A REFLECTION OF ANOTHER GREAT LFL SEASON: ‘THE LIST 2016’
(Monday, December 12th, 2016)
The compilation of the best athletes, along with the most overrated & underrated athletes, and other various categories makes a return to LFL360. The List was voted on by ten LFL360 contributors and analysts.
Nearly 150 LFL athletes suited up in the 2016 season, impacting the game in many different ways. Some lived up to their expectations and some fell short. Others were a surprise and others went unnoticed. There were veterans that added to their legacy in a positive way and for others it was the opposite. Unnoticed athletes had their breakout season along with rookies who shined in the spotlight. The 7th LFL season is in the books and everyone is focused on 2017, but lets take a moment to reflect on the top athletes in certain categories from 2016.
Top 3 Centers of 2016
1) Megan Hanson (LA Temptation) Megan Hanson is often criticized more than praised for her play at center which is baffling. She has for the last few seasons been one of the most consistent players in the trenches and her team’s success the last two seasons (only 2 losses) helps argue the case. Hanson’s receiving numbers were down from a season ago with two receptions in 2016, but more importantly her LA offense rushed for 537 yards in four games.
2) Nicole Peterson (Dallas Desire) From front-office to the front-line, Nicole Peterson was among the best at her position this season. Her footwork got better with each game and by the end of the season she rarely missed an assignment. Peterson was not a threat receiving, but led her offensive line to incredible rushing success as the Desire in five games rushed for nearly 600 yards in 2016.
3) Jena Weiss (Seattle Mist) Jena Weiss is an all-pro center and you will struggle to find many better than her to ever play this game. Seattle has great running backs, but having someone like Weiss in the trenches makes their life a lot easier. In three games Weiss recorded 4 receptions, one of which was a touchdown. Her Seattle offense rushed for 547 yards in six games this season.
#1 Megan Hanson
#2 Nicole Peterson
#3 Jena Weiss
Top 3 Tight-ends of 2016
1) Jade Randle (Dallas Desire) Randle could easily be stacked with the wide-receivers, but she was listed as a tight-end for most the season. Moving her to the tight-end position instantly provided a miss-match against opposing defenses. Randle is an insane talent on the field. If there was one area she could improve, it would be her blocking. In five games, the rookie recorded 18 receptions for 263 yards and scored 9 touchdowns.
2) Sherri Awagah (LA Temptation)She also rushed for 51 yards on 9 attempts this season. Awagah played much of the 2015 season at running back but converted to strictly tight-end this season and the transition has been an easy one. It would be easy to criticize her receiving numbers but that was more on LA’s inability to move the ball through the air than a lack of talent on Sherri’s behalf. The LA veteran, only had 3 receptions for 44 yards with 1 touchdown, but Awagah was a big part of the Temptations very successful 2016 running-game with her blocking presence.
3) Danika Brace (Seattle Mist) Brace can be a deep threat and you can usually always find her open when in the redzone. If it wasn’t for a string of injuries this year she would certainly be ranked higher. The former league MVP only had 6 receptions for 39 yards, scoring twice in her six games.
#1 Jade Randle
#2 Sherri Awagah
#3 Danika Brace
Top 3 Running Backs of 2016
1) Stevi Schnoor (Seattle Mist) Stevi is probably one of the most overlooked players when people talk about the game’s elite but over the last few seasons she emerged as one of the best in the game, landing at No.1 in 2016. While not as showy as some of the other backs around the league, her consistency and excellence elevates her above the rest. Schnoor rushed for 255 yards on 49 carries, scoring 7 touchdowns on the ground. She also had 10 receptions for 53 yards with another score through the air.
2) ChrisDell Harris (Chicago Bliss) Harris has been the standard bearer for LFL running backs since entering the league with her speed and sheer power at the point of contact. Injuries played a big part of the ‘Ferrari’ not breaking out of second gear this year. In five games, she rushed for 174 yards on 34 carries with 6 touchdowns. Being the dual threat that Harris is, she also recorded 12 receptions for 168 yards with 4 touchdowns.
