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revrew 08-18-2018 12:20 PM

Detroit's Dark Knight: The Des Moines Dragons Reborn
The original Des Moines Dragons dynasty is more than 10 years old now. I don't remember when I last wrote it, where it left off, or why it died. I do remember, however, that Kurt Warner was our QB and Bryce Paup our star LB … so that was a while ago.

The premise was simple: Build a team of players from only one state: Iowa. Whether by college or high school roots, all players had to be from Iowa. How good could such a team get?

With this dynasty, the Dragons are reborn. And with their rebirth, more story, more narrative, more fun! And maybe even more cowbell.

But also a new premise, a sly parallel to the greatest superhero film of all time and the Clown Prince of Crime himself.

As a side note: This dynasty is being played out and written on an old computer, and thus, I'm using the FOF v 7.2. Yes, 7.2. I just don't have the time in life to learn a new version. Deal with it; I have.

For reasons that will shortly be made clear, I am starting the 2015-16 season, but acting as if it is the 2025/26 season, and I will begin with a full draft (though I won't bore you with all the details over every pick – yawn). Chemistry on (inter-squad squabbling is a real possibility I'll just have to live with). Level playing field off. Firing off.

And thus … it begins:

revrew 08-18-2018 12:24 PM

By 2025, the "Second Great Recession" had decimated what was left of the already crumbling Detroit, leading to the municipality's third bankruptcy filing. Previous efforts to rejuvenate the downtown had been abruptly halted by the riots of 2021, and the city's population had dwindled to less than 200,000 souls living a wasteland of abandoned buildings and empty streets.

It became clear the city could no longer support many of its proud professional sporting teams. What's more, the Ford family – owners of the Detroit Lions – had suffered heavy losses and looked to unload the unprofitable NFL franchise.

The NFL, meanwhile, faced troubles of its own. Surging regional divides across the nation had boosted the popularity of college football, as fans flocked to cheer for local universities instead of regional NFL teams. Federal "free college" programs had further cemented the NCAA's growing fan base. And with a long-lagging economy, the NFL saw its share of Americans' diminished entertainment dollars being crowded out by college ball.

In short, Detroit was done. The NFL was desperate for a solution. And in their desperation, the NFL owners turned to a man they didn't fully understand …

revrew 08-20-2018 11:32 AM

Into the NFL's quandary stepped Jack Ledger, social media mogul and tech billionaire. Known as "the man who toppled Facebook," Ledger had built a technology empire far from the skyrocketing taxes of Silicon Valley in his home state of Iowa.

Certain NFL owners had reservations about the 34-year-old Ledger joining their ranks – namely his youth and his much publicized penchant for the dramatic. But when Ledger entered the NFL owner's meeting with a professional multi-media presentation, a clear business plan, a sharpened pencil, and billions of dollars to put on the table … well, money talks, especially to the cash-strapped NFL.

Ledger had money to burn, a stadium to build, and offered the NFL an immediate escape from the nearly war-torn city of Detroit. The vote was close, but the NFL owners agreed to allow Ledger sole ownership of the Lions and to move the team to Des Moines.

There were many in the group who voted no because of the more "unorthodox" requirements in Ledger's proposed deal. More about that later …

But for now, the Lions had a new owner, a new stadium under construction, a new city, and a new name.

thehitcat 08-20-2018 11:46 AM

Excited to see where this goes!

revrew 08-21-2018 09:20 AM


Originally Posted by thehitcat (Post 3215076)
Excited to see where this goes!

Thanks, Cat!

revrew 08-21-2018 09:20 AM

Though "Ledger's Lions" had a certain ring to it, the new owner opted for an alternative alliteration, naming the new team The Des Moines Dragons. Handsome new uniforms debuted in deep "Dragon Green" and "Metallic Gold," with accents in "Royal Purple."

The new stadium under construction was dubbed "Joker Field" after Ledger's online site,, which Ledger had transformed from a mere domain registry site to the most popular social media site in the world. And true to his word, Ledger had poured insane amounts of money into the construction of his stadium to have it up and ready before the NFL season opener.

So far, so good.

But what about the players? Who would become the first Dragons?

As it turns out, Ledger had certain roster demands of the NFL before he would agree to purchase the old Lions. And at first, the attention the demands brought were a public relations boon for the flailing NFL.

revrew 08-22-2018 11:38 AM

Ledger's demands were simple, but absolute. The NFL was required to agree before Ledger would sign on the dotted line, and the owners and players union eventually gave in:

A. All Detroit Lions currently under contract were immediately released into the free agency pool, even those under rookie contract. Not a single player was retained, nor were the new Dragons financially penalized for voiding these contracts.

B. The Lions already held the 11th pick in the 2025 draft, as well as the 11th pick in every round thereafter. The Dragons forfeited each of these picks, as well as any rights to trade such picks, so long as condition C was agreed upon.

The NFL owners reluctantly acquiesced to condition C, setting the stage for a stunning turn of events …

revrew 08-23-2018 08:31 AM

Condition C was the most fiercely contested condition of the Lions buy-out, but Ledger refused to budge. If the NFL refused, then Ledger would walk away from the Lions and take his billions with him.

"I know the online world better than anyone," Ledger told the owners at the fateful meeting after which he bought the Lions. "I know marketing and modern business. I've made billions in sheer publicity alone. And I'm not interested in buying into a league that's dying. But agree to this condition, and the NFL will see a jolt in the arm that will put professional football on the map like never before."

The NFL owner eventually agreed. But they might not have, had they understood what Ledger meant by "on the map like never before" …

revrew 08-23-2018 04:33 PM

Condition C:

One week after the rookie draft, a single-team expansion draft was to be held for the new Dragons, just as was done for the Houston Texans in 2002. But the rules Ledger required for the draft were significantly different:

a. Rather than exposing only 5 players to the draft (as in 2002), each NFL team was required to leave 15 veteran players eligible, if possible. Any veteran or undrafted rookie free agent in the first year of a contract would be automatically protected and ineligible for the expansion draft.

b. Each team would ALSO leave the players they chose with their 2nd through 7th round picks in the 2025 rookie draft eligible to be selected in the expansion draft. Should the Dragons select a drafted rookie, however, the team losing its player would immediately be allowed to protect all remaining drafted players. Further, the Dragons could only select two rookies from each round, thus 2 players chosen in the second round, 2 in the third, and so on.

c. After ANY player was selected, rookie or veteran, the team drafted from would be allowed to protect an additional 5 players, rookie or veteran.

Condition C set the stage for a wild expansion draft. It also produced a flurry of attention, especially on And when ESPN announced it would televise the expansion draft live, the NFL thought it had hit the jackpot …

revrew 08-24-2018 08:41 AM

With the 2025 NFL draft in the books, all eyes turned to Des Moines, Iowa, and the NFL 2025 expansion draft!

The birth of the Dragons was livestreamed through and broadcast by a bevy of ESPN hosts in a full day of live network coverage and commentary. Several talking heads, former players, insiders, and experts brought their witty banter into play as predictions swirled for how Jack Ledger would give shape to the newest NFL team:

Mike Greenberg: "Before the Dragons are on the clock, Adam Shefter, what are you hearing from other teams and GMs around the league?"

Adam Shefter: "I'm hearing a lot of nervous GMs, Mike. Especially over this rule that allows the Dragons to select from rookies that were just drafted. A ton of research and investment goes into each team's draft pick, and there are two teams today who are most likely going to lose their second-round picks only a week after they picked their guys."

