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
We conclude our Team Capsules series by taking a look back at the inaugural DFL Champion Colombia Capybaras, a team on a mission that nearly ran the table. Although there were some heart-stopping close games — such as the 1.32-point victory in the first round of the playoffs against Sint Maarten — the Capybaras were on the wrong side of the scoreboard just once, a 30-point Week 5 loss to Saint Kitts & Nevis. It probably wasn’t as apparent then as it is now in hindsight just how much that one will sting, keeping them from perfection. This team clearly wasn’t a quarterback-driven squad as they had Baker Mayfield starting for them by season’s end. But a well-rounded roster featuring players like Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, Joe Mixon, Chris Godwin, Tyreek Hill, Tee Higgins and T.J. Hockenson made them a tough competitor every week. We were robbed of a great Super Bowl as two of the hottest teams squared off in the championship with both Colombia and Ireland failing to top 75 points. It was in part due to the cancellation of the final game of the week, but also due to some uninspiring performances. Nevertheless, the game counted and the results are in the books, with the Capybaras hoisting the inaugural trophy.
A look ahead
The Capybaras are returning 14 players from their championship team, including all but two starters in Mixon and Higgins. They have strong starters at running back and receiver and a tight end in Hockenson who had the best year of his career with a TE2 finish. They managed to make it through the season without consistency at the quarterback position, but will probably want to shore that up for the 2023 season. They have three picks in the upcoming draft, but all of them at the end of their respective rounds. They’re about in the middle of the pack in cap space, which should give them plenty of ammo to add a strong starting quarterback and some extra FLEX help. There’s every reason to believe they’re in good shape to defend their title.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Saquon Barkley, RB/NYG; Tony Pollard, RB/DAL; Tyreek Hill, WR/MIA; Christian Watson, WR/GB; T.J. Hockenson, TE/MIN.
Stock Down: Matthew Stafford, QB/LAR; Elijah Moore, WR/CLE.
Stafford and Tua Tagovailoa have been fringe QB1/2 quarterbacks during their careers: Tua for a short period of time, Stafford for much longer. If Tua could play a full season, he has the talent and arsenal around him to be a QB1. But the Capybaras might want to aim a little bit higher with a lot riding on this season. There are some heavy hitters available in free agency and the team does have the cap space to go aggressively after one of them.
Running Back Analysis
The Capybaras got quite the deal on Pollard last offseason, signing him to a three-year contract at a cheap, $2.5 million per year, making him one of the most valuable assets in the league, presuming he can handle the lead role moving forward. Barkley had a great season last year after fighting his way back from injury-riddled seasons the previous two years. He is under contract for two more years at $12.5 million, which might be fine as long as he re-ups with his NFL team and doesn’t hold out in a contract/tag dispute. Together, they form one of, if not the best running back rooms in the league. The Capybaras have some depth at the position with James Cook, Kenneth Gainwell, Brian Robinson, and Tyrion Davis-Price under contract. Cook might take the next step in his second season but the other three feel like flyers and spot fill-ins at best. Finding a solid No. 3 option might be a priority this offseason.
Wide Receiver Analysis
Hill, Godwin, and the newly-acquired Watson form a formidable trio at the receiver position. A change of scenery for Elijah Moore might boost his stock a little, and one has to wonder if Jalen Tolbert can show up for his sophomore year. If the team wants to add depth to the position, they can certainly do that. But they’re pretty set at the top of the chart.
Tight End Analysis
Hockenson has always flirted with greatness since entering the league, but never was able to break out in a serious way until just last year. Staying healthy is obviously half the battle. Having a decent quarterback throwing to him in a good offense is the other half. With such uncertainty at the tight end position every year, having a guy who was able to put up TE2 overall numbers is a real benefit. Now, whether last year was an anomaly or a harbinger of things to come will be the big question as the team preps for a run back. They’ll obviously want to add depth and more bodies in case of injury, of course.
I’d say landing a more consistent option at quarterback while adding strong FLEX options are the biggest objectives for the champions this offseason. I wouldn’t expect them to land an immediate difference maker with any of their three draft picks, but they might uncover a diamond in the rough. The real work will take place through free agency as they try to round out their roster. But with a good amount of cap space and few holes to fill, they’re looking to be in great shape to achieve these objectives.
“What could be…”
Short of holdouts, injuries, or mirages at the running back position, the Capybaras are primed for another title run. Again, unless something catastrophic happens, their floor is a playoff berth with a ceiling of a back-to-back title. You can bet Saint Kitts and Sint Maarten will be fighting tooth and nail to stop them from winning the West Division again. But Colombia will be a tough train to stop from rolling. The world’s oddsmakers currently have the Capybaras with the best odds to win the 2023 championship and there is a tremendous target on their backs. Can they hold up to that kind of attention and pressure?