Connect with us

XFL News

XFL 2003 Rookie Draft Preview: 5 Outstanding Defensive Linemen

Now, we switch over to the defensive side of the ball. The options available at defensive line are nearly the most impressive in the remaining draft class and cutting down to just a top five was not easy. So, here are the top 5 I expect to go even before the 5th round is finished.

Wildcard) Cedie Dashiell II, Bentley

In high school, Cedie Dashiell II made the California 1st Team All-State in 2014, 2016, & 2017, was the league MVP in his senior year, and was the Buena Park High School record holder in career sacks, tackles, tackles for loss, & defensive points. By all rights this should have led to a flood of FBS offers, but he wouldn’t even get any FCS offers.

Cedie chose to go to Bentley University in Massachusetts and switched from outside linebacker to defensive line. He wouldn’t skip a beat and earned All-Rookie honors in the Northeast-10 Conference. Over the next three years, he was an absolute beast. Per year he averaged 10 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, and over 3 forced fumbles. This resulted in him being nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy, named a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award, and won Division Defensive Player of the Year.

What sets Cedie above the lower-division pack is his game film. The dude gets around the offensive line like water. He has a solid spin move, but it’s his ability to slip under blockers that makes him such an interesting prospect. I could see him going as early as the 5th round, but wouldn’t be shocked if no one bites until the last picks.

5) Victor Jones, Akron

Victor was rated the 108th best prospect in California, which resulted in a bevy of offers from FBS schools. Out of the nine schools that courted Victor, he selected Wyoming, making him the 22nd best recruit the school had gained since 2000. 

Despite the high ranking, he never moved into a starting role at Wyoming. Victor appeared in 37 games over four years and made the most of this utility role by racking up 6.5 sacks & 10.5 tackles for a loss. He was also suspended from the team in 2020. Officially he violated team rules and it was alluded to be GPA related.

After failing to make the first team defense, Victor used his extra year of eligibility to transfer to Akron. He made an immediate impact on the starting line and collected 5.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, and 3 passes defended. Victor was selected by the New Jersey Generals in the 4th Round of the USFL Draft.

While the Generals don’t have the best of records, I can see why Victor chose not to join the team. Their starting D-Line of Tyshun Render, Hercules Mata’afa, & Toby Johnson are in the top 12 in the league in sacks, which wouldn’t leave much room for Victor to start. I’m unsure if he will get that kind of opportunity in the XFL, but it makes sense to wait when the USFL is two weeks away from the playoffs. 

4) Jadrian Taylor, UTEP

By this point in these lists it should be obvious that success in high school isn’t the best indicator of future success. It can help and when someone puts up ungodly numbers at a football dynasty, it does make recruiting a bit easier. Yet sometimes, the best players don’t have the stats and accolades to push their name. Jadrian Taylor fits very much within that mold. He would be named the MVP of a 7-4 Lufkin High School team, but gained more acclaim for being a regional finalist in shot put. 

Without the big Texas high school awards, Jadrian took the JuCo route at Kilgore College. He put up solid numbers, most notably 8 sacks over two years, and accepted a scholarship to play at UTEP. He showed up just in time for the Covid season to cut his first year short, but on his return in 2021, Jadrian assumed a starting role. To say the least, dude was dominant. In his final two years, Jadrian got 16 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss, defended 6 passes, forced a pair of fumbles, and scored a touchdown on a 100-yard fumble return.

Jadrian was passed over in the NFL draft, but he was signed by the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Then he was released after ten days. Along with the dominance and high football intelligence, whoever drafts him also gets a deceptively quick player. In the lead up to his Pro Day, Jadrian ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, which would have made him the 13th fastest man at the NFL combine and the fastest defensive end. 

It should be noted though that during his Pro Day, Jadrian pulled his hamstring, so that 4.38 isn’t official. The injury played a bit into his quick CFL cut, but by the time the XFL season starts, Jadrian should be ready to show up.

3) KeShaun Moore, Hampton

Hey, did you guys know that The Rock was a defensive tackle before becoming a wrestler? I mean, of course you do. It’s ingrained in the XFL 2.0 lore. I bring this up, because if there’s any player set up to mimic Johnson’s career arc, it’s KeShaun Moore.

KeShaun has already had to deal with his fair share of disappointment and moving around. After being named to the Virginia 1st Team All-State for two straight years, he received an offer to play at James Madison. After red-shirting his first year, he started in six games for the Dukes. Then, he was dismissed for violating team rules. KeShaun declined to go into what happened, but he would have to transfer to a new school. 