3) Nas Johnson (LA Temptation) Nas Johnson is the Darren Sproles of the LFL, she consistently uses her speed and elusiveness to make big plays but her lack of big playoff performances have prevented her from being considered an elite back in this league. The 2016 season, she made a case to be among the best as she rushed for 227 yards on 44 carries with 2 touchdowns. She also had 5 receptions out of the backfield. The best stat of the season was the zero fumbles Johnson had, as turnovers have haunted her in years past.
#1 Stevi Schnoor
#2 ChrisDell Harris
#3 Nas Johnson
Top 3 Wide Receivers of 2016
1) AJ Johnson (Chicago Bliss) AJ Johnson was the very definition of a clutch receiver this year and if you don’t believe it, watch the Legends Cup again. Johnson’s numbers were stellar and her big play ability was due to her great route running. There is no better deep threat in the league. In a season where Johnson had to fill a big gap in the Bliss offense left by Alli Alberts, Johnson exceeded the expectations. She lit up the league, providing calm poise in clutch situations to win big games for the Bliss in her rookie campaign as she helped hoist the Legends Cup trophy. Johnson finished with 24 receptions for a loud 392 yards! Johnson found the end-zone 9 times in her six games.
2) Lauran Ziegler (Atlanta Steam) Lauran Ziegler is without question among the best receivers to ever play in the league. She makes tough catches in traffic, rarely drops a pass, and she even caught three touchdowns in the conference championship despite sustaining major knee injury five weeks prior. Ziegler put up better numbers than most receivers in half as many games and two of her three games were against the dominant Chicago Bliss. In her three games, Ziegler caught 17 passes for 202 yards, scoring 8 touchdowns. She also added a touchdown on the ground this season.
3) Bryn Renda (Seattle Mist) Renda has always been among the league’s top receiving threats and she continued her production in 2016. The veteran did not have as much success off of the deep route as seasons past, but her production, especially finding the end-zone was a big reason Seattle advanced to another Legends Cup. Whether stretching out for an acrobatic catch or snatching a pass in traffic, Renda offers a safe guarantee for the Mist offense to move down the field. In six games, Renda had 14 receptions for 142 yards with 7 touchdowns.
#1 AJ Johnson
#2 Lauran Ziegler
#3 Bryn Renda
Top 3 Quarterbacks of 2016
1) Jacinda Barclay (Chicago Bliss) Despite some early jitters in her first game against Seattle, Barclay took the LFL in the US by storm with her dynamic performances at quarterback. When it mattered most, she pulled the big plays out of the bag and is now one of the elite few to have won a Legends Cup in two continents. It was nothing but impressive the way Barlcay blossomed into the role of a Legends Cup winning star for Chicago, and it will forever remain among the best success stories from the 2016 season. The Aussie had 18 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, and a possible record setting 776 passing yards in six games during her 2016 campaign. She also rushed for 138 yards and 6 touchdowns.
2) Michelle Angel (Dallas Desire) Michelle Angel showed signs of real potential under center when starting for the LA Temptation last year, despite lacking a big arm she was always smart with the ball using her check downs when required. This year her talent for the position has been nurtured by the Bullitt brothers and her footwork and decision making was taken to the next level. Angel had 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions, with 485 passing yards. She also rushed for another 2 scores.
3) Dakota Hughes (Atlanta Steam) Dakota Hughes has been a consistent performer since joining the league and has made a name for herself with late game heroics like one of her idols, Peyton Manning. Fans are just waiting for Dakota to progress to that next level, with a signature win against Chicago or a Legends Cup title, which despite coming close did not happen this year. The Steam veteran had 15 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions, throwing for 482 passing yards in only 4 games, nearly averaging 4 touchdown passes per game. Hughes also rushed for 2 touchdowns.
