Houston Gamblers fans got a first glimpse into their first roster with the 2022 USFL Draft kicking off Tuesday.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin leads a roster that was well known for their high-powered passing attack back in the 80s. This team will be looking different from the Jim Kelly days, but Sumlin is stacking up a talented roster.
Tuesday started the first 12 rounds of the USFL draft that included quarterbacks, edge/defensive ends, offensive tackles, and cornerbacks. The Gamblers picked between three to six in each of the 12 rounds of day one.
Round 1, Pick 5: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
Clayton Thorson is a name college football fans will recognize during his time at Northwestern. Thorson left the school as the all-time leading passer throwing for 10,731 yards and 61 touchdowns in four seasons. Besides redshirting in 2014, he started a Big Ten record 53 starts and was the starter for four seasons with the Wildcats producing a 36-17 record in that time.
Thorson’s NFL career began when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He would end up bouncing around NFC East teams to the Cowboys and recently the Giants last season.
Kevin Sumlin likes mobile quarterbacks who can make plays with their feet and Thorson has that ability. Thorson is good at throwing on the run while he is faced with pressure. He will be a perfect fit for being in shotgun formations and running read options to throw off defenses. Thorson should be a day one starter and one that defenses will have to worry that he can hurt you with his arm and feet.
Round 2, Pick 4: Chris Odom, Defensive End, Arkansas State
Chris Odom is a player who is no stranger to spring football and has proven to be an effective edge rusher. In his senior season at Arkansas State back in 2016, Odom led the team with 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He also had five blocked kicks in his college career.
Odom bounced around with the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers in 2017 after going undrafted in the NFL Draft. He would join the AAF’s Salt Lake Stallions in 2019 where he record 2.5 sacks in eight games before the league folded. That experience in the AAF paid off as it landed him a contract back in the NFL with the Falcons.
Washington would sign him right after being cut by the Falcons in 2019. During a 2019 regular-season game against the Carolina Panthers, Odom recorded two sacks and one being a strip-sack. After being released at the end of the 2019 season, Odom would play in the CFL in 2021 for the Calgary Stampeders where he recorded five tackles in three games played.
Odom has great speed off the edge and can get to the quarterback. He’s proven that he has been able to be successful on the highest level. A full season of football is all Odom needs to showcase his skills and either build a career in the USFL or get his foot in the door for a third run at the NFL.
Round 3, Pick 5: Ahmad Gooden, Defensive End, Samford
In his college career at Samford, Ahmad Gooden recorded 273 tackles and 22 sacks in 46 games played and was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Gooden played for three NFL teams between 2019 and 2020. He joined The Spring League in 2021 playing for the Conquerors.
Gooden can play defensive end and outside linebacker. He’s a sure tackler and shows great speed on each end of the line. The Gamblers will be using him in different defensive packages. Expect him to make an immediate impact on the defense from game one.
Round 4, Pick 4: Drequan Brown, Edge, Central Oklahoma
Drequan Brown played off the edge while playing for Independence CC (Kansas), Northern Illinois, and Central Oklahoma. Brown recorded 6.5 sacks in his senior season at Central Oklahoma. He went undrafted in the NFL Draft, but did play for the Linemen in The Spring League in 2021.
He has similar traits to Gooden as he will be able to flip back and forth between being outside linebacker and defensive end. While being smaller than Gooden, Brown is smart and good at making open-field tackles. Brown will be a good compliment to Gooden on the outside as the two should have success off the edge.
Round 5, Pick 3: Brandon Hitner, Offensive Tackle, Villanova
Brandon Hitner started 11 games in his senior season at Villanova back in 2017. He went undrafted in the NFL Draft where he spent time with the Rams, Jets, Bills, and Colts. Hitner was also a member of the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL in 2021.
During his draft profile, NFL.com praised him for his quickness and intellegence to move around in different positions on the line. His professional experience gives him an advantage to help upstart a promising offensive line.
