This week, the International Olympic Committee officially added flag football -- along with baseball/softball, lacrosse, squash and cricket -- to the program for the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympics.
Olympic flag football will function quite differently compared with NFL Sundays. Games will feature 12-player rosters, take place on a 50-yard field in a 5-on-5 format and won't feature offensive or defensive lines.
It's impossible to project who will participate in Olympic flag football several years from now. But in the spirit of Hill's enthusiastic response, I conjured up a "Dream Team" squad of current NFL players who'd be the most fun to watch compete if the games were held today.
This is no time to lean on a prototypical pocket passer. Jackson has all the tools to pick defenses apart from a three-step drop, but it’s his elusiveness in the open field that makes him the boogeyman of opponents’ nightmares. His effortless ability to evade contact would seem to project well to the world of flag football, where the threshold for stopping an offensive player is far lower. The offense would be in good hands with an ankle-breaker like Jackson, who holds the single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,206 yards.
First, a caveat: In our imaginary team-building scenario, all players would also be fully healthy right now, a designation that does not, unfortunately, apply to Achane in reality. The 5-foot-9, 188-pound rookie’s numbers are, quite frankly, absurd. At the time of his placement on injured reserve last week, his 460 rushing yards ranked second in the league on 38 attempts (coincidentally the 38th-most in the league). He was also first in rushing yards over expected with 236. Only four other running backs through Week 5 had even eclipsed 100. Achane's league-leading per-carry average of 12.1 yards was better than Breece Hall’s second-place mark of 7.2 by 4.9 yards per carry -- only seven RBs were averaging more yards per carry than that. He’s a flag-football highlight waiting to happen.
Hill is the most dangerous player on a blazing Dolphins offense. After Sunday of Week 6, he paces the NFL in both receiving yards (814) and receiving touchdowns (six), and he's clocked three of the seven fastest speeds as a ball carrier in 2023, per Next Gen Stats. Hill made repeated claims this offseason that he will become the NFL’s first 2,000-yard receiver and is well on pace to do just that. If he also thinks he can become a gold medalist, you’ve got to let him try.
Metcalf might not possess the shiftiness of the abovementioned players, but his straight-line speed (4.33 40-yard dash during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine) fits the bill just fine. A couple other notable things factor into his consideration as a must-have on the roster. One, his chase-down of former track star Budda Baker a handful of years ago remains an epic display of sheer will and athleticism. Two, who exactly is going to out-muscle him for contested jump balls?
Atlanta hasn’t used Pitts like many imagined when he joined the Falcons as a “unicorn” at the tight end position. That doesn’t mean he can’t still show out in flag football. Pitts came into the league touted for his rare blend of size, speed and pass-catching, route-running abilities. His 6-foot-6 frame and 4.44 speed has a spot in the lineup -- it’s right next to Metcalf, finishing up drives with towering TD grabs.
Kansas City’s RB1 runs like he’s angry at everything, the ground included. He has a nose for the end zone with 19 scores through 23 career games. He's also flashed improvement in the passing game, already establishing new career highs with 17 receptions for 135 yards this season. Tied as the fastest RB in the 2022 draft class (4.37 40), Pacheco has all the chops to complement his Super Bowl ring with a gold medal. It’s two fewer feats than an EGOT, but it’d make for an impressive fashion statement, nonetheless.
The No. 19 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft made his mark on the combine by posting the fastest 40-yard dash time by a defensive tackle since 2003. There’s sure to be smaller athletes weaving around the flag football field, so this could easily backfire, but Kancey’s inclusion is all about fear factor. Imagine a 281-pound menace tearing into the pocket, no offensive line in sight, sporting 4.67 speed.
Last season’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year joked during June that he would probably play “like eight positions” in 2023. He hasn’t quite done that, but he’s made a large enough impact that it has sometimes felt like it. Either way, Parsons’ positionless mindset lines up perfectly with the flexibility of flag football, as does his top-tier athleticism. Dallas’ defensive maestro could serve as a worthy captain and a stellar QB spy for the U.S.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just keep Parsons and Diggs together and see what they can do. As with Achane, Diggs is currently out with an injury, recovering from a torn ACL. But in the two full seasons Parsons and Diggs have played together, the Cowboys finished top two in turnover/giveaway ratio both times. Diggs has been a massive part of that equation with 18 career INTs. Given his ballhawking ways, it’s only a matter of time until he’s flipping the onus on the other team to avoid a pick-six.
He has the 4.41 speed and the accolades with a 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year award on his mantle, but Gardner also brings the attitude. Sauce is dripping with swagger, from the diamond-studded necklace spelling out his name to the way he carries himself between the lines. Like the 1992 Dream Team sporting NBA talent for the first time, Gardner projects the loud-and-clear message that no one can hope to match the professionals.
If it wasn’t already obvious toward the end of this exercise, speed is the name of the game. While 40 time is far from a guarantee of NFL success, Woolen has proven electric in 21 games patrolling Seattle’s secondary. The fifth-round cornerback, who is tied for the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash in combine history (4.26), collected six interceptions as a rookie on his way to the Pro Bowl. No matter the distance left to close, no flag will be safe.
Surtain shined in his first All-Pro campaign last year, exhibiting stellar balance with an 86.7 Pro Football Focus pass defense grade and a 76.9 run defense grade. Dating back to the start of 2022, he’s allowed a 39.3 completion percentage and 48.2 passer rating as the nearest defender in man coverage, per Next Gen Stats, putting him squarely in the shutdown corner conversation. You can never have too many sticky CBs in 5-on-5 action, and it can’t get much better than bringing Surtain off the bench to glue himself to a WR.