ELF 2023: European League of Football Eastern Conference Preview & Predictions

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

1. Vienna Vikings

Why rebuild when you can just reload? Head coach Chris Calaycay and the Vikings are back after a dominant 2022 season, looking to become the ELF’s inaugural dynasty. The Vikings return most of the championship roster including Austrian talents Thomas Schnurrer, Leon Balogh, Florian Bierbaumer, Anton Wegen, Jordan Bouah, Aleksander Milanovic, as well as Swiss army knife import Exavier Edwards, a crucial player in their title run.

At quarterback, they replace the recently retired Jackson Erdmann with perhaps the German Football league top passer in Chris Helbig as well as bringing in his teammate from last year in Finnish talent Karri Pajarinen, the German Football League’s leading rusher last summer. 

The Vikings simply got better after winning the championship, and unless some unforeseen injuries or other circumstances arise in the Austrian capital, it’s extremely difficult to pick against them this upcoming season.

Final record projection: 12-0

2. Berlin Thunder

The Thunder go into season three after narrowly missing the postseason last year. Armed with a new quarterback Donovan Isom and talented receivers Aaron Jackson, Max Zimmerman and Robin Wilzek, the Berlin offense has a chance to be one of the conference’s most exciting units. Tight end Nicolai Schumann and much of the Thunder offensive line return as head coach Johnny Schmuck will look for his offense to take a step forward in 2023.

Former defensive player of the year Kyle Kitchens returns along with linebackers Ludvig Myren and Paul Siefert. The team also added American Alex Spillum to the secondary, a former starter at Coastal Carolina University at the NCAA Division I FBS level, along with Finnish national team defensive tackle Christer Berg

Overall, the Thunder seem like a dark horse team that could steal some games and have the most potential to shake up things in the Eastern Conference and compete for a wild card spot.

Read the Berlin Thunder’s complete roster breakdown here. 

Final record projection: 7-5

3. Wroclaw Panthers

After a disappointing season in 2022, major changes took place in Wroclaw over the off-season. Long time head coach Jakub Samel moved to a front office role, leading the team to hire former DI coach at the University of Wyoming (NCAA DI FBS) Dave Christensen.

Christensen’s experience should bode well for the Panthers as they retain several key Polish players including DB Grzegorz Lary, RB Dawid Brzozowski, OL Rafał Rogaczewski, DL Szymon Adamczyk, and DL Filip Snopek.

Several international faces of the past have moved on as William Lloyd, Darius Robinson, Goran Zec and other imports left following 2022. The Panthers have brought in French running back Norman Ossohou, former All-American defensive back Artevious Smith, All conference DI defensive end Solomon Brown as well as skilled European players in veteran defensive tackle Artur Pinheiro and young Finnish linebacker Tim Niukka. 

However, the Panthers currently have a mystery at quarterback. Original starter quarterback Nik Rango and receiver Brendon Martin were released only a week into training camp. The duo was replaced by former Western Illinois (NCAA DI FCS) receiver Tony Tate and recently signed quarterback Matthew Vitale. Vitale joined the team less than two weeks ago from the Wrocławskie Katy Jaguars of the top Polish domestic league after leading them to a 3-3 record. 

Vitale, much like Rango, is a bit of a mystery at quarterback having only gathered playing time at the junior college level and the Polish Football League despite spending time as a walk on at DI programs such as Temple, West Virginia, and Jackson State.

Final record projection: 5-7

4. Leipzig Kings

Former NFL player and new Kings head coach John Booker takes over for the Kings as they head into the third season of existence. Booker has done an admirable job this off-season re-signing key players such as defensive all-stars AJ Wentland, Roedion Henrique, William James, and Aslan Zetterberg.

Offensively, he has gone out and signed arguably the top quarterback in the German Football League from last year in Kenyatte Allen. Allen threw for a league leading 3,342 yards and 43 touchdowns while leading the Allgäu Comets to their first playoff victory since 2014. Allen hopes to connect with fellow American Steve Mcshane (Western Illinois DI FCS). 

They also added several domestic players that could give them an upgrade as Leipzig’s depth has been a problem for them historically. Offensive lineman Austine Igba Ujene and receivers Noah Bomba and Luis Moreno along with former NFL Academy  running back Maurice Baker should give the team more talent on offense.

Despite several up key off-season moves, it’s difficult to put trust in a Leipzig team that has been so up and down the past two seasons. Still, this could be the year they shock the league and pull off some key upsets.

Final record projection: 4-8

5. Prague Lions

Head coach Zach Harrod brings the Lions into the ELF after years of dominating the Czech football scene. The Lions and coach Harrod now face a new challenge as they hope to make some noise by stepping up to the higher level in the European League of Football.

While it’s hard to predict how an expansion franchise will fare in year one, the Lions do bring back the nucleus of their Czech Bowl championship team from last year as well as several new wrinkles to help. 

Offensively, quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey returns along with several Czech talents. Prague also added former Cal Bears receiver Victor Wharton III on offense, while luring in former Lions and Japanese League all-star defensive end James Brooks back to Prague. The team will need both imports and its Czech talent to rise to the occasion as they make a large jump from the Czech football league to the continent’s top competition.

Overall, the Lions will have a tough challenge this season as they’ll have to compete against experienced ELF teams such as Wroclaw, Berlin, and Vienna in the Eastern Conference.

Read the Prague Lions Roster breakdown here

Final record projection: 4-8

6. Fehérvár Enthroners

Another expansion franchise joins the ELF’s Eastern Conference in the Hungarian powerhouse, the Fehérvár Enthroners. The Enthroners defeated the Prague Lions last year in CEFL Cup championship game and now will play them twice as they enter the ELF together. 

The Enthroners are a relative unknown to most ELF fans as the football scene in Hungary is far more niche that that of Germany or even Italy. However, the Enthroners have not been shy in their history eagerly playing international games when given a chance, so much so that they actually played in the Austrian Football League 1st division winning the title as part of a stellar 2022. 

As one can imagine, the Enthroners brought back most of their experienced team from last year as well as recruiting some national team talent in running back Erik Madaras and defenders Remy Sap.

The Enthroners also signed Austrian defensive lineman Florian Hirsch, Polish ELF veteran Mateusz Dzioban as well as French talent Anthony Rodrigues and former CFL receiver Benjamin Plu.

Their American imports consist of wide receiver Jay Griffin IV and former Nevada defensive back Elijah Moody. However, the big signing came at quarterback as the Enthroners and Gabriel Cunningham parted ways this spring, and the team announced the signing of former Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans

Jerod Evans was once the top junior college quarterback in the country and went on to break several school passing records at Virginia Tech (NCAA DI) before a two year stint in the NFL. Evans spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers in 2017 and 2018 and has been playing in the arena football scene since, with a brief 2021 stop in Japan’s X-League.

While the Enthroners have top talent at the European and American import spots, the jump from Austria’s second highest level to the ELF is not an easy leap. Expect the Enthroners to struggle as they adjust to the higher level of football in their first year. 

Read the complete Fehérvár Enthroners Roster breakdown here

Final record projection: 3-9

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and