May 27, 2017. The date of the first RFL Draft. The Bulldogs had just won the inaugural championship and Dr. Dre was just beginning to build his legacy. This was the first video I watched and I was hooked from the start. It was built a little differently than what it has become but with draft season on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to look back and see what the RFL landscape looked like and what the careers of the original draft picks looked like.
Before we start I should point out that the YouTube video only shows the players that were submitted so there are some empty spots in the draft order. I’m not sure what was considered with NFL draft spots or what but these are the numbers that we have available.
Notable players after the Second Round. Corey Leonidas (83), Jake Cowser (85), Ronnie Nickens (89), Ethan King (93), Chum Lee (103), Ryan Brinker (164), Adam Okoye (166).
Pick 5, Sacramento Condors: Isaiah Ingram, DE, Wesley College
The expansion Condors were looking for a big splash as they took the big-time DE from the small school. Smitty’s college teammate quickly became one of the biggest names in the RFL. He was an immediate force for the Condors. Ingram was an 85 on draft night and has only improved. He stands now as the most disruptive player on one of the top teams in the game. The only reason it isn’t an A+ is that he was traded off the Condors in a move that I think they would want to have back. We will talk about the return later in the draft but it is much easier to find that position than an All-World Defensive End. The Thunderbirds have gotten the best out of Ingram, being the top sack getter quite a few times since entering the league.
Pick 8, Columbus Explorers: CJ Robinson, WR, UCLA
Another one of the expansion teams for season 2 was the Columbus Explorers and they made their first draft count by selecting their franchise Superstar in CJ Robinson. The former high school QB came to UCLA to play receiver and he dominated statistically, winning the Heisman and the National Championship and was marked as a top pick in the upcoming draft. He did not disappoint putting up numbers that Columbus executives could only dream of. CJ also came into the league at an 85 overall and has grown into a 99 in what has been a Hall of Fame type career so far. I can only wonder what would have happened if these picks were switched and how the RFL might have changed because of it. In any case, CJ has made the Explorers how they are today and thanks to him are a contender year in and year out.
Pick 9, Salt Lake City Elks: Darius Martin, RB, Texas St
The Elks started off their franchise right with the selection of the Power Back from Texas St. RB is one of the most pivotal positions in the RFL and Martin has been one of the best over the last few seasons. He came into the league as an 82 overall and has quickly jumped to a 94, which is fitting for a guy of his caliber. Martin nearly crossed the 2,000-yard mark 2 seasons ago but was hampered this season by a sub-par team and the ball getting spread around more than in years past. Having Martin on the team hasn’t lead to much late-season success which is why he is an A- but you can’t deny what he has done in the league.
Pick 12, Toronto Thunderbirds: DeAndre Caiyon, WR, Duke,
The second WR drafted, Caiyon has stuck around and been a solid Number 1 in the RFL. While he isn’t to the level of CJ before him, Caiyon isn’t a slouch. The Thunderbirds used him a lot as a part of their championship run in season 3 and he was yet another piece to worry about on that squad. He does get a lower rating because the T-Birds traded him away to the Lancers. They didn’t think they could pay him over some other guys on the roster. They got back a first which is good value and Cayion fell just short of 1k yards this year which is very solid. So while he ins’t a generational talent and has only gone from an 80-89 since being drafted, He is not a bust by any means.
Pick 13, Chicago Tigers: Rasaad Williams, WR, Clemson
Coming out of the combine, many RFL Scouts were surprised by the performance of Williams who many regarded as a possession WR. He ran a 4.42 and did a 10’2 in the broad jump. This was able to shoot Williams into the top 15. Comparing him to the other WR’s in this class, he has been the most unassuming. He came in at a 76 which is solid but when compared to the other guys is pretty shaky. The Tigers didn’t get much from him as he was shipped off to Mexico City to be apart of their super team. He has progressed to an 86 overall but he had around 700 yards and is the 4th option on his own team. I wonder what would have happened if he would have stayed in a less talented Chicago Offense where he could have found himself better but he could still be a number 1 in the right situation. While the future could be something, it wasn’t hot for Chi-Town or for Rashaad right away.
Pick 20, Austin Armadillos: Jake Wycheck, DE, McGill
Wycheck came into the draft as the strongest player, putting up 32 reps on the bench. That strength has transitioned well to the RFL game as he has been one of the more solid players on the Armadillos. He put up 9 sacks for Austin last year and has put up those kinds of numbers for his entire career so far. He started out as an 81 and his since improved to an 86. The Austin Defense wasn’t great last year but it wasn’t because of his efforts. I’m hoping the Wycheck makes it to the open market and is able to make an impact where he isn’t one of the only options on a weak D-Line. You could argue that a more essential position would have been a better move long term but that’s in hindsight and Wycheck has been a solid starter for them for a while so I’m giving them the thumbs up there.
