The XFL’s one-of-a-kind football league draft has officially ended, with 8 teams drafting 70 players, and one signed quarterback being added to each of their rosters.
The teams themselves all adopted their identities nearly two months ago, with logos, names and colors, but it was actually the last two days of drafting players, where the teams true football identities were formed.
For the New York Guardians Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride, his coaching staff and the front office, the two days of drafting on Tuesday and Wednesday brought an infusion of talent they hope can accomplish their vision of the type of team they want on the field.
— New York Guardians (@XFLGuardians) October 16, 2019
Let’s take an in-depth look at The New York Guardians football team, and the draft which formed it. Before we recap all five phases of their draft. The first step taken in initially setting the tone for the franchise was the assignment of it’s projected starting signal caller.
Quarterback Assignment – QB Matt McGloin, Penn State/Raiders/Eagles/Texans/Chiefs
McGloin will be 30 when the XFL season starts in February. He gives the Guardians a steady veteran hand to lead the newly formed team right out the gate. If anyone fits the mold of a player playing in, what amounts to some, as a league for underdogs, it’s Matt McGloin. He knows how to battle and fight from underneath. McGloin knows what it’s like when no one thinks you are worthy enough of being on the field. He was a walk on who started out as a third string QB for the Nittany Lions, but through grit and determination, and some adversity along the way, McGloin ended up winning over his teammates and the university. In 2012, McGloin won the Burlsworth Trophy, an award and honor given annually to the most outstanding FBS college football player who started out their career as a walk on. McGloin ended his playing days at Penn State with 46 touchdowns, which is ranked 2nd in school history.
McGloin’s path into professional football went the same way it started for him in college. McGloin was an undrafted backup quarterback for the Raiders, the pro football equivalent of being a walk on. McGloin started out as a third stringer, only to somehow find his way onto the field in his rookie season. He ended up winning over the Raiders fan base and his teammates with the same grit he showed at Penn State. The team was in turmoil and transition but McGloin led them to victory, throwing three touchdowns in his first ever start. He battled all the way through his rookie season, throwing for the 2nd most yards per game by an undrafted rookie in NFL history. Before year two for him began, McGloin was back to being a third stringer, a role he would mostly hold for the rest of his time in the NFL. It wasn’t always pretty but whenever he was called into action. McGloin held his own. He was never cast as the lead actor but always seemed to play his part well when called upon.
Kevin Gilbride’s offense will be a mix of his own experience and philosophies, and that of his assistants, GA Mangus (QB’s) and Mike Miller (WR’s). Gilbride will be his own offensive coordinator and will initially call the plays. Gilbride has run and shoot roots, but his offenses over the years have been a mix of spreading teams out and playing in power run heavy sets. McGloin has the ability to adapt on the fly and improvise if need be, but he can also stay within a game plan if called upon. It’s why teams trusted him to come out of the bullpen in the NFL. McGloin always seemed to operate his best when things broke down around him, which unfortunately was often. McGloin’s teammates in the draft will help dictate the style of offense that he operates within. Every one of the 70 players drafted have varying levels of experience in the NFL.
PHASE 1 (SKILL PLAYERS)
RD1. DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue (3)
RD2. Mekale McKay, WR, Cincinnati (14)
RD3. Tanner Gentry, WR, Wyoming (19)
RD4. Tim Cook, RB, Oregon State (30)
RD5. Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston (35)
RD6. EJ Bibbs, TE, Iowa State (46)
RD7. Keith Towbridge, TE, Louisville (51)
RD8. Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech (62)
RD9. Darius Victor, RB, Towson (67)
RD10. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina (78)
The Guardians strategy for their offensive skill players was a unique one, and fit with Kevin Gilbride’s hybrid offensive style. New York attacked the WR position early, picking 4 WR’s in their first 5 selections, just in case you thought Gilbride was going back to his old run and shoot days. The second half of the draft was focused mostly on the ground game, and a two tight end set with Bibbs and Towbridge. Gilbride even added a big strong armed mobile QB in Marquise Williams, who can be an asset during games if needed, in specific short yardage or conversion situations. Williams is talented enough to lead the entire offense if need be.
