Welcome to the Alliance of American Football (AAF) Week 6 Barometer, a column in which I’ll strive to take a pulse on the week-to-week state of the league by highlighting some of the best performers on each team. The AAF already is now at the halfway point of its inaugural season, and the strengths and weaknesses of each team are naturally starting to come into clearer focus.
The same applies to individual player performances to a significant extent. With its role as a developmental/second-chance league, the AAF’s depth charts are admittedly a bit more fluid than one would see in the NFL, including at the skill positions. However, there are already multiple players on each team that have secured established roles and volume through their play.
Before delving into this week’s biggest risers and fallers, a look at the most notable areas where the AAF rulebook diverges from that of the NFL:
- No kickoffs; each team begins any game-opening/second-half-opening and post-score drive at its own 25-yard line.
- No extra points; two-point conversion attempts are mandatory after each touchdown.
- No onside kicks; teams will have the option of running a “4th-and-12” play from their own 28-yard line in lieu of onside kicks. The play will only be made available if a team is trailing by 17 points or more or if they’re trailing with 5 minutes or fewer left in regulation.
- Teams that are scored upon via a safety also have the option of attempting to gain possession by running this same play from their own 18-yard line.
- 35-second play clocks, as opposed to the 40-second clocks utilized in the NFL.
- All overtime periods played under “Kansas Playoff” rules. Each team begins on the opponent’s 10-yard line and given four chances to score. No field goals are allowed in overtime. If the score remains tied after each team has had a possession, the game ends in a tie.
- No more than five defensive players may rush on any one play. Any players on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage at the snap count towards those five players whether they rush or not.
- Pass rushing from a starting position that is more than two yards outside the widest offensive lineman and more than five yards from the line of scrimmage (defensive pressure box) is prohibited. However, there are exceptions to this rule on play-action or run-pass option plays, or if the ball leaves the tackle box.
- Violations of the aforementioned defensive alignment rules will prompt a 15-yard illegal defense penalty.
- Finally, a “sky judge” situated in a suite above the field acts as the ninth member of the officiating crew and will have access to review each play. The sky judge will have the ability to correct any on-field officiating errors that it deems “egregious.”
With those particulars out of the way, let’s get into some quick hits on each team from a fantasy perspective heading into Week 6:
- QB Garrett Gilbert upped his already impressive game in Week 5 by throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns, along with a pair of two-point conversion passes. Gilbert seems to only be getting more comfortable in coach Steve Spurrier’s fantasy-friendly attack, making the signal caller the top option week in and week out at his position in terms of consistency.
- The Apollos’ rushing attack continues to make sure it’s accounted for as well, no small feat considering the aerial show that Spurrier’s offense typically is known for. D’Ernest Johnson and De’Veon Smith stepped to the forefront in Week 5 against what had been a tough Birmingham Iron defense. While Smith racked up the ground yards (119), Johnson thrived through the air with five catches for 73 yards. Spurrier may have the interesting problem of too many quality backs at his disposal, as Akeem Hunt can’t be forgotten even though he was a healthy inactive in Week 5. It remains to be seen what Spurrier will do with his backfield in the Week 6 showdown against the Hotshots.
- Against the Iron, WR Charles Johnson continued in his role as the Eastern Conference’s most dominant receiver, a title he essentially also shares league-wide with Arizona’s Rashad Ross. The two will face off in Week 6 in what could be the highest-scoring game of the week. Johnson has now logged double-digit targets in back-to-back weeks and saw an impressive four looks in the red zone in Week 5.
- While Johnson’s fellow wideouts Rannell Hall (3-23) and Jalin Marshall (2-22) were quiet in Week 5, TE Scott Orndoff (3-61-1) impressed. His target share has been very unpredictable, but the young tight end has proven he has some downfield chops and is a player to keep an eye on moving forward.
- QB Luis Perez was finally benched in Week 5 after throwing a first-quarter interception, which paved the way for former University of Washington signal caller Keith Price. Price was impressive while throwing for 234 yards and the Iron’s first passing touchdown of the season. He’ll look to keep it going in a Week 6 matchup against the Fleet, and with a full week of practice under his belt, he could well put together a successful encore against a team that forces action toward the pass.
