ELF 2023: Central Conference Preview and Predictions

With the kickoff of the 2023 European League of Football season right around the corner, it is time to break down each team and predict how each of their seasons might shape out.  Let us begin with the teams of the Central Conference.

Stuttgart Surge

Over the first two seasons of the European League of Football, the Surge have been undoubtedly the worst team in the league, as they have posted a combined record of just 2-20.  However, there is reason to believe that their fortunes will quickly change for the better in 2023.  Stuttgart has practically absorbed the core of the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, the top team of the German Football League over the past several seasons.  This includes head coach Jordan Neumann, quarterback Reilly Hennessey, receivers Bryce Nunnelly and Moritz Boehringer (a former NFL draft pick), and much more.  They also added talent from other sources, with the most notable signing being the 2022 ELF interception leader in Goran Zec.

Those who have followed the ELF in its history might find it hard to imagine the Surge becoming a powerhouse so quickly, but that certainly seems like a possibility.  We predict that the addition of the Unicorns’ core and culture will lead to instant success and a Central Conference title in 2023.

Final record projection: 10-2

Tirol Raiders

The Raiders made the playoffs in their first season in the ELF last season and are looking to get back to postseason action.  With the aforementioned Sean Shelton having retired, the Raiders picked up Canadian Christian Strong to be his replacement at quarterback.  They also signed Strong’s longtime teammate in receiver Jarvis McClam, as the duo put up big numbers with the Cologne Crocodiles in the GFL last season.  In one of the biggest offseason splashes around the league, the Raiders just last month signed running back Sandro Platzgummer, a local product who spent multiple years with the New York Giants organization.  With the insertion of Platzgummer into the lineup, the Raiders offense should be hard to stop in 2023.

With a solid roster on both sides of the ball, there is no reason why the Raiders cannot make it back to the playoffs in 2023, especially if the defense can play as well as they did in the second half of last season.  We project that they earn one of three available wild card spots.

Final record projection: 9-3

Milano Seamen

The Milano Seamen are the second of three teams in this conference that will be making their ELF debut this year.  Unlike the other two, however, the Seamen are an established franchise that has competed in Italy and in Europe for years.  Thus, many of their players have been on the team for multiple years and have experience playing together and building chemistry.  One of these players is American quarterback Luke Zahradka, who has been the signal caller for the Seamen for the past five seasons.  Having a veteran quarterback at the helm already gives the team a significant advantage over many others around the league.  Milano also brought in receiver Jean Constant, who has ranked highly on receiving leaderboards in each of the league’s first two seasons.

Still, though, there is no reason to think that joining the ELF from the Italian Football League will be an easy transition.  With a deep, experienced squad, it is easy to envision the Seamen being a scrappy first-year team, but we do not foresee a playoff appearance in their first season.

Final record projection: 5-7

Munich Ravens

The last of the expansion teams in the Central Conference, the Munich Ravens, are led by last year’s ELF MVP in Sean Shelton, who assumed the role of their director of sports operations following his retirement, as well as former NFL coach John Shoop.  The Ravens brought in some interesting imports for their first season, including veteran quarterback Chad Jeffries, an explosive receiver in Markell Castle (who played last season with the Seamen), the German Football League’s leading tackler last season in Amin Black, and a veteran cornerback and former Clemson Tiger in Darius Robinson.  

With some interesting pieces and lots of German talent, this could be an intriguing team in their first season.  However, with a tough schedule (which also sees a pair of matchups against the Fire), the Ravens will really have to defy all expectations in order to make the playoffs, which is hard to imagine in their first season.

Final record projection: 4-8

Helvetic Guards

The Guards make their franchise debut this season as the first Swiss team in ELF history.  Led by veteran coach Norm Chow, the team brought in some interesting pieces for their first season.  These include quarterback Colin Hill, formerly of the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Colorado State Rams of the highest level of the NCAA, as well as running back Silas Nacita, another NCAA Division I player who has had an insanely productive career in Europe.  Last season, he joined the Danube Dragons of the Austrian Football League late into the season.  In just two games with the team, he recorded 376 yards and a whopping eight touchdowns as his team won the Austrian Bowl.

Outside of those two players, as well as former NFL and CFL pass rusher J.R. Tavai, not a whole lot is known about much of the roster.  With a tough schedule this season that includes a pair of cross-conference matchups against the highly touted Rhein Fire, this could be a tough first season for the Guards.

Final record projection: 3-9

Barcelona Dragons

To the surprise of many, the Barcelona Dragons had an outstanding season last year, winning the Southern Conference title before losing in the semifinals to the Vienna Vikings, who would go on to win the championship.  Unfortunately, many of the key pieces of that team are gone, from 2022 Coach of the Year Andrew Weidinger, to the dynamic quarterback-receiver duo of Zach Edwards and Kyle Sweet, to outstanding Spanish defensive lineman Alejandro Fernandez, all of whom are now on different ELF teams.

With so much talent having departed, it will be very tough for Barcelona to replicate last season’s success.  New pieces include head coach Gabriel Sanchez, quarterback Conor Miller, and defensive end Darius Slade.  Although these additions could work out well, it’s tough to say that will happen for sure, as none of them have had proven long-term success in the ELF.  As such, we foresee major regression from the Dragons this season.

Final record projection: 2-10

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.