In a 12-part series, we take a look at each DFL team, where they’ve been and where they’re going. We analyze the strength of their current roster build, what areas need improvement, and speculate what they might do in the coming months.
A look back
The Australia Blue Heelers’ 2022 season started off with a bang — a $31 million bang to be precise. The Blue Heelers earned the distinction of signing the first ever player in league history, running back Jonathan Taylor, who also became the highest paid player in the league’s short lifespan. After doling out nearly a third of their budget to one of the league’s premier players, the team had to spend cautiously and wisely on other free agents to fill out their roster. It’s a good thing they did, too, because Taylor had a colossal bust of a season and the team needed good young players on affordable deals for 2023 and beyond. With Taylor’s injury-induced struggles, the team also failed to get much traction going and wound up winning just two games en route to earning the second pick in the league’s inaugural 2023 draft.
A look ahead
The silver lining to the Blue Heeler’s 2022 struggles is that they have a high draft pick but they also have a deep young receiving corps. Amon-Ra St. Brown and DeVonta Smith both finished as WR1s last year. Drake London, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams are all talented second-year receivers who could take major strides in Year 2. Rashod Bateman is… Bateman-ing around. Maybe he’ll find the light switch. But the point is, the Blue Heelers have a strong core of receivers and a great tight end in Dallas Goedert and the team could easily have a major turnaround in just one offseason.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR/DET, DeVonta Smith, WR/PHI, Chris Olave, WR/NO, Dallas Goedert, TE/PHI.
Stock Down: Rashod Bateman, WR/BAL, Kadarius Toney, WR/KC.
Kirk Cousins is like lime Jell-O: he’s a little bit bland and not very exciting, and he ain’t gonna be the first thing you reach for on the table, but at least he’s not broccoli. Cousins finished as QB7 in 2022, so he did better than almost half the other starting quarterbacks in the DFL. But if the Blue Heelers want to take that next step, they might consider splurging on one of the available quarterbacks on the market this offseason. Cousins is signed for three more years at an affordable $1.4 million per season.
Running Back Analysis
The $31 million contract for Jonathan Taylor surely left a bad taste in their mouth, but it’s feasible that Australia could place the NFT tag on him and still walk away with something. A $15.5 million deal for a player who, at least from a talent perspective, is a Top 5 running back is not a bad deal. If Taylor doesn’t get any other offers, Australia can walk away with Taylor for exactly half of what he got paid last year. But if someone does bid on him and Australia decides they don’t want him, they can get a second-round pick out of the deal and not let Taylor walk away for nothing. The Blue Heelers have 11 players under contract and none of them are running backs, so clearly the position will be a focus of attention this offseason. At Pick 2, the team might also have the opportunity to address the running back position.
Wide Receiver Analysis
We won’t list all the players we’ve already discussed earlier in the article, but the Blue Heelers have 8 receivers under contract and are in great shape at the position. If a deal is right, you can bet they won’t shy away from adding more talent at the position. But if they entered the season with exactly what they have under contract at the moment, they’d be just fine.
Tight End Analysis
The Blue Heelers have two tight ends under contract in Dallas Goedert and Brevin Jordan. Goedert is in great position to be a Top 5 tight end, presuming he can stay healthy. That is something that has been a problem for him. But he has a great contract at $2.5 million in each of the next three seasons. Jordan, meanwhile, had shown some pass-catching promise coming out of college but has been a disappointment thus far in his career. The Blue Heelers could probably use a better backup option.
Without a doubt, the biggest objective is finding some better depth at the running back position. The allocation of resources soaked up by Taylor last year left the running back depth chart a little bare. If the Blue Heelers don’t retain Taylor, they can take several swings at running backs and try to find a combination that can sustain consistent production. Even if they do retain Taylor, you can bet they’ll pony up some more dough for better backups this time around. Aside from running back, finding a backup quarterback — or a better starter, if they want to splurge — and a backup tight end are other priorities.
“What could be…”
In football, making a dramatic turnaround from one season to the next is not unheard of, and the Blue Heelers could be in prime position to do just that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them compete for the East Division crown next year, and certainly a playoff spot. Landing two strong running backs and upgrading the quarterback position could be enough to vault them into title contention, presuming that the second- and third-year receivers don’t regress.
Next Up: Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers