ELF: Top 5 Offensive Linemen

By Matt Bressington

The European League of Football has started with a bang! It was clear that many teams struggled with offensive line quality and in Europe, the same rules apply to the adage: football games are won in the trenches. Linemen are Europe’s main export to the NFL IPP and other North American leagues in college or professional, and many notable players have been and come back over the last decade, some of whom we will get to very shortly. Today I wanted to highlight five of my favorite offensive linemen in the league this season.

Steven Nielsen – Tirol Raiders

Nielsen is the best offensive lineman from Europe. Having been a regular player in the CFL with the Edmonton Elks, it was a surprise to a lot of people to see him return to Europe to be part of the Raiders. The 6’8, 300 pound Dane played inside the line at guard in the season opener and was key to allowing zero sacks all day in the shoot-out win against the Ravens. Given his experience in College Football in addition to his time in the NFL and CFL, there is nothing that interior or exterior lineman can throw at him that he hasn’t seen before, and with his massive frame and footwork, he can play all over the line. Further adding to his immense value for the Raiders organisation.

Joachim Christensen – Rhein Fire

Christensen is a player that has had the respect of all the media, players, and coaches over his time in the ELF. He was an All-Star and a champion with the Frankfurt Galaxy but has now taken his talent to the Rhein Fire. The center is largely considered the best in the league at that position and there isn’t much of an argument from anyone. He’s fluid, has good pop on the line of scrimmage, has a good pad level, and can neutralize the biggest guys in the league with his finesse. In week one, the Fire was another team that didn’t have a sack against them and had the Galaxy frustrated at the end of the game because of their overall dominance. This can be expected to continue going into the rest of the season and it is rather impressive that Denmark makes up the top two spots on this list.

Sven Breidenbach – Rhein Fire

Rhein Fire Oline with Sven Breidenbach #77 @jderondeau_photography

As mentioned before, the Fire didn’t allow a single sack against the Galaxy in week one against a fairly decent defensive line. Part of this was due to the staple at offensive tackle in Breidenbach. The 6’5, 315 pound lineman can play all over the line just like his peers and his strength, aggression and finish all translate over extremely well. His technique in dealing with various rush moves is excellent and shows his wealth of experience playing in Europe as a former German Football League All-Star. He isn’t the fastest mover on the football field in terms of open space but honestly, he doesn’t need to be. He is so good in the trenches that pulling and getting out to the second-level blocking isn’t needed for him to be considered an elite player at the position.

Gerrit Brandt – Hamburg Sea Devils

Although the Sea Devils have started on the wrong foot, their offensive line was reasonably solid at some positions, one of them being Brandt. He is incredibly aggressive, finishes every
play and keeps his feet moving well throughout the duration of the block. He’s another former GFL All-Star talent who possesses positional flexibility and the ability to lock players out of the snap if he does get his hands on the opposition. Going forward everyone believes that there are places that the Sea Devils need to improve drastically but I don’t believe the
offensive tackle is one of those positions and Brandt is the main reason why. They only allowed one sack and although the interior wasn’t excellent by any means allowing five TFLs in the
game, Brandt is the cornerstone.

Keanu Ebanks – Paris Musketeers

This one is an outstanding signing for Paris after the loss of Kratz before the start of the year. Although Ebanks is injured, he is expected to be back after around 6-7 weeks, and he is an
instant difference-maker. Paris notably had some struggles dealing with the Cologne front seven in their opener, at guard in particular, so this is probably the best signing possible to fill that hole. It is an investment for the future, but the 29-year-old brings experience in the ELF as well as GFL and CFL size, power, versatility all over the offensive line and athleticism to open up the creativity of the offense. That creativity was severely affected in the opening week, so Ebanks is going to be able to allow them to run the screens better, give Edwards more time and pick up blitzes because now those teams know that they can affect Paris through blitzes, they’re going to turn that up to a 100. This is undisputedly a great signing.

In summary…

Overall, there are many talented players in all of these positional rankings, and it is because there are multiple players with CFL and CFL Combine experience we will be seeing better overall line play. We saw some shaky starts by some OL units in week one, which just goes to show how important it is to stack that position. Players we’re keeping an eye on this week for potentially seeing their way near this list are Lewis Thomas in Milano, Marlon Werthman in Stuttgart, Yasir Raji also of the Fire and Aleksander Milanovic on the Vienna Vikings, among others of course, but it shows the depth around the league at the position

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