ELF: Central Europe off-season gradings

With the European League of Football (ELF) off-season in full swing, we at AFI have collated and graded each team’s signings ahead of the 2023 season.

NB: team regions are based on geography and not the league’s conferences which were announced after this article was written. 

Berlin Thunder – A

Re-signing the most feared defender in the league will always be a great signing. Defensive end Kyle Kitchens should again be one of the most dominant players in the league come 2023. He will also now be supported in the secondary by former NFL and Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns safety Alex Spillum.

Offensively they have made great strides too retaining deep-threat wideout Robin Wilzeck, signing Max Zimmerman as well as one of the most explosive receivers in Europe, Aaron Jackson, who recently spent time with the Arizona Cardinals.

With the team boasting one of the most talented receiving corps in the league, GFL transfer quarterback Donovan Isom will be licking his chops after an outstanding year with the Berlin Rebels

Hamburg Sea Devils – B+

The Sea Devils were a one trick pony last year on offense providing little outside of Glenn Toonga’s devastating runs (in their defense it worked). They have attempted to remedy that this year with three major additions to their offense: Brett Morgan (Offensive Coordinator), Gerrit Brandt (left tackle) and Preston Haire (quarterback).

Morgan has already had an impressive career in Europe and state-side being involved leading countless teams to success. After coaching in nearly every major league in Europe he has decided to take on the next challenge and enter ELF. He will undoubtedly spur the Sea Devils’ offense on to new levels of production.

It is yet unclear whether their defense will resemble what it did last year. Despite the signing of Northwestern Oklahoma State (NCAA, DII) linebacker Maurice Wright Jr, Kasim Edebali and Miguel Boock both announced their retirement at the end of the year. French safety Kevin Forte is set to return but star defensive back Just Rogers has left for the XFL.

With Glen Toonga likely changing allegiances or retiring, the team will find it hard to fill the holes lost this off-season. 

Frankfurt Galaxy – B-

After a relatively solid defensive showing in 2022, the Galaxy have oddly decided to stack their secondary to the brim. They have signed former NFL defensive back Jamalcolm Liggins, former CFL defensive back Tony Anderson and now Nevada (NCAA, DI) alumnus and defensive back BerDale Robinson. These three alone will almost certainly cause fear in opposing quarterbacks. How the rest of the team is doing however is anyone’s guess.

The Galaxy were inconsistent last year to put it mildly and almost losing to the winless Stuttgart Surge left an ugly mark on their reputation. Star quarterback Jakeb Sullivan who won them their first championship in 2021 is back with the team again.

Munich Ravens – B-

The Munich Ravens are not only a brand new addition to the ELF but also a brand new team. There are numerous teams in the surrounding area from which the Ravens can suckle on such as the Munich Cowboys, Allgäu Comets and Ingolstadt Dukes, but they have approached the off-season cautiously.

Director of Sports Operations Sean Shelton has been immersed in the Euro football scene for years and knows it well. He can undoubtedly take advantage of connections he’s made across the continent but has yet to do so.

The major signings for the team are old Austrian Football League rival Chad Jeffries at quarterback and former Clemson (NCAA DI) captain and defensive back Darius Robinson. The two have shown their worth in Europe time and time again but are both at the back end of their careers. 

The Ravens will need some young talent if they wish to endure the long ELF season. Shelton will surely make some calls in the coming months.

Milano Seamen – C+

The Milano Seamen have been Italy’s prized possession for years, winning five of the last eight Italian Bowls and appearing in all. They have now declared their departure from the domestic league and into the ELF, but adding non-Italian talent is not something the team is used to.

Italy’s import rules are strict and allow just one non-Italian on the field at one time (and a dual passport athlete with Italian citizenship). This has forced the country’s teams to rely on Italians for years, and it is showing a lack of creativity in their signings.

Luke Zahradka has successfully led the team for years and been able to operate at the highest level in Europe, it was a no brainer to keep him but the Seamen have stayed in Europe for every other signing so far.

Replacing Markell Castle, arguably the best receiver in Europe, was a tall task. The Seamen opted for ELF veteran Jean Constant. The electric receiver offers a range of talents but will not be the deep threat that Castle gave Milano last year.

They have also signed another Euro football veteran in 29-year old Dejvion Steward who most recently suited up for the Ravensburg Razorbacks in the German Football League (GFL). The Tiffin University (NCAA DII) defensive back will undoubtedly be a sturdy addition and bring some leadership to the Italian squad.

The Seamen have opted for a safe approach thus far, but it may not be what the team needs. The overwhelming majority of the squad have been together for years, language and familiarity make those bonds stronger. What Milano really needs is a high impact import fresh out of college.

Tirol Raiders – C-

Sean Shelton left a large hole when he left the Tirol Raiders. The quarterback bled black and white and will be sorely missed in Innsbruck after taking the Raiders to multiple championships. To replace him Tirol has opted for Canadian gunslinger Christian Strong and former CFL offensive lineman Steven Nielson to protect him.

In two seasons for the Cologne Crocodiles in the GFL Strong threw for 6,840 yards, 70 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His unwavering bravery in the pocket to launch deep balls against secondaries will serve him well with a receiving core as deep as the Raiders.

Coming with Strong will be his teammate in Cologne, wide receiver Jarvis McClam. Paired with Aaron Jackson and McClam (due to his British citizenship), Strong tore the GFL up. His occasional carelessness with the ball however may bite him slightly harder in the ELF than it did in Germany.

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.