AAF Week 7 Barometer

Welcome to the Alliance of American Football (AAF) Week 7 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 past 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 7:

Eastern Conference

Orlando Apollos

  • QB Garrett Gilbert managed to keep up his strong production despite the Apollos dropping their first game of the season against the Hotshots in Week 6. With another pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion pass, Gilbert continued to reward fantasy owners in both season-long and daily formats. He has a challenge on his hands in Week 7 against a Legends secondary that’s allowed the lowest completion percentage in the AAF, but no team has yet been able to truly solve Steve Spurrier’s aggressive attack.
  • The Apollos’ ground attack appears to be firmly in the hands of the duo of D’Ernest Johnson and De’Veon Smith for now. Akeem Hunt logged just 13 snaps in Week 6 after serving as a healthy inactive in Week 5. Johnson paced the backfield in Week 6 against the Hotshots and also logged a team-high eight red-zone snaps. Both Johnson and Smith draw a favorable matchup in Week 7 against a Legends defense allowing the third-most rush yards in the league (102.0).
  • While WR Charles Johnson managed just a 4-28 line versus Arizona, he did salvage his night with his third touchdown reception of the season. Johnson remains the clear-cut leader of the pass-catching corps in the high-octane offense (AAF-high 521 receiving yards), but it’s certainly worth noting Week 6 saw the reemergence of Jalin Marshall (6-98-1), who’d been relatively quiet since the opener. TE Sean Price also stepped up with two receptions for 59 yards, but he’d seen only two targets prior to last week.

Birmingham Iron

  • It’s been a topsy-turvy last two weeks for QB Luis Perez to say the least. Pulled in Week 5 for ineffectiveness, Perez found himself right back under center early in Week 6 against the Fleet when Keith Price was knocked out of the contest after just four pass attempts. The second time proved the charm for Perez, at least last week. He connected with eight different pass catchers on his way to a 359-yard, three-touchdown day, even though he threw two more interceptions. However, it appears Perez has earned himself another shot at the job he’d just been demoted from and draws an excellent matchup in which to continue his strong play in the form of the Express.
  • At first glance, one would assume that WR Quinton Patton and RB Trent Richardson were likely two of the players that most benefited from Perez’s big day in Week 6. And while that certainly was true — Patton made a team-high eight grabs for 53 yards while Richardson posted a 7-44-1 line — it was WR L’Damian Washington who enjoyed a breakout. The speedster managed four catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns along with a two-point conversion catch. That included an 83-yard score in which Washington corroborated his big-play upside. While there’s plenty of competition for targets in the Iron offense from his aforementioned pair of teammates, Washington is clearly a legitimate deep threat that can score on any snap.
  • Richardson continued to make an impact on the ground as well and notched his league-leading ninth touchdown. Granted, his abysmal 2.5 yards per carry is about as inefficient as inefficient gets, but Richardson’s red-zone usage (10 snaps, four touches in Week 6) and extensive pass-catching role both keep him as an elite fantasy option each week.
  • TE Wes Saxton, Jr. is another player to consider in fantasy circles this week. The athletic Saxton has brought in 12 of 15 targets for 183 yards for the season and faces an Express defense ranked dead last in yards per game (61.5) yielded to the position.

Memphis Express

  • QB Zach Mettenberger didn’t even get to attempt a pass before injuring his ankle against the Stallions in Week 6. Brandon Silvers was thrown into the fire and acquitted himself very well by throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown. He’ll get the start again in Week 7 versus an Iron squad that’s allowed five of the six touchdowns it’s yielded on the season over the last two games. However, the biggest story in the Express’ quarterback room involves newcomer Johnny Manziel, who was claimed by Memphis off waivers last weekend. He practiced with the team all week and will remain Silvers’ back up for the time being. It would appear likely Johnny Football will get a chance to show his wares at some point over the last three games of the campaign.
  • RB Zac Stacy had another quiet day (11-31), but he remains the unquestioned linchpin of the backfield (65 percent of snaps in Week 6). He’s also lined up for an appealing matchup in Week 7, as the Iron give up the most rushing yards per game (110.8). Stacy also continues to encouragingly serve as a consistent pass-catching option out of the backfield, seeing a season-high six targets versus the Stallions.
  •  WRs Reece Horn (8-129) and Daniel Williams (7-70) showed the most rapport with Silvers last week, and both could certainly be trusted options again in Week 7 for a young quarterback that clearly has a comfort level with them.

Atlanta Legends

  • QB Aaron Murray had somewhat of a rough fall from grace in Week 6, as he threw a trio of interceptions, including a pick-six, against an opportunistic Commanders squad. Murray could only help lead the Legends to six points, although he still completed a solid 30 of 41 attempts. The matchup versus the Apollos in Week 7 isn’t exactly conducive to fantasy production on paper, as Orlando is allowing just 193.2 passing yards per contest.
  • With a negative game script early, the Legends running game never truly had a chance in Week 6. Brandon Radcliffe‘s 24 yards paced the ground attack, although it was Taurean Folston who still led the way in snaps (29). Both backs figure to continue seeing a near-even split of the work, as each is capable of serving as a pass-catching or goal-line option as necessary. Denard Robinson (11 snaps) continues to be a definitive third wheel  for the time being.
  • While WR Seantavius Jones led the Legends with six catches and nine targets, he parlayed them into just 38 yards. Jones clearly has Murray’s trust, but a player to keep a close eye on is TE Keith Towbridge. The Louisville product was at it again in Week 6, bringing in all five targets for a team-leading 42 yards. Towbridge is now up to 14 receptions on the season, and he’s seen one red-zone target in four of the last five contests.

