XFL DC Defenders Draft Selections Summary

Offensive Ability Position Phase

RB Abram Smith was the first overall pick in the Offensive Skill Position Phase and I don’t see it as a reach. He was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in April and carried the ball 29 times in three preseason games. During his time at Baylor, he averaged over 6.0 yards per carry as a senior, the only year he started, so his tires have plenty of tread. DC’s first recipient, Jequez Ezzard, comes from the FCS level. He can also return punts. Josh Hammond fell victim to recent NFL training camp cuts this summer — he’s someone I’ve written about as having XFL potential. Ryquell Armstead has been sidelined for some time with a scary battle with COVID, but the former 5th-round NFL draft pick shares similar metrics with fellow new backfielder Smith.

Defensive front phase

Defenders started the phase by picking a 320-pound nose tackle in Niles Scott. Getting the big boys early is usually a good philosophy. There are some intriguing Edge projects here, including Aaron Sterling, Jarrell Owens and former tight end lady Ndiaye. Jordan Williams is an end/tackle tweener with no clear position. Their top linebacker, Andre Mintze, seems to fit best on the outside in a 3-4 formation. DC wasn’t afraid to mine smaller schools.

dc defensive backs phase

Defensive Backs Phase

A few familiar faces to XFL fans make up the defensive line picks: Anthoula Kelly was a 2020 Tampa Bay Viper; DeJuan Neal a New York City security guard; Santos Ramirez and Kentrell Brice Seattle Dragons. Neal was signed to the Washington Commanders this summer after an impressive showing in the USFL. The final pick of the phase, Holton Hill, might end up being the best pick of the phase if he reports to camp. Only three collaterals were selected. DC did a good job of mixing youth with experience in their defensive backfield picks.

DC Offensive Line Phase

Offensive line phase

Despite picking numerous players from smaller schools, defenders, consciously or unconsciously, largely stuck with the big schools on their offensive linemen. The breakdown is two centers, two guards and five offensive tackles. Cody Conway has the most NFL time of the group, although neither has played in an NFL regular-season game. Unless the defensemen add a center to the supplemental draft, it looks like two rookies, Michael Maietti and Ty Clary, will be fighting for the starting job.

Specialists/Open/Additional QB Phase

All three specialists took part in XFL showcases. Erik Lawson was listed on East Carolina’s website at a weight of 303 pounds, which is irksome for a pro-long snapper who’s asked to cover punts. It’s possible he’s lost weight since then. He also snapped in the Spring League in 2020. Daniel Whelan and Jake Schum are both players, but Whelan can also score field goals. It’ll be interesting to see if Whelan is trying to go both ways to secure a roster spot for DC, or if he’s just focusing on one position.

DC selected just seven players in the Open Stage, starting with Tarleton State’s Zimari Manning. Manning played in the IFL, the league in which the XFL has a partnership, in 2021. Simmie Cobbs returns to the Defenders where he played in the league in 2020. Reggie Stubblefield gives DC another security in the camp.

One of two teams to drop an extra QB, DC is now the only team with just one: Eric Dungey. Of course, more potentially higher tier talent will be available in January. Additionally, D’Eriq King is expected to be assigned to defense at quarterback when his time on the Carolina Panthers practice team is up.

overview

Best choice: Josh Hammond, a potential starting receiver from a prestigious Florida college football program, getting into the 9th round is hard to beat. He’s a real 54th man that Dwayne Johnson is always talking about.

Questionable choice: Rather non-pick: Not taking a second QB when the opportunity presented itself, even with a training camp as late as January, is a bold move. There seemed to be quarterbacks worthy of taking a flyer in the pool. If King makes it against the Panthers, the defensemen should go all in on QBs in the supplemental draft because I’m not sure Eric Dungey is the answer as a starter.

Small School Stud: It doesn’t get much smaller than a community college, but Garden City has produced some professional football players. They did it again with CJ Anthony who has also played in fan controlled football. Anthony practiced privately with the Vegas Vipers in August and has shown several teams were interested in him.

Strongest position group: DC selected three solid running backs in the offensive skill position phase, then complemented them with Oregon State’s Artavis Pierce in the open phase.

Weakest position group: Quarterback, almost by default. However, King is one of my favorite QBs in this league, assuming he actually makes it to the XFL.

key connection: Most of the staff coaches, particularly on the offensive side, came from HBCU schools, but no players were selected from those colleges. Santos Ramirez was an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets when Gregg Williams was defensive coordinator there; and Fadol Brown was with the Raiders when Defenders director of player personnel was Von Hutchins assistant director of pro scouting.

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