Luis Perez comes with a ton of hype, some of that well deserved. He did some things at Texas A&M Commerce, winning a D-II National Championship in 2017 while throwing 5,001 yards and 46 TD’s. He also completed 70.6% of his passes that year, showing impeccable accuracy and decision making surrounded by D-II talent.
He caught on with the Rams in 2018, but threw a pick and completed 53% of his passes in limited preseason action. He then led the Birmingham Iron to a 5-3 record in the AAF, but completed only 52.3% of his passes and had a 5-6 TD-INT ratio. The stats don’t look glamorous, but NFL scouts thought enough of his tape for him to land with the Eagles and Lions this offseason. He’s been lauded for his football IQ and accuracy, but arm talent has been an issue and he needs to refine his technique a bit.
Jalan McClendon actually beat out Connor Cook in workouts with the Redskins to land a preseason roster spot this year. He’s got the tools coaches like with a 6’5″ frame, athleticism and a good arm, but with limited production in college and only 23 starts to his name it’s hard to tell what they have here.
Taryn Christion put up big numbers at South Dakota State, tossing 104 TD’s in 4 years as a starter. He’s got top tier athleticism for his position and ran a 4.5 40 time at his pro day. He’s most recently been seen on the Steelers scout team.
Running Back: B+
Elijah Hood is a pure downhill runner. At 5’11” 232 pounds, he does one thing and does it well. He pounds the rock. At North Carolina, he rushed for 2,580 yards and 29 TD’s at 6.0 a clip. He’s doesn’t have top-end speed or quickness, and isn’t much of a receiving threat, but has plus ability in pass protection and lead blocking. Could be very effective as a power/fullback type player.
Larry Rose III out of New Mexico State is an ideal complement to Hood. He’s slimmer at 195 pounds, but with 4.42 speed, good route running ability, and soft hands, he’ll form half of a one-two punch. As a 3rd down/change of pace back I think he’ll excel, and is a threat to rip off big chunk plays.
Winston Dimel is a purebred Fullback, and it’s refreshing to see so many of these in the XFL. He scored 22 TD’s in short-yardage situations in college and pulled in 507 receiving yards.
Martez Carter gives them options as a scatback, and Nico Evans is balanced depth, playing well his senior year at Wyoming.
Wide Receiver: A-
Rashard Ross has been around the NFL since 2013, and the 29-year-old has been carving out roles for himself as a reserve receiver and returner. He’s been clocked at running a 4.39 40 yard dash and puts that speed to use down the sideline and in the return game. He’s been a consistent standout in preseason action, and in regular-season play has scored three times, once on a 101-yard kick return in Washington. Whenever he makes it on the field he’s made an impact and led the AAF with 7 rec TD’s last year with the Hotshots.
Nelson Spruce was a consistent contributor all for years at Colorado, and in 2014 hauled in 106 receptions for 1198 yards and 12 scores. He doesn’t have great vertical speed but excels in his route running and figures to be a steady possession option. He’ll serve as an excellent complementary option alongside Ross.
KD Cannon is another vertical threat with 4.41 speed. He was a big producer at Baylor and was All-Big 12 his Junior and Senior years. His footwork and route running could use some upgrading, but he’s a big-play threat nonetheless.
Kermit Whitfield is a return specialist out of Florida State who is also an asset as a slot receiver. His freshman year he was downright electric, scoring on two returns and posting an insane 36.4 yards per return. After that year he was targeted much more by coverage teams who planned for him but still posted a 25.4 average in 4 years.
Keyarris Garrett is a 6’4″ target who led FBS Division one receiver with 1588 yards at Tulsa in 2015. After stints in the NFL, AFL, and CFL, he’s ready to make an impact as a red zone threat in the XFL.
Tight End: C-
Scouts liked Brandon Barnes’s size and athleticism coming out of Alabama State, but the 6’5″ TE had limited production in college. He’s got the tools, and both the Raiders and Lions saw that, but he needs to improve his route running and blocking technique at the next level. He had 9 catches for 75 yards and a 2PT in the AAF.
Johnny Stanton was a quarterback and a linebacker at Nebraska and UNLV and converted to fullback to play with the Vikings. Clearly he wants to play football and is willing to do whatever it takes, but we don’t know what he’s capable of at this new position. At 6’2″, he figures to be more of an H-Back.
Cordon Moog is a converted rugby player who’s got the size at 6’5″ 241, but we’ve yet to see him take the field in American Football.
Offensive Line: C+
Storm Norton started two straight years at LT in Toledo, and help up well in both the pass and run game. He’s a tall prospect at 6’8″, moves well for his size and uses his length well to box out defenders. He’s spent time with the Lions, Vikings, and Cardinals, but has yet to make a start in the pros.
Ryan Pope was described as “looking like a first-rounder but plays more like a late rounder” by NFL Draft Scout, and though he has all the physical traits we look for in RT’s, his technique is left wanting. He needed more strength and polish coming out of college, and hopefully, time spent with the Lions and 49ers has done some of that.
Nico Siragusa started 42 games at guard at San Diego State and was a 4th round pick by Baltimore in 2017. He’s a road grader, and while he won’t be seen pulling on many plays, he can push up the field well with his 330-pound frame and anchor against interior rushers. Unfortunately, a knee injury in his first training camp ended his rookie year before it began, and he’s didn’t find a starting gig with the Packers, Colts or Bills.
Fred Lauina is a stout presence in the middle at a hefty 342 pounds. He caught on in Cleveland last offseason, performing well on the right side in preseason action. He’s not the most agile but will be a pusher in the run game.
