The Arizona Rattlers have been able to say they have had one of the top quarterbacks in the Indoor Football League for years. Ever since Drew Powell signed with Arizona they’ve been blessed with having continuity, and leadership at the position without having to worry about consistency with Powell.
Now heading into their 2024 week one match-up with the Northern Arizona Wranglers, for the first time in a long time Powell will not be a member of the Rattlers. Instead we watched Arizona swing a trade with cross state rival the Tucson Sugar Skulls to acquire 2022 IFL Rookie of the Year Ramone Atkins. However they weren’t done yet, they went out and signed Dalton Sneed who led the Bay Area Panthers to a Championship victory in 2023. The question quickly became who will carry the QB1 torch for Arizona in 2024?
Some Possible Reasons for Moving on From Drew Powell
First let’s look at why the Rattlers would move on from Powell after another season in which he proved he was one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the league. Earlier this offseason there was some unnecessary drama that may have slightly weighed in to the decision.
According to some social media posts at the time, Drew Powell was going through a break up, when his account began to post some very inflammatory comments about his head coach Kevin Guy. Powell claimed his account was hacked, and it certainly appears that way in the surface. Although the Rattlers are an IFL team not an NFL team I compare this to the situation with Colin Kaepernick when Baltimore was showing interest in him, and his girlfriend came out and made racially charged comments about a picture including Ray Lewis, and the Ravens’ owner.
This led to Kaepernick never signing with Baltimore and ended up being a mess that Kap had to answer for. In Powell’s case I don’t believe he can be blamed for this. Anyone who has been in a relationship in the 21st century has likely faced a similar situation where an angry ex, could access your social media accounts, and use them to tarnish your image. I truly believe that’s what this situation was, but I still wonder if its impact was felt all the way up until this trade.
Second of all the Arizona Rattlers just announced a move from the Footprint Center to their part time home the Desert Diamond Arena. The expectation is that the Rattlers loyal fan base, built up over 3 decades of calling Footprint home, would be upset about the move. So there is the possibility this was partially a move made to distract the fan base and give them something positive to talk about, a quarterback battle featuring two of the most promising YOUNG quarterbacks in the league.
Veteran Rule Impacting Decision Making?
Finally there is one other sliver of advantage this trade provides heading into the 2024 season. The indoor football league chose to make a slight tweak to their veteran rule. This slight change added the stipulations there for Players 28 years old or older, they were automatically designated a veteran. Now the truth is most players by the age of 28 are already considered a veteran. Before this season if you had played four or more games in four seasons or more you were considered a veteran.
It just so happens, Powell played his fourth season with the Rattlers in 2023. He is also now 30 years old so no matter how you look at it, Powell counted against the 7 veterans Arizona can have. Sneed however is 26 years old heading into his third IFL season with a Championship under his belt, and Atkins, just a season removed from his Rookie of the Year award will not see that designation until next season.
How Did They Compare in 2023?
Due to injury, Powell only played in 12 games with Jorge Reyna, stepping in to start the season. For the year Powell managed a total of 2,128 passing yards 6th in the league, 66.9% was good for 2nd among QB’s that attempted more than 60 passes in 2023, and 45 touchdowns were 6th most among quarterbacks. He also threw 9 interceptions, which ironically were 9th most in the league, and finished with the 2nd highest efficiency rating for QB’s with over 60 attempts. Powell was on pace for 2,837 passing yards, 60 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions had he played in the 16 games we saw Atkins, and Sneed play in. He would have led the league in passing yards, and touchdowns by a long shot.
Sneed played in 16 games, and ended up leading the league in several categories: His 68.5% completion rate was the highest in the league of any quarterback who attempted more than 60 passes, he also was tied for fewest interceptions on that list. He threw the most touchdown passes in the league with 49, and finished with the 5th most passing yards narrowly edging out Powell. He also finished with the highest QB efficiency rating among players who threw more than 60 passes. *One thing to note Sneed and Powell both attempted the same amount of passes despite the difference in games played.
Ramone Atkins, would play in 16 games as well and end the season tied for 3rd on the list in completion rate with 65.1%, 1984 passing yards, and 37 touchdowns both 9th most in the league. Atkins threw the most interceptions of the three with 11, tied for 3rd most in the league. He also managed the 16th highest QBR.
Where Atkins begins to stand out is in the rushing department. Atkins had the most rushing yards of the three with 692 yards to Sneed’s 600, and Powell’s 575. However, Powell finished the season with 27 rushing touchdowns the most of this group, while Atkins had 21, and Sneed finished with 17. Powell also averaged the most yards per carry by a longshot with 5.7, Sneed was second with 4.8 and Atkins, who had the most carries had a 4.4 yard per carry average. Atkins actually finished the year with the third most carries of any quarterback in the league behind Lorenzo Brown who has retired, and Tj Edwards who was selected by the San Antonio Brahmas in the XFL Draft.
Statistically there is no argument here, Powell is by far the best quarterback of the three. But that’s where the easy part ends, as mentioned before you aren’t shipping Powell out simply to move on from a quarterback who still could be considered the best in the league. You’re doing so to strategically build in an advantage, and carry another veteran player somewhere else on the roster. The drop off from Powell to Sneed, or Atkins for that matter is minimal at best.
