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
Bolivia began the 2022 season a bit slowly, finishing the first four games with a record of 1-3, with the lone victory coming against a tanking team. It wasn’t until Week 5 that the Llamas burst out of the gate and fired off a streak of six wins in seven games. They averaged 127.5 points per game during that stretch, riding the hot hands of Jalen Hurts, Derrick Henry, Ken Walker, and Stefon Diggs, among others. They quickly took control of the South Division, despite it being very competitive with three tough teams. The Llamas eventually would lose the final game of the regular season to division rival South Africa, handing the division title over to them. The Llamas then earned a rematch with the Ballstrikers the very next week in the first round of the playoffs, and lost that one, too, ending their season prematurely.
A look ahead
Bolivia has just six players under contract for the 2023 season with a few tag-worthy players among Derrick Henry, Stefon Diggs, Darren Waller, and Justin Herbert. Herbert would make a decent tag-and-trade candidate given that the team already has Jalen Hurts under contract for two more years. The Llamas’ biggest mistake from a roster construction standpoint was only giving rookie running back Ken Walker a 2-year contract. At $3.6 million, it would have behooved them to ink him to a long-term deal. In the meantime, he’s a great piece for this coming season. Bolivia has the most cap space available at the moment, but that will change once they decide what to do with their franchise tags. Still, they should have a decent amount of cash to spend to construct their 2023 roster.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Jalen Hurts, QB/PHI; Ken Walker, RB/SEA
Stock Down: Gabe Davis, WR/BUF
The Llamas had the misfortune of rostering the second-highest paid quarterback in the league last year in Justin Herbert, who had a bad season by his standards and finished all the way down at QB10. Fortunately for them, Hurts had a breakout season and seized the reins from Herbert. Hurts will return for two more seasons at an affordable, $5.2 million salary. Whether the team tags Herbert or not remains to be seen. As mentioned, they could tag-and-trade him, or they could just bring him back and be extra solid at the position and have a backup plan in case of injury. Either way, this has been a lucrative position for the team.
Running Back Analysis
Walker is ready to break out and have a huge sophomore season. Who will be joining him in the backfield is yet to be determined. Derrick Henry is getting older but could still have another good year left in him. They just have to decide if he’s worth the price of a franchise tag. Second-year back Pierre Strong is also under contract but appears to be just a camp body at this point. If the Llamas don’t retain Henry, they’ll have to take some of their excess cash and solidify the depth chart behind Walker.
Wide Receiver Analysis
Diontae Johnson, Gabe Davis and Allen Lazard are all under contract for the Llamas in 2023. Johnson badly needs improvement from the quarterback position if he’s going to get anywhere near the player he once was. Davis was supposed to be a breakout player last year but badly underachieved that projection. He finished as a low-end WR3, as did his teammate, Lazard. Lazard flashed some potential when he got some playing time, but had a mostly up-and-down season. At $1.8 million, he’s not a bad third or fourth option presuming his quarterback situation improves. If it doesn’t, he could become just a guy as well. I would bet that the Llamas make retaining Stefon Diggs a priority.
Tight End Analysis
The Llamas have the opportunity to tag Darren Waller if they’d like, or they can look to target another tight end on the open market. It really comes down to whether they think Waller is worth the price of a franchise tag at this stage of his career. They could also just let him walk and test the market and make a run at him there to see if he’d come cheaper. Whatever the case, they’ll need at least a pair of tight ends to fill out their depth chart and maybe another young one as a developmental prospect.
I’d say figuring out which players to use the franchise tags on remains the biggest offseason objective for the Llamas. I think Diggs is the only no-brainer option with Henry and Herbert as the likely other candidates. The Llamas have to attack the depth chart and fill out the roster with contributors who could start in a pinch if needed. I think they’ll have one of, if not the best quarterback situation in the league, along with a good young running back and receiver to start the year. Finding those second starters and FLEX players is a high priority.
“What could be…”
When you have an explosive player like Hurts, it really gives your team a boost any given week that he steps on the field. As such, I think the Llamas have a high floor heading into 2023. I would expect them to compete not just for a playoff spot but for the South crown again. Barring injury, they’ll be in the title picture again next season and picking in the back half of the draft next offseason as well.
Next Up: Papua New Guinea Pigs