Todd McShay: "Obviously, no team is going to like losing out on a second-rounder, but there is a bit of a silver lining for those teams. If their second rounder is taken, they can immediately protect the rest of their draft AND five veterans off their available list. With the Dragons having access to as many as 15 veterans from each team, taking 5 guys off the table is huge."

"And don’t forget, if the Dragons take a veteran, rather than a rookie, from a team, that team can immediately protect 5 players as well, including their rookies. If the Dragons take a veteran, that team can protect their second rounder. Or their second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, if that's the way they want to do it."

Shefter: "To be honest, I'm hearing GMs say that's exactly what they're hoping for. I spoke to a few teams that are dangling a pricey veteran out there on the unprotected list as bait, hoping the Dragons will bite. That way the Dragons eat the salary, AND the losing team can safeguard most of their draft class in one, fell swoop."

Greenberg: "Clever strategy, Adam. And the Dragons are going to have to be clever as well, if they have eyes on more than one player from any team. It's a cat and mouse game, and the cat, if you will, is going to be let out of the cage in just a few minutes. Back after this."

revrew 08-27-2018 08:30 AM

Mike Greenberg: "Let's take a look at some of the players the Dragons may have their eyes on. Mike Mayock, you've looked over the protected and unprotected lists for each team. What do you see as the juiciest targets out there?"

Mike Mayock: "First of all, Mike, just about every second rounder from last week's draft has got to be on the table. The Dragons can only take two from the second round, so they'll have to be choosy, but I could see them snagging draft picks with the first several selections, locking up the players they missed out on last week."

Greenberg: "So it's all about the chess game."

Mayock: "Exactly."

Shefter: "And there's another factor in play here. If you watch how the off-season has shaped up so far, there are several GMs who deliberately renegotiated and signed their vets to new contracts before we got to today. That puts the veteran players in the, quote, 'first year of a new contract,' which according to the draft rules makes them automatically protected from the Dragons. So you've got guys like receiver Danny Alcott in New England. The Patriots signed him to a new, four-year contract right before the draft. That means he's technically in the first year of a new deal, so he's off the table today and staying in Foxborough."

Greenberg: "So many shenanigans behind the scenes. But this draft is about to kick off, so we're running out of time. When we come back from this break, I want your predictions. No more beating around the bush. Which veterans are going to be switching teams? Right after this."

revrew 08-28-2018 11:34 AM

Mike Greenberg: "The time for drafting is almost here, which means it's also time for final predictions. Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, I want to hear two names from you. One easy prediction, the obvious name, the slam dunk choice. And one dark horse, who you think the Dragons might mine a little deeper to get. Mike, let's start with you."

Mike Mayock: "Well, I'm going to go with a theme here, because I think there's a couple of real possibilities for the capital city of Iowa, Des Moines Dragons to take some popular Iowa athletes. The slam dunk prediction is Cornerback Ashton Dodge of the Seahawks. Dodge is a smart, veteran cornerback who is popular with the fans and a mentor in the locker room. And let's not forget, he's a hometown favorite after winning a bowl game with a walk-off pick six for Iowa State eight years ago. Yes, he's 30 years old, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dragons take a mix of young bucks and seasoned leaders. Dodge is smart, very physical, and he'd be a great leader for a new team."

Greenberg: "Before we get to your dark horse candidate, Mike, I want to hear from McShay. Todd, who is your certain choice?"

Todd McShay: "Well if Mayock is taking Iowa athletes, I have a good idea who his dark horse is, but for me, the slam dunk pick is defensive end Clarence Badalyan out of Kansas City. Frankly, I think everyone is shocked the Chiefs left him unprotected. Sure, he's in the last year of his contract and is going to break the bank next year, but I would have expected the Chiefs to try to trade him to the Dragons, rather than leave him out there for the draft. He can play the 3-4 or move inside and wreak havoc in a 4-3 pass rush. I think the Dragons snag him and pay him the moon to keep him around for a long time."

Greenberg: "Todd, you think you know Mike's dark horse?"

McShay: "Another Iowa athlete? How about Satterfield?"

Mayock: "That's exactly right, Todd. The Houston Texans have left unprotected tight end Kelvin Satterfield, also of Iowa State. The kid is only in his third year, and they love him in Iowa. I'm surprised the Texans left him in the wind, but he has struggled to stay healthy, so it looks like they're just not willing to risk it on the former third rounder. He doesn't have the stats, no one outside of Iowa really knows who he is, but he's fast, he can catch, if he can stay healthy, he could be a star."

Greenberg: "And your final prediction, Todd?"

McShay: "I like the kind of young players you can build around, and right guard Drew Pritchett of the Eagles may be a hidden gem. He's stuck on the depth chart behind their interior line in Philly, so I think they were hoping he'd sneak past the Dragons. I don't see it happening. Pritchett is a road grader, and while he might not be a top pick for Des Moines, he could easily be the starter on opening day."

Greenberg: "The predictions are in the books, and the Dragons are on the clock! When we come back, we'll have the first pick of the 2025 NFL expansion draft!"

revrew 08-29-2018 10:50 AM

Mike Greenberg: "It's pandemonium here in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa! There are a sea of brand new, Dragon jerseys, Hawkeye and Cyclone jerseys, and it feels like the entire state of Iowa is in this arena right now, screaming and cheering their heads off! NFL Commissioner James Gordon has just announced the first ever draft selection and thus inaugural member, the first Des Moines Dragon, in history, and needless to say, the announcement was a huge hit with the fans here in Iowa. Let's go back and replay the Commissioner's announcement, and I want you to hear how this arena just erupted when the announcement was made."

Cut to video of NFL Commissioner James Gordon: "With the first selection of the 2025 NFL expansion draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Mitch Plante, safety, … {noise drowns out words} … safety, Washington Warriors."

Greenberg: "So that just happened, and needless to say, it was a popular pick here in Des Moines. Plante was drafted just a week ago with the third selection of second round of the rookie draft. But Mitch, repack your bags, you're leaving D.C. to come back to Iowa!"

Mike Mayock: "Mitch Plante, as the hometown fans likely know, was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist for the Iowa State Cyclones last year, and a First Team Big 12 safety."

Todd McShay: "And it makes sense, given Jack Ledger's flair for the public eye, that he would use the Dragons' first pick on an Iowa native. Just like you were suggesting, Mayock."

Greenberg: "I want to touch on two things about this pick. The first is the process. Washington can now protect every other rookie on their team, as well as five veterans, from being drafted by the Dragons. They have 10 minutes – or more, if the Dragons use all of their clock time – to submit the names of those protected players. Because there's a lesser-known rule in this draft that the Dragons cannot select two players from the same team back-to-back. That just gives the other teams more time to submit their lists of protected players to the commissioner and to the Dragons. The other point I want to touch on, I'm actually going to turn over to Mel Kiper. Mel, as always, is the NFL's everything draft-related expert par excellence, and Mel will be on hand with us to talk about what the rookies the Dragons draft bring to the table for their new team. Mel, I assume you can start to hear me now? The noise dying down a bit?"

Mel Kiper: "Yes, Mike, I'm here!"

