Four XFL Teams Engage in Wide Receiver Trades

The XFL announced more trades on their transaction page Sunday with all four teams involved swapping wide receivers. This is the first trades made since December 18th as it is the latest wave of roster moves being made by teams before training camp concludes on January 21st.

Dallas Renegades trade Wide Receiver Stacy Coley to the Tampa Bay Vipers for Wide Receiver Freddie Martino

Stacy Coley performed well at mini camp last month for the Renegades as they have one of the deepest wide receiver cores in the XFL making competition fierce at the position. Jazz Ferguson has emerged as a big play receiver on the outside for Dallas which could have played a role in Coley being traded to Tampa Bay. Vipers head coach Marc Trestman loves to sling the ball as he is known for being able to work well with quarterbacks. Coley should have plenty of time to prove himself during training camp. He will have to compete with a receiving core that should open up chances to start, but Coley have great speed and showed reliable hands for Dallas.

Freddie Martino will fit perfectly in Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme’s offense as he also possesses great speed as he runs at around a 4.49 40-yard dash and has a chance to come in and play in the slot. Don’t be surprised if he gets a look at special teams as well as he could be looked at as a returner. He showed great potential in his last stop in the AAF with the Arizona Hotshots where he recorded 11 catches for 126 yards. He will have a lot of competition as Ferguson as well as Flynn Nagel have made things tougher with their play on the field.

LA Wildcats trade Wide Receiver Rashad Ross to the DC Defenders for Wide Receiver Tre McBride

Rashad Ross was a force in the AAF as he was regarded as one of the best receivers in the league. He is an absolute burner and can go one-on-one with any corner in the XFL. He had 36 catches for 583 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games with the Arizona Hotshots. It comes as a surprise that the Wildcats would let him go, but this can be seen as a major boast for the Defenders. Quarterback Cardale Jones will have a deep threat to throw it to and really makes the receiver position tough for the DC coaches to decide on with Malachi Dupree and Eli Rogers highlighting a deep group. It’s safe to say that DC improved with this move and now makes what is already a talented offense better and more dangerous.

Tre McBride ran a 4.37 40-yard dash if that speaks to what kind of receiver he is at 6 foot tall. He will make for a solid slot receiver in LA. There is talent at receiver for the Wildcats, but will need to find their number one target in the offense for either Luis Perez or Josh Johnson to throw to when the season starts. McBride will have to make his mark as a deep threat with his speed and could work his way into a returner role being one of the faster players on the active roster. Chow now has another piece to the offense to play with in regards to how to utilize his speed to deep routes or wide receiver reserve runs.

Overall Impression

It’s hard to say who won with these trades as all four of these receivers will have equal opportunity to make their teams and all have prior professional football experience which is a plus. They all have until January 21st to quickly learn the offenses and show off their skills quickly. Coley and Ross should play well enough to earn roster spots and even start for their teams in week one of the season. All these receivers are good roster fits with great speed which opens up special teams returner as options for each of them.

Episode 18 – Ready – Sam Montgomery, Matthew Colburn

First, we hear from Sam Montgomery, a defensive end with the DC Defenders of the XFL. We hear how Montgomery strongly feels that great football is about great teams, and he is sure that the DC Defenders are one of the best. Then we talk with running back Matthew Colburn of the New York Guardians. We hear about his journey from Irmo, SC to Wake Forest, the LA Rams, and finally to the XFL.

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Sam Montgomery believes in the DC Defenders

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery (99)

Sam Montgomery, a defensive end currently with the DC Defenders of the XFL, grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina. He attended Greenwood High School, and was an all-round athlete, playing football, running track and even throwing the shot put.

“I just really took advantage of everything,” Sam said. “I had a really strong competitive edge… I just took advantage of everything that I really could put my hands on just to compete, deal friendships and go to different places throughout South Carolina to travel.”

After high school, Montgomery attended Louisiana State University and played for the LSU Tigers from 2010 to 2012. In his sophomore season in 2011, he was named an All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, Pro Football Weekly, and Scout.com. He was also selected for the first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2011 and 2012.

Montgomery is quick to attribute his college success to the team.

“I had a chance to play with a lot of great players, had a lot of great defensive players to back me up,” Montgomery explained. “It was really good to be blessed to be at LSU at a period of time where our defense could flourish with our coordinator as well.”

In 2013, after college, Montgomery was drafted to the Houston Texans. However, after bouncing from the Texans to the Raiders, and then to the Bengals, he was released by the Bengals in 2015.  The NFL was not kind to Sam Montgomery, but he gained valuable experience that would serve him later in his football career.

Montgomery took a trip north and worked for the Edmonton Eskimos, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL, but eventually came back south to join the Massachusetts Pirates of the National Arena League (NAL).

In the spring of 2019, Montgomery joined the Memphis Express of the AAF, but was placed on the Injured Reserve List at the time that the fledgling league folded.

When asked about his football career, Montgomery is reflective.

“I played a lot of football, had a chance to meet a lot of different coaches and learn a lot of different defenses, and a lot of different techniques. So, it’s really made me into a really diverse player, as far as being a hands-down or a stand-up defensive end.”

“That’s what I thrive off of. Having those good relationships with the staff, and being in good relationships with my teammates on the field as a hard worker.”

