5 NFL players for a Flag American Football Team
By William Babbington, Academy Assistant Coach
Running coaching sessions with the Leeds Academy of American Football and teaching the kids how to play, got me thinking about NFL players playing the flag game and who would make up a great flag American Football team.
Flag teams only have 5 players in them, a quarterback, running back, two wide receivers and a centre (in this discussion anyway), who in flag football is an eligible receiver. The players must be able to play both ways (offense and defense), like the ironman players of old so that immediately rules out some big names.
So who would I have in my flag team?
The quarterback in flag American Football cannot run with the ball but this doesn’t rule out the more mobile quarterbacks that have emerged in the NFL in recent years. While it is pointless on offence the fact they have to play defence means they must be mobile and quick. Therefore players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees don’t make the cut. Great passers no doubt but would be horrible on defence.
My pick is Cam Newton. He’s tall, at 6’5 he’d have the height advantage over most receivers. He’s fast, with a 40 yard dash time of 4.58, albeit Kaepernick of the 49ers ran it 0.05 seconds faster, which is a big advantage on defence. He also has experience of rushing, he ran for over 700 yards in 2011 and 2012 and over 500 yards last season. So even if he’s not passing he is a valid threat at RB or WR.
The running back in American Football is probably the most important position on the field. Whilst tackles are easy to complete in regular contact football in flag it’s all about being able to get your hands on the flag and pull it off. Something that is not easy to do if the player is spinning and side stepping. But they also have to be able to catch and be a genuine receiving threat as well as be able to play defence. Like the quarterbacks, having to play defence rules out players like Adrian Peterson who is in his twilight rushing years and would struggle to play defence as well.
My pick is Jamaal Charles. We all know he can run, rushing for 1,287 yards last season and 1,509 the season before. But it’s his catching that sets him apart from other running backs. He ranked 56th overall in receiving stats in 2013 with 693 yards and 7 touchdowns putting him 11 places higher than the next running back in receiving yards. With ball in hand being so vital in flag, this was a no brainer pick.
There’s no point trying to double up one of the wide receiver roles but wanting them to be a good running back or thrower, if they can great but out and out they need to get down field, get free and draw defenders with them. There are many great receivers in the NFL at the moment and picking one is tricky. The role of a WR1 has developed players who are all similar in height, speed and skills.
All things being equal, I want my team to have speed and as with the other positions youth so they can play both sides of the ball. As tough as it was I’m ruling out Megatron aka Calvin Johnson on the age front. There are now younger players who are just as fast and have just as good hands.
My pick is Demaryious Thomas. Still only 26 and with a 40 yard dash time of 4.38 he’s got both the attributes I’m wanting in a receiver. Not to mention he was the 4th highest rated receiver in 2013 with 1,430 yards receiving, 14 touchdowns (the most of any wide receiver in the league) and one of the highest receiving percentages amongst his peers.
For the second receiver position its time to introduce some defence to the team. On any good flag American Football team there needs to be a player who can dominate field, reading the quarterback and the receivers around him and make big plays. But he also has to have good hands as he will be playing as a receiver on offence.
It’s a tough call to decide between a safety and corner back. Safeties have the middle of the field presence needed to break up passes while cornerbacks will be able to stay with receivers and in turn have good enough hands to become receivers themselves. Linebackers are out. Flag isn’t a tackle game in the traditional sense so being able to put in big hits isn’t relevant.
My pick is Richard Sherman. He’s got the field presence to be able to read a receivers routes and make big plays. 8 interceptions last year and 22 pass disruptions shows that he can dominate for our defence but has good enough hands to and understanding of routes to be a very effective wide receiver. I was tempted by Earl Thomas but the need to act as a wide receiver was what made my mind up.
In flag American Football there is no blocking other than standing your ground so size isn’t a big issue. A centre is also an eligible receiver so they need to have good hands. I considered a defensive end like JJ Watt or Jason Pierre-Paul but ultimately there’s no real rushing of the quarterback or need to put pressure on him (or at least that wouldn't be in my scheme) so that rules out their skill set. The best positional player for this would be a tight end; big enough to stand their ground and not give easy access to the quarterback but also able to be a valid catching threat.
My pick is Jimmy Graham. There really is no other option for this position. He clearly has the handling skills to catch passes, finishing 2013 with 1,215 yards and a massive 16 touchdowns. But he could also be an effective middle of the field defensive player with his huge 6’7 frame and with a 4.53 40 yard time he is quick enough to be able to drop back or close down a running back depending on the play.
1. Cam Newton, 2. Jamaal Charles, 3. Demaryious Thomas, 4. RIchard Sherman, 5. Jimmy Graham
So there’s my flag American Football team, a good mix of skills and offensive and defensive ability and enough speed to run rings around anyone and be the best team in Leeds.
Who would you have in your team? Get in touch and we'll post your picks up!