Cougars, Bulls, Huskies, Aviators
While we all know what the RFL draft is, there's another intriguing definition of the term "draft."
Draft: a preliminary sketch, outline, or version.
I find the term draft interesting, because when you analyze the idea of the RFL draft it is a draft of players, utilized to bring a draft of a team to life. When season 5 ended, each RFL team created a preliminary sketch, outline, or paper version of what they wanted their team to look like in Season 6. The RFL draft is just one piece of the puzzle in making those paper drafts come to fruition. The RFL draft is so exciting, because it presents all teams with the ability to make their paper ideas a reality, and create opportunities for the future of the team, the players, and the fans.
We will explore several moves made by RFL teams throughout the offseason, in an effort to get you caught up on what’s to come for Season 6. We’ll briefly touch on moves made through Free Agency, Trading, and The Draft. We aim to highlight key acquisitions and departures, who may impact the future of a team. We will take a statistical approach to analyzing the teams’ Season 5 performances. And, we will look to analyze a team’s avenues to success for the upcoming RFL Season 6. We hope to touch on each team and their endeavor to obtain an elusive Relo Bowl.
The Chicago Cougars stamped a 12-4 record in their season 5 campaign, and a ticket to elimination play. However this wouldn't be enough to claim the division overtop of their rival Bulls. The Cougars were a strong team on both sides of the ball, but nothing speaks to their strengths more than their second ranked defense behind only the Relo Bowl champion Red Dragons by 14 total yards. Leading the way for the Cougars championship hopes were elite CB Keoni Jones, WR Kentavious Henderson, and HB Denard Locker. In a rematch against their division winning rivals, the Cougars would best the Bulls 26-23, moving on to then defeat the daunting Celtic Tigers and MVP Dre Crowell 46-29. With their Relo Bowl hopes on the line in the ARC Championship game, up 23-20, their hopes were dashed by a play-of-the-year Anthony Savoy touchdown with 7 seconds left on the clock. The Cougars danced toe-to-toe with the best teams in the game and ultimately were barely bested. The Cougars went on to part ways with 34-year old QB Rob Slater, in favor of college standout Gino Ganno, of LSU, via the 4th overall pick in the draft. Armed with one of the most talented rosters and coaches in the RFL, the Cougars are potentially THE team to watch in the ARC. With a lot of hype to live up to, many believe that this is the year the Cougars capture glory.
For most of Season 5, the Brooklyn Bulls looked unstoppable; matching the Celtic Tigers every step of the way to parallel 13-1 records. The Brooklyn Bulls would go on to capture the ARC North with a 13-3 record, but they ended up dropping their last two games of the season in dramatic fashion. Losing by over 40 points to their division rival Cougars in Week 16, and then again in Week 17 to the Red Dragons 25-16, the Bulls began a slide at the worst time of year. They would fall yet again to the Cougars in the wildcard round, ultimately fizzling out of contention with 3 straight losses. The Bulls were lead by one of the better defenses in the ARC, accumulating the second most sacks in the conference (60). The Bulls must look to improve upon their offense (11th most yardage and 12th most ppg in the ARC) going into Season 6. Lead by veteran QB Layne Kerney, MLB Jack Brown, and LOLB Gabe Stringer, the Bulls could remain competitive. However, with the parting of Coach Melinshyn and another defensive-heavy draft, the solution for this team may not be in sight. The Bulls are an interesting team to watch for Season 6, because they have the widest range of expectations. This is a team that could fade out of playoff contention or compete for a Relo Bowl, and only time will tell.
The Toronto Huskies, just one year removed from their Relocation Bowl 4 Championship, were looking to become the first RFL team to successfully defend their title in Season 5. Finishing the regular season at 11-5, the Huskies failed to make it into the playoffs; and barely missing out on a playoff appearance was a massive disappointment for a team sporting the likes of elite playmakers Brady Hutson (QB), Keith Guyton (WR), Bret Rattay (MLB), Javonti Gibson (CB), and Robert Staymates (FS). Arguably, the best word to sum up Season 5 for the defending champs would be "underachievement". No player's performance better symbolized the Huskies' season than WR Tyreese Maxwell only accumulating 776 yards and 3 touchdowns in 16 games played. While 11-5 is almost good enough to get it done, many expected more from this team. The Huskies bring back one of the better top-heavy rosters in the ARC for Season 6, on the back of aging QB Brady Hutson (now 35 years old). In fact, the story for the Huskies may be one of a battle with time, as many of their top players are entering the back end of their careers. Analysts expected Toronto to focus on depth at key positions in the offseason and filling their remaining holes, but they added WR Isaiah Streets with their first round pick, who may struggle to even see the field behind three equally talented players. The Huskies' window is now, and there's no question about it. Yet, after parting ways with coach Mark Chizz, and failing to establish true depth at many key positions, some are questioning if the Huskies have already spent their chance.
Joining the Oklahoma City Bisons and Salt Lake City Pioneers, the Columbus Aviators round out the bottom of the ARC. Sporting one RFL win (a 5-11 record), the Aviators are a project team. The Aviators struggled mightily against RFL competition (2nd worst in ppg, worst in yardage allowed), and sought true improvement in the offseason. The additions of QB Marquise Washington with the 3rd overall pick, and C Thomas Tennant (2nd round) to guard him will be the building blocks for the future of the Aviators. However, the Aviators may lack a clear path forward. With serviceable players left on the roster at both QB (Russell Renes and Harry Fuller-Jackson) and across the offensive line, it will be intriguing to watch things play out in Columbus. This team could've gained ground on their RFL opponents by adding at positions of greater need (defense or receiver). With questionable weapons surrounding the young signal caller (702 yards for their leading receiver), and aging players across the defensive side of the ball, the Aviators are going to need a herculean effort from Marquise Washington if they hope to compete in Season 6. We'll be on the look out for a serious step forward from HB Kingston Kenny, as the young QB-HB duo look to lean on each other as the primary playmakers on offense. On the defensive side, the Aviators expect a step in the right direction from standout CB, DaKing Armstrong, in their hopes of improving on the last ranked defense of Season 5. The Aviators left some in the RFL community scratching their heads when they selected a QB with the 3rd overall pick, and left top-end talent on the board at positions of potentially greater need. The Aviators are looking to write the ship in Season 6, and we'll be watching intently to see if they made the right move by selecting their future signal caller.
Keep an eye out for more division write ups as we get closer to the RFL regular season!