He moved on to JuCo Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania and recommitted himself to his studies. In one season with the team he earned NJCAA 2nd-Team All-American and helped lead the team to the national championships. This landed him some FBS interest and he gave a verbal commitment to play at Liberty. However, he changed his mind and signed with Hampton.

At the HBCU, KeShaun started on the D-Line for two years and, as is tradition, took full advantage of the time. He fought for 13 sacks, 24.5 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. That fight inside him caught the eyes of the folks at the WWE. The Next in Line recruitment program reached out to KeShaun via his Instagram and by the summer he was signed on. He has said: 

“Once I graduate, my No. 1 goal is to play in the NFL, and if that does not work, knowing I have that opportunity to train in Florida to be a wrestler is not too bad.”

In the meantime, he has gotten a few pro opportunities. KeShaun was invited to Colts minicamp and was signed by the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders. He made it through the preseason, but was a casualty of the last round of cuts. He’s more than proved he can hang with professional talent and the XFL could provide him with the coaching to push him into the NFL.

2) Ronnie Thomas, Mississippi Valley State

Moving on, we have another HBCU player that the NFL passed on. We hear a lot about “ideal size” for positions and while players constantly prove to be exceptions to those rules, it still ends up hurting the draft capital of people like Ronnie Thomas.

At 6’0”/250 pounds, Ronnie has been a below-the-radar sort of player for quite some time. He started out playing JuCo ball for East Central Community College. During his two year stint at Last Chance U he got 6.5 sacks. Where he really impressed was going from 1 tackle for a loss in his freshman year to 13 in his next season.

This caught the eye of Mississippi Valley State and, after the Covid season, he continued to defy expectations. In his final season he racked up a team season record of 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss. This earned him All-SWAC 1st Team honors, an invite to the HBCU Legacy Bowl, and make him a finalist for the C Spire Conerly Trophy (given to the best college football player in Mississippi).

Ronnie was signed by the CFL Calgary Stampeders and, much like KeShaun Moore, he lasted until the final cuts of the preseason. Emory Hunt of CBS does project Ronnie to be “…more of a SAM backer at the pro level,” but I’d personally be interested in seeing him work in a hybrid role with a defense needy team. Orlando or Vegas could give him the opportunity to start early or develop as a plug-in-play guy and really boost his stock with the NFL.

1) Jordan Ferguson, Middle Tennessee State

There are a handful of players that I’m over the moon excited for in this draft. Jordan Ferguson has sent me straight to Mars. 

In high school Jordan was a two way player who played tight end and defensive end. Despite being ranked the 4th best tight end in Georgia, he chose to play defensive end in college. He got offers from Baylor & Indiana, but by then he’d already committed to playing at Georgia State. After the senior year season, he would de-commit and sign on at Middle Tennessee State. 

From there, Jordan just took off. In his freshman year he racked up 5.5 tackles for a loss and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. He was knocked out of the 2019 season due to a knee injury, but came back the next year to start and was named permanent team captain. In his final two years as a Blue Raider, Jordan averaged 17 tackles for a loss and 9 sacks. On top of that, he blocked a kick, recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown, and gained 49 yards on his only rushing attempt. Then he saved the best for last. 

Middle Tennessee State was invited to face San Diego State in the Hawai’i Bowl. For much of the game, the MTSU offense looked lost and spooked. Quarterback Chase Cunningham was getting blitzed regularly and kicker Zeke Rankin was keeping things as close as he could. The Blue Raiders got their first touchdown in the second quarter thanks to a quick pass to their temporary tight end, Jordan Ferguson. Then, in the third quarter, a pass from San Diego State was tipped, only to be caught by Jordan as he fell. The very next play led to Middle Tennessee’s only other touchdown. They won and Jordan was awarded defensive MVP. 

I also should mention that after being invited to the Hula Bowl, he won Defensive MVP there as well. Not only does Jordan come up big in important games, but his awareness is next level. The most impressive feature is that when he goes in for a sack, he’s not running full tilt to crush the quarterback. His tackles are equal parts getting the sack and avoiding the penalty. Plus, he does a little dance after the sack, so what’s not to love there? Don’t answer that, NFL. 

Long section short, Ferguson is easily a first round pick and is worthy of being the first overall.

Unleash the Action: Sign up for XFL Insider and Fuel Your Passion for Football!

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

XFL Kickoff

XFL News Alerts

USFL and XFL Merger: A Deep Dive into the Historic Collaboration

Latest Podcast

Subscribe XFL Podcast

More in XFL News

XFL News Hub