Now that Montgomery has joined the DC Defenders, he hopes to use his skills and experience to be a part of what he sees as, potentially, the strongest defense in the league.

“I would describe the DC Defenders (defensive) unit as a true family from the d-line to the OL-d’s to the linebackers to little corners, to the safety, and to the free safety,” Montgomery said. “Even in this short period of time, we become really close. It’s really a family… we help everybody out…  it’s a really good team of men.”

This weekend, Montgomery is headed to Houston for the Defenders training camp and he is very upbeat about the Defenders and their chances for a championship.

“We’re taking it one day at a time and we’re just doing what we have to do. I believe in this team to win a championship. You know, you look every man in the eyes and you see what you have. I believe this caliber of team is a championship caliber team. I do.”

DC Defenders fans must love to hear this!

The entire interview with Sam Montgomery may be found in Episode 18 – Ready

All Eight XFL teams are headed to training camps in Houston

XFL Training Camp Houston

In preparation for the kickoff of the XFL inaugural season on the weekend of 8-9 February 2020, all eight XFL teams are headed to training camps in Houston.  The training camps will be an extensive 17-day affair, lasting from Saturday 4 January to Wednesday 22 January 2020.

XFL teams will converge on various locations across Harris County to practice and continue to get ready for the 2020 season. Nearly 1,000 people, consisting of players, coaches, staff, game officials and production teams from FOX Sports and ESPN, will descend on Houston and the local area. The XFL has committed to more than 10,000 hotel room nights for players and staff who plan to consume more than 60,000 meals during their time in Houston. According to the Houston Sports Authority, the XFL training camps are expected to generate in excess of $7,000,000 of revenue for Harris County.

At a November press conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner lauded his city as a great place to hold such an extensive training camp. “Houston is a sports town,” he said. “We have great fans and we support our teams. The XFL made the right call when it chose the city as the home of the Roughnecks, and now, I am even more excited that all eight XFL teams and nearly 1,000 representatives will come to the Houston area for their training camps in January 2020. I’m confident this will generate a great deal of fan excitement and interest in the new football league.”

Also important to note, it will be at the end of this training camp that all eight XFL teams will cut down their rosters from approximately 70 players to a reported size of 52. Many of the cut players will remain with the XFL and will form the basis for “Team 9,” a collection of players that will be ready to take the place of injured players on each of the XFL teams. It is reported that Team 9 will be headquartered, and practice in Houston.

Locations

XFL teams will be spread out at various locations in Houston and across Harris County.

 

Dallas Renegades: Darryl Tully Stadium, Spring Branch ISD

DC Defenders: Rice Stadium, Rice University

Houston Roughnecks: TDECU Stadium, University of Houston

Los Angeles Wildcats: Alexander Durley Stadium, Texas Southern University

New York Guardians: Husky Stadium, Houston Baptist University

St. Louis BattleHawks: W.W. Thorne Stadium, Aldine ISD

Seattle Dragons: Delmar Stadium, Houston ISD

Tampa Bay Vipers: George Tuner Stadium, Humble ISD

XFL D.C. Defenders Roster *Updated 26 Dec 2019

Here is the latest roster for the D.C. Defenders. These rosters are fluid right now, and we will try to keep you up to date as quick as the league updates their rosters.

NamePosCollege
Khalid AbdullahRBJames Madison
Siupeli AnauDTNorthern Arizona
Jesse AniebonamDEMaryland
Daryle BanfieldDTBrown
Tavaris BarnesDEClemson
Kenny BigelowDTWest Virginia
Cole BoozerOTTemple
Jay BromleyDTSyracuse
Nick BrossetteRBLouisiana State
Chris BrownOGSouthern California
Frank BrownWRBethune-Cookman
Malcolm BuncheOTUCLA
Elijah CampbellCBNorthern Iowa
Jonathan CelestinLBMinnesota
Reggie ColeCBMary Hardin-Baylor
Rishard CookOGAlabama-Birmingham
Malachi DupreWRLouisiana State
Matt ElamSAFFlorida
Donnie ErnsbergerTEWestern Michigan
Koa FarmerLBPenn State
Chase FarrisOGOhio State
KeShun FreemanDEGeorgia Tech
Doran GrantCBOhio State
Deion HarrisCBNorth Dakota
Randall HarrisOTTowson
Derrick HaywardTEMaryland
Deion HollimanWRMissouri State
Tyree JacksonQBBuffalo
Dorian JohnsonOGPittsburgh
Kerron JohnsonLBCoastal Carolina
Cardale JonesQBOhio State
Brian KhouryDECarnegie Mellon
Tyree KinnelSAFMichigan
Desmond LawrenceCBNorth Carolina
Khari LeeTEBowie State
Vad LeeQBJames Madison
Will LikelyCBMaryland
Tre McBrideWRWilliam & Mary
Max McCaffreyWRDuke
Carlos MerrittSAFCampbell
Sam MontgomeryDELouisiana State
Rahim MooreSAFUCLA
Jordan MorganOGKutztown
Richard MullaneyWRAlabama
Jalen MyrickCBMinnesota
Hunter NiswanderPNorthwestern
James O'HaganOCBuffalo
Tyler PalkaWRGannon
Ronald PatrickOCSouth Carolina
Terron PrescodOGNorth Carolina State
Jhurell PressleyRBNew Mexico
Donnel PumphreyRBSan Diego State
Elijah QuallsDTWashington
Adrien RobinsonTECincinnati
Eli RogersWRLouisville
Kristjan SokoliDTBuffalo
Tracy SprinkleDTOhio State
Bradley SylveCBAlabama
A.J. TarpleyLBStanford
John ThomasRBPenn State
DeAndre ThompkinsWRPenn State
Jameer ThurmanLBIndiana State
Jon TothOCKentucky
Dimitrios TsesmetzisTEWestern Connecticut State
Logan Tuley-TillmanOTMichigan
Kalani VakameilaloDTOregon State
De'Ondre WesleyOTBrigham Young
Jordan WesterkampWRNebraska
Antwione WilliamsLBGeorgia Southern
Scooby WrightLBArizona