Greenberg: "Mel, what can you tell us about the very first Dragon?"

revrew 08-29-2018 10:52 AM

Mel Kiper: "It's hardly a surprise the Dragons selected Mitch Plante, a safety out of Iowa State. What is a surprise, frankly, is that he was even available for the Dragons to take. Remember, all first round picks from last week's draft are ineligible for today's expansion draft, and there are many – myself included – who thought Plante would be a first-round rookie selection.

"But Plante fell through to the second round, Washington picked him up, and now the Dragons have swooped in and stolen him away. And this guy is a steal. He has a nose for the ball, with 5 interceptions his senior year and 13 over his college career. As Mike Mayock pointed out, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. And this guy is also a HUGE hitter. I mean he crushes people over the middle. He's blazing fast, and he hits like a sledgehammer. Truly an exceptional athlete, and not only should he start for the Dragons, but he may have ProBowl selections in his future.

"The knock on Plante is that he is a little short for the safety position, only 5'10", so he may struggle with some of the taller tight ends around the league, and he doesn't shed blockers well, so he can get lost close to the line. I think that's why he fell to the second round, but in space this guy is a headhunter and a playmaker, and Dragons are off to a (dare I say it, Mike?) a blazing start."

1. SS Mitch Plante, R, 47/71

revrew 08-30-2018 09:12 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the second selection of the 2025 NFL expansion draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … tight end, Kelvin Satterfield, Houston Texans."

Mike Greenberg: "Another eruption from the crowd here at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines! I think this is a popular pick as well."

Todd McShay: "Kudos to our broadcast partner, Mike Mayock. You actually called this one before the draft."

Mike Mayock: "Well, it looks like Jack Ledger, owner of the Dragons, is making a popular statement to the fans right away, drafting two players, back to back, from Iowa State University. And like I said before the show, Satterfield is a fast tight end who can get down the seam in a hurry or make the cut and run away from linebackers in the flat. He's only in his third year in the league, and I suspect he would have been on the Texans' protected list if it weren't for a high-ankle sprain that plagued him most of his rookie year and a broken leg that cost him his sophomore campaign. He just hasn't been able to get on the field."

Greenberg: "I want to bring something up, here. This makes two picks, back-to-back, of Iowa State Cyclones. But this is 'The Hawkeye State,' right? Can we expect the Dragons to pick some Hawkeyes?"

McShay: "They may call it the Hawkeye State, but the Iowa Hawkeyes have fallen on tough years of late. After the unexpected retirement of long-time coach Kirk Ferentz due to health concerns several years ago, the Hawkeyes have been cellar dwellers in the Big 10, while Iowa State has been the team to beat. The Cyclones have two top 10 finishes nationally in the last 5 years, and with churning out players like Plante and Hatterfield, it's easy to see why."

Greenberg: "Will the Dragons pick another Iowa State player next to score the Cyclone hat trick, or will we see another school represented today? More from the 2025 NFL expansion draft right after this."

2. TE Kelvin Satterfield, 3, 51/67

revrew 08-31-2018 10:44 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the third selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Colby Gibson, tackle, New England Patriots."

Mike Greenberg: "Gibson … is he a veteran, or …?"

Mike Mayock: "No, he's a rookie, second round pick of the Patriots."

Greenberg: "Oh! Another rookie, another second rounder. That means the Dragons have used both of their second round rookie selections – just like you predicted, Mike, starting with players they missed out on last week but have the chance to select today – but that means the Dragons are done with second rounders. Every other team in the NFL besides Washington and New England, their second round picks are safe."

Adam Shefter: "And you gotta believe there are 29 general managers around the league who are breathing a huge sigh of relief right now."

Todd McShay: "No kidding. But can I point out something? This is funny. The Dragons' first two selections were Iowa State alumni. Colby Gibson was drafted out of … wait for it … the University of Northern Iowa."

Greenberg: "What? Another Iowa player? Are you kidding me? Dragons Owner Jack Ledger is clearly looking to make a positive PR splash by grabbing players from Iowa right off the bat. Dragons fans have to be happy about this."

"It is a curious choice, though."

Greenberg: "Let's hear more about that from Mel Kiper. Mel is standing by, ready to give us the low down on any players plucked from the rookie pool. And with Colby Gibson being taken off the board, the Dragons have used up their second-round rookie picks. Mel Kiper, what do you think of this selection?"

revrew 08-31-2018 10:46 AM

Mel Kiper: "Greeny, I have to admit, I am dumbfounded by this choice. Colby Gibson was selected with the 28th pick of the second round last week. Surely the Dragons would have benefited more from a higher selection, like linebacker Johnny Junker, who the Eagles took with the first pick of the second round, or if they wanted a tackle, why not grab Ken Whitfield from Cleveland, who was taken at 2.11?"

Mike Greenberg: "Could it be, Mel, that the Dragons are planning to pluck veterans from Philly or Cleveland, or that they have an eye on a third rounder from those teams? Taking a second rounder from a team, our viewers should understand, means that team gets to protect every other player in their draft class as well as 5 additional veterans."

Mike Mayock: "It could be that there was just no one else on the Patriots' eligible list the Dragons were interested in."

Todd McShay: "Or maybe Jack Ledger was just reaching for another Iowa player."

Kiper: "If he was, it was too much of a reach. Or at least, I think he had better options. But let me tell you about Gibson. He's a strong, powerful blocker out of Northern Iowa, where he really pushed the competition around. At 6'3" with long arms, he's got the build you want for an NFL tackle. But there are questions about how his game will translate, and that's why he slipped to the second round. He hasn't seen NFL-caliber competition, and can he develop the footwork needed to stop the elite pass rushers he's going to see at the next level? He was a good choice for the Patriots, who are set at left tackle for now and don't need to push Gibson into the lineup. But was he a good choice for the Dragons? We may find out sooner than Gibson is ready for."

3. LT Colby Gibson, R, 26/67

revrew 09-04-2018 12:10 PM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the fourth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Dale Griffin, linebacker, Tennessee Titans."

Mike Greenberg: "Someone get me the biographical information on Griffin. Is this our fourth Iowa player?"

Mike Mayock: "No, Griffin is from Vanderbilt."

Greenberg: "There it is! Our first player who didn't come out an Iowa school. Looks like Jack Ledger was starting with a trifecta of Iowans to pump up the crowd – and it worked marvelously, I should say – but we're moving on to the rest of the roster. Gentlemen, what can you tell us about linebacker Dale Griffin?"

Mayock: "This was a player I had on my watch list. Tennessee drafted Griffin in the fourth round last year, and his spent his rookie season backing up middle linebacker Gary Schulz. But Griffin looked solid in preseason action and practices, and I was a little surprised Tennessee left him available, but then, when you have to leave 15, there are going to be some quality players."

Todd McShay: "And these are the kind of players that you might expect the Dragons to target. Younger up-and-comers that will get more of a look on a new team than sitting on someone else's depth chart. I know several squads left older and pricey veterans on their unprotected list, but so far the Dragons aren't biting. Clearly Ledger is thinking long-term."

4. MLB Dale Griffin, 2, 46/67

revrew 09-05-2018 10:45 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the fifth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Mitch Wells, cornerback, Indianapolis Colts."

Mike Greenberg: "Now, THIS player was on my prediction list. I don't care about the contract disputes, I don't care about his more diminutive size, Mitch Wells can PLAY. And how the Colts could leave a 25-year-old player with a ProBowl on his resume on the unprotected list, I don't get it."