This gives Kevin Guy two very high level starting options to replace Powell, both of which retain that roster building advantage. When really looking at what makes both of these men great, you really begin to see that they are too very different quarterbacks. Dalton Sneed is one of the best pure passers in the league, while Ramone Atkins is one of the most intimidating athletes at the quarterback position.
Sneed has always displayed accuracy and the ability to limit turnovers. While playing in 9 games at UNLV in 2016, he added another 980 total yards, 6 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. During his time at Fort Scott CC he actually didn’t perform as well as he did at the D1 level. He threw seven touchdowns to ten interceptions on the year with all of them coming in just four games. After this season he ended up with Montana.
At Montana in two seasons, he managed to complete 64% of his 822 passes for 6,159 yards while collecting 47 touchdowns to 21 interceptions while averaging 268 yards per game. Sneed also displayed mobility running 222 times for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was his time at Montana that should have told everyone he was a solid quarterback for the professional level. Sneed even had a cup of coffee in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Ironic that none of the teams that actually need a quarterback gave him a call after he was let go.
He would end up signing with the Vegas Knighthawks appearing in 2 games he completed 3 of 8 passes for 28 yards, with 3 carries for 23 yards. He was then traded to the Sioux Falls Storm After Lorenzo Brown suffered an injury. It was Sneed who wound up taking over playing in 10 games completing 60% of his passes for 1,345 yards 25 tds to 3 interceptions. He also ran 92 times for 385 yards and 16 touchdowns.
So far during his IFL career Sneed has:
28 games, 3,536 yards, 74 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions, while adding 1,013 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns.
We should see Sneed top the 5,000 yard passing, and 1,500 yards rushing marks this season if he seizes the starting job. Sitting at 107 career touchdowns there is a good chance that we see him top the 150 touchdown mark as well.
Atkins is an unbelievable athlete with prototypical size for a quarterback. Standing 6’4 230 lbs, he is big, strong, fast, and he isn’t afraid to use this to his advantage. Beginning at Alcorn State, the same school that once produced Steve “Air” McNair, now had a similar prospect in Atkins for his freshman season in 2015. In 2016 he moved on to New Mexico Highlands University.
Over his first two seasons he didn’t play much as a true quarterback. In fact they experimented with him as a pass catcher. He went on to catch 30 passes for 387 yards and 1 touchdown, and 11 carries for 34 yards while attempting only 2 passes. He even played some defense and special teams logging 14 tackles, 1 for a loss, and 1 pass break up, and 6 kick returns for 111 yards. He could have very easily never played quarterback again and pursued a future as a tight end/wide receiver or even linebacker instead.
In his second year with the school he was allowed to see more time throwing passes than catching them. He attempted 81 passes and completed 42 for 439 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. This time he ran 26 times for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 1 65 yard kickoff. There was no more kick returning, or defense although he did catch one pass for 3 yards. Atkins was transitioned back to a full-time quarterback.
Atkins stayed with NMHU until 2022 when he had exhausted his eligibility. Playing parts of five seasons, he had spent just 28 games of his college career focused solely on quarterback by the time he graduated. Heading into the professional tanks fairly green he had attempted just 583 passes in college. I believe this hurt him in 2022 when he was a rookie with the USFL relaunch. If he had more collegiate passing attempts I think ultimately you see Atkins on a USFL roster in 2022. Instead we got to see him complete a rookie of the year campaign in Duke City learning behind a former NFL QB in Nate Davis.
Even though Atkins followed a very similar path to a starting job as Sneed, he actually came out of his rookie season with better numbers, although his season with Tucson in 2023 closed the gap between the two players.
So far after two seasons Atkins has:
30 games, 4,153 passing yards, 87 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, adding 1,018 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
If he manages to take the starting role we could see him top the 6,000 yard passing mark, 1,700 yard rushing mark, and possibly even 175 career touchdowns. All he would have to do is match his output in 2023.
Ultimately this becomes a question of which type of quarterback does Kevin Guy prefer? The High-Upside Uber-Athletic 6-4 gunslinger that can throw some interceptions at times, or the 6’1 QB who led Bay Area to the 2023 IFL Championship on the strength of a stout run game while he acted like the point guard divvying the ball up to his playmakers while limiting turnovers? This competition may have opened up some questions, but it certainly answered one for 2024: Most Compelling Quarterback Competition.
If I was forced to pick which one of these men to start week one, at this particular moment I myself am leaning toward Ramon Atkins. I don’t believe the 2023 was an accurate representation of what Atkins can do in this league. Given the right situation, in the right offense he truly has the potential to be the best quarterback in the league.
I personally believe that ad kins is a better fit for the offense Arizona has run over the years under Kevin Guy. Powell has consistently been at the top of the league in terms of rushing attempts, and touchdowns, I expect Coach Guy to lean toward Atkins due to his athleticism. Make no mistake though, Sneed is still a plus level athlete who could run this offense as well.