XFL Xtra Episode 14-2019 – Unified – Kristjan Sokoli, Jackson Conner and Jai Nokes

First, we hear from Kristjan Sokoli, a defensive lineman who is currently in the DC Defenders Minicamp. He will give us his take on how the minicamp is progressing. Then we talk to Jackson Conner, an XFLBoard.com contributor from Seattle, and talk about the XFL uniforms, the balls and the progress of the Seattle Dragons. Finally, we take you to Texas, where we hear from Jai Nokes, one of our XFLBoard.com contributors for the Dallas Renegades. Jai gives us his take on the uniforms, the balls, and an update on the Dallas Renegades.

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Introducing the DC Defenders’ Uniforms

The DC Defenders revealed team uniforms and helmet at a private dinner that kicked off minicamp, hosted by head coach and general manager Pep Hamilton.

The Defenders’ uniforms reflect the team’s primary colors of red and white.

Inspiration: Inspired by a tradition of service and sacrifice, this team stands tall on the shoulders of giants. Blazoned with the red of the DC flag and our Founding Fathers’ coat of arms: marching ever forward, a force united, with fiery resolve.

They are the white of our sacred monuments: iconic, imposing, unconquerable and unyielding. They are star-spangled and lightning-striped, seeking glory through grit, and victory through valor. This is one team, with one quest, and one purpose.

These are the DC Defenders. #TakingTheirStand in February 2020.

Helmet: Players will choose from one of the highly-rated helmets from Riddell, VICIS and Schutt.

Home Jersey Features: Red body and sleeves, embroidered white Lightning Bolt on sleeves, Defenders logo embroidered on neckplate, embroidered Defenders team name, Player numbers on front, back and shoulders in white.

Home Pants Features: Red body with white sublimated spandex side panel and red lightning bolt.

Away Jersey Features: White body and sleeves, embroidered red Lightning Bolt on sleeves, Defenders logo embroidered on neckplate, embroidered Defenders team name, Player numbers on front, back and shoulders in red.

Away Pants Features: White body with red sublimated spandex side panel and white lightning bolt.

YouTube video

Handicapping the XFL Eastern Division quarterback battles heading into minicamp

As go the quarterbacks in the XFL, so goes the league. The quality of play will be directly tied to the quality of quarterback play, and while the XFL was able to acquire some of the best talent available at the position (by paying a premium for it), it remains to be seen if it’ll translate onto the field.

We’re coming up on yet another milestone in the rebooted version of the league, as minicamps open this week. It will be the first opportunity for quarterbacks to test out the new rules and work intensely with their coaches and playbooks. All eyes will be on them.

In addition to a higher salary, each quarterback assigned prior to the initial draft has become the face of the franchise. Whether it’s attending fan functions, calling season ticket holders, or being seen on social media, those quarterbacks have become ambassadors for their brand.

One would imagine they’d have a leg-up in the camp competition at that position, but who knows? There are no holdovers from previous years; theoretically, everyone walks in the first day with a clean slate competing to start. That includes the quarterbacks.

The original XFL’s starting QBs by league end didn’t resemble those at the helm in week one, and it wasn’t all due to injury. So just because a player wins the starting job in camp doesn’t mean they have a long leash once the season begins, especially because of the high stakes for the first season of the league from the standpoint of both the league and each individual team.

But since the QB position IS the most important and most visible (and most highly-paid) position in the league, let’s take a team-by-team look at what QBs they’ll be taking to camp and the odds they’ll exit camp as the starter (barring injury). We’ll start in the East:

DC Defenders: Cardale Jones, Tyree Jackson

DC Defenders: Cardale Jones, Tyree Jackson

DC will apparently be one of three teams that will only have two quarterbacks in camp. Jones and Jackson are similar players in some ways – both have prototypical size and arm strength, and neither have been able to turn those traits into accuracy and consistency.

Jones was a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2016, and with the likes of Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel in front of him on the depth chart, there was a thought that Jones could be the QB of the Bills’ future. Not only did that not happen, the Bills apparently had seen enough by July of the next year, sending him to the LA Chargers in a trade. Because of his limited game action in college, DC and head coach Pep Hamilton hope Jones, at 27 years old, is a late bloomer.

While Jones was assigned to DC, the Defenders picked up Tyree Jackson in the open portion of the draft. Like Jones, Jackson began his NFL career with the Bills after playing collegiately down the road at the University of Buffalo.