Adam Shefter: "The only way Wells makes it onto the unprotected list is the 15-player mandate. And I think the Colts realized: one, his contract demands and threatened holdout were going to be a distraction; and, two, every GM in the league knew Indy was shopping Wells, so his trade value was rock bottom. Frankly, I think Indianapolis unloaded a headache, and it's Jack Ledger's headache now."

Greenberg: "I'm guessing Ledger will happily take a pair of aspirin if he can take Wells, too. There just aren't that many lockdown corners available."

Mike Mayock: "And that's where you're touching on it. Wells is a man-to-man specialist who sticks like glue, even to receivers six inches taller than he is. And he hits ball carriers like a safety. He has speed to burn, and along with the rookie safety, Mitch Plante, he'll give the fledgling Dragon secondary a measure of legitimacy."

5. CB Mitch Wells, 6, 61/61

revrew 09-06-2018 08:56 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the sixth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Ashton Dodge, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks."

Mike Greenberg: "And BOOM! My man, Mike Mayock, goes two for two on the predictions!"

Todd McShay: "Not only that, but adding the veteran Dodge to Wells and Plante gives the Dragons instant respectability in the secondary. What's more, all three are head hunters who strike fear into opponents. Do you remember when Seattle was known as the Legion of Boom? It looks like the Dragons are building the same model."

Greenberg: "Have you ever seen the fans at a draft so pumped? This is the third Iowa State player to find his way onto the Dragons roster, and these Iowans are eating it up."

McShay: "It's a raucous atmosphere in the Wells Fargo Center, to be sure. Six picks in the books, and four of them from Iowa schools …"

6. CB Ashton Dodge, 8, 60/60

revrew 09-07-2018 08:58 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the seventh selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Fred McLane, guard, Denver Broncos."

Mike Mayock: "Going right back to Iowa, the Dragons take the first Hawkeye of the night!"

Mike Greenberg: "Second year player out of the University of Iowa, what can you tell us about him, Mayock?"

Mayock: "He's stout, strong, a mauler in the trenches. He's only 21, so he's still growing into his body and still raw in terms of technique, but he was good enough at Iowa for Denver to take him last year in the third."

Todd McShay: (quietly interrupting) "Um, guys … ?"

7. G, Fred McLane, 2, 34/68

revrew 09-08-2018 12:29 PM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the eighth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Malachi Ellison, tackle, New York Giants."

Mike Greenberg: "Now, we're starting to see the selections many expected. The Dragons got their second-round picks early, and now they're putting the veteran pieces in place. I like this move. Ellison is a starter in this league, and the Giants were pushed into leaving someone solid on the draft-eligible list."

Mike Mayock: "The Giants drafting a tackle in the second round this year actually makes a lot of sense now. They were reading the tea leaves. Clever."

Greenberg: "What do you mean?"

Mayock: "The Giants must have calculated that if Ellison were taken in expansion, they would have a rookie in place to replace him. But if the Dragons took their 2nd round rookie, the Giants likely would have used one of their 5 veteran protections on Ellison. Either way, the Giants have a tackle – Ellison or the rookie."

Greenberg: "Well, now the Dragons have a tackle. Two of them and a guard. Just like the secondary, the O-line is shaping up."

Todd McShay: (interjecting): "No way!"

Greenberg: "What?"

McShay: "Guys … you aren't going to believe this …"

8. T Malachi Ellison, 9, 53/53

revrew 09-10-2018 09:35 AM

Mike Greenberg: "What is it, Todd?"

Todd McShay: "So the Dragons have taken 8 players thus far, and we know that 5 of them are from Iowa universities. 3 aren't - Griffin, Wells, and Ellison."

Mike Mayock: "That's what I'm seeing."

McShay: "But check this out: Dale Griffin played his HIGH SCHOOL ball … in Williamsburg."

Greenberg: "So?"

McShay: "Williamsburg, IOWA. And Wells? Grew up in Avoca, Iowa. And now Ellison? Grew up in Sloan, Iowa."

Greenberg: "Are you serious?"

McShay: "Hat tip to the people on for making that factoid go viral, but I've double-checked it with the NFL Stats Bureau. It's true: Every player the Dragons have selected so far played either high school or college ball in Iowa."

{ stunned silence }

Mayock: "Well, it's not like they're bad players. I mean - Plante, Wells, and Dodge are a good-looking start to this secondary. And I predicted they'd take Satterfield."

Greenberg: "But you also predicted Jack Ledger would make a splash by taking Iowa players. It looks like your prediction was more spot on than you realized."

McShay: "But surely they can't be limiting their selections to exclusively Iowa players. Can they?" …

revrew 09-11-2018 10:41 AM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the ninth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Myles Kinney, receiver, Chicago Bears."

Mike Greenberg: "Kinney. Out of …. ?"

Mike Mayock: "Iowa State."

Todd McShay: "Oh … my … "

Greenberg: "Will the Dragons make it ten? I mean, I can see taking the top ten from Iowa as a publicity stunt. But then, then you have to start building the rest of the team, right?"

9. WR Myles Kinney, 5, 52/52

revrew 09-12-2018 03:55 PM

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the tenth selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Craig Fredrickson, linebacker, New York Jets."

Mike Mayock: "Fredrickson was the Jets' third-round pick this year. He's a rookie …"

Mike Greenberg: "Great! We can go to Mel—"

Mayock: "Out of tiny Cornell College."

Greenberg: "OK …"

Mayock: "In Iowa."

10. MLB Craig Fredrickson, R, 28/59

revrew 09-13-2018 10:03 AM

Mike Greenberg: "Thank you, Mel Kiper, for the breakdown on the Dragons' most recent rookie pick. But now the suspense actually builds. Jack Ledger has done the most extraordinary thing: Guiding the Dragons to select 10-straight players from Iowa. When will the streak end? I speculated earlier that he would stop after 10. Guys, anyone want to make a prediction?"

Todd McShay: "On when the streak ends?"

Greenberg: "Yes! Let's get the predictions in quick, before Commissioner Gordon announces the next pick. At what pick do the Dragons take a player with NO Iowa ties at all? A player who has never played in Iowa? Todd McShay, why don't—"

Mike Mayock: "The next pick is in now."

Greenberg: "Oh!"

Commissioner James Gordon: "With the 11th selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Herb Dallesandro, safety, Buffalo Bills."

Mayock: "From … the University of Iowa."

Greenberg: "11 picks! 11 picks from Iowa! I feel like, what was the name of that character from Sesame Street?"

McShay: "The Count?"

Greenberg: "The Count! Yes. Eleven! 11 picks from Iowa … ha, ha, ha!"

11. FS Herb Dallesandro, 6, 52/52

revrew 09-17-2018 02:36 PM


Commissioner James Gordon: "With the 20th selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Rod Corbett, receiver, Philadelphia Eagles."

Mike Greenberg: "Wait a minute … Corbett. According to my screen, Corbett grew up in New Jersey. Played ball for Northwestern. That's in Illinois! Is this the end of the streak?"

Mike Mayock: "Corbett played for Northwestern College, not University."

Greenberg: "Don't tell me."

Mayock: "Northwestern College … in Iowa."

Greenberg: "Surely you can't draft an ENTIRE team from just one state! Can you?"

revrew 09-18-2018 10:46 AM


Commissioner James Gordon: "And with the 40th and final selection of the 2025 NFL Expansion Draft, the Des Moines Dragons select … Ricardo Heuring, defensive end, Jacksonville."

