The 2028 Olympic Games will feature flag football as a sport for the first time ever, and that could very well mean that we see some NFL players representing the United States in Los Angeles. If the Games were played today, what would be the best 12-man roster that the NFL Could field? Let’s construct the dream team.
Keep in mind that his roster is based on the status of the current NFL, not the league in five years.
The format is five offensive players, five defensive players, and one sub for each side of the ball, so we have some options in how we build the team. Since there is no contact in this sport, we’ll be prioritizing speed and quickness at all positions.
QB – Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Yes, Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, and yes, he is a mobile passer. But no one has Jackson’s quickness or running ability, and his passing is looking just as good, if not even better this season than when he won MVP in 2019. Jackson’s dual-threat potential on every snap makes him the perfect signal-caller to lead this group to a gold medal.
RB – De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins
Before suffering a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve, Achane had one of the best starts to a career of any runner in NFL history. Over four games, he gained 460 yards and five touchdowns while averaging an insane 12.1 yards per carry, and adding nine grabs for 67 yards and two scores through the air, and those numbers are including Week 1 where he touched the ball only twice for nine yards. He has legitimate game-breaking speed, which is exactly what this flag football team is looking for.
WR – Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
Speaking of game-breaking speed, there is no player in the league who can hold a candle to Hill's electric athleticism. Whether it’s long speed, short-area quickness, throttling down, acceleration, or any other related attribute, Hill is the undisputed king. He’s having a legendary 2023 campaign, logging 53 catches for 902 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the most unguardable player in the game, and it’s highly unlikely any other country has a match for him. Hill is *that* ridiculous.
WR – Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
A hamstring injury forced Jefferson to injured reserve, but before that, he was having another great season in what is a historic first four seasons, catching 36 passes for 571 yards and three scores. The 24-year-old is due for a contract extension, and will likely become the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. Fortunately, the flag football team has no salary cap.
WR – Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Diggs was excellent as a member of the Vikings, but since being traded to Buffalo, he's been exceptional. This season, he's hauled in 55 passes for 678 yards and six touchdowns, and is likely to surpass 10,000 career receiving yards at some point this year. He'll turn 30 years old at the end of November, but he's still one of the game's best separators, and that quickness will come in very handy when playing with flags.
Sub – Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
Injuries have done their best to hamper him, but McCaffrey is still one of the NFL’s most versatile offensive weapons. He’s extremely shifty and agile, and can slot in at either running back or wide receiver for these purposes, wherever he’s needed. Since joining the 49ers midway through last season, he’s scored a touchdown in 18 of his 21 games, including 16 straight, and has been an excellent addition to Kyle Shanahan’s offense. When called upon, he’ll be very effective in this non-contact version of the game.
LB – Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
One of the premier pass-rushers in the league, Parsons is not a true EDGE, but that’s a positive, not a negative, especially in flag football. He possesses excellent athleticism and true sideline-to-sideline range, which is something that he doesn’t get to show off as often in the NFL, as he’s typically embarrassing offensive tackles instead.
Here, we’ll deploy Parsons as a hybrid, where can certainly apply pressure to the quarterback, but also hang back as a spy, cover the running back out of the backfield, and even provide coverage against receivers.
LB – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns
JOK may not be at Parsons’ level as far as a pass-rusher, but he is arguably the most fluid and athletic on-ball linebacker in the NFL. In college at Notre Dame, he played more of an overhang role that almost made him a strong safety of sorts, but the Browns have deployed him as a true linebacker. He’s had his fair share of growing pains, but he’s healthy now and is having a terrific season.
Fred Warner is certainly a better player, and was under serious consideration for one of the LB spots, but since the offensive schemes won’t be nearly as complex and almost entirely pass-focused, going with the more athletic player in Owusu-Koramoah seems like the smart idea.
DB – Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
Versatile hardly begins to describe James, who excelled at Florida State, and when he isn’t hurt, he’s one of the league’s best defensive weapons. He stands 6-2, 215 pounds with the fluidity and quickness to cover like a cornerback and the toughness to play in the box like a linebacker. He also adds the range to function as a free safety, and his presence is felt all over the field.
DB – Jessie Bates III, Atlanta Falcons
Bates landed a huge deal with the Atlanta Falcons this past offseason that made him the highest-paid safety in NFL history, and for good reason. He’s an exceptional coverage player and when QBs dare to challenge him deep, he usually makes them pay, as evidenced by his 17 career interceptions. Sticking Bates back deep to take away the long ball and provide bracket support should make this defense a lot more effective.
DB – Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
Speed, quickness, and man coverage ability are what we’re looking for from our cornerbacks, and those are the areas that Ward excels in. He’s suffered a string of concussions that have affected him throughout his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the stickiest DBs in the league. He consistently ranks up near the top of the league in forced incompletion percentage, and in flag football, he would shadow the opponent’s WR1.
Sub – Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
Two of our three DBs are safeties, so with the sub, we’ll add a second corner in Woolen, who ran a blazing fast 4.26 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, fell to the fourth round, then made the Pro Bowl as a rookie after picking off six passes and defending 16. He also stands 6-4 210 pounds, giving him a rare blend of size and speed.
With this roster, it would be a shock if Team USA didn’t bring home gold. The same has been said about previous groups in other sports, however, so they’ll need to bring their A-game. This group of all-stars should be up to the task, and it would certainly be exciting to watch them play together.