ELF pre-season quarterback rankings offer surprises

The European League of Football is set to kick off their second season on June 4 after massive expansion, adding four new franchises to the equations.

That means new stars in the ELF landscape and there is no position that attracts more fanfare than that of quarterback. Not all pivots are created equal however and the player you have under center can make or break your chances of success.

With all 12 projected starting quarterbacks in place across the league, there is no better time than present to stir the pot of off-season speculation and rank every team’s franchise player heading into the season, from worst to first.

12.  Matt Adam, Rhein Fire

Set to lead the Fire in their inaugural season, Matt Adam comes to the ELF after a stint in the GFL2 with the Hamburg Huskies. He was under 50 percent as a passer at that level, throwing for 1,769 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but has proven to be deceptively athletic at six-foot-one and 225 pounds, rushing for another 406 yards.

2021 was Adam’s first time back under center since he wrapped up his college career with the Indiana State Sycamores back in 2016. He threw for 2299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in college and could be more effective for the Fire after shaking off the rust.

11. Randy Schroeder, Stuttgart Surge

Hailing from the NAIA program Ave Maria, Schroeder could hardly be classified as a college standout. He has since blossomed in the Danish league however, twice capturing the Mermaid Bowl title as a member of the Copenhagen Towers.

Schroeder has a bigger arm and showed far more polish than any quarterback in Denmark in the last few years, but the jump in competition level to the ELF will be large. The Surge aren’t going in blind however, as the team’s last quarterback, Aaron Ellis, made the same transition rather successfully.

10. Jared Stegman, Istanbul Rams

Perhaps the most surprising quarterback signing this offseason, Turkey’s ELF franchise will be led by an Australian. Stegman has spent the last few years with the Croydon Ranger, but has extensive international experience in Sweden, Germany and Japan.

Stegman put up big numbers the last time he was in Europe, with 3,117 yards and 47 touchdowns for the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in 2017. However, the veteran Aussie leans more heavily on the talent around him to achieve that production and is now pushing 33.

9. Salieu Ceesay, Hamburg Sea Devils

In all likelihood, we will all look back on this particular ranking as ridiculous at the end of the season, but it hard to place Ceesay much higher given his level of inexperience. The 24-year-old German will be taking the reins of one of the league’s flagship franchises having thrown for just 134 yards and one touchdown as Jadrian Clark’s backup last season.

The rare European quarterback to have spent time in the NCAA, it is Ceesay’s absurd athletic potential that has him ranked above more proven commodities. The Azusa Pacific product could turn into the closest thing Europe has to Lamar Jackson if the Sea Devils’ gamble pays off.

8. Jan Weinreich, Cologne Centurions

The lone German-born starter in the ELF last season, Weinreich is the European equivalent of what was known for years in the NFL as the Andy Dalton line. He’s your starting caliber benchmark and if you have a quarterback playing below his level of production, it’s probably time for a change.

With 1806 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, and four rushing majors last season, Weinreich hardly blew away the competition. He’s a game manager and there is nothing wrong with that, despite what people might say. Weinreich will protect the football and keep Cologne chugging along behind Tre King, who takes over for Madre London.

7. Joe Germinerio, Berlin Thunder

Berlin’s first import quarterback comes over from the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, where he threw for 2,265 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in one of the GFL’s best deep threat offenses. That added to some simply ridiculous college statistics for Germinerio, who threw for 11,366 yards and 99 touchdowns, while rushing for 37 more scores between stints at Ithaca College and Brockport.

His play style can be somewhat erratic, but Germinerio has a huge arm and never lets a play die. The Thunder may be the team who upgraded their quarterback play the most heading into their second season.

6. Jordan Barlow, Leipzig Kings

The loss of Michael Birdsong to retirement will hurt the Leipzig Kings deeply, but head coach Fred Armstrong has found the guy to run his style of offence in Jordan Barlow. The Southwestern Assemblies of God pivot is a dropback passer who commands the pocket and will throw on time, but also has enough athleticism to make plays with his feet.

In just 19 starts at the Division II level, Barlow threw for 4,436 passing yards, rushed for 592 more, and scored 50 total touchdowns. With Leipzig’s arsenal of weapons, fans should be in for a treat.

5. Jackson Erdmann, Vienna Vikings

As a college junior with the St. John’s University Johnnies, Erdmann won the Gagliardi Trophy — Division III’s version of the Heisman — after throwing for 3,450 yards, 47 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He followed that up by tossing 5,040 yards, 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as senior.

The six-foot-four, 215-pound passer is built for European dominance and has an absolute cannon for an arm, so much so that both the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings kicked the tires on him after a stint in the Fan-Controlled Football League.

4. Sean Shelton, Tirol Raiders

Now in his thirties, Sean Shelton is closer to the end of his career than to the start of it, but age is just a number when you are a European legend. The Raiders’ unquestioned starter since 2014 will lead the team into their ELF adventure with 29,772 passing yards, 325 touchdowns, 81 rushing scores, just 50 interceptions, and seven league MVP titles already under his belt.

Shelton is part quarterback, part coach on the field, and the entire beating heart of the Raider’s organization. He has neither the best arm nor the most athleticism among new ELF quarterbacks, but he brings a veteran experience and intelligence that can’t be bought.

3. Zach Edwards, Barcelona Dragons

Where would the Barcelona Dragons have been in 2021 without Zach Edwards? We will never know, but the dynamic playmaker made something out of nothing while running for his life and seemingly willed the Spanish franchise back from the brink of obscurity.

Edwards threw for 2514 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season after being plucked from the Spanish second division, adding to his college total of 9,024 yards and 90 touchdowns accrued at St. Scholastica. He has all the talent in the world to be an elite quarterback and the sky really is the limit if the Dragons can protect him just a little bit better.

2. Justice Hansen, Wroclaw Panthers

Only one quarterback in the ELF next season will hail from the top level of college football and he was no slouch there either. Justice Hansen completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 10,133 passing yards, 83 touchdowns and 33 interceptions at Arkansas State, rushing for 957 yards and 14 majors for good measure.

The 2018 Sun Belt Player of the Year got a minicamp invite from the Los Angeles Chargers and briefly signed with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, but now finds himself headed to Poland. With a big six-foot-four, 220-pound frame, an even bigger arm, and a scrappy attitude, he was considered raw by NFL standards, but should be among the most polished to come to Europe in recent years.

1. Jakeb Sullivan, Frankfurt Galaxy

You can’t unseat the champ before you’ve ever played a down, so there was simply nobody other than Jakeb Sullivan who could stake a claim to the top spot. The former GFL All-Star was an unquestioned ELF All-Star as he led his team to the league’s first ever championship, throwing for 2,609 yards, 32 touchdowns, and eight interceptions along the way.

Sullivan rarely took over games on his own, but he was highly efficient and protected the football well. When the burden did fall on him, he was able to create with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield. No moment was larger than the final in Dusseldorf, when he threw for 324 yards, four touchdowns and ran for another to win the game’s MVP. Until someone does it better, Jakeb Sullivan owns the ELF’s quarterback crown.

Photos: Sarah Philipp

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.