Western Conference

San Diego Fleet

  • QB Mike Bercovici put together a second straight 300-yard passing performance in Week 6, even as he lost star receiver Dontez Ford to an ankle injury in the third quarter. While the Fleet ultimately fell short in a wild contest against the Iron, Bercovici led them on game-tying drive that culminated with a short touchdown to WR Francis Owusu. He threw two interceptions, but his comfort level in Mike Martz’s system is clearly worlds ahead of where it was in his infamous Week 1 debut. He’ll likely get a chance to fling it plenty in Week 7 versus an aggressive Hotshots team that has allowed seven passing TDs this season.
  • The RB trio of Ja’Quan Gardner, Terrell Watson and Bishop Sankey didn’t really distinguish themselves in Week 6, but the snaps continued to be dominated by the first two players. Sankey saw just six plays in what was his second game with the team. Watson not only led the way in snaps (29), but he also essentially served as the exclusive third-down and goal-line back by logging all but one of the possible plays in each circumstance.
  • Ford has already been ruled out for the Week 7  showdown with Arizona, which should mean more work for the likes of Brian BrownNelson Spruce and Marcus Baugh. Beat writer reports also indicate that training camp star Kyle Lewis could see a surge in opportunity this week with Ford sitting.

Arizona Hotshots

  • The Hotshots finally broke their three-game skid in memorable fashion. They upended the previously undefeated Apollos on their home turf with the help of a false start penalty by Orlando that prompted a ten-second runoff with only four seconds remaining. QB John Wolford stayed away from any interceptions and did enough to help the Arizona offense come back from an early deficit. The matchup is a bit easier this week, considering the Fleet have allowed back-to-back 300-yard passing performances and give up an AAF-high 254.0 yards per contest.
  • RBs Jhurell Pressley, Tim Cook and Justin Stockton all saw plenty of work in Week 6. The trio nearly saw the same amount of carries, but it was Pressley who comfortable led the way in snaps with 33, compared to 20 for Cook and 16 for Stockton. Pressley also turned one of his two targets into a nine-yard touchdown and ran a backfield-high 12 routes overall.
  • WR Rashad Ross still logged a robust 10 targets in Week 6, but the return of fellow wideout Richard Mullaney from injury was also a boon for the Hotshots passing game. Mullaney brought in six of seven targets for a team-leading 73 yards, and his sure hands and routes could put a dent in Ross’ production to an extent going forward. Freddie Martino (3-26) continued to play a complementary role.

San Antonio Commanders

  • QB Logan Woodside wasn’t quite as prolific in Week 6 as he’d been a game prior, but he still enjoyed a solid, mistake-free day overall. Woodside completed 17 of 23 passes for 164 yards and threw a touchdown and two-point conversion pass to WR Mekale McKay. With the opposing Stallions coming in as the top AAF rush defense but allowing 245.0 yards per game (second most), Woodside could be in for a busy day.
  • Meanwhile, Kenneth Farrow may have a much more frustrating day at the office against a Salt Lake unit allowing a miserly 67.8 rushing yards per game. Farrow did manage his fourth rushing touchdown of the season against the Legends in Week 6, but he averaged just under 4.0 yards per carry against one of the AAF’s weaker run defenses. He could hit the proverbial brick wall in Week 7, even as he continues serving as the clear lead back (53 percent of snaps in Week 6).
  • McKay and Greg Ward, Jr. could both see extra volume this week with fellow wideout De’Marcus Ayers doubtful due to a lower leg injury. McKay himself is a questionable with an ankle issue but did get a limited practice in on Friday. Therefore, Alonzo Moore could make for a sneaky fantasy option in Week 7 given the Stallions’ aforementioned funnel defense and the injuries plaguing players in front of him. Moore has brought in 11 of 18 targets for 193 yards thus far on the season.

Salt Lake Stallions

  •  QB Josh Woodrum continued to make considerable progress in Week 6, totaling 243 yards and two passing touchdowns. The tight end duo of Nick Truesdell (5-67-1) and Anthony Denham (4-42-1) were especially impressive against the Express, a team that’s had trouble covering the position all season. Woodrum has now completed 55 of 85 passes for 623 yards over the last two games, albeit with a 3:3 TD:INT.
  • RB Joel Bouagnon turned in a workman-like effort with 19 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown in Week 6. The debuting Terron Ward also enjoyed a brief but successful AAF debut by turning just three carries into 24 yards. Ward brings a solid NFL resume from his days as an Atlanta Falcon and has the talent to begin eating some into Bouagnon’s snap share over time if he’s able to surpass Terrell Newby. The Commanders set up as a good matchup for whomever totes the rock for Salt Lake this week, as they’re allowing nearly five yards per carry for the season.
  • De’Mornay Pierson-El and Adonis Jennings seem to be taking clear leadership of the wide receiver corps. The former continues to be the workhorse of the group with a team-high 36 targets, but Jennings is now a relatively close second with 29, 13 of them having come in the last two games. Jennings notably saw a huge boost in air yards in Week 6 (170), and he’ll be in great position this week versus a San Antonio squad allowing the most (2,153) for the season.

 

*Statistics courtesy of www.noextrapoints.com