For the first time since 2006, the Arena Football League held an expansion draft to help build the rosters of the league’s two newest teams, the Los Angeles KISS and the Portland Thunder.
Coincidentally, 2006 was also the last time that the league expanded by two teams, as the Kansas City Brigade and Utah Blaze both took the field for the first time (both franchises have since folded).
The nine-round draft, held on December 20, saw both Portland and LA pick from a set of unprotected players from each of the other 11 teams. If either expansion team chose a player, then that team could protect an additional player. Once two players were selected from a team in the draft, then the remainder of the roster could be protected.
Jacksonville was one of six teams who lost two players to the draft. Los Angeles selected DL Mark Crawford in Round 4, and Portland chose OL Isaac Morales in Round 6.
Crawford (24 years old, 6’1”, 325 lbs.), who started last season with the Arizona Rattlers before coming to Jacksonville, appeared in four total games. In his two appearances as a Shark, including a start, he totaled 3.5 tackles.
After Crawford’s selection, the Sharks protected fullback and backup center R.J. Bibbs, allowing Portland to pick up Issac Morales two rounds later.
Morales (29 years old, 6’6”, 330 lbs.) is in rare company, being one of only four players to spend time in Jacksonville in each of the franchise’s first four seasons. A stalwart on the offensive line, he had 57 starts in a Sharks uniform, anchoring one of the stingiest offensive lines in the league. His best season was in 2011, as Jacksonville allowed only 12 sacks en route to a championship in ArenaBowl XXIV.
After losing Morales in the draft, Jacksonville signed rookie OL Jerry Evans to a one-year deal. Evans (24 years old, 6’2”, 315 lbs.) will make his league debut after graduating from Morgan State University, where he was the starting center for the last three years. He has experience at multiple positions, seeing time as a reserve guard in 2009 as a redshirt freshman, and earning All-Conference honors as an offensive and defensive lineman at Hodgon Vocational Technical High School in New Castle, Delaware, in 2007, his senior year.
For more on the Jacksonville Sharks, including the latest news, updates, and transactions, log on to www.jaxsharks.com. For more on the rest of the Arena Football League, log on to www.arenafootball.com and www.arenafan.com.