Greenberg: "And Ricardo Heuring is from …"

Mike Mayock: "7th round rookie out of Iowa State University."

Todd McShay: "This is ridiculous! It's a farce! Jack Ledger and the Dragons hadn't selected a Jacksonville Jaguar all day, and when they finally do, it's a seventh round rookie who likely won't even make an NFL roster. There were quality veterans on Jacksonville's unprotected list!"

Adam Shefter: "What's even worse, Todd, is that many GMs caught on to the Dragons' Iowa-only scheme early. After their first player was taken, and they had the chance to protect more players, they specifically protected their players with Iowa roots. Everyone caught on, it seems, and it put the Dragons at a real, competitive disadvantage."

Greenberg: "Shefty begs an interesting question. The Dragons have built the core of their team around Iowa-based players. If we assume they do the same with free agents and undrafted players to continue building the team … how much of a handicap is that? What does kind of 'competitive disadvantage' will they have?"

McShay: "I'm going on record right now. If they don't bust out of this Iowa-only nonsense, if they try to build an entire team from one state … I predict they don't win a single game."

Greenberg: "Ouch!"

McShay: "It's not anything against the state of Iowa, which has produced many fine players. But not an entire squad. Not an NFL-caliber player at every position. Sure, the secondary looks ready to play on Day 1. But the defensive line, the running backs ... and where are they getting a pass rush from? You heard it here first: O-and-16."

revrew 09-20-2018 08:55 AM

Jack Ledger did, indeed, fill the remainder of his roster with free agents, all with roots in the state of Iowa. He did so quietly, as if it were just par-for-the-course NFL business.

But in other cities around the nation, NFL owners were stewing. Whispers were heard of owners calling it a "joke," a "farce," and recommending sanctions on the new Des Moines Dragons franchise. Commissioner Gordon was visibly unhappy with Ledger's antics. On sports talk radio and TV, Todd McShay was not the only pundit to predict dire fortunes for the Dragons.

What all the doomsayers didn't count on, however, was the bombshell Ledger was about to drop on a hastily called NFL owners meeting to discuss the controversy …

revrew 09-21-2018 12:02 PM

"How about a magic trick?"

The NFL owners met in Dallas, home of the grand statesman of old-timer NFL owners, Jerry Jones. The emperor of all things Cowboy, however, had not aged well. And neither had his franchise. The arrest of Ezekiel Elliott in 2020 had taken much of the gleam off the silver and blue and tarnished the team with fans. Like much of the NFL, the Cowboys were being propped up more by old money than by new blood.

Though the meeting was held behind closed doors, word of the strange happenings in Dallas still leaked out.

Allegedly, Jack Ledger was actually late to the meeting. The owners were already in board room, some meeting by teleconference – one even made the statement that the expansion draft had been nothing but a "cheap publicity stunt" – when the Dragons' owner walked in … laughing. A long, pronounced, mocking laugh. Ho, ho, he, he, ah, ah, ah.

"And I thought my jokes were bad," reports say he began.

When an NFL owner immediately retorted a threat of "pulling" the Dragons' 2026 first round draft pick, Ledger ignored it.

"How about a magic trick?" Ledger said instead.

Placing a single sheet of paper on the table, clearly marking the millions of dollars the Detroit Lions had been losing every year, Ledger said: "I'm going to make this red ink disappear."

Then, every cell phone in the room rang simultaneously. It was a simple file texted to every owner. In it … records that the Des Moines Dragons sold 20,000 season tickets to Joker Field by the time the expansion draft had concluded. Sold 40,000 before the weekend was out. Records that over 87 million people had reacted to the draft on And finally, within the first week, the Des Moines Dragons had sold its maximum allowable 60,000 season tickets to a 65,000-seat stadium that hadn't even been built yet, leaving only 5,000 available tickets to the general public for game day.

"Ta-da! It's … it's gone," Ledger said.

"Oh, and by the way," he continued. "The publicity stunt wasn't cheap. You ought to know," and here he drew a paper from his purple suit coat documenting the NFL owners' vote agreeing to the expansion draft rules. "You bought it."

An AFC North owner reportedly stood in a show of bravado, but another owner said, "Sit. I want to hear what he has to say for himself."

"Let's wind the clocks back a decade," Ledger said. "NCAA football couldn't touch any of you. I mean, what happened? Were your balls deflated? Hm? You see, a guy like me–

"A freak," came a condescending comment from somewhere in the room.

"A guy like me … look, listen," Ledger said, losing patience. "I know why you choose to have your little, ahem, 'group-therapy' sessions in Dallas. I know why you're afraid to look at the ratings. The NCAA. See, the NCAA has shown fans your true colors, unfortunately. Detroit, it's just the beginning."

Then, referring to one of the owners on teleconference, Ledger said, "And as for the TV's plans to 'boost' your fanbase, the NCAA is everywhere."

"What do you propose?" asked an owner.

"It's simple. We, uh, kill the NCAA's monopoly on fans."

"If it's so simple, why haven't you done it already?"

"I already have."

"You're crazy," said the AFC North owner.

"No," Ledger said with a menacing glare. "No. I'm. Not. If we don't deal with this soon, little Green Bay here won't be able to get a nickel for his grandma."

"Enough from the clown!" protested an attendee.

"All right. So, listen, why don't you give me a call when you want to start taking things a little more seriously?" Ledger said. Then he threw down on the table the Joker from a Bicycle deck. "Here's my card."

And he walked out of Dallas a free man …

revrew 09-24-2018 11:53 AM

Are the Dragons 'Serious'?
Jason Todd, Des Moines Register

The joke is on you, National Football League!

Or is it?

Jack Ledger, the "Clown Prince of Social Media," has set the stodgy pro football league on its ear by building his new Des Moines Dragons franchise entirely from Iowa-grown players. Over the objections of his fellow NFL owners and NFL Commissioner James Gordon, Ledger has only bought toys for his team's brand-new roster from one store: Iowa high schools and universities. The approach contrasts sharply with a league that typically drafts and signs all-star talent from across the country.

Ledger has been uncharacteristically quiet about his unorthodox approach to building an NFL team. Requests for interviews have gone unanswered. His public appearances have been limited to other business interests.

The only clue we have to Ledger's thinking is the Dragon owner's post on depicting a slithering green dragon emerging from the heart of Iowa on a darkened map of the U.S. and clutching a pair of footballs. Then, the dragon turns its face up in a massive, red grin, pops the footballs in its talons like a pair of whoopee cushions, and intones the cryptic line, "Why so s-s-serious?"

What did Ledger mean by it? Sports pundits have interpreted the post to mean everything from a joke being played on the NFL to Ledger intentionally trolling the very pundits trying to make sense of it all.

There's little doubt, however, that the fans are definitely buying into Ledger's particular, peculiar brand of humor.

The first Dragon has yet foot on a practice field, and Joker Field (currently under construction) has yet to boast a single blade of grass, but the team has already sold out its first three home games of the season and every season ticket package available. That's right – if you want to hop on the Dragon bandwagon, you're going to need to get in line.

"I'm lovin' it! I'm absolutely lovin' it," said Bob Kane, a University of Iowa alum from West Des Moines. "I see it all as a challenge to the rest of the nation. Ledger is basically saying, 'Our Iowa boys can take on the rest of the country all by themselves!'"

Bill Finger, a Drake grad from Beaverdale and a proud, new, Dragon season-ticket holder, couldn't agree more.