Jackson had draft grades as high as the third and fourth rounds (by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com) but ended up going undrafted. The Bills didn’t see enough in him to bring him back to the practice squad after he was released during final cuts. Just 22 years old, Jackson has the tools to be a starter in this league, but he may need more time to develop. Jones seems like a safe bet to lead the Defenders in their season-opener against Seattle.

Odds to start: Jones 80%, Jackson 20%

 

Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, Garrett Fugate

New York Guardians: Matt McGloin, Marquise Williams, Garrett Fugate

Unlike their DC counterparts, McGloin and Williams are very different quarterbacks who may be used in different ways by head coach Kevin Gilbride. McGloin brings NFL and major college experience and is no stranger to QB competition.

He flourished in his final season at Penn State under Bill O’Brien, and parlayed that into a rookie free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders. He made the team out of camp in 2013 and over the next four years, played in 13 games. He’s a pocket passer who won’t scare anyone with his running ability.

The same can’t be said for Marquise Williams. His straight-line speed at his Pro Day in 2016 didn’t impress, but at 6’2”, 220 pounds, he could play a variety of roles for the Guardians, just as he did with the San Antonio Commanders of the Alliance of American Football.

Because of his unique traits, I’m not sure he’ll be a threat to McGloin for an every-down QB role, but he could end up playing a handful of snaps on offense and perhaps even special teams for Gilbride. The fact that New York took Williams in the skill position portion of the draft tells me the coaches may already have a specific role in mind for him beyond playing under center.

In addition to spending a skill position pick on Williams, the Guardians also took Garrett Fugate in the open portion of the draft. Most NFL teams take three or four QBs to camp on their 90-man rosters, so it’s no surprise most XFL teams will carry at least three among their 71.

Out of Division II Central Missouri, Fugate got a late start on the draft process in 2017 when his senior season ended with a torn ACL and MCL. He has worked out for NFL teams and honed his craft in both the CFL and The Spring League. Fugate may not challenge for the starting role, but he’s an intriguing player to keep your eye on as camp progresses.

Odds to start: McGloin 60%, Williams 30%, Fugate 10%

 

Jordan Ta’amu, Taylor Heinicke, Brogan Roback

St. Louis BattleHawks: Jordan Ta’amu, Taylor Heinicke, Brogan Roback

St. Louis figures to have one of the most interesting QB battles in all of training camp. Ta’amu may be the least-heralded QB to be assigned prior to the XFL Draft. He has just one summer in an NFL camp under his belt, with the Houston Texans.

He was one of the most acclaimed quarterbacks in the SEC his senior season for Ole Miss. He’s shown the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs, but he just hasn’t done it at the professional level. He’ll get to work with experienced offensive minds in St. Louis like Doug Meacham, his offensive coordinator and QBs coach. But similar to Ta’amu, this is Meacham’s first foray into the pro coaching ranks.

Ta’amu will be challenged by another assigned QB, Taylor Heinicke. Projected as a possible late-round pick in 2015, Heinicke went undrafted and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. He has played in seven NFL games and started one – for the Carolina Panthers in 2018.

Heinicke’s small frame leaves him susceptible to injury. He suffered at least three major injuries in his short time in the NFL. If he can make it through camp healthy, he’ll have a good shot at unseating Ta’amu for the starting job.

Let’s not forget about Hard Knocks darling Brogan Roback. The Blond Bomber has spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers since his entrance into the NFL in 2018, and he was a skill position selection of the BattleHawks.

At Eastern Michigan, Roback holds the school record for touchdown passes and total offense, and is second in completions and passing yardage. He has a very real chance of making this a three-way competition at the QB spot in St. Louis.

Odds to start: Heinicke 40%, Ta’amu 35%, Roback 25%

 

 Aaron Murray, Taylor Cornelius, Vincent Testaverde Jr.

Tampa Bay Vipers: Aaron Murray, Taylor Cornelius, Vincent Testaverde Jr.

After bouncing around the NFL, Murray had to wait his turn in the AAF this spring. Murray shined in replacing starter Matt Simms, leading the Legends to their first victory in the short-lived league. It’s a performance he can use to springboard himself into the starting QB conversation in Tampa Bay.

The Vipers were allocated Murray, who had a successful career at Georgia before being drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. While he never saw the field in a regular season game, he got some apprenticeship under fine offensive minds like Doug Pederson and Sean McVay.

Murray will be playing in the city in which he played high school, adding some extra motivation. This may also be the last opportunity for the 29 year-old to play in a major professional league and show scouts he’s still worthy of an NFL look.

Taylor Cornelius will look to play spoiler for the hometown boy’s return to south Florida. A graduate of Oklahoma State in 2019, he started just one season there, but ranked in the top 10 in FBS in passing yardage and touchdowns in Mike Gundy’s QB-friendly offense.

That wasn’t enough to get Cornelius drafted or even signed as a free agent. He had to earn a contract after rookie mini-camp with the Green Bay Packers. A camp arm, Cornelius was let go as the team trimmed its final roster to 53.
Because Cornelius was taken in the skill position phase of the draft, some importance must be attached to his spot. I don’t think it’ll be enough to unseat the veteran Murray, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the battle came down to the wire.

Tampa is also bringing Vincent Testaverde Jr. to camp. The son of Tampa Bay Bucs legend Vinny Testaverde, Testaverde Jr. camped with the Bucs during the offseason. While this seems like little more than a feel-good story, Testaverde Jr, also from Tampa, is intent on etching his name into pro football lore in the Bay area just like his father. It’s going to be an uphill climb to do that.

