year so hooray for improvement! They just traded with Zurich for William Dellinger, so maybe he can jump start this unit.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – NO

Colorado – QB Brian McKee

He played like crap and got replaced by a rookie who’s now leading the Mustangs to their best season in years.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – NO
IS COLORADO BETTER OFF THAT HE DIDN’T? – YES

Iowa – DE William Tam

This defense was bad last year, but they’re slightly better this year. Tam was moved from DE to pass-rushing LB and it’s seemed to work well for him. He has 45 tackles, 17 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a safety and an INT. Sure, the team is 3-7, but just like Marvin Wright, it’s not Tam’s fault.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – YES

Nebraska – QB George Marcotte

Nebraska had the worst offense in the league last year. Well, they DID improve…they’re now 2nd-worst! My exact quote was “If Marcotte gets back into the system quickly and plays like his old self, the Plainsmen will surely win more than 4 games”. He’s 9th in the league in rushing yards and averaging a crazy 7.1 YPC. They’ve already won 4 games, and they have 4 more winnable games on their schedule. Called it.

HAS HE STEPPED IT UP? – YES

St. Louis – A #2 cornerback

Who thought the Stallions would be sitting at .500 this late in the season? Probably nobody. They are again 2nd-worst in the league in interceptions, and Ricky Pinkston is the only CB on the team to pick off a pass this year. Surprisingly, they have the 4th best pass defense in the league, but they still don’t have another playmaking corner opposite Pinkston.

HAVE THEY STEPPED IT UP? – NO

Step It Up – Pacific Division

Las Vegas – QB Wilbert Granados

You know what’s crazy? The Scorpions have 3, count ’em 3!, wide receivers with 100 hands (Kenyon, Pina & Cook). Someone on Vegas’ coaching staff needs to go up to Wilbert and say “OK, just fling the ball downfield in the general vicinity of one of those guys and they’ll handle it from there”. Seriously, their O-Line is decent enough to where there’s no reason he shouldn’t have the time to do that. In fact, they used that strategy against San Fran last year (Week 3) and almost pulled off a monumental upset. If Granados can get the ball in those guys’ hands, this team can absolutely do better than last season’s 5-11 record. Keep in mind that 6 of those losses were by a touchdown or less.

Portland – OG’s Joseph Coffin & Dwain Roe

The Reavers only averaged 19 points per game last season and just 95 rushing yards per game. That ranked them 24th and 23rd in the league in those respective categories. Some of the offensive woes can be linked to QB Elmer Nelson, who regressed quite a bit from his 2021 performance, but it’s clear that the real problem is the interior of the O-Line. Coffin and Roe, both former 1st-rounders, gave up a combined 24 sacks which no doubt contributed to the team’s paltry 3.6 yards per carry average. They HAD a decent Center in Leon Durant, but they just cut him before the preseason started. RB Richard Smith has the ability to move the ball, and OT Leonard Jenkins did an outstanding job last year, but if they can’t get protection and create gaps inside, their chances in this division are slim to none.

San Diego – WR Noel Smith

The highest-paid rookie in CFA history (in fact, his $7 million is almost double what #1 pick Mike Eddy got), Smith was an undrafted sleeper who went up for grabs in the free agent market. The Raptors took a chance, giving him a 1-year deal that makes him the highest paid player on their team by over $3 million. Last year’s starters at receiver Travis Young and David Lutz dropped an alarming 24 passes between the two of them, but Smith’s hands are even worse than theirs! Because of his exorbitant salary, the team is in a position where they HAVE to play him in order to justify it. We all know what RB Richard Truitt can do, and Russell Bradley is a very underrated QB, but it’s now time for Smith to prove that San Diego was right to give him this opportunity.