"I had stopped watching the NFL years ago, but I'm all in now," Finger told the Register. "We've got our own team, and it's OUR team, and that's something I can cheer about!"

And while the other NFL owners may be looking at Ledger askance, for a professional sports league that has seen its popularity plummet over the last decade, the enthusiasm Dragons fans have for pro football in Iowa is something the NFL should be cheering about as well.

Hm, perhaps "the Dragon experiment" isn't such a joke after all. Or at least, perhaps Ledger isn't as crazy as the pundits say he is.

revrew 09-25-2018 10:09 AM

Dragons Pre-Season Preview
Dick Grayson, sports reporter, Des Moines Register

Training camp for the Des Moines Dragons has come to a close, the NFL preseason is about to begin, and it's time for a look back at what we've learned about the all-Iowa roster.

Training camp highlights

Throughout camp, as many pundits predicted, the Dragons secondary stole the show. Veteran CBs Ashton Dodge and Mitch Wells blanketed every receiver they faced and provided key leadership in the locker room. It's clear the entire team is looking up to these two. Rookie safety Mitch Plante turned heads several times, as well, jumping routes with surprising speed and racking up INTs in multiple practices.

Tight end Kelvin Satterfield, meanwhile, was a star for the offense as both a security blanket for the QBs and a playmaker. Most importantly, the oft-injured former Cyclone has stayed healthy throughout camp.

In the trenches, veteran guard Burt Taylor has been a beast in the run game, consistently tossing the Dragons' young defensive line about like rag dolls, opening wide lanes for presumed starting RB Drake Boyette.

Training camp question marks

The biggest question, naturally, is who will quarterback this young club? Veteran journeyman Nathaniel Witt has the upper hand right now, based on his experience and his legs. Witt was the leading rusher, as a quarterback, for the Hawkeyes nine years ago, and he's still as dangerous as ever in the open field. But Witt's ceiling as a passer could leave room for competition from rookie Bart Dubord, who is more of a field general, or even Tony LaBrosse, who was also a scrambler at Iowa and may have the better arm.

And the biggest concern is the defensive line, where the Dragons boast only one player with more than a year of experience. They're green, they're unproven, and in training camp, the Dragons O-line dominated the youngsters across the ball from them.


The NFC North represents a diverse skill set – the ballhawking secondary in Green Bay, the dominating run game behind Adam Devine in Chicago, or the passing attack in Minnesota with star QB Kris Van Pelt. Every one of these rivals tests the Dragons in areas of weakness.

It's hard to see anyone passing up Minnesota for the division crown, and the Dragons don't have the proven muscle up front to slow down Chicago. The best bet is that Des Moines will battle with Green Bay for the #3 spot, while neither looks poised yet to grab a wild card spot.

revrew 09-26-2018 10:48 AM

Dragons take the field for the first time

Joker Field wasn't yet finished in time for the first Des Moines Dragons preseason game, so the faithful in green, gold, and purple made their way north to nearby Ames, Iowa, and Iowa State University's Jack Trice Stadium.

For the capacity crowd of 63,700, it was a glorious beginning to the new franchise.

For many of the players on hand that day who had graduated from ISU, it was a homecoming to Ames. And they played like it.

What's more, Coach Jim Wells made the surprising decision to play the team's starters for most of the game –– and the crowds ate … it … up.

The starting Dragons completely dominated the N.Y. Jets' second and third stringers. Quarterback Nathaniel Witt played the full first half, completing 10 of 12 and a pair of TD passes to former ISU standout WR Miles Kinney, who picked up like he never left Ames.

The real star of the game, however, was second-year RB Drake Boyette, a late-round pick last season who returned to Jack Trice like a man determined to win his hometown girlfriend back. Boyette racked up 113 yards and looked unstoppable with a 4.52 average per carry and a fourth quarter touchdown.

The defense also looked surprisingly stout, as the Dragons won their first ever (preseason) home game by a convincing 33-7 margin.

revrew 09-28-2018 09:25 AM

Des Moines Dragons Coach Jim Wells, a former University of Iowa assistant under Kirk Ferentz and former offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, is famously a man of few words. Never has that been more clear than in the formation of the Dragons, where Wells steadfastly refused to talk to the press. Not an interview, not a social media post, not a quote.

Was that just because of his reticence to talk publicly? Or was Jack Ledger coordinating it behind the scenes? If the latter, it will surely only add to Ledger's legend as a public relations god, for at the conclusion of the Dragons' first pre-season game, when Coach Wells was compelled by NFL rules to take the podium (for the first time), the press room was overflowing with cameras, mics, and reporters. The entire sports media universe had shown up, it seems, to listen in on the first public words spoken by the Dragons' captain.

The 60-year-old, gruff and wizened coach, bedecked in a Dragon-green windbreaker, stepped up to the microphone cluster. His responses to reporter questions, per trademark Wells, were clipped, but thoughtful:

"Coach Wells, were you aware prior to your hire of Jack Ledger's plan to build a team entirely of Iowa players?"

"He picks 'em, I coaches 'em. That was the deal."

"So you were aware of the plan ahead of time?"

"What's it matter? He could pick kangaroos, for all I care. He picks 'em, I coaches 'em. That was the deal."

"Are you concerned at all that building a team of players from only one of the 50 states could put the Dragons at a disadvantage?"


"Do you believe you can win this kind of team?"


"Coach, how do you think you can win without access to 95% of the available players?"

"We'll win with the players we have, just like every other team."

"Coach, can you explain why you kept the first-string players in through most of today's game?"

"Brand new team. The first string needs all the time together they can get."

"So it wasn't just a publicity move, to make sure the Dragons win their first game?"

"I like to win. If you don't, you're in the wrong business."

"Do you think the Jets will take it as an insult that your starters beat up on the backups?"

"They don't want to see how their young guys perform against NFL starters? I would."

"But what if they take offense at the Dragons running up the score?"

Wells gave the reporters a moment of silence, a scowl, then said, "Let 'em."

revrew 10-01-2018 09:37 AM

Remaining preseason

In their second preseason game, the Des Moines Dragons came crashing back to earth. It was a road game, and Coach Wells did bench several starters to test his team's depth. But any way you slice it, the Dragons looked atrocious. The offense totaled only 155 yards, while coughing up 6 turnovers, in a brutal 42-3 loss.

The backups sputtered again in the Dragons' third preseason game in Jacksonville, but the defense saved the day, with an unexpected pass rush and a pick six from dimeback Irv Smith to seal the 24-12 victory.

Back at home for preseason game #4, the starters came out of the gate very rusty. Young RB Drake Boyette fumbled the ball away on the very first offensive play. And while Boyette did manage to play better in limited action, a sloppy day all around led to a loss, the Dragons falling to the Bills, 17-10.

revrew 10-02-2018 09:23 AM

Dragons Pre-Season Wrap-up
Dick Grayson, sports reporter, Des Moines Register

Watching the Dragons in preseason filled this Iowan with both signs of hope … and of dread.

Let's talk hope first: In the limited action of pre-season ball, second-year running back Drake Boyette ran the ball with good vision behind an offensive line that looks capable of blowing open some holes. The passing attack showed more punch, particularly in the first preseason game, than previously anticipated. And rookie safety Mitch Plante has been flying around the field, making plays like a star in the making.