- On that note, both WR Quinton Patton and L’Damian Washington bear watching this week with an improved option under center. The two receivers have the ability to get open, but they’ve unquestionably been hampered by poor quarterback play. After getting a chance to develop some chemistry with Price this week, they could be in for bounce-back performances after some down weeks.
- TE Wes Saxton, Jr. seemed to have some chemistry with Price last week, totaling 75 yards on just three receptions. Saxton has been a solid downfield receiving option at his position since his college days, so he’s worth monitoring, especially considering Price seems a lot more willing to take shots downfield than Perez ever did.
- QB Zach Mettenberger couldn’t quite replicate some of his past success in Week 5, although he still turned in a solid performance versus an underrated Legends secondary that’s allowed the lowest completion percentage in the AAF. Mettenberger still threw for 181 yards on 9-for-17 passing against Atlanta, and he’ll look to bump up his numbers in Week 6 versus a Stallions team that’s been the toughest defense in the AAF versus the run but very generous against the pass.
- RB Zac Stacy bounced back against Atlanta’s suspect run defense with a bit more efficiency than in recent weeks, but he still totaled just 41 yards on 13 carries. However, the veteran also notched a pair of rushing scores and flashed his ability as a receiver with a 2-45 line through the air that included a 31-yard reception. Stacy faces a much tougher task on the ground this week against Salt Lake, but he was once again the lead back by a wide margin in Week 5 (60 percent of RB snaps).
- The receiving corps remained quiet in Week 5 against that tough Atlanta secondary, but the array of talented pass catchers could make for sneaky tournament options in fantasy contests during Week 6. Reece Horn, Alton “Pig” Howard, Dontez Byrd and Devin Lucien all remain viable options for the strong-armed Mettenberger.
- It’s now official: QB Aaron Murray‘s Week 4 performance in fill-in duty was no mirage. The Georgia product was even more impressive in Week 5, throwing for 306 yards while leading a comeback victory against the Express. Murray may not have done as much on the ground as in Week 4, but the arm he displayed on numerous throws and the clear chemistry he already has with a solid receiving corps is undeniable.
- Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese’s influence can be felt in the running game as well. One of the most impressive all-around players in the entire AAF has been RB Tarean Folston, who’s drawing comparison to a poor man’s Alvin Kamara following an 11-83-1 rushing line in Week 5 that he supplemented with six catches. Folston has certainly been dynamic, but backfield mate Brandon Radcliffe is no slouch as a three-down option either and has logged double-digit carries in both games he’s suited up for. The strong work of both players leaves fellow back Denard Robinson‘s role in a week-to-week flux, with “Shoelace” garnering just a 20 percent snap share in Week 5.
- Among those impressive options in the air attack alluded to earlier are Seantavius Jones (5-89), Malachi Jones and Bug Howard. Then, TE Keith Towbridge is worth keeping an eye on after a 4-56 line in Week 5 and 13 targets overall during the last three weeks.
San Diego Fleet
- The Fleet saw Mike Bercovici blossom into everything they’d hoped he’d be entering the season in Week 5. Not only did the returning quarterback throw for 304 yards and a touchdown, but he also helped ensure a wild comeback victory with a clutch 45-yard completion to Dontez Ford on a drive that culminated in a game-winning field goal. Coach Mike Martz had talked up his quarterback all week, and the grace under pressure and overall productivity he displayed certainly bodes well going forward. He’ll have an uphill climb to a successful encore in Week 6, however, as the Iron remain one of the toughest squads against the pass in the league.
- Ja’Quan Gardner and Terrell Watson were joined by Tennesee Titans 2014 second-round pick Bishop Sankey in Week 5, making the Fleet backfield as confusing as ever. None of the three backs were able to get anything going on the ground against an impenetrable Stallions front, but the matchup is appreciably better in Week 6 versus an Iron defense that’s currently allowing the most rush yards per game. There’s still a strong lack of clarity as to whether any of the three backs will take on a true workhorse role.
- Ford made the most memorable and pivotal play among the receiving corps in Week 5, but Bercovici was excellent spreading the ball around. Brian Brown (4-48), Nelson Spruce (4-47) and Marcus Baugh (2-65) all benefited as well, so there could still be hope for some numbers befitting a Martz offense during the second half of the season if the quarterback play keeps up.