This is going to be a versatile offense that shifts personality in game. The three backs, Tim Cook, Justin Stockton and Darius Victor are all different style runners. Cook is a powerful no nonsense inside runner. Stockton has playmaking ability in the run and pass game. Victor is a shifty back who can make people miss. This backfield harkens back to Gilbride’s championship offenses in New York that featured a commitee backfield with the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. That backfield’s position coach was Jerald Ingram, who is now back with Gilbride with the Guardians.
Mekale McKay is a big 6’4 target who can win in the red zone. Very similar to what Plaxico Burress was for Gilbride. It’s hard not to see hints of the Giants offense here with the types of players selected. Gentry is an ideal slot receiver who can also work on the oustide. DeAngelo Yancey can be the centerpiece of this passing game. He has always had the physical tools. He’s going to get a real shot to be the featured receiver in this offense, but I expect a lot of different players to be utilized. It’s going to be a multiple style offense.
PHASE 2 (OFFENSIVE LINEMAN)
RD1. Jarron Jones, T, Notre Dame (6)
RD2. Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama (11)
RD3. Parker Collins, C, Appalachian State (22)
RD4. Anthony Coyle, G, Fordham (27)
RD5. Zac Kerin, G, Toledo (38)
RD6. Brian Fineanganofo, T, Idaho State (43)
RD7. John Kling, T, Buffalo (54)
RD8. Ian Silberman, G, Boston College (59)
RD9. Nate Theaker, T, Wayne State (70)
RD10. Arie Kouandjio, G, Alabama (75)
When your team is named The Guardians. You better have good protectors up front. This is a textbook, by the numbers, drafting of a potential starting offensive line, from one through five. A left tackle in Jarron Jones. right tackle Cyrus Kouandijo, the center Parker Collins, and the two guards Coyle and Kerin on the interior at guard. Jones is a former college defensive lineman who has converted to the offensive line since becoming a pro in 2017. He has freakishly long arms (35 1/2 inches) and is a mauler when he gets his hands on you. It’s not uncommon for players to transition successfully from the defensive line to the offensive line, and former Jets All Pro Brandon Moore comes to mind. Where the Guardians really did well was drafting lineman six through ten. Kling and Silberman really stand out as quality lineman who can be starters. Brian Fineanganofo is an undrated Tackle from Idaho State, who tested off the charts. He was with the Browns this past summer. It’s a great story that Arie Kouandjio is joining his brother on this team. The “Bama” brothers have had rocky careers since turning pro, but they have never been lacking for talent. Being on the same team may be great for the both of them.
PHASE 3 (DEFENSIVE FRONT 7)
RD1. Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas (7)
RD2. Joey Mbu, DT, Houston (10)
RD3. Austin Larkin, DE, Purdue (23)
RD4. TJ Barnes, DT, Georgia Tech (26)
RD5. Nick DeLuca, LB, North Dakota State (39)
RD6. D’Juan Hines, LB, Houston (42)
RD7. Jarrell Owens, DE, Oklahoma State (55)
RD8. Cavon Walker, DT, Maryland (58)
RD9. Garrison Smith, DT, Georgia (71)
RD10. Rykeem Yates, DE, Nevada (74)
No surprise here that a Jim Herrmann coordinated defense would draft a linebacker first. After all, he played inside linebacker for legendary coach Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines. Herrmann would go on to be the defensive coordinator of his alma-mater, winning a national championship in 1997, and receiving the Frank Broyles award as the top asssistant coach in the nation. He’s coached linebackers his whole career, including stints in New York with the Jets and winning a SuperBowl with the Giants. Ben Heeney fits the bill of getting the nod as the quarterback of the defense. The issue with Heeney has always been his ability to stay healthy. The Guardians went heavy on the defensive line, literally and figuratively, drafting 7 lineman including experienced space eaters in TJ Barnes and Joey Mbu early. D’Juan Hines at linebacker could be the steal of this group. He’s very athletic and extremely intelligent. A four-time Academic All American at Houston, Hines originally started out as a QB and WR before transitioning to safety and then settling in at linebacker. He was a late bloomer in college, was All-AAC. Hines has been on 3 different NFL teams in the last year. He was cut by the Chiefs last month at cutdown day. There is untapped potential here and a lot of talent in this player. Hines could be emerge as one of the better 3-down backers in the league.
