European League of Football’s Top 5 Defensive Linemen

In the European League of Football this season, we have seen a lot of teams struggling with injuries on the offensive line, because of this the defensive ends have been able to thrive and make a huge impact on team success. This piece will highlight the Top 5 in the position so far this season. There are a lot of familiar names from the last few seasons, as well as some new faces that have been able to break out. Let’s get right into it.

Kyle Kitchens – Berlin Thunder

Photo: Eric Muehle

What can be written about the two-time defensive player of the year and probably the most successful defensive player that the league has had in its three-year lifespan that hasn’t already been said? Kitchens has 11.5 sacks and leads the league in that category. He also leads in sack yardage, total TFLs and total TFL yardage. Sixteen sacks is his current record, and with plenty of games left in the year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see that not only broken but shattered. His performance against the Enthroners in week one when he had four sacks and a fumble recovered for a touchdown was his Magnum Opus for the season so far. But that too could be broken with how well his teammates are playing, which gives him more time and room to work on either side of defensive end.

Niklas Gustav – Raiders Tirol

It’s been a surprise to some to see how dominant Gustav has been over the course of the season, but to those who saw him last year it’s not a surprise. He achieved second team all ELF with a 10-sack campaign in only 12 games. He is projected to cruise past that mark this season if he can stay healthy. Thus far he has 6.5 sacks and is second in major categories in sack and TFL yardage, he’s been a strong presence all over the line for the Raiders and their playoff intentions. He also had a week one to remember, four sacks in the opening game against the Ravens. He has been quieter in the last few weeks with one one sack in the last three weeks but that is due to him having to be doubled a lot more often, his impact is still ever present.

Berend Grube – Hamburg Sea Devils

On the subject of underrated players, Berend Grube has quietly had a very strong season alongside other standouts from the Sea Devils. Although the team has seen limited success, their Defensive Line is one of the most talented. 5.5 Sacks on the season with multiple sacks on two occasions. Not to mention, he is 3rd in the league for TFLs and 4th for Total TFL yardage. The 2021 All-Star has nearly eclipsed his career season in fewer games but hasn’t been mentioned much with the elite players, time to change that!

Stanley Zeregbe – Paris Musketeers

Photo: Maxime LePihif

Another homegrown talent that has been a big part of team success has been Zeregbe, however, the Musketeers haven’t quite lived up to the hype that was bestowed on them at the start of the year, so he isn’t seeing the eyes of many people. He is sixth in sacks and third for yardage and is a pass-rushing defensive end more so than a run defender, but that hasn’t stopped him from being in the top 10 for total TFL yardage. There have been some games where he has been avoided so his stats have suffered, similarly to others on this list. But a very underappreciated part of a defensive lineman is being able to demand such attention from an offense. Ideally, he would be more of an impact throughout the games even when he is facing these problems, but given that he is also one of the players that is close to a career year only halfway through the season it’s safe to say he belongs on this list.

Evans Yeboah – Hamburg Sea Devils

In his third season in Hamburg, Yeboah has continued his upward trajectory, with career highs in sacks and sack yardage then a second place career season in TFLs and Total TFL yardage. He is the elite interior defensive lineman of the European League of Football and if he can play more than nine games, his career high, he will be in place for an All-Star or All-ELF selection. Moreover, with the league’s injuries on the inside of the offensive line rising, he has been even more effective in pressuring the quarterbacks. In fact, it’s become increasingly rare to see a Hamburg game without Yeboah having multiple plays where he is directly causing damage. He is currently third in sacks league-wide after a very strong performance in week 6.

Honorable Mentions

That rounds out the Top 5 Defensive Linemen after week 6. Aslan Zetterberg and Jan Starý (Prague Lions) have solid claims, among others of course. Alejandro Fernandez Nieto has had a slow start in Rhein but burst through this week so perhaps he will enter into this conversation. However, this is a look into my opinions. Let’s see who makes a big jump next week! Until next time.