AAF Power Rankings: Arizona Hotshots are No. 1 before Week 1 of Alliance of American Football
Yes, before AAF's first week, we're power ranking all eight teams
The Alliance of American Football's first week ever is about to begin (the two season openers -- Atlanta-Orlando and San Diego-San Antonio -- are both on CBS at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, with regional coverage, and can be streamed on CBS All Access), and it will continue through Feb. 10, but why wait for games to be played? No, your eyes did not deceive you. We've got power rankings.
I'll go ahead and answer your inevitable two-part question of "How in the world? And why?"
Because we can and it's fun. Besides, we'll be power ranking all eight AAF teams throughout the 10-week season leading up to the four-team playoff in April. This gives us a starting point moving forward. Also: no, not every team will be ranked "No. 1."
In all seriousness, I spent a few days down in San Antonio for training camps taking in as much football as possible. So while it's impossible to know everything right now -- even people around the league I spoke with have question marks for every team -- there's at least a baseline of knowledge for what we're working with. (Along those lines, Westgate SuperBook hasfor this year's champion.)
So let's get to 'em. Here are the first 2019 AAF power rankings, which will be released every Tuesday following the weekend's games.
I came away with two impressions about Rick Neuheisel's team. The first is that they might have the best one-two punch at quarterback with John Wolford and Trevor Knight. I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them play this season either in complementary roles or until one runs away with the job. The second is that Arizona believes that, in a league that promotes offense, its defensive front is as good as any. For what it's worth, Westgate has the Hotshots as the favorites to win the title this year.
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One thing to understand about these teams is just how close they are to being NFL-caliber. Most of these players were on a NFL roster in the past two years. So speed isn't lacking. That being said, Orlando had some impressive speed during practices, especially on defense. On offense, expect Garrett Gilbert to start. With coach Steve Spurrier back in his natural element, the Apollos won't lack in entertainment value.
The AAF kicks off this weekend so Ben Kercheval joined Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break down everything about the new league, and you can listen here:
I've heard frequently that the Commanders are expected to be one of the top three or so teams in the alliance. If nothing else, the offense has looked sharp and it could put up the most points of any team this season. One of the names to watch is wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. Houston Cougars fans will remember him as the electric quarterback who helped the program defeat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. He's expected to be one of the starting wideouts and the word on him from camp is that he's going to be a star because of his athleticism.
Obviously, there's not a whole lot that separates most of these teams right now. Salt Lake has the second-best odds to win this year's title, per Westgate, but doesn't quite have the benefit of some of the bigger names that, say, Orlando has. Still, the Stallions have what appear to be an impressive group of wideouts with -- surprise, surprise -- a heavy Utah presence.
Even though Michael Vick is the offensive coordinator, expect the Legends to have a defensive flair thanks to head coach Kevin Coyle, who was promoted when Brad Childress resigned last month. Coyle has plenty of coaching experience, with 17 years in the NFL under his belt, most of which came with the Cincinnati Bengals. On offense, quarterback Aaron Murray has shown he's ready to restart his career in a home market that knows him well.
This might be your sleeper team. The Iron have some interesting stories on their offense, including running back Trent Richardson and quarterbacks Blake Sims and Luis Perez, the latter of whom was almost a professional bowler. It remains to be seen if Birmingham stands out at any one position, but early impressions indicate this is a well-rounded team.
Mike Martz's team would probably be much higher in these rankings if they had held on to quarterback Josh Johnson, who was picked up by Washington. Now, the Fleet have some questions in that department. Mike Bercovici is the starter, but he's battled for that job for all of camp. However, the wideouts and tight ends have been a bright spot. Pass-catchers Kameron Kelly and Gavin Escobar are projected to be leaders there.
Someone has to be last. The good news for Memphis is once the games get going, these power rankings won't matter. A couple of names to watch, though, is running back Zac Stacy, who could anchor a power running attack, and wide receiver Kayaune Ross, a massive 6-foot-6 target on the outside.
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