PHASE 4 (DEFENSIVE BACKS)
RD1. Jamar Summers, CB, UConn (2)
RD2. Lorenzo Doss, CB, Tulane (15)
RD3. David Rivers, CB, Youngstown State (18)
RD4. Dravon Askew-Henry, S, West Virginia (31)
RD5. Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State (34)
RD6. Andrew Soroh, S, FAU (47)
RD7. Jeremiah McKinnon, CB, FAU (50)
RD8. Terrence Alexander, CB, LSU (63)
RD9. Nydair Rouse, CB, West Chester (66)
RD10. Ranthony Texada, CB, TCU (79)
New York drafted 7 corners in this phase. You could argue that the best draft pick New York had in their entire draft was Jamar Summers, as he was one of the top cover corners in the AAF earlier this year. He surprisingly missed the cut in the NFL, despite being ranked so highly by Pro Football Focus. Summers will be an NFL corner in 2020 if he plays as well or better in the XFL’s wide open passing league. New York then followed up the Summers pick nicely with a true ballhawk in Lorenzo Doss. This corner tandem should be one of the league’s better ones. Much like how New York did at WR in the skill draft. The team drafted 3 straight corners each with distinctive roles. David Rivers is a small school player with big talent. He could very well play inside, or outside, and move Doss into the nickel position.
PHASE 5 OPEN DRAFT
QB- Garrett Fugate, Central Missouri State
RB- Matthew Colburn, Wake Forest
FB- Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest
RB- Lawrence Pittman, Wingate
WR- J-Shun Harris, Indiana
WR- Quadree Henderson, Pittsburgh
WR- Colby Pearson, BYU
WR- Justice Liggins, Stephen F. Austin
WR- Octayvius Miles, Alabama A & M
WR- Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
TE- Jake Powell, Monmouth
TE- Jake Sutherland, Morehead State
C- Garrett Brumfield, Louisiana State
OT- Thomas Doles, Northwestern
OT- Adrian Bellard, Texas State
DT- Toby Johnson, Georgia
DT- Bunmi Rotini, Old Dominion
DE- Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
DE- Malik Harris, Incarnate Word
DE- George Johnson, Rutgers
DE- Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
LB- Darnell Leslie, Monmouth
LB- Frank Ginda, San Jose State
LB- Robert McCray, Indiana
LB- Jawuan Johnson, TCU
CB- Dejuan Neal, Shepherd
S- Max Lyons, SE Louisiana
S- Wes Sutton, Northern Arizona
LS- Scott Daly, Notre Dame
In theory, this group is supposed to fill out the bottom end of a roster, players 41 through 71 in camp. The Guardians drafted 30 players in this phase, 15 on offense, 14 on defense, and a quality long snapper in Notre Dame’s Scott Daly. The issue for this brief moment in time is that Daly has no one to snap the ball to. Even if The Guardians plan on reimagining 4th down and never punting or kicking field goal, they still need to kick the ball off. Looks like New York took advantage of the openness of this phase of the draft. There were no rules in place for specific position drafting in this portion of the draft. So New York decided to load up on as many offensive and defensive players as they wanted. Mini-camp does not begin until December, so technical New York doesn’t have to add a kicker or punter till then. The league is expected to have a supplemental draft before mini-camps begin, so it will all resolve itself.
As for the non-kickers in this group. Two of the better open draft players selected in the entire league were Fullback Tommy Bohanon and WR/KR Quadree Henderson. The position of fullback has been deemphasized somewhat in the pro and college game, but the few teams that do utlize it well, benefit. Bohanon is one of the better fullbacks out there and he was last seen prominently paving the way for Leonard Fournette during his great rookie season. Henderson is a game breaker and a useful gadget player that could be an X-factor in the league’s new proposed kickoff.
A lot can change on this roster between now and the start of The XFL season on February 8th, when the games air every week on ABC, Fox and ESPN.
These types of leagues are supported by fans, scouts and coaches for one single reason… the players. It’s the sole reason to start a pro football league to begin with.
The New York Guardians were a team in name only prior to this draft. The players have finally arrived. They are now officially a real football team.