San Francisco – The Running Game

Yes, I KNOW that running the ball is not the Hammerheads’ thing, but having at least a little bit of balance in your offense is important. In the 4 games that San Fran lost last season (including the playoffs), they averaged just 56 yards on the ground. Their YPC was the same as Portland’s – just 3.6. None of the RB’s they have on the roster were with the team last year. The all-new cast features a pair of rookies from the SEC East (David Antoine of Kentucky and Chad Wheeler of Tennessee) and 33-year-old veteran Charles Melton – a converted WR that I tried to move to RB last season because of injuries (which didn’t work so well). Look, this defense is a killer. So is Frank Oliver. So is Jason Ludwig. They have 4 former 1st-round picks on the O-Line. Can you imagine what would happen if they had a competent ground game?

 

 

Step It Up – Coastal Division

New Jersey – QB Jon Curry

Despite the fact that they went 10-6 and won the division, you might be surprised to learn that the Bayhawks had one of the worst offenses in the league last year. They averaged only 174 passing yards per game, the only team with less was Nebraska whose struggles we’ve already documented. Curry went down with a torn ACL in week 8 against San Fran, but even before the injury he did not look impressive. Perhaps it was a “sophomore slump” for the player who helped lead the ‘Hawks to a title in 2021 as a rookie. Whatever the reason, Curry will need to bounce back and start hooking up with his band of converted RB’s now playing WR (Clancy, Chandler & Woodson) if Jersey expects to make a run at another championship.

New York – RB Robert DuBois

Like Mike Eddy for Houston, it’s kinda hard to tell a rookie that they need to “step it up”, but the Knights spent the #3 overall pick on the former Georgia Bulldog DuBois in an effort to jump start their mediocre running game. Actually, “mediocre” may be sugarcoating it, as New York averaged just 82 yards per game on the ground last season with Lee Carlin as the lead back. The rookie has the speed and agility to make an immediate impact if he plays up to his potential, and the Knights also sacrificed next year’s 1st-round pick to sign RFA OG Garry Blackman from Chicago. They’re hoping that he can create the same kind of running room that he did for the Wolves.

Philadelphia – DT Mary Lambert/LB John Knowlton

The Bombers gave up 28 points per game and allowed 129 rushing yards per game last year. That’s surprising, considering DE Harry Tatum led the league with 26 TFL, Michael Reed has 31 sacks over the last 2 seasons, and Terrance Sullivan is one of the best young LB’s in the game (an insane 290 tackles in 2 years!). They invested over $16 million in veterans Lambert and Knowlton this past offseason in the hopes that they can be the missing pieces to tighten up the defense. They let QB John Mack walk, so if last year’s 1st-round pick Robert Goode can perform up to par, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this team make a run at the division title.

Washington – QB Chris Hein/WR Carlton Torres

“The Old Man” Richard Cole gave up his 1st-round pick to his son Rick to bring in Torres, hopefully providing a speedy go-to target for Hein – himself a former 1st-rounder back in 2019. The quarterback hasn’t yet lived up to his potential, averaging just 167 yards per game with a career QBR of only 77.4. Perhaps having a receiver like Torres will be the boost he needs to up his numbers. The Freebirds also had the fewest sacks of any American team last season, so defenders like Moore, Forsythe, McInnis and Voss are going to have to start getting pressure on opposing QB’s.

Edit – I was not aware that Washington turned around and traded Torres to West Ham, guess I wasn’t paying attention, so let’s just say that both Hein & the D-Line need to step it up.

Step It Up – Great Lakes Division

***Big thanks to Mark for putting this one together!***

Chicago Wolves

RB Buford McCabe

Thirty-one year old career backup has been brought in to spearhead what is already the league’s best running attack. What sets him apart from the younger guys on the Wolves roster is his undoubted talent in catching the ball out of the backfield. Expect him to feature primarily on passing downs. If he catches the ball and the Wolves improve on last years 7.5-ypc from the backfield then they will once again be the team everyone has to catch.

Ohio Cardinals

LB Mac Greenfield

Former #1 pick Greenfield’s career at safety could be described as average. A rookie season 81-tackles has yet to be bettered and last season he was well down on that with only 59-tackles from 16-games. New GM Robert Cole has made what I think is a brilliant decision to move him to LB. He may be light at 201 lbs but has all the intangibles to be one of the best in the league. Playing twice against the league’s top rushing offense Greenfield needs to be on point not only will he be expected to dominate against the run but needs to look for gaps and get through to the QB.

