The NFL wants flag football at the Olympics in 2028 as a way to expand the game overseas and get America’s favorite sport into the Games. So, I’m picking my flag football team starters if there was a Team USA today. I played intramural flag football in college for an excellent team, and I understand what works on both sides of the ball in flag football. Please note that in the NFL’s official 5-on-5 flag football rules, the quarterback cannot run the ball (unless it was handed off to him first), but scrambling ability is still a factor here, as defenses can rush the passer. There is also the possibility of 7-on-7 in the Olympics (which is what I played in college), but I think 5-on-5 without lineman and blocking is the best bet for the Olympics.
QB: Josh Allen
Despite all the amazing quarterbacks in the league, the choice here was relatively easy when it comes to flag football. Josh Allen almost seems to have unlimited energy as a runner, and his scrambling and ability to move around behind the line of scrimmage to buy time for his weapons—paired with the more important talent of throwing pinpoint passes all over the field—would make him an unstoppable flag football quarterback. Allen was putting up flag-football numbers in the NFL postseason last year, and he’d probably light it up in 5-on-5 flag football. To note, aside from the obvious other options, I believe that Patriots starter Mac Jones would be awesome as a flag football quarterback given his ball placement and accuracy—he’s someone to watch in 2028 if NFL players actually participate and Team USA wants to go with a pocket passer to cut down on injury risk.
C: George Kittle
For a center in flag football, you want a tough and gritty type—almost in all cases, a tight end or a fullback. Kyle Pitts was among those in strong consideration here given his speed and potential usage on quick passes to the flat, but 49ers All-Pro George Kittle would be a tone-setter for a United States flag football roster. His crafty route running and catch radius could make him the go-to guy in scoring territory.
RB/WR: Christian McCaffrey
In the NFL’s official rules, handoffs are allowed, so running backs are in play. But the best course of action is still to go with a hybrid type of player, and Christian McCaffrey fits the bill as a guy that can take the handoffs and make people miss with jukes and spins (no stiff-arms are allowed in flag football) while being a major weapon in the passing game as a receiver. With McCaffrey at running back, the offense can run any formation, including a spread where CMC is running receiver-type routes from the slot or out wide.
WR: Stefon Diggs
At a stacked wide receiver position (as indicated by all the big deals receivers have been getting this offseason), Stefon Diggs gets a boost and the nod given his built-in chemistry with his quarterback in Buffalo. Diggs can take the top off the defense while being able to run every route in the book. He has among the best hands in football, and he’s underrated on high-point and sideline plays, which can be critical in flag football.
WR: Justin Jefferson
There are so many wide receivers that could have been included here, including Davante Adams (a premier red-zone threat), A.J. Brown, Cooper Kupp, and Ja’Marr Chase (Tyreek Hill would not be an option to represent Team USA for me). Ordinarily I would like a super-fast receiver to bomb it to while also opening things up for everyone else on offense (which is what my flag football team was able to do), but a stacked team can win without a pure-speed type, and I feel like Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson would be an exceptional fit on a flag football squad. Jefferson’s Gumby-like route running can be devastating in the open field, and he’ll help stretch the field for our rocket-armed quarterback.
LB: Micah Parsons
Again, speed is critical in flag football, so we want one of the league’s fastest defenders on this side of the ball—and that is no exaggeration for front-seven playmaker Micah Parsons, who beat three star players in a race at the Pro Bowl. The Buccaneers’ Devin White was in strong consideration for his ability to fly around—particularly sideline to sideline—but Parsons might be a slightly better fit as the pass rusher for the team.
DB/LB: Derwin James
This was the toughest decision for me on defense. Darius Leonard or Devin White was going to be the choice at first. But ultimately, I wanted to add a versatile safety here. Derwin James is an ideal fit, as he can play deep, match up in man coverage with the “center” or running back, or rush the quarterback. Also, in a zone coverage, I envision James being able to go rogue and play a robber type in the middle of the field while disguising is coverage pre-snap.
DB: Trevon Diggs
Like all positions in a crazy-talented league, deciding on a couple of cornerbacks wasn’t easy, but I knew I wanted Trevon Diggs as one of them because of his ability to take away the football. The former receiver at Alabama has the ball skills and versatility you look for in flag football—he’d only be playing defense unlike many flag football teams where players play both ways, but it’s still a good idea to target athletes that can do it all. Plus, it’d be cool to have both Stefon and Trevon representing the country.
DB: Tre’Davious White
We could have gone with Jalen Ramsey, Jaire Alexander, or another interception-machine in J.C. Jackson, but I like Tre’Davious White as an all-around cornerback that’s forced plenty of turnovers himself throughout his career. White can stay of the hip pocket of the top weapons on the other squads, forcing the quarterback to test Diggs on the other side. Furthermore, White can excel in both man and zone coverage
DB: Kevin Byard
We want another ballhawk at safety, and Kevin Byard is my selection after another All-Pro campaign in 2021. Byard has 23 interceptions in his career, as he finds a way to make plays on the backend on defense. Byard can also play man coverage, but we’ll almost always have him navigating the deep part of the field and not allowing the deep ball. In flag football, when many offenses love to air it out and go for long touchdowns deep down the field, it can be frustrating to play against two-deep safeties. The superb range of Byard would help our defense play Cover-2 effectively when we drop James back and go with that defense.