- The Hotshots have now lost three in a row, and QB John Wolford has to shoulder blame for the latest stumble. The Wake Forest product saw some of the mistaken-prone ways he was known for in college reemerge against the Commanders in Week 5 when he threw for three interceptions, including a first-quarter pick-six. On the bright side, Wolford almost led a miraculous comeback and salvaged his fantasy line with 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’ll need to be at his sharpest in Week 6, however, given that the Apollos will surely have a loud home crowd on their side and aren’t exactly the type of team that one can gift points to.
- With Arizona falling behind by a 26-0 score in the first half, there weren’t going to be many opportunities for RBs Jhurell Pressley, Justin Stockton and Tim Cook to get into a rhythm during Week 5. Cook interestingly paced the backfield in carries with 12 and got into the end zone once, even though he totaled just 33 rushing yards. Stockton and Pressley totaled another 13 carries between them, but the game script wasn’t exactly a conducive one to the run. They’ll look to bounce back against Orlando, and if there aren’t any extenuating circumstances early, Pressley is likely to serve as the lead back again.
- Rashad Ross continued to dominate in Week 5 with a 5-106-1 line that also included a two-point conversion catch. Fellow wideouts Freddie Martino (4-34) and Marquis Bundy (3-49) stepped up their production in Arizona’s first game without Josh Huff (IR-knee), and they’re likely to continue carving out a larger role as the second half of the season unfolds. Given that the Hotshots will need to keep their foot on the gas against the Apollos in Week 6, multiple Arizona wideouts could be in for increased volume.
San Antonio Commanders
- One could say Week 5 was the Week of the Quarterback in the AAF, with multiple signal callers putting up strong performances.The Commanders’ Logan Woodside was certainly an example, as he put together his best effort yet with 290 passing yards and two touchdowns in the wild win over the Hotshots. Woodside still has some trouble with interceptions — he has six through five games — but the rapport he displayed with multiple receivers was certainly encouraging.
- Kenneth Farrow’s rollercoaster production continued in Week 5, as he followed up a 142-yard effort in Week 4 with just 25 rushing yards on 12 carries against Arizona. It must be noted that Arizona does present as one of the tougher run defenses in the AAF, and that Farrow still got into the end zone and easily paced the backfield with 43 percent of snaps. He’s still garnering the lion’s share of red-zone opportunities as well, totaling nine such snaps in Week 5. The matchup certainly works much more in his favor in Week 6, as the Legends are allowing the third-most rushing yards per game.
- The Commanders’ top receiver duo of Mekale McKay and De’Marcus Ayers both benefited to varying degree from Woodside’s surge in Week 5. McKay found his way back into the end zone for the third time this season, while Ayers tied him for the team lead with five targets. Keep an eye on Alonzo Moore in Week 6 as well, as he stepped up with a 2-54 line in Week 5 after a couple of down games. Moore had seen five targets apiece in the first two games, so he could be on his way back to relevance. However, it’s important to note the Commanders passing game as a whole will face a stiff challenge against the Legends, as they continue to allow the fewest passing yards per game (179.8) in the AAF.
Salt Lake Stallions
- QB Josh Woodrum actually held the mantle of top producer in passing yardage in Week 5, as he racked up 380 in the wild loss to the Fleet. Woodrum’s big blemish was the three-interception tally he generated, but the level of comfort he otherwise displayed in the pocket offers plenty of reason for optimism. From a fantasy perspective, Woodrum can offer plenty with his legs as well, so if the passing acumen he displayed last week sustains, his fantasy stock will climb significantly. A matchup against the Express in Week 6 could help Woodrum stay hot, as Memphis allows the third-most passing yards per game (229.6) in the league.
- Branden Oliver is on injured reserve with his groin injury, leaving Joel Bouagnon, who carried 11 times for 36 yards and a touchdown against San Diego, in the presumed lead-back role. However, one of two new backfield additions in Salt Lake this week is Terron Ward, a name Atlanta Falcons fans know particularly well due to the veteran’s past tenure as a backup to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Ward serves as a quality, experienced complement to Bouagnon for starters, and he could be a real threat for playing time in coming weeks.
- De’Mornay Pierson-El may be developing in the most productive AAF receiver not named Johnson or Ross. The emerging youngster turned in a stellar 8-130 line in Week 5, his second eight-catch tally of the season. TE Nick Truesdell can’t be ignored, either, as he stepped up with a 6-71-1 line against San Diego and faces an Express team in Week 6 that’s tied for most fantasy points allowed per game to tight ends.