Cincinnati Predators

Need a plan

The Preds are coming off their second winning season in a row but with GM Matt Worden stepping down the team doesn’t seem to be in secure hands. In fact, the new ownership has been very much unavailable throughout the close off last season, and again last night when the team went into their first preseason friendly. This is a talented squad but the pressure on QB Matthew Hughes calling all his own plays eventually took its toll with their star man fracturing his arm late on and now facing several weeks off. The new owners need to show up and fast.

Wisconsin Warhawks

Need to run the ball better

The Warhawks are a improving team. Their passing game is very good but they have consistently struggled with their ground game. Matthew Krause has been with the team since their CF2 days but despite having the desired pace, strength, agility, and intelligence needed to be a star back; he’s struggled to a paltry 3.5-ypc throughout his 6-year career. Last years second round pick Mark Burger is the primary backup but so far he hasn’t done anything to suggest he is going to solve the problems of the team ranked dead last for the last 2-years.

Step It Up – Caribbean Division

Costa Rica – QB Jacob Rowe

Despite the fact that they ranked 27th in points allowed (25 ppg) and 28th in rush defense (127 ypg), the Howlers actually have some good talent along the front seven. They also have a good young CB in Bustos. Offensively, they added a great veteran RB in Severson and have a pair of future stars at WR in Schwab and Colon. The missing link is the quarterback. Rowe has all of the necessary tools and attributes, but for whatever reason he’s never broken out and established himself as an elite passer. At 29 years old, it may very well be now or never for him.

Orlando – CB Stephen Swanson

There was nothing terribly bad about the Dragons’ numbers last year. They actually ranked 3rd in the league in sacks, they somehow have 3 QB’s that could be starters in this league, and Todd Walker is just a little over 800 yards away from being only the 4th player to top 10,000 rushing yards. Their pass defense could use a little work however, and they gave free agent Swanson an $8 million contract. That’s a lot of cash for someone who’s never intercepted a pass and has only 69 tackles in 5 seasons. The pressure is on him now to prove that he deserved it.

Tampa Bay – OT Erik Howell

Another one of those situations where it’s hard to pick someone because this team just doesn’t have too many weaknesses. They ranked in the top 10 in every major category last season, but they did allow the 7th most sacks in the league. Since I have to pick on somebody, I’ll single out Howell because he’s allowed 21 sacks in the last 2 years. He could be pushed for his starting job by one of the young linemen on the team like James Foss or recent 1st-round draftee Wilmer Downey. That being said, the rest of this O-Line is very solid and the Sents are still the team to beat in the Caribbean.

Trinidad – QB Mark Boston

Ugh…where do you even begin? Worst defense and 2nd worst offense in the league last season. They “earned” the #1 overall pick, but traded it away to Houston. The quarterback is almost always the leader of the entire team, and quite frankly Boston may be the worst starting QB in the CFA. Look at his career numbers – 53% completions, 18 TD, 28 INT, 62.5 QBR. You think that’s bad? The Sharks actually signed him to a 2-year extension last year! Until this team gets a better signal caller, nobody’s going to be afraid to get in the water with these great whites.

 

 

Step It Up – Heartland Division

Colorado – QB Brian McKee

The ‘stangs were 27th in total offense last season, averaging just 18 points per game. Their team QBR was 5th worst in the league and they threw fewer touchdown passes than everybody except Nebraska. McKee is entering his 4th season with Colorado, and he’s going to need to up his game if this team expects to compete with St. Louis. His numbers dropped off last year, which was not very encouraging. He has a couple decent (but old) receivers to throw to in Asher and Tijerina. If he doesn’t show that he can be a franchise QB in 2023, GM Geoff Spakes may be looking elsewhere for a signal caller next offseason.