Pick 24, Oklahoma City Bisons: Samham Gusto, WR, Stanford
Samham Gusto was one of the players that slipped down draft boards for reasons that only those general managers can answer. Gusto and CJ were college rivals but CJ (and a few others) were chosen before Gusto. The Bisons drafted the 6’6” phenom to pair up with All-Pro Antwan Davis and the 2 of them have had a great run over the last few years. Gusto came into the league as an 85 overall but hasn’t had the growth of CJ, only getting to a 90 so far in his career. Gusto and Davis are still equals so it is not as concerning that he only had 4 TDs to pair with his 931 yards. I wonder what would have happened if he and Rashaad Williams had switched and he was forced to grow on his own and make his own way. Would he be as good as CJ or would he be worse because the defense could focus on him? We will never know but this was a good pick especially at this spot but time will tell if Gusto can hold the load alone.
Pick 32, London Bulldogs: Jack Brodine, DT, UNLV
The Bulldogs were coming off the Relo Bowl championship and were looking to build their defensive line. They picked another strong man in Brodine who came into the league with an incredible 99 strength. Brodine came into the league as an 85 overall but has only improved 1 point since then. He only had 4 sacks last season and isn’t really up to the hype or comparisons. He is solid but he isn’t the greatest or the main guy to worry about. At 28 he won’t be improving much more.
Now I wouldn’t usually go to the second round but since there are so few draft picks you get a little bonus content here.
Pick 40, Sacramento Condors: Chase McCoy, QB, Tennessee
The NFC OROY was a great second pick for an expansion team. He has been the only Condors QB since day one. He started out as an 82 overall and he is currently an 87. He isn’t one of the top 5 in the RFL like some people originally thought but he is still a very capable starting QB. He is a consistent 4,000+ yard QB and is a top player on his team. The problem with the Condors is Chase has never had a great team. As mentioned earlier, Isaiah Ingram was traded away early and besides maybe Carrick Giguere there haven’t been any players to that caliber. Chase came in as a dual-threat but really hasn’t done a ton of that in the last few years. This is a great pick for the second round but even still, he hasn’t been able to win on his own.
Pick 42, Salt Lake City Pioneers: Felton Lewis ll, RB, TCU
Felton Lewis is a back case of what if. When he was drafted, the do it all back was the best player on the Pioneers. We all know how bad the Pioneers have been and Felton’s team was no different. He was a bright spot though for a few years. When he was drafted he was an 81 overall and made it up to an 85 if my memory serves me right. It was all looking up for him when he decided to retire very early into his career. He just got too scared of injuries and he couldn’t go anymore which leaves us to wonder what would have happened if he stuck around. Would the Pioneers still be the worst team or would they have gotten better? Or could he have ended up on a different team? We’ll never know. He could come back but that is very unlikely at this point. A good player that hung them up way too soon.
Pick 49, Orlando Sentinals: Trey Wilkins, DB, Michigan
As Smitty said during the draft “the Sentinels gotta work on getting their defense a little bit more better.” Wilkins was a day one starter at Corner as a 79 overall on day one. He is up to an 89 overall today and continues to be that shutdown corner that the Sentinels were hoping to draft. He had 4 INTs this past season and should be considered for pro bowl honors. There were questions about his speed during the draft process but he has proven that he can keep up with smaller WRs. The team as a whole has obviously been successful and continues to be scary on defense with Wilkins being one of the main parts of that. A very solid organization picking a very solid player.
Pick 52, Austin Armadillos: Earl Gibbs, LB, South Carolina
The jury is still out on Earl Gibbs. He had a great combine which caused him to climb up peoples draft boards into the 2nd round from the 4th. He was very raw but you could see the potential in his game. He was a streaky player in college but he had devastating hit power and he was solid at every other area when he was at his best. He ended up on a team with a superstar LB in Zachary Dombrowski to learn from and with the potential to start eventually. Well, we are still waiting for that day. He had 8 tackles and 1 forced fumble to his name in limited action this season and hasn’t gotten the opportunity to prove himself. He started as a 72 overall and has only gone up 1 point since then. I want to see him succeed, maybe on another team with space to play him (Pioneers?) and see if there is any potential left in this 25-year-old.
Pick 57, Toronto Thunderbirds: Leonard Corbin lll QB Oregon
If you are looking for QB in the RFL, just wait for the second round. I shouldn’t have to tell you why LC3 is good but I will anyway. He is great at running and throwing the ball. He is a winner and is one of the most feared players in the league period. Full Stop. You could wonder if it is the team around him and having the best coach in the game but you can’t deny that he has great talent. And I doubt we will ever see him in a different jersey. He came in as an 80 overall which was lower than Chase McCoy but has since past passed by his draft mate and is a 90 overall.
What do think of this draft class and my ratings for them through their first couple of seasons? I’m very excited to see what these guys will do as they continue to grow and become all-time greats.