Matt Bressington's European League of Football Pre-Season Power Rankings
Since the Vienna Vikings lifted the Championship in September, the off-season has been a blur of signings, new teams, and coaching changes. Power rankings at this point of the year are important to evaluate the changes made by the teams. Because of the high turnover of players, a team can go from rock bottom to a title contender in just one off-season. That is one of the most exciting aspects of the league. After months of evaluating player signings, watching countless hours of film, and studying the teams, I feel confident in the power rankings I would like to present today.
Rhein Fire has made dramatic and impressive strides in their championship campaign. Key signings include Christensen, Fernandez, Raji, Toonga and Mahoungou. These add to the already stacked team that includes Former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula and Coach of the Year winner Andrew Weidinger. I believe they also have the best O-Line in the league, giving Clark the time to get the ball to his receivers and room for Toonga to go off again. From homegrown, European internationals and American imports, this team is built for a deep playoff run.
The reining champions Vikings lost a few pieces of their team, but I feel they improved in these areas. Helbig and Pajarinen will be a dynamic pair in the backfield, the return of Bouah, Carr and a strong offensive line means that the Vikings will continue to have a top offense. Defensively, there are playmakers, but this team is focused on the offense. With their conference being weaker, I think they’re a lock for the playoffs, and I expect them to be among the top two seeds.
Hamburg is no stranger to the finals of the European League of Football but has fallen short in the last two seasons. It’s fair to say they are going for it all in their third attempt. Haire and Stanley are a great pair on offense, while Mati, Wright Jr., Makoben, Yeboah and Fortes make up the structure of a strong defense. It’s more important than ever that they make a championship run with this squad, I think they can do it, they just have to put it all together.
Paris has been a big early-season favorite for a lot of fans, and for good reason, they are stacked all over the field. Naturally, the attention goes to the former Dragons’ players, Edwards and Sweet, but Zéro and Aguemon are a great one-two punch to have a look at, as well. Botella Moreno, Kratz and Bertellin add to the firepower on offense, and they’ll be seriously hard to deal with this season. Zeregbe and American import players Dales and Hilton are further solidifying the French defense. As a first-year team, I feel they’re a lock for the playoffs, however, with that conference, they may have to go through a gauntlet to make it to the finals.
Sandro’s return to the Raiders is largely the reason for their rise in the rankings. Nielson is one of the best O-Linemen in the league, and the multitude of offensive weapons will be too much for most of the league’s defenses. Defensively, there are some questions, but Embry and Maddock should be able to make a difference this season. They have always been, and always will be, among the top teams because of the homegrown talent, recruitment, and coaching staff.
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I think that a lot of people are sleeping on Berlin’s title challenge this year. Similar to the other teams mentioned, their offense is incredible. Isom, Jackson, Wilzeck and Zimmermann are all going to be a problem. On defense, Spillum and 2x DPOTY Kitchens anchor a team with Myren, Große Kleimann and Seifert. Berlin is certainly my “Dark Horse” for the 2023 championship. I’m very excited to watch this team in 2023, I don’t think they’ll have a boring game this year.
There are some question marks over the Galaxy as they lost some important players to rival teams. Sullivan continues to lead the team with an arsenal of playmakers and defensive talent on all three levels. Furthermore, there’s a mix of championship experience and new talent, which could be an interesting watch this season. In an extremely tough conference in the West, I think it’ll be razor-thin between the latter seeds. The roster is just so balanced, with a lot of depth and talent. I’m excited about this team.
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The team that went 0-12 last season will absolutely not be at that level again in 2023. The mass movement of Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns players and staff has been a big part of their storyline this year. A really strong O-Line and deep WR room will help them highly achieve this season. Robo and Vergani are my picks as standouts for the Surge this season. I have reservations about defensive depth, but only time will tell. Some people have them higher, as they’re basically a new team it’s hard to judge how they’ll get together, but they are playoff contenders without question.
Helvetic Guards have an underrated advantage over some of the other newer franchises in the European League of Football, being they have no bias in favor of players who are already on the team. Therefore, they can fully remake the team in Norm Chow’s image. At this point, they’re a solid team with highly valued Americans like Hill, Nacita, Hike and Tavai in addition to European talent in NFL IPP invitee Maceo Beard and current OROTY Jallai. I think a lot of people are overlooking the Swiss talent, but I think they’ll be contending in the Central Conference.
Milano is another recent addition to the league. Like other teams who enter the league as an established club, they had the foundations built into the team. Zahradka remains with the team, Constant joins him alongside Italian national player Seck. They’ve spent heavily on offense, and with zero European international players on defense, they may struggle to stop the run from the talented backs in the Central conference. There are size concerns within the skill positions, and I think they will be a middle-of-the-pack team.
Similarly, to the Guards, there is no bias toward less than-adequate players. However, with another German team, the homegrown talent is starting to dry up. Oyewo is one of the best running backs in the league, and it’s clear that they’ll go as far as he can take them. A lot of Munich Cowboys have made the move over, and I think that’s an underrated off-season story. They’re young and talented, but I don’t think they contend with the depth they have now. In the future, if they keep their core, they could be a very good team.
Regardless of the QB situation in Hungary, I am unsure of their chances for success in the league this season. Jerod Evans is an extremely talented player who could be a difference-maker, but common criticism is the homegrown talent. Janos is a stud at linebacker and with Regan and Rodrigues as well, I do value that position group as one of the reasons they are above other teams in the league. As for playoffs, I don’t think they’ll make it, but I do think that they’ll be a hard team to beat.
Prague and the Enthroners are practically in the same position and rather interchangeable. Their receiver room is underrated, and Mumphrey has been established in the Czech Republic for a while now. Falola is a solid signing, as is Thiede-Palmer who are both from the UK and athletic beasts who have flown under the radar. They’re in a tough conference, so I think they’ll miss the playoffs this year. If they continue to build and take advantage of young talent that’s coming through, they’ll be a serious contender.
The Panthers have always been a middle-of-the-pack team, and I can see that changing in 2023. I do think they’ll regress with a questionable QB choice and a lack of weapons after the loss of Stanley. Brown and Smith offer defensive stability, but I think that it’ll be a rough season in Poland because of the lack of homegrown talent and, in my opinion, less quality than is needed from the European International players.
Cologne is in a tough position! They have a top-eight roster in terms of talent. They just have some front-office situations to sort out. Unfortunately, the season is very close to starting. Blair, Gheorghiu, Owens, and Robinson are difference makers in the squad who could propel them up the conference. They’re the definition of boom or bust this season and to further add salt to the wounds they’re in the toughest conference in the league. It’ll be an interesting watch to see how it’s handled.
The obvious talking point is the losses during the off season: Their head coach, star QB in Edwards, triple crown winning WR in Sweet and best Spanish player in Fernandez. They added Slade who is a serious DPOTY contender if he puts it all together. Glenna is a young safety who has a lot of upside – but is it enough to beat their previous seasons? I’m not convinced, but I’m happy to be wrong.
Unfortunately, someone has to be last. I think Allen is a good QB for the team, but he doesn’t have the weapons. They’re built for defense with James, Burrell and Wentland, but I don’t think they have the offense to strike back after defensive stands. I think they’ll be in a lot of low-scoring games that they’ll just fall short on. It’s a tough position to be in as the teams in the Eastern conference are going to be fighting for that lower seed for the playoffs.