With the NHL preparing for the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, theScore’s Jack Browne, along with David P. Woods, Daniel Wilkins, and Mitch Sanderson, imagines what a 33rd NFL team would look like – but with some added twists and turns to the league’s expansion draft formula.

Imagining NFL Expansion

  • Part 1: Spitfires are born
  • Part 2: Unprotected players are chosen (June 20)
  • Part 3: Spitfires fill roster, make shock FA signing (June 21)

The NFL is in crisis!

For reasons unknown, the NFL is forced to create an expansion franchise in London for the 2017 season, maybe because of Brexit, though some have speculated aliens are behind it.

And due to the disaster of the Houston Texans’ first season after expansion in 2002, the league must set out rules to make an actually competitive expansion team (damn you, aliens and/or Brexit!).

So welcome to the NFL, the London Spitfires.

Putting aside the nightmarish logistics of such a move, theScore will attempt to fill out a roster for the Spitfires via an expansion draft in a three-part series, but with significant differences to the process.

Here are the non-contract related rules set for the Texans back in 2002:

  • Each NFL team has to make five players from its roster available
  • Only one of those players can have 10 or more years experience
  • No players can be made available who are set to hit free agency
  • Nor can any player who spent the entire previous year on injured reserve
  • No kicker or punters
  • Teams can retract a player from consideration once one of their five have been selected, but aren’t obligated to do so. If a second is taken, the team can bring back the other three. But again, there’s no obligation.

Because 2017’s free-agency period and draft have already happened, leaving the Spitfires at a huge disadvantage, we’ve concocted more lenient – and hopefully more fun – rules for which players must be made available by the other 32 teams:

  • Each NFL team still has to make five players from its roster available
  • At least one veteran with seven-plus seasons experience must be made available
  • At least one player drafted in the top three rounds in either of the last two drafts must be made available
  • At least one player who has made the Pro Bowl during his career must be made available (the same player can fulfill this requirement and the veteran rule)
  • Every player except rookies must have started one game or appeared in six games in his career
  • No kickers, punters, or long snappers

Scheme, draft philosophy

(Photo courtesy: Action Images)

Even with our lax draft rules, it’s highly unlikely the Spitfires will be able to land a strong backup quarterback, let alone a starting-caliber pivot.

With that in mind, the Spitfires will focus on avoiding one of the main factors that took down the Texans early on in their life – a lack of talent on the offensive line. This will not only help the quarterback we end up with by giving him decent protection, but it should be one of the easier positions to target and will also allow the Spitfires to be a run-first team.

This, of course, means finding intriguing options at running back will be another main priority. Hopefully, some young backs are available, but if the Spitfires have to take a solid veteran at the tail end of his career, it shouldn’t matter. Remember: the main goal is to make this team as competitive as possible right now.

On the defensive side of the ball, the philosophy is simple: Rush the passer, build the secondary. The Spitfires don’t have the time or resources to build a defense capable of consistently stopping both the run and the pass, and as the NFL is a pass-first league now, it makes sense to prioritize the latter.

So, while teams will do all they can to protect their pass-rushers, our rules will likely force one or two solid guys into consideration.

The defense’s base will be a 3-4, and because it’s unlikely all the cornerbacks that we find will be capable of decent man coverage, we’ll target guys who can play in man and zone schemes.

Check back tomorrow for the start of the expansion draft. GO SPITFIRES!

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