Round 6, Pick 6: Avery Gennesy, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Avery Gennesy was apart of the “Last Chance U” school East Mississippi CC before going to Texas A&M in 2014 to join current Gamblers coach Kevin Sumlin. During the 2015 season, Gennesy was the starting left tackle for the Aggies. He played for multiple NFL teams including the Jaguars, Browns, Broncos, and Titans. Gennesy did play for the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL in 2020.
Sumlin knows how Gennesy would fit well with his offensive system and is already familiar with Houston for his play in the XFL. There is versatility with Gennesy as he can play guard or tackle in the USFL. He could be competing for the starting left tackle position.
Round 7, Pick 3: John Yarbrough, Offensive Tackle, Richmond
John Yarbrough was a full time starter for Richmond in 2017 and 2018 where he would get all conference honors. Yarbrough has played in the XFL for the Tampa Bay Vipers and in the CFL for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year.
Sumlin targeted versitale lineman as Yarbrough is another player that is smart and can any position on the line. He shows good technique with blocking and the physical at the point of attack. He should be able to find a place on the line to either start or get playing time.
Round 8, Pick 6: Jamar Summers, Cornerback, UCONN
Jamar Summers had a successful college career at UCONN as he earned First Team All-American Athletic Conference in 2015 and started as a corner and safety in 2016. Summers played for the Steelers, Dolphins, and Lions in the NFL.
He’s more well known as one of the best cornerbacks in most spring leagues he played in. Most fans first learned about him for the Brimingham Iron of the AAF in 2019. He also found success in the XFL as a starter for the New York Guardians at corner.
Summers has a nose for the football and is tough in coverage. He instantly makes the Gamblers’ secondary strong. Sumlin got a steal with picking Summers with the sixth pick of the round.
Round 9, Pick 3: Will Likely, Cornerback, Maryland
Will Likely was a starter for Maryland on defense and special teams where he was a 2015 First Team All-American Punt Returner. His senior season in 2016 was rough after tearing his ACL in the middle of the season for Maryland. He would sign with the Patriots, but did not make the roster. Likely would go on to play in the CFL for the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats as well as the DC Defenders in the XFL.
Likey could be a fun player for Sumlin to have as he could step in as a starter at corner and already will be considered the best returner in the USFL. From time to time, he was used in Maryland’s offense so he could be used in gadget plays. Houston has a player that could make an impact on multiple phases of the game.
Round 10, Pick 6: Howard Wilson, Cornerback, Houston
Howard Wilson was named American Athletic Conference First Team in his senior season at Houston in 2016. Wilson was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns. Season-ending njuries in his first two NFL season cost Wilson a chance to perform in the NFL. He got try outs with the Bears and Texans in 2020, but was not signed by them.
This is what you would call a “low risk, high reward” pick. Wilson hasn’t played in a long time, but when he does play, he’s got starting potential. If Wilson stays healthy, the USFL might have to watch out as the Gamblers’ secondary could be hard to throw on.
Round 11, Pick 3: Jerry Cantave, Cornerback, William Jewell College
Jerry Cantave played his college ball at William Jewell College. Back in December, he participated in the FCS Bowl where he got a pick six for the American team. He also participated in the CGS All Star game and the Tropical Bowl.
There’s a lot of upside on Cantave as highlights from those games show he’s tough on man to man coverage. Even though he’s from a smaller school compared to the other corners, he could a lot from them and see playing time on defense and special teams.
Round 12, Pick 4: Kenji Bahar, Quarterback, Monmouth
Bahar owned all but one passing records at Monmouth including touchdowns, completions, yardage, 300-yard games, attempts, and passing efficiency. He was on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster this season as Josh Johnson’s backup quarterback in a 41-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Another mobile quarterback on the roster, Bahar fits into Sumlin’s offensive system. He will serve as a good backup for Thorson and might even be able to push him in camp for the starting job.
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