#1 Jacinda Barclay
#2 Michelle Angel
#3 Dakota Hughes
Top 3 Defensive Ends of 2016
1) Chantell Taylor (Chicago Bliss) There is no easy way to say it, Chantell Taylor is simply a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. Her speed and skillset make her next to impossible to block. She did not have her best stats this season but her mere presence is enough to distract opposing quarterbacks. Taylor finished the year with 12 total tackles (10 solo) with 2 sacks and 4 tackles-for-a-loss in her five games. She also recovered a fumble this season.
2) Yashi Rice (Chicago Bliss) Yashi Rice played what could be her final year in the LFL and she went out in style with the Legends Cup in hand. Like Taylor, Rice at times can just be unplayable, of her 14 total tackles, 6 of them were behind the line of scrimmage. Rice recorded 4 sacks and had 9 solo tackles in her final season.
3) Shawnte Shiree (Dallas Desire) Shiree is one of those players you could ask to play anywhere and she would excel. Her leadership and experience was a big part of the Desire’s success in their return to the LFL. She recorded 23.5 tackles (19 solo) and had 1 sack along with 4 tackles-for-a-loss. She also had an interception and fumble recovery in 2016. She did it all this season!
#1 Chantell Taylor
#2 Yashi Rice
#3 Shawnte Shiree
Top 3 Linebackers of 2016
1) Kristin Morrison (Chicago Bliss) Kristen Morrison is a complete linebacker, she uses her speed and power to seek and destroy any ball carrier whether it be quarterback, running back or receiver. With 50 tackles (40 solo), including 9 sacks, a fumble recovery, 16 tackles-for-a-loss and a pick-six, the league was put on notice in 2016. To top it off, Morrison helped lead her Bliss to a Legends Cup title.
2) Danielle Hawkins (Dallas Desire) Danielle Hawkins has made a name for herself as a pass rushing defensive end but the switch to linebacker this year did not seem to phase her at all. Although she was surrounded by play-makers on this Desire team, she had a quietly good season averaging over 7 tackles a game. Hawkins finished the season with 37 tackles (29 solo), with 1 sack and 4 tackles-for-a-loss.
3) Danika Brace (Seattle Mist) What can you say about Danika Brace that has not been said before. She is the standard bearer for the middle linebacker position in the LFL. Her sheer power and reading of the game reminds fans of the great Ray Lewis. Her 2016 season was unfortunately hindered by injuries which factored into the voting. Despite her missed time due to injury, in six games this year Brace recorded 34.5 tackles (28 solo), with 3 interceptions, 5 tackles-for-a-loss, a fumble recovery, and a pick-six.
#1 Kristin Morrison
#2 Danielle Hawkins
#3 Danika Brace
Top 5 Defensive Backs of 2016
1) Jade Randle (Dallas Desire) Jade Randle is one of the most deceptively fast athletes in the league. When you watch her live, you’ll witness that her closing speed is incredible and when you combine that with some of the best hands in the league, it is no surprise she ended the season with 4 interceptions and 28.5 tackles (20 solo).
2) Selena Fudge (Austin Acoustic) Selena Fudge is going to be a special player in this league. She looks great in coverage and reads the quarterback well. In the off-season, you would expect her to improve her catching skills because two picks could easily have been four this season. In four games this season Fudge recorded 29.5 tackles (23 solo).
3) Tamar Fennell (Chicago Bliss) Tamar Fennell had an interesting but special 2016 season. She has been a silent assassin in the LFL. Not one for wasting time with trash talk, Fennell just simply made plays, icing both the conference playoffs and Legends Cup finals with an interception. Fennell finished the year with four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, 21 tackles (17 solo), and two tackles-for-a-loss. Along with that she held the Legends Cup trophy for the first time in her career.
4) Lily Granston (LA Temptation)
What Lilly Granston lacks in coverage skills she makes up for in tackling power. You can often see Lilly crashing the line of scrimmage or taking out opposing receivers, which is why she is the John Lynch of the LFL. Granston helped lead LA to a 3-1 season with 26.5 tackles (20 solo) and a highlight reel full of tackles.
