After a dismal 2-14 season, and a wild offseason that saw them survive while many other franchises left, the Tampa Bay Storm picked up the pieces and started on the path to rebuilding for 2017 thanks to their selections in the dispersal draft held on Oct. 14.
Players from the Jacksonville Sharks, Los Angeles KISS, Orlando Predators, and Portland Steel were available for selection in the 10-round draft, and the Storm had two minutes to select each pick.
The Storm and Washington Valor dominated the first round, combining for the first six picks of the draft thanks to a trade. The Storm took advantage and selected two pivots of what would be eight players on the night, Randy Hippeard and Pete Thomas.
The duo join Jason Boltus and Warren Smith on the current roster, with Boltus as the only quarterback remaining from the 2016 season.
Boltus, who couldn’t start the season because of prior job commitments, did make 11 appearances in ’16, completing 55.2% of his passes for 2652 yards, 42 TD and 14 interceptions. His 86.1 passer rating was second on the team (Adam Kennedy finished with an 86.5), and it was second worst among quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 games played.
With Hippeard and Thomas, the Storm not only bring experience, but better arms for the job. Hippeard was among both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year considerations before going down with an ACL injury late in the season. However, his 121.4 QB rating and 247.3 yards per game were still fourth best overall in the league, and his eight interceptions were second fewest among qualifying quarterbacks.
Although Thomas split time under center with Nathan Stanley for Los Angeles, he still threw for more yards, more touchdowns, and fewer interceptions than Boltus throughout the season, and also finished with a quarterback rating over 100.
With four quarterbacks now currently on the roster, it appears that Boltus would be the odd man out unless he can surprise come training camp. However, it is worth consideration that yet another quarterback controversy could start in Tampa Bay.
Hippeard, while calm and cool in the pocket, has been injury prone during his time in Orlando, as he has not played close to a full season in three years. Thomas, meanwhile, has more mobility than Hippeard and could be a dual threat, Thomas did have issues breaking into the starting job out west last season.
It may be only the offseason, and training camp may be months away, but this is already one position battle to keep an eye on before the 2017 season officially kicks off. Nevertheless, the Storm have made strides in settling what was the biggest negative last year, reiterating Team President Derrick Brooks‘ statement that “we’re looking forward to the 2017 season.”