Odds to start: Murray 65%, Cornelius 30%, Testaverde 5%

XFL Eastern Division Supplemental Draft Recap

The XFL is less than two weeks away from the start of team mini-camps. It’s been quite a journey for the league from January of 2018 to this point. Almost two years in the making with actual on-field football activities right around the corner. On Friday, the XFL took yet another step forward with the next phase of roster building for all eight teams.  The XFL’s first Supplemental Draft is working as a complement to the 560 player draft that took place in October. Since then, Over 20 XFL players have signed on to NFL rosters, a clear sign of the type of players that were drafted into the league. A combination of the positioning of the calendar year during football season and the ever-changing rosters in the NFL has put the XFL in the unique position where a series of signings and drafts are needed to stabilize and strengthen the rosters heading into February. The first-year league is not done drafting or signing players, as evidenced by three new Quarterback signings that took place on Friday. The league figures to add more players heading into January’s league-wide training camp in Houston.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the players selected by the teams in the XFL’s Eastern Division.

 

ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS

* QUARTERBACK ASSIGNMENT: TAYLOR HEINICKE- OLD DOMINION*

Despite signing Ole Miss Rookie Jordan Ta’amu and drafting Brogan Roback last month, the feeling was that St. Louis would be adding competition at this position at some point between now and training camp. That’s exactly what St. Louis did by signing former Old Dominion star and NFL Quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The 26-year-old former ODU graduate had a prolific college career, throwing for nearly 15,000 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes, and throwing for 132 touchdowns to only 39 interceptions in 4 years. The former FCS All-American and CAA Offensive Player of The Year was Mr. Everything in college. Heinicke was just as much of a threat running the ball, rushing for over 1,300 yards with 22 touchdowns accumulated on the ground.  Taylor Heinicke also punted for ODU during his time there. His strengths have always been his accuracy, mobility and his ability to throw with anticipation. Despite his stellar collegiate career, Heinicke went undrafted. A big reason for this is his lack of prototypical size. It’s not just his height at 6’1, it’s his smallish frame of being only 205 pounds. The concern, and it’s been founded thus far in his pro career, is his ability to hold up physically.  Since going undrafted, Heinicke has spent time with the Minnesota Vikings (2015-2017), New England Patriots (2017), Houston Texans (2017) and Carolina Panthers (2018-2019). Taylor Heinicke spent time on injured reserve at three of those stops in the NFL. His lone NFL start came last winter for the Carolina Panthers. In his start against the Atlanta Falcons, Heinicke went 33 for 53 for 274 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. During the game, he suffered an elbow injury and was replaced at quarterback by Kyle Allen. A week later, Heinicke ended the season on IR. He would resign with Carolina this past March, only to be released at final cuts in late August. Heinicke has the skill set to run Doug Meacham’s Air Raid offense in St.Louis. Like Jordan Ta’amu, Heinicke is mobile and can bring a strong RPO element to the offense. His experience as a pro, despite being a limited one, gives Taylor an edge heading into camp. If he can stay healthy, Heinicke can finally get a chance to play and be the star he was in college.

SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFTEES

The BattleHawks were in the position of drafting 9 players because several of their initial draft picks are currently on NFL rosters.

Offensive Tackle Kevin Bowen is a former Division II star out of East Central. At 6’9 and 335 pounds, Bowen has been a career project in the NFL, spending three years in the NFL with the Redskins and Browns on off-season rosters. The physical tools have always been there but he has never received an extended opportunity to crack an NFL roster.

Defensive Tackle Will Clarke is a former 3rd round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. Clarke is reuniting with Jon Hayes, after spending time together with him in Cincy from 2014-2016. BattleHawks Defensive Coordinator Jay Hayes coached Clarke back in Tampa as the Bucs defensive line coach. The stars are aligned perfectly. One of the BattleHawks strongest positions is at defensive tackle, and it just got stronger with this draft pick. Clarke has always been a solid rotational defensive lineman, who can play inside at tackle and at defensive end if need be.

The 26-year-old defensive back, Darius Hillary has been on five different NFL teams and two different AAF teams in his career. Hillary can play both corner and safety and is a good tackler. St. Louis drafted defensive backs with this same type of skill set last month, physical press corners who can tackle in the open field. Hillary goes along with the St. Louis defensive script.

Harold Jones-Quartey joins a talented and crowded safety position with the BattleHawks. Quartey is a former Division 2 college wide receiver who made the transition to defensive back and has been on five different NFL teams. He was most recently with the Chiefs and was released back in late August.

One of the most celebrated supplemental picks of this entire process is actually a punter in Marquette King. The most entertaining punter in football is future XFL field analyst Pat McAfee. King is pretty close in terms of personality. The 31-year-old former Fort Valley State punter has had a long and successful career starting 6 seasons in the NFL and is a former All-Pro. Despite his great physical traits for the former college receiver turned punter, King is best known for his on and off-field antics. He can rub some people the wrong way, but STL has a great pair of specialists in him and Elliott Fry.

