ELF: AFI’s Defensive All-Stars from the 2022 Season

Although the 2022 European League of Football (ELF) season has been over for a few weeks now, it is not too late to look back on the year and give credit to the best of the best in the league. Here are our picks for the top defensive players from this season.

DT: Tim Hänni, Hamburg Sea Devils

Tim Hänni was one of the anchors for the Sea Devils defense this year, providing the team with an immovable object in the middle of the trenches. The 6’4, 282 pound defensive tackle recorded 6.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs on his way to the league’s final this year.

DE: Kyle Kitchens, Berlin Thunder

Photo: Sarah Philipp

Kyle Kitchens remains as he was last year, unstoppable. He was an absolute force for the Thunder in 2022 racking up a league-leading 16 sacks and 33.5 tackles for a loss.

DE: Alejandro Fernandez, Barcelona Dragons

Photo: Hudle

Exploding onto the scene this year with 15.5 sacks and a league-best seven forced fumbles, Alejandro Fernandez was arguably the league’s most improved player, leading his team to its first playoff appearance.

OLB: David Izinyon, Berlin Thunder

Photo: Sarah Philipp

It was no coincidence that the Thunder’s fortunes began to turn when David Izinyon arrived a few weeks into the season. He averaged 9.1 tackles per game – third highest in the league – and was without a doubt the ELF’s hardest hitting defender.

OLB: Kasim Edebali, Hamburg Sea Devils

Mr Vollmaschine, or in English, “Full Machine”, showed the rest of the ELF this year that there was a reason he had a five-year NFL career. As the leader of the Sea Devils front seven, he totaled 12 sacks and three forced fumbles. 

ILB: Thomas Schnurrer, Vienna Vikings

Photo: Hannes Jirgal

Thomas Schnurrer proved to be one of the most crucial pickups for the Vienna Vikings this past off-season by way of Graz Giants. He almost single-handedly neutered the Sea Devils running game in the final that led to Vienna’s resounding victory. 

No other non-US Linebacker had more tackles than him this year and if he decides to stay in ELF will be one of the most sought after EUs in the league.

S: Omari Williams, Rhein Fire

The most impactful player on the Fire’s roster this year was Omari Williams. Not only did he decapitate receivers running across the middle of the field, but he also caught interceptions and returned them for touchdowns, while he also totalled over 1,000 yards returning kickoffs.

S: Exavier Edwards, Vienna Vikings

It was hard to miss Exavier Edwards if you watched a Vikings game. He played running back, wide receiver as well as safety. His ability to run downhill and light ball-carriers up gave life to his team.
Edwards may not have featured highly in the stats tables, but he was the emotional leader of the team and it’s no coincidence that his team won the Championship Game.

CB: Justin Rogers, Hamburg Sea Devils

As one of the most popular players in the league, Justin Rogers rarely disappointed fans. Not only could he shut down any receiver in the league, he could also set the edge and chop running backs down behind the line of scrimmage.

He tied for second in interceptions in the league with five and was one of the vital components as to what made the Hamburg defense so good.

CB: Roedion Henrique, Leipzig Kings

It’s hard to get noticed when you’re losing games, but Roedion Henrique did just that. He was the very essence of a lock-down corner. Not only was he tied for second in the league in interceptions, but he also racked up the most interception return yards with 223 – an offensive stat in its own right.

DB: Goran Zec, Wroclaw Panthers

Photo: Łukasz Skwiot

It is hard to demonstrate just how impactful Goran Zec was as a defensive back. Rotating between nickel and safety, the young Serbian led the league in interceptions, ranked 10th in tackles, managed 3.5 sacks and eight pass break-ups and forced three fumbles.

Doing all this while playing on a losing team in the Wroclaw Panthers, Zec showed why he was a force to be reckoned with and may well have been snubbed as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Graphics: Igor Lazarevic

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.