Damien Mama is another bulk in the middle. He registered at 334 pounds in the pre-draft process but apparently was up around 400 at times at USC. Weight and movement are issues, but he’s a great anchor against bull rushers and a bulldozer in run blocking.
The Wildcats have not taken a dedicated Center. Micah St Andrew (6’3″ 348) has experience starting at Center, even though he’s listed as a guard.
Lots of bulk on the interior here. Looks like we’re going to see a power rushing attack in LA.
Front Seven: B-
Willie Mays III is a rusher who flashes some explosiveness and speed off the edge. He’s got the ability to get to the QB and penetrate the backfield, and though he didn’t face top competition in D-II at Tiffin, he’s got talent. Stints in Green Bay and Montreal have given him a chance to show out against pro talent.
Cedric Reed was a disruptive force who displayed pass rush and run disruption capabilities at Texas. He put up good production against Big-12 competition, and though he didn’t catch on with the Bills or Dolphins after offseason stints, I think he’s got the skill package to be a solid pass rusher in the XFL.
The Wildcats just lost Corey Vereen, who exited the league to pursue a career in Computer Science. He was tied for 4th in the AAF with 4 sacks last spring, and though they have some other good options, they’ll miss his pass rush production.
Anthony Johnson-DT was the Wildcat’s first pick in Phase III. After a good run at LSU, he’s been around the league for a few years, most notably playing in rotation with the 2016 Patriots Super Bowl team. He’s got top-end burst and athleticism for his size and plays with good leverage off the line.
Shawn Oakman is a monster off the end, and at 6’9″ he’s got all the length you could ask for. He had a fantastic season at Baylor in 2014 with 25.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Initially projected as a first-round draft pick for his disruptive abilities and massive frame, he was accused of sexual assault 2 weeks before the 2016 Draft.
SHAWN. OAKMAN. ?— Los Angeles Wildcats (@XFLWildcats) October 16, 2019
That's it.. that's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/smUJo0yZGK
He was eventually found not guilty, but the draft had long since passed and he tried his hand at Indoor Football. He should be a force to be reckoned as a 3 technique.
Eric Pinkins has bounced between Safety and Linebacker and projects to play down in the box for LA. As a DB at San Diego State, he held up well in coverage and was stout against the run. He barely cracked the field in the NFL with the Seahawks, Chargers, and Giants, but had good production last spring in the AAF. With a versatile skill set, he’ll be able to take on multiple assignments and make plays all over the field.
Tre Williams is a bit undersized at 6’2″ 220, but plays with good sideline to sideline speed, flowing to the ball. He’s got enough length and speed to hold up against mismatches in coverage and will be a big part of the Wildcats’ Nickel defense. He put up good production in 3 years as a starter at Auburn.
Adrian Hubbard was a good contributor at Alabama, has good length at 6’6″ and has some pass rush moves to offer here. Taiwan Jones and Quentin Gause were productive in college and could compete for playing time as well.
Jack Tocho flashed some ball-hawking abilities at North Carolina State, with 6 picks and 26 PD’s in 4 years. He was moved from CB to Safety in the NFL to better suit his skill set and has been lauded for his football IQ and work ethic. He has a good combo of length and speed and should lock down one of the Safety spots with quality play.
Harlan Miller also has the ability to play at both DB spots, but he’s listed as a safety and will primarily line up there in LA. Miller played in the unenviable position across from Patrick Peterson, and though 2nd corners in situations like that often get picked on, Miller held his own with an interception, pass deflection and fumble recovery in limited snaps.
Jordan Powell (S) is a D-III phenom who was a two-time AFCA first-team All-American. He produced all over the field in coverage, against the run, and as a pass rusher. It’ll take an adjustment for him to face pro-level talent, but he’s got a wide skillset to contribute.
Jaylen Dunlap has ideal length and speed at corner, and is good against the run. He does need some work in coverage and didn’t have notable INT’s or PD’s in college.
CJ Moore is another player who can switch between CB and S, but with his 5’11” frame and 4.5 speed I project him to spend more time at corner, especially since there are so many safety prospects here. He had a great career at Ole Miss, and though he didn’t catch on with the Detroit Lions, I think he can carve out a role for himself in this secondary.
Nick Novak is a proven commodity, and though he’s 38 I’d take an established vet over a young kid any day at Kicker. With a career 82% field goal rate and years of experience in the NFL, NFL Europe, and UFL, he’s as steady as they come in the XFL. He did struggle in his last season (2017) with San Diego, (9/13 FG) but beyond that, he’s been pretty solid throughout his career.
Colton Schmidt leads all XFL punters in professional average punt yards with 44.0. He’s the best in the league at this point in the offseason and has put an impressive 105 of 338 punts within the 20-yard line.
Ryan Navarro played Long Snapper for a couple of years at Oregon State and has been in mini-camps with both the Washington and Oakland.
Overall Grade: B-
Luis Perez will have to show up more in the Pro’s to make an impression, but he has good running backs and fantastic WR’s to put the ball up to. I’m not particularly excited about the Tight End and Offensive Line spots, but there’s enough talent on offense overall.
The defense should be solid, there are enough standouts to keep this group together. While there’s not a lot of top-end talent on this side of the ball, they won’t be a liability. They have some great athletic off-ball linebackers that should hold down the middle of the defense and Shawn Oakman is going to do big things but I would’ve liked to see more talent at cornerback.
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