5) Dominique Collins (Chicago Bliss) If one was to liken Dominique Collins to any NFL corner it would be Richard Sherman solely for her performance on the field. Opposing quarterbacks know to avoid her at all costs because when they don’t it usually ends badly for them. Collins joined Fennell in the turnover category, recording three interceptions and also returning one for a touchdown. In six games this season, Collins had 30 tackles (23 solo), 4 sacks, and 5 tackles-for-a-loss. What a 2016 season for the three-time Legends Cup Champion!
#1 Jade Randle
#2 Selena Fudge
#3 Tamar Fennell
#4 Lily Granston
#5 Dominique Collins
Top 3 Two-Way Players of 2016
1) Jade Randle (Dallas Desire) In 2016 there was one player that everyone around the league was raving about and that was Jade Randle. She played at both receiver and tight end making big plays offensively all season long. On defense she has deceptive closing speed which resulted in 28.5 tackles and four interceptions making her the best two way player of 2016.
2) Lauran Ziegler (Atlanta Steam) Lauran Ziegler has been a duel threat player for the last few years and you will struggle to find many more players that make this game look as easy as she does. 2016 saw Lauran suffer a terrible knee injury and was able to return six weeks later to have a huge performance in the Eastern Conference Championship. Ziegler still managed 9 touchdowns in just 3 games.
3) Stevi Schnoor (Seattle Mist) The Bull is a running back that every coach wished they had and she is a solid threat defensively. Schnoor can be a tackle machine when she wants to be, and she is a major factor to Seattle’s success in the past two seasons. Schnoor had over 300 yards offensively (rushing/receiving) and scored 8 touchdowns. Defensively she had 14 tackles and forced 1 fumble along with a recovery.
#1 Jade Randle
#2 Lauran Ziegler
#3 Stevi Schnoor
Top 3 Head Coaches of 2016
1) Keith Hac (Chicago Bliss) Coach Hac is one of the most successful coaches in LFL History and lifted his third Championship trophy in 2016. His moto of ABR (always be recruiting) is a big part of his success story along with his finite attention to detail when preparing for any game. Hac is by far the smartest tactical coach in the league, and his demand for perfection from his players on the field, is matched with his ability to force imperfection from his opponents, to lead to victory.
2) Melvin Bullitt (Dallas Desire) Coach Bullitt brought his personal experiences onto the Dallas training field in pre-season and produced one of the more exciting teams of the year. Where most Rookie LFL coaches struggle to compete, especially in the Western Conference, coach Bullitt has proved the exception to the rule. If it wasn’t for Coach Hac’s tremendous season, Coach Bullitt would definitely have topped the poll this year. His coaching has been a big part of Michelle Angel taking that next step to quarterback greatness. Look out for Dallas in 2016.
3) Chris Michaelson (Seattle Mist) Coach Michaelson is passion. His emotions on the sideline drive his players to fight for every down. Where others fail to grasp the nuances of the sport, he excels in them. Michaelson aka ‘Mr Wow clip’ can often be seen screaming at his players from the sidelines but don’t let that fool you. Underneath it all, is a tactically astute coach who expects nothing but perfection from his players. Most expected more out of his 2016 Mist offense with all of the weapons at his disposal, which is a reason he sits at #3 on this list.
#1 Keith Hac
#2 Melvin Bullitt
#3 Chris Michaelson
Top 3 Overrated Athletes of 2016
1) Adrian Purnell (Atlanta Steam) Purnell is one of the most tenured veterans in the LFL, however she has been on the losing end of every playoff game she has played since 2010, including this season’s loss to the Bliss in the Eastern Conference Championship, which slipped away from her and the Steam in the second half. This season the veteran had good numbers offensively, but did not have much of a presence defensively for the Steam as she only recorded 8.5 tackles and 1 sack. Will Purnell be able to finally advance past the first round of the playoffs and help her team advance to the Legends Cup?
