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AFL Spotlight: Top Linemen to Watch and Know

Updated at Mar 21, 2024

A glimpse into the top linemen bringing their talents to the Arena Football League in 2024.

Photo Credit to Auburn Athletics

Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, name the position and the credit typically resides in those flashy skill players on every football team. The unsung heroes are the linemen paving the way. Creating rushing lanes and preventing would-be pass rushers from getting to the quarterback each snap. Winning the battle in the trenches ultimately means winning games consistently. In the Arena Football League with Ironman rules, these valuable commodities will be asked to do more than just block. They also have to play on defense.

The aged-old coaching term “always keep your knees bent” could not ring any truer for AFL linemen. With all 16 teams vying for an opportunity at a championship, linemen must be versatile and athletic enough to line up everywhere. Whether on offense or defense, great technique, footwork, and functional stretch are crucial to their success. Below are five of the best linemen ready to anchor the trenches and lead their teams to victory week in and week out.

Saige Young - Nashville Kats

6-3, 310 lbs

College: Dodge City Community College / Vanderbilt University

Professional Experience: Conquerors (TSL) (FCF), Sea Lions (TSL), Frisco Fighters (IFL), New Jersey Generals (USFL)

First up on our list is former Vanderbilt University Guard Saige Young. Originally playing his college ball at the JUCO level with Dodge City Community College, the two-star athlete would transfer to Vandy in 2017. The Versailles, KY native became a household name during his time as a Commodore. A three-year starter, played in 28 games with 22 starts and was a captain in two of those seasons. Following his graduation in 2020, Young played The Spring League for the Conquerors.

Next, Young pivoted to the indoor game via Fan Controlled Football. Following a successful year in the FCF, Young would head back to the TSL to play for the Sea Lions in 2021. Young was a crucial part of the Sea Lions leading the TSL in rushing that year. Young would then sign with the Indoor Football League’s Frisco Fighters at the beginning of 2023. It would not take long for the USFL to come calling. The New Jersey Generals signed Young, and he would play in seven games in 2023. Young made three starts for Mike Riley’s squad throughout the year, and he showcased his versatility throughout the year.

Nashville has taken notice of Young’s vast experience and flexibility along the offensive line. With the ability to play Center or Guard, Young will have no issues creating rushing lanes or protecting during obvious passing situations. With excellent technique, a high motor, and a fantastic ability to pull, Young has the prerequisites needed to play at the Arena level.

Joshua Frazier - Rapid City Marshals

6-3, 340 lbs

College: University of Alabama

Professional Experience: Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions (NFL), Birmingham Iron (AAF), Orlando Guardians (XFL), Massachusetts Pirates (IFL), Billings Outlaws (CIF)

In terms of pure talent, Joshua Frazier might top our list. Frazier was crowned an All-Arkansas selection in high school and would attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2014. Across four seasons at Alabama, he finished with 28 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, and three passes defended in 39 career games. Frazier was a key piece in a talented rotation of defensive tackles, helping Alabama win two national championships in 2015 and 2017.

Frazier declared for the 2018 NFL Draft upon graduation. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him with the 246th overall pick in the seventh round. Unfortunately for Frazier, he would wind up getting released before the start of the 2018 season. Next, the Detroit Lions would call on Frazier’s services via their practice squad. He would be released shortly thereafter, marking the beginning of his spring football journey. Frazier pivoted to the now-defunct Alliance of American Football in 2019. Signing with the Birmingham Iron, Frazier appeared in two games before suffering a season-ending injury.

After being placed on injured reserve in February of 2019, the 6-3, 340-pounder announced his retirement from professional football in May of that year. After three years away from the game, Frazier switched positions, training as an offensive lineman in 2022. He latched on with the XFL’s Orlando Guardians in 2023 but was released before the start of the season. The Indoor Football League’s Massachusetts Pirates signed Frazier for the 2023 season, playing on both sides of the line.

His most recent stint in professional football was with Champions Indoor Football’s Billings Outlaws. Frazier became Rapid City’s first official AFL signing, following new Marshals Head Coach Shon King from Billings. With Frazier’s versatility and sheer size, you would be hard-pressed to find a player with more upside across the AFL. Given his familiarity with Coach King, Frazier is ready to take the reins in the trenches for Rapid City. The Marshals signed an absolute stud in Frazier for the 2024 season.

Dominick Jackson - West Texas Desert Hawks

6-6, 315 lbs

College: College of San Mateo / University of Alabama

Professional Experience: Detroit Lions (NFL) Birmingham Iron (AAF)

Continuing our list is former College of San Mateo and University of Alabama star Dominick Jackson. A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Jackson transferred from JUCO to Alabama in 2014. In two seasons with the Crimson Tide, Jackson played predominantly at Right Tackle. He made the All-SEC 2nd Team in 2015, helping Alabama win a National Championship that year. A physical specimen at 6-6, 315 pounds, Jackson quickly signed with the Detroit Lions as a UDFA in 2016 after going undrafted.

Jackson next played in the AAF with the Birmingham Iron. He played in eight games, making two starts at Right Tackle. Jackson is athletic enough to move along the line. He is a natural run blocker looking to put people on the ground. When he is at his best, Jackson will dominate anyone opposite him, as seen throughout his collegiate and professional football career. With athletic traits and a never-ending motor to match, Jackson should adjust to the defensive side of the ball quickly. Look for the Desert Hawks to use Jackson up and down both trenches in 2024.

Netori Johnson - Philadelphia Soul

6-4, 325 lbs

College: University of Georgia / Middle Tennessee State University

Professional Experience: Frisco Fighters (IFL)

Continuing our talented list is another player destined for AFL stardom. Netori Johnson was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school in Georgia back in 2017. He would sign with UGA after graduation despite originally committing to play at Alabama. Johnson participated in the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, receiving tons of praise from coaches and players alike. After redshirting in 2017 as an offensive lineman, Johnson spent 2018 on both sides of the trenches for the Bulldogs. Johnson’s 2019 and 2020 seasons in Athens saw him as a key reserve in Kirby Smart’s program.

Next, Johnson transferred to Middle Tennessee State University for his final season in the college football ranks. Switching positions back to the offensive line, Johnson dominated his opposition in Conference USA play. He started in all but one game for the Blue Raiders in 2021. Johnson began his professional football career in 2023 with the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League. Johnson played Guard and was part of a Fighter’s squad that won the 2023 IFL Championship.

With vast experience on both sides of the line, opposing defenses will have trouble with Johnson’s leverage and mass. He brings a massive base, excellent footwork, and strength to a Soul team looking to play fast and physical. Look for Johnson to be a key player for Head Coach Pat Pimmel in 2024.

Marquis Burks - Iowa Rampage

6-3, 302 lbs

College: Iowa Central Community College / Auburn University

Professional Experience: N/A

Another player who oozes talent and confidence is Iowa Rampage’s Marquis Burks. A three-star prospect coming out of high school in Illinois, Burks would enroll at Iowa Central Community College upon graduation. The former Triton put up monster numbers on the JUCO circuit before transferring in 2020. With the dreams of playing in a Power Five conference a reality, Burks signed with Auburn. In three seasons as a Tiger, Burks amassed 30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and one pass defended in 28 games.

After going undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, Burks now set his sights on professional football. While the physical attributes are present, Burks possesses a work ethic that is second to none. Known for wreaking havoc on offensive lines in the SEC, Burks will now look to give opposing AFL teams fits week in and week out.

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