Now the dread: It's clear this team has little depth. When the Dragons starters were not on the field, the reserves looked overpowered, outrun, and lost playing at an NFL level. Some of that is their youth, and some of that … well, it won't be popular to say it, but some of it may be that Iowa may not have produced a full, 53-man roster worth of NFL-ready talent.

But ready or not, the NFL season is upon us. The Dragons open on the road in Los Angeles, facing the Chargers in Week 1.

revrew 10-03-2018 09:15 AM

Season 1, week 1: The Dragons take the field for the first time

While dragons may be typically associated with fire and brimstone, the Des Moines Dragons began their football franchise in frigid form. On an unseasonably cold and cloudy day in Los Angeles, the fledgling Iowa franchise managed just two plays before fumbling the ball away. The fumble was returned for a touchdown, and the Dragons' season started down 7-0.

But something stirred in the squad's secondary, as the opposing Chargers were stymied in the air. Los Angeles failed to find a first down in the first quarter, and the second started with an interception by Des Moines' safety Herb Dallesandro.

And even while the Dragons' offense stumbled, the veterans in their secondary donned the mantle of leadership. Captain cornerback Ashton Dodge added an interception, and Dallesandro swatted 3 passes out of the air, consistently confounding the Chargers.

Twice the heralded defenders gave the Dragons the ball in opponents' territory. And then …

And then, an echo of glory resounded. A fire, once dim and smoldering, was re-ignited in an old heart. Dragons quarterback Nathaniel Witt, who ten years ago had led the Iowa Hawkeyes to victory on the strength of his arms and indomitable legs, found within himself a fount of youth.

At a pivotal moment in the third quarter, the former Hawkeye evaded an oncoming blitzer, looked off a retreating secondary, and burst out of the pocket for a scrambling first down. Again and again, Witt eluded the rush by rushing for yards. Then, just as the defense keyed in on the athletic QB, Witt found receiver Preston Evans for the very first Dragon touchdown.

The fourth quarter turned into a battle of field position, as the two teams exchanged field goals and punts. But the Dragons were pushing the Chargers back and back in the battle. Forcing a three-and-out and then another, the Dragons had compelled the Chargers to punt from their own end zone. With only 3 minutes left on the clock, and trailing 13-17, the Dragons returned the punt into Charger territory.

Nathaniel Witt was given one more chance. One more drive to forever determine which foot the Dragon franchise would begin upon.

A completion. Another. Another. Within 4 plays, Witt had the Dragons knocking on the door, 1st and goal from the Charger 5 with barely more than a minute to play.

Inside the 2-minute warning, Witt faked the handoff to the back, than turned to look for the tight end in the flat on a play-action pass. But the Chargers had read it perfectly. The tight end was locked down. Witt looked for his secondary receiver but saw only two Charger defenders charging in on him. The wily quarterback pulled a pump fake to send the first pass rusher skyward, then tucked the ball and spun to elude the second. He ran left along the line, but the pocket had broken down, and a linebacker came free. Witt lunged forward, slipped out of the linebacker's grasp, then cut to the right. His tight end target turned to run block, and Witt took off into open green, ten yards from the end zone. Just ten yards, and the Dragons would take the first lead in Des Moines pro football history. Just 9 more yards, just 8, just 7, just 6, just 5. Sidestepping a safety who cut the angle too sharply, Witt lunged forward from the four, diving for the goal line …

revrew 10-04-2018 09:47 AM


Nathaniel Witt had helped this franchise find its footing, on the strength of his own legs! Dragons took the lead, 20-17, with barely more than a minute to play.

Three plays later, the L.A. Chargers faced a 4th down with no choice but to go for it. QB Broderick Checkovich out of the shotgun fired a rocket to the receiver on a slant … but Dragons veteran CB Mitch Wells read it perfectly! He stepped in front, snagged the pass, and sealed the victory! Dragons win! Dragons win their first ever NFL contest!

(So much for 0-16, Todd McShay!)

revrew 10-05-2018 08:38 AM

Week 2: At Minnesota
Despite riding the high of their first victory, the Dragons entered Week 2 with some serious injury concerns. Especially for a team with suspect depth, missing a pair of o-linemen from the starting lineup spelled bad news. The offense struggled mightily, surrendering a brutal 7 sacks.

It didn't help the Dragons were playing preseason NFC North favorites, the Minnesota Vikings, on their home turf.

Again, it was the Dragon defense keeping the team in the game. The secondary knocked down 5 passes and held the Vikings to only 1-of-8 on passing 3rd downs.

Ultimately, however, wasn't enough to stop the division leaders at home, Dragons fall 20-14.

revrew 10-08-2018 08:42 AM

Week 3: Denver comes to Des Moines

Welcome to Des Moines suburb Altoona, Iowa, home of Adventureland, Jethroni Pepperoni, and now … Joker Field, the gorgeous, new, outdoor stadium that serves as home and lair for the Des Moines Dragons.

The stadium is not only a technical marvel – having been built in record time and at record expense – but it's also a monument of modern beauty. Dragon green seating surrounds a field accented in purple and gold, while a handful of lucky fans are made eligible each Sunday to be upgraded into "The Dragon's Den," a cave-like box seat experience that already has fans clamoring for a chance to be included. Massive screens, a permanent dragon's maw leading out of the locker room, and fire cannons that launch massive flames into the sky make Joker Field a fun house for fans. Rumors on social media even hint that Dragons owner Jack Ledger intends to bring live jousting back to life in the NFL's offseason!

But could the team on the field match the enthusiasm over the field itself?

No. Not even close. Denver walks into town and completely spoils the Dragons' grand home opening with a 35-3 beatdown. Ouch.

revrew 10-09-2018 08:55 AM

Monday press avail with Coach Jim Wells

Coach! Coach Wells! How do you explain this weekend's big loss?

Turnovers. 5 of them.

Do you think Denver may just have more talent than the Dragons' roster?

Even out the turnover battle, then we'll see how the talent stacks up.

So you don't think the loss is indicative of the Dragons' problems with fielding an Iowa-only team?


But do you think a better roster would turn the ball over less?

Great teams play bad games. Turnovers happen.

But do you think you have the talent it takes to win in this league?

Look: I know what you're fishing for, and you aren't going to land that here. Next question.

Coach, how do you feel the team played overall?

The score was 35-3. What do you think?

What about the defense?

We held the enemy to 288 total yards. Proud of the guys for that.

What will it take to right the ship?

Reduce turnovers. Land more big plays.

What are your thoughts looking forward to next week?

Seattle could be the best team in the league. I look forward to the upset.

revrew 10-10-2018 09:32 AM

1-2 Dragons travel to 3-0 Seahawks

What started on an exciting note, with rookie SS Mitch Plante returning an INT 98 yards to the house, unraveled in spectacularly bad fashion.

QB Nathaniel Witt may have had the worst game in NFL history. 12 completions for 69 yards. 4 sacks. 3 INTs. It may be that Witt's first game in the Dragons uniform was the last bit of spark he had left in the tank. Iowa fans are calling for the younger guys to get their shot.

Dragons lose, 31-10

revrew 10-12-2018 08:25 AM

First Quarter report

Record: 1-3
Offense rank: 31st
Points per game: 30th
Defense rank: 17th
Points allowed: 27th
Turnover margin: 28th
Division Rank: 3rd, ahead of 0-4 Green Bay

revrew 10-12-2018 08:26 AM

Rumblings grow over Dragons QB situation
Dick Grayson, sports reporter, Des Moines Register

He was a hero in Game 1. By Game 4, he's become the scapegoat.