With draft pick Center Jimmy Murray on the Jets practice squad. A potential opening was created for C/G Chandler Miller from Tulsa. Miller was an all ACC player and started a school-record 50 consecutive games. At Tulsa, Miller was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch list for the nation’s best center. A bit undersized at 6’2 297 pounds, Miller went undrafted and has spent time with the Atlanta Falcons on their practice squad. His size and mobility could be an attribute in the XFL’s up-tempo game.

The 6’1 331 lb Nose Tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu reunites with his former position coach Jay Hayes. Stevie is a former 7th round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The talent has always been there to be dominant for the former All Pac 12 monster, but injuries have held Tu’ikolovatu back in his first two years in the NFL, and he was recently cut by Tampa at cutdown day.

One of the more decorated veteran NFL players in the XFL’s supplemental draft process is Terrance Williams. The former Baylor standout led the nation in receiving yards, before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Williams spent six years with the Cowboys from 2013-2018. Catching 232 balls and 20 touchdowns during that time frame. On February 18, 2019, the Cowboys declined the option on the final year of his contract, making Williams a free agent at the start of the new league year. Williams brings great experience and credibility to a talented BattleHawks receiving group.

Ethan Wolf is a 6’6 target out of Tennessee, who has spent time with the Titans, Packers, and Panthers. He’s bounced around NFL team rosters since going undrafted in 2018. At Tennessee, Wolf passed Jason Witten and finished third all-time in school history for receiving yards and second in catches by a tight end. If you are a young tight end, looking to develop, being on a team where longtime NFL tight end and position coach Jonathan Hayes presides is a good place to be.

 

TAMPA BAY VIPERS

Jawill Davis was a first-team All MEAC receiver/return specialist at Bethune Cookman. A big-play receiver with dynamic return skills, who has always been complimented for his savvy route running. Unfortunately for Davis, he hasn’t been able to stick in the pros and his dynamic skill set hasn’t surfaced in his time with the Giants, Packers and most recently in the CFL.

Offensive Lineman  Jerald Foster was a two-year team captain at Nebraska. Very strong, high character player with excellent technique, his issue is his lack of athleticism. Foster a UDFA, was recently released by the Redskins. Viper Offensive Line Coach Jonathan Himebauch has a strong history of getting the most out of his offensive lines. Himebauch was an excellent offensive lineman himself, and has the distinction of winning a World Bowl in NFL Europe, three Grey Cups as one of the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the CFL, and an XFL Championship with the LA Xtreme. During the offseason, Himebauch works with Nike at The Opening camps as lead Offensive Line Coach for elite high school football players across the country. So young players like Foster are in good hands with Himebauch.

Undrafted Texas Defensive Back PJ Locke III is an extremely high character player and very versatile. Locke can play nickel corner or safety and has the physicality to play in the box. He just missed the cut with the Steelers. Locke is the kind of player you want on your team.

One of the traits on the Vipers entire roster is their overall team size. WR Tanner McEvoy fits the bill perfectly at 6’6 and 230 pounds. Tanner played multiple positions in college including Quarterback. That could come into play for some of Trestman’s gadget plays in this offense, and with the XFL’s conversion and double pass rules. McEvoy has spent time with several NFL teams, but most notably with the Seattle Seahawks. A fan favorite who spent two years there as a rotational player at the bottom of the roster, McEvoy can also play Tight End if need be and could become a very useful role player in this offense.

Another quality pick and useful weapon for Tampa is Marcus Murphy. The diminutive former All-SEC player and 7th round pick of the Saints, has always shined in spot duty but has never received an expanded role in the NFL. With the Bills in 2018, once Murphy finally started seeing an expanded role on offense. His season ended abruptly due to injury. Murphy has elite return skills and can be a factor running and catching the ball out of the backfield.

 

NEW YORK GUARDIANS

The first area, New York needed to shore up after last month’s draft was their special teams. In Kicker Matthew McCrane and Punter Justin Vogel. The Guardians have two capable kicking specialists with NFL experience under their belt.

The other area of special teams that needed to be addressed was kick returner, with Quadree Henderson currently on the Steelers practice squad. The Guardians move in this department created a lot of headlines and provides the league with one of it’s best stories. New York selected WR/Returner Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi. Damon has one of the most unique journeys dating back to his days at tiny Phoenix College.  He’s known as the player “who lied his way” into the NFL. Sheehy was a 1st team All Junior College player.  After being out of football for two years,  Sheehy-Guiseppi received a tip from a former flag football teammate regarding the location of the Cleveland Browns spring practice, he decided to take his chances to try out for the team, despite not receiving an invitation. Sheehy-Guiseppi was only allowed at the workout by claiming to know Cleveland Browns Vice President of Player Personnel, Alonzo Highsmith, and he impressed Highsmith enough to be invited to another tryout for the Browns a week later.  Sheehy ended up signing with the Browns and then ended up starring with them in the preseason this past summer. It led to an amazing scene this past August when the entire Cleveland Browns team celebrated with Sheehy after he returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown. Sheehy’s story is a great one and he is the type of player that defies logic. It would be a hell of a story if he becomes a star player in the XFL.

Another notable player taken by the Guardians is former 4th round pick and Colts linebacker Antonio Morrison. The two-down thumper has always compensated for his lack of premiere athletic ability with his nose for the football, solid tackling, and instincts. Morrison is in the right place in New York with Jim Herrmann coordinating the defense.