2) KK Matheny (Seattle Mist) Matheny was the talk of the league in 2015 and much buzz was surrounding her team heading into this season. Matheny had more offensive weapons around her and two former league MVPs in the offensive huddle, however she statistically had a down season. Matheny had a league-high 7 interceptions, and she continually made poor decisions with the football as she lacked her usual poise in the pocket resulting in many uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers. Because of the competitor she is, expect her to have a rebound season in 2017.
3) Alex Drake (NE Liberty) Going into this season there was so much buzz surrounding the league about Alex Drake and there was even talk she might be the next Ashley Salerno. However, she was not able to live up to the hype as her team went 0-3 in their inaugural season. With the potential Drake has shown, expect her to progress with the right coaching staff and experienced teammates around her.
#1 Adrian Purnell
#2 KK Matheny
#3 Alex Drake
Top 3 Underrated Athletes of 2016
1) Tamar Fennell (Chicago Bliss) Tamar Fennell is well respected around the league for her on field ability but before this season we had never really seen it translate. This year however, Fennell consistently showed just how great of an athlete she is and in the post season she was exceptional, coming up with key interceptions in both games.
2) Dominique Collins (Chicago Bliss) Dominique Collins has flown under the radar and is a big part of why the Chicago Bliss have been to four consecutive Legends Cup, winning three. Collins excels at man coverage and this year has added big hits to her arsenal, making her one of the best all-around corner backs in league history.
3) Nas Johnson (LA Temptation) Johnson made the big move across the country to find a team who would see her worth and LA provided that. Speed and elusiveness best describe Johnson, and she is a weapon from the backfield. Johnson was also able to face her former team with success in 2016. Maybe the problem was Atlanta’s O-line rather than Nas Johnson at running back.
#1 Tamar Fennell
#2 Dominique Collins
#3 Nas Johnson
Top 3 Rookies of 2016
1) Jade Randle (Dallas Desire) With size, skill, and speed Randle has exploded onto the LFL scene and straight to an MVP level. With the versatility to play offense and defense, she is a playmaker on every down. 2016 was one of the strongest rookie classes but Randel’s ability to dominate on both sides of the ball it what sets her apart from all of the other rookies this season. Quite frankly we are running out of superlatives to describe Jade because she is just that good.
2) AJ Johnson (Chicago Bliss) AJ Johnson is another rookie that has established herself in that elite conversation even after just one season Her 2016 season proves that talent + coaching = results. The rookie has risen above the expectations and produced some amazing plays in 2016. On a championship winning team she lead the charge of a Bliss team that could be #1 for a while. Her route running and sure hands have been key in several games this year.
3) Kristin Morrison (Chicago Bliss)Another Bliss rookie phenom, Morrison provides the raw aggression of a rookie but with skill beyond her playing years. Earning a starting spot in a key position of the best defense in LFL history, it was evident that #7 had potential to be a star. Expect Morrison to be leading the Bliss defense for many years.
#1 Jade Randle
#2 AJ Johnson
#3 Kristin Morrison
Top 3 Most Improved Athletes of 2016
1) Michelle Angel (Dallas Desire) Angel came into this year as a relative unknown offensively. If you want to see how far great coaching and the right attitude will get you, then look no further than Michelle ‘Mini’ Angel. Her drive for excellence was complemented well by the Bullitt brothers calm approach to coaching. Angel showed this year how deadly she can be, with another pre-season under her belt with this coaching staff, look for her in the playoffs again looking to make a deep run.
2) Nas Johnson (LA Temptation)Johnson has the natural ability that every coach would love to see in their players. However, in Atlanta she was undervalued due to her small stature and so a swift change of scenery has seen her work LA’s run game into full throttle. Johnson is like a spark plug, and if you give her the right environment to work and she will kick start the biggest of engines. This year Johnson proved just how much of an asset she can be with her lightning speed and elusiveness.
3) Tamar Fennell (Chicago Bliss) Fennell has always had the talent to be an all fantasy player but she had previously been stuck on teams that even the likes of Tom Brady would have struggled to turn around. Fennell is pure class both on and off the field and it has been great to see her have such a successful season.