2023 Team Capsules: Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers
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
Saint Kitts was quite aggressive in signing free agents last offseason, inking three players for about three-quarters of its budget, and we all know the perils of such a strategy at this point. Thus, we won’t beat the dead horse again. The Shockers attempted to work their way out of the hole they dug themselves into, trading away CeeDee Lamb — one of said high-priced free agents — and getting a few good pieces back in return. They started winning some games midway through the season in a push for the playoffs until they realized that “total points scored” earned the wild card berths, not overall record. At which point, they thought it’d be fun to set records for the fewest points scored. It provided a humorous perspective from the outside looking in, but ultimately 2022 is a season that Saint Kitts fans would like to forget.
A look ahead
With each passing year, hope springs eternal. The Shockers have just six players under contract and two — Justin Jefferson and Mark Andrews — protected by franchise tags. They essentially have a blank slate with which to work. They have the second-most cap space available, which I’m sure they’ll budget better this time around. They have a good opportunity to find the right combination of players to fill out their starting lineup, and still leave enough cash to bring in players who are, ya know, at least on NFL rosters. The Shockers have the third overall pick in the 2023 Draft, which should allow them to bring in a good young player on an affordable deal.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Justin Jefferson, WR/MIN
Stock Down: Kareem Hunt, RB/FA
The Shockers have two quarterbacks under contract for 2023, veteran Ryan Tannehill and second-year pro Desmond Ridder. Tannehill has been a career backup for the most part, with flashes of potential thrown in. He was QB7 three years ago, but playing in a run-heavy offense has capped his upside. Ridder will get a shot to start this year but whether he can exceed expectations enough to be a starter for the Shockers seems in question — especially, like Tannehill, in a run-heavy offense. The Shockers could really use a bona fide starter at the position.
Running Back Analysis
There was a time when Kareem Hunt took the league by storm. Then he got enveloped by the storm and ruined what could have been a great career. Lesson learned: stay out of trouble. Oh, and don’t kick women. Hunt was a pretty solid RB2 for a couple of recent seasons, but fell off the map last year and finished as RB39. He doesn’t look like he has much tread left on the tires. Eno Benjamin has always been a complementary player and doesn’t appear to offer much. Thus, the Shockers have a wide-open running back room to fill, with two strong starters needed.
Wide Receiver Analysis
The Shockers placed the NFT on Jefferson, and while it’s possible he receives some offers from other teams, there’s a strong likelihood that the Kittens match the highest offer and bring him back to Saint Kitts & Nevis. He’ll be paired up with DeAndre Hopkins who, despite missing six games to a suspension, had a remarkable season averaging 16.9 points per game, 10th-best among receivers. Could Hopkins’ fortunes change this offseason? Yes, it’s theoretically possible. And how much gas is left in the tank? Who knows for sure? But the Shockers will surely be in the market for some depth at the position and this ought to be a position of strength for them in 2023.
Tight End Analysis
Mark Andrews took a step back in 2022 and yet still finished as the TE4. He clearly is one of the most reliable tight ends in the league and he will be paid as such when he hits free agency to test the market. With the Transition Tag placed on him, he has a starting offer of $4.3 million. That ought to skyrocket fairly quickly when the Auction comes around. Again, unless the price gets out of control, Saint Kitts will match his highest offer to bring him back for another season and have the passing game pretty solidified.
It’s fairly obvious what the Shockers have to do this offseason. They need to reallocate resources from the Top 3 players on their roster and try to solidify the 4-10 range. The production from the top just isn’t going to be enough to overcome holes in the starting lineup. They need consistent playmakers throughout that starting lineup. They also need to avoid signing players who could have been featured in the movie, Major League. (“I’ve never heard of half of these guys and the ones I do know are way past their prime.” … “Most of these guys never had a prime.” … “This guy here is dead!”) Cross those guys off your list, Shockers. And never sign them again.
“What could be…”
I have every reason to believe the Shockers will be much more competitive in 2023, now that they’ve (presumably) read the league rules. With two great players and a third very good one, plus the third overall pick and a ton of cash, Saint Kitts ought to put together a strong squad and make some noise this coming season. If they get aggressive with landing a good quarterback and hit the running back depth chart hard, there’s no reason to believe they can’t make a postseason run and leave the 2022 season a distant memory.
Next Up: Greece Trojans