New York drafted two tight ends in Keenen Brown and Garrett Hudson. Two similar players, both small school players who play like wide receivers in a tight end’s body. Hudson was All CAA first team at Richmond. Brown led all tight ends in the Sun Belt in receiving at Texas State.

The Guardians added some reinforcements to their secondary. Drafting Cornerback Bryce Jones and Safety AJ Hendy. Jones is a former high school quarterback, who transitioned to defensive back. He ended up transferring from BC to Akron. Jones is a physical 6-foot press corner who went undrafted and has spent time with the Houston Texans. AJ Hendy is a rangy safety out of Maryland, who has been on the Dolphins, Chargers, and Texans practice squads since turning pro.

Offensive Tackle Brian Wallace has some upside.  The 6’5, 320-lb offensive tackle was excellent in pass protection for the University of Arkansas, allowing only three sacks in 411 passing snaps throughout his senior year. The former Razorback also totaled a career-high of 807 snaps during that same year.

 

dc-defenders-supplemental-draft

DC DEFENDERS

DC drafted 13 players in total, tops in the league. The Defenders needed this supplemental draft. As a result of them drafting so well last month. Three of their first-round picks last month ended up on NFL rosters. Pass Rusher James Vaughters, who was taken 1st in the defensive front seven phase, has signed on and off the Chicago Bears active and practice squad roster. Receiver Rashard Davis, who was taken first overall in the skill position draft has signed on with the Tennessee Titans, and the Defenders first pick in the offensive lineman phase, Kyle Murphy has since signed with the Houston Texans. Three players who figured to be front line starters for the team. Vaughters, Davis, and Murphy could make their way back to the Defenders roster in the future, but for now, DC has to operate as if they are not.

The first step in potentially replacing Vaughters is the drafting of Edge Defender Jesse Aniebonam. The undersized pass rusher out of Maryland was a 4-star recruit, who had interest from universities from Alabama. Jesse had a solid college career but never lived up to his hype, partially due to injuries and a broken ankle he suffered while at Maryland. Aniebonam went undrafted and signed as a UDFA this past summer with Houston. As a pro, he doesn’t seem to have a set position. Scouts were unsure of his ability to play end in the 4-3, or to stand up and cover ground as an outside linebacker. However, the talent is there as Aniebonam led the Terps with 14 TFLs and nine sacks in 2016, adding 46 tackles. If he can stay healthy, he can provide a boost to the Defenders pass rush.

At Wide Receiver and Kick Returner, FCS superstar Rashard Davis brought an electrifying skillset to DC and could have been one of Cardale Jones favorite weapons in Pep Hamilton’s offense. Cardale may have found his #1 target in former Steelers WR Eli Rogers. One of the better draft picks in this process, Rogers brings 4 years of NFL experience and is still young at only 26 years old. Undrafted out of Louisville, Eli made his way into the NFL by showcasing his superb hands and route-running ability. He can play in the slot and is instantly the most reliable weapon in the DC offensive.

On the offensive line, DC selected three different players. Offensive Tackles Malcolm Bunche, and A.T. Hall, and at Guard Dorian Johnson. Bunche is a young journeyman offensive lineman who has been on several different NFL rosters, including stints in the CFL and the AAF. He was most recently on the Redskins practice squad in October, before being released. He has the skill set to be a blindside protector in this offense. It wouldn’t be a Pep Hamilton team without a Stanford player on it. A.T. Hall is a 3-year starter who was All Pac 12 mention during his time there. He can play RT and LT, so he has swingman capabilities on the line. Dorian Johnson is an excellent athlete for his size. His physical profile got him drafted in the 4th round in 2017 by the Arizona Cardinals. Dorian Johnson was a 4-star recruit, rated behind only Laremy Tunsil as the top offensive tackle coming out of high school. Several colleges went after him, but he chose to stay at his hometown of Pittsburgh. Despite being a first-team All American in college, it hasn’t gone as planned for Dorian in the NFL. He’s had injury issues and has been with 3 different NFL teams since 2017. Bouncing on and off the rosters of the Cards, Texans and most recently the Panthers in August. Johnson could end up being one of the XFL’s best offensive lineman if he can stay healthy.

WR Malachi Dupre was a five-star recruit coming out of Louisiana. He landed at LSU and made an impact and was developing going into his senior season. Dupre decided to declare early and his talents got him drafted in the 7th round by the Green Bay Packers in 2017. Many felt that Dupre came out too soon and wasn’t a finished product yet. Since that time, the 6’2 Dupre has been on six different NFL teams in three years: Packers, Bills, Texans, Seahawks, Cardinals and most recently with the Chargers. Only 24, Dupre still has an upside. He just hasn’t been able to break through and be a starter on the pro level.

WR Tyler Palka is a small school quarterback turned receiver from Gannon University. He’s had the proverbial cup of coffee in the NFL with the Steelers, and has spent time in the Arena League and CFL. Palka is not going to blow you away with his physical ability but he has strong hands and is a good route runner. He’s always been the ultimate longshot.

TE Donnie Ernsberger is a versatile player who can play fullback as well. Known for his blocking prowess, Donnie has spent time on the Bucs and Jaguars roster since 2018. DC’s dynamic two-headed backfield of Donnel Pumphrey and Jhurell Pressley could benefit from Ernsberger leading the path.