Iowa – DE William Tam

A new team name doesn’t hide the fact that this defense was terrible last year. They gave up an average of 25 points and 387 yards per game. Their two best DB’s Dorian Lockhart and Walter Ortiz did not intercept a pass all season. They let DE Henry Collins and his 80 career sacks walk. The pressure is now all on Tam, who regressed to only 5 sacks in 2022 after having double digits for the previous 5 straight years. Goforth and Lively are great LB’s, but as far as the D-Line goes, Tam has to be the one to step up and lead the unit.

Nebraska – QB George Marcotte

This team was a mess without him last season, and Marcotte was a mess without them. Orlando tried to use him as a true passer, and that went about as well as you’d expect. That’s not what he does, he’s at his best when he gets behind the Plainsmen’s surprisingly good offensive line (4th fewest sacks allowed last year) and runs the ball. Nebraska had the worst offense in the league last year, scoring more than 20 points just once. If Marcotte gets back into the system quickly and plays like his old self, the Plainsmen will surely win more than 4 games.

St. Louis – A #2 cornerback

This is a tough call, as the Stallions don’t have very many weaknesses. They had the best defense in terms of points allowed, and the best offense in terms of total yardage. However, they only had 8 INT’s last season which was 2nd worst in the league, and they were one of only 3 teams not to score a defensive TD. There’s no doubt that CB Ricky Pinkston is a future Hall-of-Famer, he’s tied for the most career picks with 43 and had half of those aforementioned 8 last year, but finding a playmaker to cover the other side should be a priority. Gerard and Mayberry aren’t getting any younger, but at least one of them needs to make their presence known.

 

 

Step It Up – Gulf Division

Birmingham – The Secondary

The Bulls were 27th in the league in pass defense last season, allowing an average of 263 passing yards per game. When you’re facing a star QB like John Wiese and emerging stars like Tom Prosser and Jim Hackney twice a year, your secondary needs to be on point. Veteran CB’s Jon Felton and Martin Embry combined for only 61 tackles, although they did account for 7 INT’s. Young safeties Donte Reid and Charles Anders showed they can blitz (11 sacks), but struggled in coverage with only 2 picks and 5 pass breakups. They’re all going to need to do a better job.

Georgia – DT’s Angel Cline & Hayden Marvin

The Gearheads’ rush defense left a lot to be desired last season, ranking 26th in the league and giving up 124 rushing yards per game. They were also in the bottom half of the CFA in sacks and tackles for a loss. It’s true that they may have one of the best LB corps in the conference, but when you have to face a lethal ground attack like Houston’s twice a year, your DT’s need to get penetration and close those gaps. Cline had more missed tackles last year than he’s had TFL’s in his entire career, and GM Aaron Cole gave up a 1st-round pick to his brother Rick to bring in Marvin. They both need to play up to their potential in 2023.

Houston – LB Mike Eddy

OK, it’s hard to say that someone who’s never played a snap in the CFA needs to “step it up”, but hear me out. The Pride were a surprising 8-8 last season, but 6 of those losses were by a touchdown or less, and half of those 6 were by a field goal or less. Those types of games can be decided by one big play on defense, and Houston gave up 2 players and 3 draft picks (including two 1st-rounders) to trade up for Eddy. He has the ability to make one of those big plays, including the speed to either rush the QB or drop back into coverage. As the #1 pick, he’s going to have a lot of pressure and a lot of eyes on him.

West Texas – A running back…ANY running back

The Wranglers’ ground game was almost non-existant last year – 30th in the league at only 71 yards per game. Joseph Wagner and Dale Thurman hovered around the 3.4 yards per carry mark, and that just won’t get it done in this league. They did sign Anthony Bostick from Colorado, so perhaps the 6’2″, 229-pound bruising back out of Navy can be the spark this team needs. They went on an impressive run at the end of last season, winning 6 of 7 and just missing out on the playoffs. A strong presence in the backfield to go along with their good, young QB and solid defense could help them make that jump into the postseason.