The Defenders QB room has a ton of potential. Between Cardale Jones and Tyree Jackson, they’ve got two prototypically built QB prospects with big arms and plus athleticism. Jones, as the Tier one figures to be the starter, but Jackson drummed up alot of interest around the football world this offseason, and could become a household name in the right situation.
Both QB’s here have a high ceiling, but need to prove that they can put up consistent play at the next level. Pep Hamilton has definitely chosen a mold of QB here, and we’ll likely see an uptempo offense with big vertical plays to stretch the field and take advantage of all that arm talent.
Running Backs: B+
DC has a lot of speed here, with two former college stars in Jhurell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey. Jhurell Pressley ran a 4.4, and at 5’10” 207 he’s got decent size and has yet to crack the field in the pros. He was dominant at New Mexico and in 4 years as a starter maintained a 6.9 yards per carry with 35 TDs.
Donnel Pumphrey is a great change of pace option at 5’8″ 176 pounds. Though a bit undersized, we’ve seen players with his frame like Phillip Lindsay have success at the next level. He’s the All Time Division I FBS leading rusher, with an insane 6,405 yards and 62 TD’s on his resume. He’s also a great receiver and can contribute in the passing game on third downs.
Khalid Abdullah had a productive career at JMU, and is a solid third option while Ryan Yurachek is a versatile piece who can play RB, FB, TE and H-Back. A lot of potential, but they could’ve added more proven talent here.
Wide Receivers: A-
The Defenders are clearly committing to speed, with 5 receivers with sub 4.4 40 times. Rashard Davis, Tre McBride, Max McCaffrey and Deion Holliman all ran in the 4.3 range, while Justin Thomas ran an insane 4.28. All that speed, with Jones and Jackson’s cannons will be a lot for defenses to contend with over the top.
Tre McBride has the size and speed coaches look for at 6’0″, and the 26 year old has some in game pro experience. Rashard Davis at 5’9″ looks to be more of a slot option, and Hamilton thought enough of him to select him with their first pick in the draft. Max McCaffrey looks to catch on in the XFL, and is a great deep/redzone threat at 6’2″ and all that speed.
They have a lot of weapons that can stretch the field, but it’s not all just burners. Jamal Custis is a massive target at 6’5″ and should be a huge asset over the middle of the field.
Tight End: B-
The Defenders have a good mix of NFL talent here. Orson Charles headlines the group, and could see a lot of work at H-Back. He’s been around pro football since 2012, and has seen production as a pass catcher and blocker.
Adrien Robinson and Khari Lee are both big targets, who have on-field NFL experience and
Offensive Line: C+
Kyle Murphy, 25 got playing time early in his career with the Packers, but a foot injury ended his rookie season. At 6’6″ he’s got the length teams look for, and ended up with the Rams last year. Immediately after the XFL draft, he was signed to the Texan’s practice squad. Though an injury hurt his career, he played every single game in his four years at Stanford, and projects as the starting LT here.
De’Ondre Williams projects as the RT here, and he’s sure got the frame for it at 6’7″ 330. With in game NFL experience and a mean streak, he should be a good road grader for their run game.
Jon Toth will anchor this line at Center, and he’s got the strength to hold it down. A bit limited as an athlete, he won’t be asked to pull or run zone schemes, but he can push the line forward and hold it in pass pro if needed.
Both Guard spots appear up for grabs, as the Defenders have some big young fellas in the middle with Rishard Cook and Chris Brown. Chase Farris has some NFL experience, and Trae Moxley is an interesting prospect. This is a camp battle to keep an eye on.
The Defenders line looks suited to a power run game with their size and strength, but they’re lacking the quicker footed players that a zone run needs. With all the speed around the offense, they’ll have to hold their own against edge rushers and give the QB’s enough time to huck it deep. I was hoping to see a bit more pro experience and athleticism here.
Front Seven: B+
It looks like James Vaughter and Charles Harris should bookend the Edges here. Vaughter had a good run at Stanford, and garnered interest in the NFL before moving to Canada. In Calgary, he racked up 11 quarterback takedowns, and at 26 he’s still in his prime. “Chuck” Harris out of Buffalo displayed great power off the edge, notching 12 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. He spent the offseason with the Bears, and is one of the XFL’s most solid young edge prospects.
Sam Montgomery brings a steady veteran presence to the DE position, and Scooby Wright III is an intriguing young prospect. Wright had 14 sacks in 2014 for the University of Arizona, but injuries derailed his senior season, and he hasn’t caught on in the NFL.
Elijah Qualls should be a solid force in the middle. The 320 pound former 6th round pick is stout against the run, but also has pass rush moves that earned him 8 sacks at Washington.
At Linebacker, Jonathan Celestin was a tackling machine at Minnesota. He had 217 tackles and 19.5 for a loss, and flashed coverage ability with 7 PD’s and an interception.
Jameer Thurman was a standout at Indiana state, and has been a regular contributor in the CFL. The past two seasons in Calgary he’s had 134 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions. He’s got a great mix of production and potential, and should lock down the middle next to Celestin.
Signed to the Browns as an UDFA in 2018, Elijah Campbell never got to see the field in the NFL. However, he was wildly productive in college, picking off 8 passes in 2 years at Northern Iowa. At safety, he also logged 91 tackles and 4 sacks. He’s converted to CB in the pros, likely to take advantage of his 4.34 speed.
They’ve got speed on the other side too, with Jalen Myrick. He ran a blazing 4.28, and had a productive career at Minnesota with 5 interceptions and 2 TD’s. Doran Grant has been in the pros for awhile as well, and the 26 year old brings experience to the CB corps.
The Defenders Safeties are the best pair I’ve seen in the XFL. Rahim Moore had a good run with the Broncos at FS, and has 9 interceptions and 212 tackles in the pros. The 29 year old brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the locker room, and he’ll elevate the play by holding down the back end.
Matt Elam was a first round pick with the Ravens, and had a great rookie season and made plays all over the field. A tough sophomore season and an injury ended his time in Baltimore, but he’s brimming with potential. He’ll lock down the SS spot.
The Defenders haven’t taken a Kicker, and don’t have one on the roster so we can’t tell how this group will end up. Hunter Niswander had success as a punter at Northwestern, and averaged 43.0 yards per attempt his senior year.
We’ll have to wait and see how this group rounds out. They need a long snapper as well.
Overall Grade: A-
The Defenders have big play potential on offense, and if Cardale Jones gets enough time in the pocket to send it deep to his speedy receivers, they’re in for a big year. The one-two punch at RB with Pumphrey and Pressley gives them a lot of flexibility, but it’s hard to tell how the line will shake out this early in the offseason.
On defense, they have a solid core in the middle of their defense, elite speed to lock down the passing game and the best safety combo in the league. I have high expectations for them, and it’s a balanced yet exciting group.
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