On the interior of the defensive line, the Defenders selected former Giants 3rd round pick Jay Bromley and West Virginia’s Kenny Bigelow. Bromley spent 4 years with the New York Giants as a reserve lineman. The 314-pound run-stuffer has seen plenty of game time, but has not been despite a front line starter in the NFL. He was most recently cut by the Niners in late August. Undrafted rookie Kenny Bigelow has had a lot of adversity. He was originally at USC and he blew out his knee twice. He almost retired, received a 6th year of eligibility, and then transferred to WVU. He played nose tackle for WVU, but despite being all Big 12 second team, Bigelow did not receive an invite to the combine or senior bowl. He showed well at his pro day benching 31 reps and running a 5.09 in the 40. Bigelow went undrafted but was signed by the Saints this summer, only to be released with an injury settlement after tearing his biceps. Just another block in the road on his journey. The Defenders might have found a gem if Bigelow can have some lady luck on his side.

Defensive Back Kamrin Moore is a former 6th round pick in 2018 by the New Orleans Saints. He was a 3-year starter at cornerback for Boston College. Moore is a talented player who can play safety and corner but he has had injury issues, and more importantly off the field issues. He was suspended by the Giants in July for an alleged domestic violence incident. Moore was placed on the NFL commissioner’s exempt list until his charges were cleared. The Giants ended up releasing him at cut down day. On October 29th, Moore was cleared of all charges by a grand jury.

North Dakota’s 6’3 corner Deion Harris has had plenty of adversity of his own. Following a breakout year in 2016, Harris recorded five interceptions, returned three for TDs, with 36 tackles, nine pass breakups, and led UND to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs for the first time in program history. Harris was named to ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s list of top senior corners entering 2017, but a devastating injury forced him to miss the entire campaign. Upon Harris’ return in 2018, the redshirt senior finished with 27 tackles, four TFLs, seven pass breakups, a blocked field goal, and an interception to help the Fighting Hawks finish just outside the playoffs. Over his career at UND, Harris was named second-team All-America by the American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press, and third team by Hero Sports Network, first-team All-Big Sky, and the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week on a pair of occasions. The small school stud went undrafted and signed with the Washington Redskins before being released at cut down day.

Rounding out this group of draftees is Linebacker Kerron Johnson. He’s an undersized speed backer/safety hybrid from Coastal Carolina, who could provide value in coverage and on special teams. He went undrafted last year and spent some time in the AAF.

Tight End Dimitrios Tsesmetzis soon to join the DC Defenders

Dimitrios Tsesmetzis catces a pass at the New York XFL Summer Showcase.
Dimitrios Tsesmetzis catches a pass at the New York XFL Summer Showcase.

As a youngster growing up in upstate New York, Dimitrios Tsesmetzis started playing football. He mostly played on offense, in the positions of left tackle and guard. However, as he grew older, he became lankier and longer.

“I was a very short, heavy-set kid. I made it all the way to freshman year (of high school) playing left tackle,” Dimitrios explained. “Then from freshman year to sophomore year, I went from 5’10” to 6’4″. My coach told me to go out and catch a ball. I caught my first ball and then he was like, all right, play tight end. And that’s where it all started.”

Once Tsesmetzis started playing tight end, his height, coupled with his wide wingspan, became his on-field weapons. Currently, Tsesmetzis stands 6’7″ with cleats on.

After high school, Dimitrios played for the Division 3 Western Connecticut State University Colonials. When he emerged from college, he was hungry for a pro-football career and was faced with the challenge of finding a spot on a roster. He was passed over in the NFL draft, but was eventually selected by the San Antonio Commanders in the Alliance of American Football. Unfortunately, Dimitrios only made it through the first Commander’s mini-camp before being cut.

Dimitrios refers to his time with the Commanders with a positive attitude. “Definitely a great experience,” he said. “It showed me what I needed to work on. I got right back into the gym, worked on all of it. Got right mentally, especially.”

From this learning experience, Dimitrios played with the Spring League in Austin, Texas in April 2019. In some way, this led to two separate XFL Summer Showcase invitations, in New York and Houston. Tsesmetzis chose to go to the showcase in New York, mainly because it was closer to home.

Dimitrios performed well at the showcase, and interest in his skills flourished. Later in the fall, he was invited to the XFL draft, where he was selected by the DC Defenders in the open phase of the draft.

On the first day of the XFL draft, Dimitrios and his father followed the picks closely. However, they did not hear Dimitrios’ name called on the first day, so they planned to follow the open draft picks on day two.

“I think that the open draft wasn’t live, so I was just waiting around,” Dimitrios explained. “It was raining really hard one day, and I was on my way to the training facility. Someone DM’d me a picture, and it was that the Defenders had picked me.”

When asked if he was ready for the Defenders first mini-camp in December, Dimitrios was quick to respond. “Definitely,” he said. “I’ve been preparing since I got the call.”

Demetrious is also enthusiastic to be able to learn from the Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton, assistant head coach Brent Battle and tight ends coach Chris Scelfo.

“I know that when we get the mini-camp we’re going to put in the work and we’re going to be the best team in the XFL,” Dimitrios added.

The entire interview with Dimitrios Tsesmetzis may be found in XFL Xtra Episode 10-2019 – Breaking in