By Kyle Sander | firstname.lastname@example.org
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on April 4, 2017 at 08:30 PM
Welcome to another year of the AFL Fan Zone! I thought the best way to say “It’s about time old friends!” is to get right into the content. This year we have five contributors who will be voting on the power rankings each week, no longer will they only be one fan’s opinion.
Some might say this year may the worst the AFL has seen in years due to the fact there are only five teams in the league. We are not those people, just take it from our friends over at Inside The Arena, 2017 Could Be the Best Season Ever.
You came here for the first Power Rankings of the season, so let’s get to it!
- Philadelphia Soul
This was the only unanimous selection of the committee. With the return of the best quarterback of 2016 (based on the Fan Zone’s own quarterback metric) Dan Raudabaugh, wide receiver Shaun Kauleinamoku, and a slew of other Soul players who were part of Philadelphia’s amazing Arena Bowl XXIX victory in Arizona last fall, there doesn’t seem to be a team that can outlast the boys in city of Brotherly Love. The consolidation of rosters due to three less teams means Philadelphia will be in a dog fight against some pretty stacked rosters in the AFL this year.
2. Cleveland Gladiators
The closest battle of the rankings were two and three. Cleveland received only two second place votes, but it was enough to nudge them to this spot. Cleveland was able to put together a very formitable roster behind new head coach Ron Selesky.
If that name sounds familiar, he was the interim head coach last season when Steve Thonn was battling medical issues mid-way through the season. The Gladiators recently announced the former Arizona Rattlers back-up quarterback Shane Boyd has been given the keys to the offense after multiple years behind one of the most decorated AFL players in league history, Nick Davila.
If Boyd can keep down the turnovers that former starter Arvell Nelson was prone to do, Cleveland should be the next best team in 2017.
3. Washington Valor
The AFL Fan Zone team seemed to be hot and cold on the Valor. Washington received three second place votes, but was also looked at the worst team heading into the season by one contributor. The Valor is lead by head coach Dean Cokinos, former assistant for the Tampa Bay Storm and the final HC for the now defunct New Orleans VooDoo. The most notable free agent signing of the offseason brought former AFL MVP Erik Meyer to the nations capital.
Even though Meyer missed the entire 2016 season, his experience and talent level should be enough to make sure the expansion Valor is ready to go in 2017.
4. Tampa Bay Storm
To put it midly, the Storm struggled last season and needed a jolt to keep one of the best fan bases in the league returning for a 26th season. Team President Derrick Brooks decided to look to the past to fix this future with the return of quarterback Randy Hippeard and wide receiver Joe Hills. Hills returns to Tampa as the reigning Under Armour Offensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Not only is he supremely talented, but his best trait may be availability. Hills can be counted on to be there and to put up big numbers week in and week out. But if you want to pinpoint the reason Brooks had to make a head coaching change, it is because of the quarterback play the Storm saw in 2016.
Before Hippeard’s season ending injury last season, he was on pace for his best season ever and was in the conversation with the likes of Davila, Raudabaugh, and Tommy Grady. If he can return to that form, the Storm will finish the season much higher on this list.
5. Baltimore Brigade
The final team announced for the 2017 season finds themselves as the least favorites to win the Arena Bowl. With three fifth place votes, Baltimore is looking up to the rest of the league, with good reason. The Bridage was announced after the dispersal draft, so they were put behind the eight ball before the table had even been racked. Second year head coach Omarr Smith has been tasked to lead Baltimore with the least experienced quarterback in the entire league.
Whether it will be Chase Cartwright or Shane Carden, the Brigade start 2017 with two quarterbacks that have a combined one season of experience in the AFL. A league built on timing and good quarterback play, this one area could spell doom for Baltimore in their first season.
Former Arena Bowl MVP wide receiver Reggie Gray will be the focal point of the offense much like Donovan Morgan was for the KISS the last few years. If Gray can put the team on his shoulders like the Captain did for LA, then Baltimore might have a chance to surprise a few teams before this season is over.