Des Moines Dragons QB Nathaniel Witt faced the toughest defense in the league Sunday (#1 in yards against, #1 in rush defense, #1 passing defense, #1 in creating turnovers) – and he turned in one of the worst games in NFL history. Only 69 yards passing. A QB rating of 9.5.

The game represents rock bottom for an already subpar season for the quarterback. Witt has thrown for a scant 2 touchdowns over 4 games, while throwing 6 picks. His 55.9 QB rating is the second worst for any starting QB through that same period.

And with Witt at the helm, the Des Moines Dragons' offense has been anemic all year, even in the opening victory. The team ranks 31st out of 32 NFL teams in total yards gained. 30th in points scored.

Dragons owner and GM Jack Ledger is conducting an NFL experiment such as the league has never seen before, fielding a roster made exclusively from players with Iowa ties. But Witt's struggles are leading fans to ask: Is it time Ledger cut ties with Witt? Or will we watch the entire experiment fail?

revrew 10-15-2018 03:36 PM

1-3 Dragons host 3-1 Cardinals

One week after fans were screaming for QB Nathaniel Witt's head, and two weeks after Des Moines was utterly destroyed in its home opener, the Dragons give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Witt showed that he still has something in the tank, even if he needs to be carried by a run game and defense. But completing 7-of-10 on 3rd down and tossing a pair of early TD passes may have calmed some of the critics.

The real game ball in this affair, however, goes to the defense. Holding the visiting Redbirds to 1-of-12 on 3rd down and 0-3 on 4th down is how it's DONE.

The Dragons bottle up the Cards' run game, stifle the passing game, and there's joy in Mudville again, as the Dragons score their first home victory, 27-6.

revrew 10-16-2018 09:05 AM

2-3 Dragons host 4-1 Bears

The brutal stretch of league-leading opponents continued with the Bears coming to town. The good news is the sold-out crowd got an entertaining, if not particularly pretty, game to see.

This contest came down to two gladiators zipping all over the field – The Dragons' scrambling QB, Nathaniel "Crazy Legs" Witt, vs. the Bears' all-star pass rusher, Andy Walters.

4 times, Walters Brought Witt to the ground. But most of the game, it was a greyhound chasing a rabbit, as Witt ran 11 times for 55 yards, scrambled for 3 first downs on 3rd down, and generally wore out the opposing defense.

In the end, Witt extending plays and the Dragons' smothering pass defense just kept the Bears off the field, and when Des Moines Safety Herb Dallesandro ran back a pick-6 with 33 seconds left, the deal was sealed: Dragons win, 22-10.

revrew 10-17-2018 08:50 AM

3-3 Dragons host 3-2 Vikings

Welcome back to sold-out Joker Field for another upset special!

Ever since Dragons QB Nathaniel "Crazy Legs" Witt hit rock bottom in Week 4 against Seattle, it's been nowhere but up for the 10-year veteran.

Minnesota had absolutely no answer for Witt's scrambling, and in trying to stop him, the Vikes left open too many passing lanes. Witt didn't put up big numbers, but he was efficient, protected the ball, and kept Minnesota guessing all day long.

Final numbers for Witt: 115.4 passing rating, 4 runs of 10 yards or more, one passing TD, one rushing TD, and most importantly … a Dragons win, 29-14.

revrew 10-18-2018 08:25 AM

4-3 Dragons at 4-3 Chiefs

The brutal schedule continued. The Chiefs at Arrowhead are never an easy game. And this time, the Dragons faced a rough reality: Their all-heart QB was riding a bum knee. With only one game to go until their bye, Coach Jim Wells decided to let Nathaniel Witt rest through two weeks to return healthy for the latter half of the season.

That meant the first career start for the 4-year veteran QB out of the University of Iowa, Tony LaBrosse. Like Witt, LaBrosse was a threat with his legs. But unlike Witt, LaBrosse was more wet behind the ears than wily.

In the end, however, it wasn't LaBrosse who disappointed, but the Dragons' vaulted D.

Kansas City's young gun QB shredded the Dragons like hasn't been seen this season, and though LaBrosse spun it well, he just couldn't keep up. Dragons drop a tough one, 30-17.

revrew 10-19-2018 09:20 AM

Des Moines Dragons Half-Way Report
Dick Grayson, sports reporter, Des Moines Register

Could the hometown Dragons be turning the corner? Or is their 4-4 record at the halfway point an indicator of an inconsistent, mediocre team?

Let's make the case for the former. The Dragons have beaten the NFC North leading Bears. Three Des Moines victories have come over opponents with winning records. The Dragon D, led by a veteran secondary with all-star talent, ranks 8th in the NFL. No team in the league has found an answer for QB Nathaniel Witt's scrambling ability, especially on 3rd down, and Witt will be returning from injury after this week's bye.

Couple that with a much easier schedule coming up, and you might think the Dragons can push for a wild card spot in the NFC playoff picture.

But let's make the case now for mediocrity. Witt's legs have given this team a spark, but so far, his arm has been a wet spaghetti noodle. The QB is on pace for only 2,500 yards in the air and less than 15 touchdowns on the season. The passing attack is completely anemic, and preseason stud RB Drake Boyette has yet to make a positive impact. The offense overall ranks 30th in the NFL, and the team is in on the negative side of the turnover margin.

The real blame for the offense's woes, however, needs to fall on the offensive line. The unit currently ranks last in run blocking and last in protecting the QB. Rookie Colby Gibson has been completely overmatched by NFL talent at LT, and veteran RT Malachi Ellison may be doing even worse. Granted, any offensive line that is thrown together for the first year is going to suffer from underdeveloped cohesion and communication, but the front 5 – with the possible exception of C Jimmy Alcott – looks completely lost out there.

In stacking the team up against their record, it's true the Dragons have faced a tough slate of opponents. And yes, it does get easier from here on out, including two games against the 1-7 Green Bay Packers. But if the Dragons can't do better than the 17.5 points per game they're currently averaging … it's hard to imagine anything more than mediocrity.

Report Card
Passing: F – I wanted to give them a D, but 30th in the league says it all.
Rushing: D – If it weren't for Witt's scrambling, this grade would be lower.
O-line play: F – Is there such a thing as an F-?
Pass defense: B+ – The secondary is capable and competitive.
Pass rush: D – Rookie DE Ricardo Heuring has a surprising 6.5 sacks, but no one else is getting there.
Run defense: B – Particularly up the middle, the team has been stout.
Special teams: C – Punter Rick Clark is leading the NFL in average, but the kickoff unit is woefully subpar.
Coaching/intangibles: B – Coach Wells has been a steady, assertive force, but he needs to fix that O-line.

revrew 10-22-2018 09:02 AM

During the Des Moines Dragons' inaugural season bye week, owner and GM Jack Ledger doubled down on his strategy of an Iowa-only roster, negotiating extended contracts for several of the Iowa players on the Dragons roster.

Most notable extensions were accepted by:

Team captain and secondary leader FS Herb Dallesandro, 6yr vet (56/56)
League-leading P Rick Clark, 2nd year player (67/67)
Starting MLB Dale Griffin, 2nd year player (49/61)
Team captain and defensive front leader DT Gilbert Powell (46/46)
Team captain and receivers leader FL Myles Kinney (57/57)

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