The Fan Controlled Football league broke onto the scene just two seasons ago. Yet despite that short-lived run so far, the league has managed to elevate players to outdoor leagues at a fairly high rate. This off-season we saw Robert Ford former WR coach for the FCF land with the XFL as an offensive coordinator for the Orlando Guardians.
The Guardians then followed up by selecting 14 FCF players, and the league as a whole drafted 17 if my research is correct. However, it wasn’t only the XFL that poached players for the 2023 season.
James Harden and Jordus Smith Look Elsewhere for Work
Two of the bigger names in the Fan Controlled Football League this past season are now gone. Having chosen to move on to other indoor football leagues throughout the country. Whether it be the Indoor Football League or the National Arena League. I was fairly surprised to see FCF stars signing with other leagues given what the FCF players accomplished in the draft.
Despite having just eight teams in 2022, and rosters that are significantly smaller than the IFL or NAL, the FCF still managed to put a large group of players in the XFL. Due to their decision to create offensive line units, and defensive units that play two games a piece each week, yet still watched a comparable amount of players selected. Grouping these two units and having them play two games each week dramatically cut down on the number of players the FCF employed to put a product on the field.
James Harden was a household name to FCF fans. His story is one that ras to be seen to be believed. Harden was once known as the guy who would sit outside of the Cowboys stadium with a sign trying to get a try-out with the team. This didn’t result in the NFL interest he had hoped. Instead, the Cowboys signed another former FCF star and very similar player in terms of ability: Kavontae Turpin.
Turpin is 5’9 155 pounds, while Harden is 5’7 186 pounds and built a lot more like a running back than Turpin who is 2 inches taller, and 30 pounds lighter. In 2022 Harden managed a solid season for the Fan Controlled Football League with 9 carries for 29 yards, adding 11 receptions for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding three 2-point conversions. Harden is no stranger to the IFL. He played for the Cedar Rapids River Kings of the IFL, and had a brief stint with the Texas Revolution in the Champions Indoor Football League.
I believe that Harden chose to return to the IFL due to their partnership with the XFL in an effort to better market himself. The problem is, when looking at and comparing the numbers, the FCF had a much higher drafted rate than the IFL. With the IFL having 14 full teams in 2022, they put 19 players in the XFL. As I mentioned before, the FCF put 17 players in the league despite much smaller player numbers overall with fewer teams and overlapping players on the units that play for multiple teams.
It remains to be seen if this was the best choice for James Harden. Regardless of where he ends up, Harden is an easy guy to root for given his next-level determination. I’m interested to see how the Duke City Gladiators and Head Coach Fred Griggs use Harden in 2023. It appears that the team is hoping to use Harden as a hybrid runner/receiver out of the backfield, while Tobyas Taylor a 6’1 225-pound runner will likely be the first back off the bench as the bell cow. One thing Harden will bring to Duke City is a Champions mindset after winning the People’s Championship in the FCF in both seasons of their existence. First with the Wild Aces, and then with the Zappers.
Jordus Smith played in the FCF in both seasons one and two. Listed as a running back by the Fan Controlled Football League, Smith has played RB, WR, and DB during his career. He is not shy about playing offense, defense, or special teams. This will be a huge asset for his new team, the Jacksonville Sharks of the NAL.
The National Arena League is the closest representation of actual Arena Football rules. This means that they employ one key rule. Iron Man rules in which players are expected to play both offense and defense regularly. This is nothing that will be out of the ordinary for the versatile 6’2 205-pound player.
At 25 years old, Smith is one of the younger players being signed out of the FCF despite having two seasons of professional experience with the league. His on-field performance in Season 2.0, likely has the Sharks smelling blood in the water from their opposing teams. Smith ran the ball 16 times for 71 yards or 4.0 yards per carry scoring 4 rushing touchdowns, he would also add 18 receptions for 455 yards and 9 touchdowns, an average of 25 yards per reception.
Smith was easily one of the most prolific players in the league scoring 13 times. He led the league in receiving yards by over 120 yards, and led the league in reception touchdowns, tying for 6th in rushing touchdowns as well. Smith is simply so versatile we could see him play in the neighborhood of 6-7 positions in 2023. Whether it be running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, linebacker, or even returning kicks, Smith will likely be one of the biggest performers for the Sharks, and the NAL in general in 2023.
Restocking the Cupboard
The FCF is currently taking registrations for their upcoming tryout circuit. With four tryouts set to be held in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and of course, their city of operation Atlanta. In the past, the FCF unearthed diamonds in the rough from these tryouts and built their league around players who hadn’t had much experience in other leagues.
Men like Mitch Kidd, Deondre Francois, Andrew Jamiel, Tommy Auger, Cedric Byrd, and others were names that most scouts and coaches simply didn’t know at the time. However, after some of these players played just one season with the FCF, they ended up garnering recognition in what most see as the second-best option for football players currently. This is no small feat, and it is something free-agent players should be taking note of. Sometimes the pay in the contract isn’t the only deciding factor in signing somewhere.
In my eyes, the FCF is elevating players at a higher rate than any other indoor league right now, why would you agree to sign anywhere else? I have called the FCF the unofficial developmental league of the XFL in the past, and it has never looked more true than now. The FCF should embrace this and promote it to potential players showing them that the Fan Controlled Football League is no gimmick. It’s hard-hitting, fast-paced football that develops real talent at every position.
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