In case you haven't heard, the NFL has suspended a lot of players for the start of the 2014 season. 30 signed players and nine free agents, to be exact. Game day rosters consist of 45 players, which means around two percent of the NFL is suspended for Week One (we don't know how many of the suspended players would have made a 45-man game day roster). Still, with almost two-thirds of a team suspended, this got us thinking about how an outcast team of suspended players would fare on the field. Kind of like A League of Their Own, except with drugs, a lot of drugs.
First things first: Every team needs an owner and a coach. Luckily for our purposes, Roger Goodell suspended Colts owner Jim Irsay and the Vikings suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer. Since no other coach has been suspended, he will have to lead this team of hooligans to victory.
Some positions, like wide receiver, are easy to fill. Others, like offensive and defensive line, are a bit trickier. Goodell and company haven't suspended any centers or right guards, but, with a little creativity, we can fill in the gaps that come with any crackpot scheme.
Priefer would be wise to run a four-wide receiver set with one running back because of the litany of receiving talent living under Goodell's iron fist. Josh Gordon, Dwayne Bowe, Justin Blackmon, and Wes Welker would be one of the best receiving corps in the league. The position has some serious depth, too, with Ace Sanders and Jerome Simpson also suspended. Ray Rice is the obvious choice for running back, despite being the same Ray Rice who brutally assaulted his then fiancee and now wife. In about two weeks' time, the Baltimore Ravens will express the exact same sentiment in the real world.
The quarterback slot comes with no obvious moral nightmares—or options—since there's only one in the pool: undrafted free agent Dominique Davis. Although he's going to make the team out of necessity, Priefer probably doesn't want to live and die by the arm of Davis, so this team will rely heavily on the most desperate of 2014 measures: the Wildcat.
Does it make sense to run a Wildcat offense with four receivers? No, not at all, but desperate times call for stupid formations. As for who can play the Wildcat role, there are a few candidates. Simpson and Sanders (coincidentally also the name of a TNT dramedy) are two options since they won't start at their natural positions. Safety Will Hill could also play the Wildcat because he was scouted out of high school as a potential fit for virtually any skill position due to his athleticism. But given that this team's aerial attack will probably leave something to be desired, I'm going to go right ahead and put the team's best player in as the Wildcat: Josh Gordon. After all, Gordon probably won't be all that effective on the wrong end of Sanders' passes and Sanders can take Gordon's spot at wideout.
The problems don't stop there for the offense. There are only three eligible offensive lineman. Philadelphia's Lane Johnson, the 2013 fourth overall pick, is the best of the bunch, and Donald Stephenson started seven games for the Chiefs last year, so the tackle position is relatively solid. The only suspended guard is Giants seventh round pick Eric Herman, so ... yeah. Whatever, blockers are so 1980 anyways.
We do need a center to snap the ball though, what with it no longer being the 19th Century and all. Let's just stick someone there who can get the ball out before getting destroyed. This is where Will Hill's raw athleticism might come in handy. Suit up, Hill, and, y'know, don't get steamrolled or something, you're also our kick and punt returner. As for right guard, I like the flexibility of having another wide receiver on the field, so Cleveland's Marlon Moore gets the nod. Football is all about active problem solving. It's what smart coaches do to win ball games.
However, given that we have a receiver at quarterback and a safety at center, you may be feeling kinda down on this team. Fear not, because this squad has an adequate secondary. At safety, Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather are easy choices. Cornerback is even better, with Brandon Browner and Orlando Scandrick regular starters. See? Adequate.
Because Linebackers are the strength of the team, Priefer would be wise to run a 3-4 defense. With Robert Mathis, Daryl Washington and Aldon Smith forming an All-Pro core, Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham can be stuck on the outside as the fourth linebacker. There are too many outside linebackers here, but that's OK. Dallas nose tackle Josh Brent will fit in nicely there, with Frank Alexander on one end and Dion Jordan on the other (Jordan, at a mere 240 pounds, is less than ideal for an end in a 3-4, but crap, man, we have a wide receiver playing guard).
As for special teams, Denver kicker Matt Prater is suspended and will have to assume punting duties as well as anything else that involves kicking. I like Will Hill at kick/punt returner, since his athleticism will largely go to waste snapping balls at center to non-quarterbacks. Dominique Davis can hold on field goals because that's what backup quarterbacks are for.
So yeah, that's the squad. Which leaves the big question: How would this rag-tag team of miscreants fare? Considering they have a safety and wide receiver on the offensive line and no real quarterback, probably not well! But they would have a chip on their shoulders, and according to every NFL commentator, that is the ultimate determinant of success. So I predict a 15-1 season, with the only loss coming to the team with the largest Chip, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here, for ease of reading, is your 2014 All Suspended Team:
QB Josh Gordon/Dominique Davis
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Justin Blackmon
WR Wes Welker
WR Ace Sanders
RB Ray Rice
LT Lane Johnson
LG Eric Herman
C Will Hill
RG Marlon Moore
RT Donald Stephenson
DE Frank Alexander
DT Josh Brent
DE Dion Jordan
LB Robert Mathis
LB Daryl Washington
LB Aldon Smith
LB Nigel Bradham
DB Brandon Browner
DB Orlando Scandrick
S Tanard Jackson
S Brandon Meriweather
Punter/Kicker: Matt Prater
Kick Returner/Punt Returner: Will Hill
Holder: Dominique Davis