DC Defenders full draft recap
Written by Joe Marino
The Draft Network
Day Two - Wednesday, October 16th
That's a wrap! The XFL's league draft is officially closed, with Wednesday's action bringing an infusion of defensive back seven talent and the wide open flexibility of the league's open portion of the 2019 XFL Draft. Now comes the time to go to work -- but for DC Defenders fans, here are a few players from each of today's phases that should be in a great position to succeed under head coach Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator Tanner Engstrand and defensive coordinator Jeff Fitzgerald.
Phase Four (Defensive Backs)
- CB Jalen Myrick, Minnesota Golden Gophers
With the selection of Myrick, the Defenders are well equipped to handle the speedy receivers across the XFL landscape. Clocking a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Myrick can match steps with any receiver and serve as a matchup neutralizer, offering a skill set that is rare to find. What is unique about Myrick’s blazing speed is that it doesn’t come at the expense of size. He features a dense frame that is fully capable of holding his own against physical receivers. Dating back to his days at Minnesota, Myrick proved his ability to make plays on the ball with five interceptions and 21 pass breakups across his final three seasons. In addition, Myrick adds return ability and provides head coach Pep Hamilton with a multifaceted player on the roster.
- CB Ladarius Gunter, Miami Hurricanes
After adding a speedster in Myrick that can win in man coverage from the slot, the Defenders added a complementary piece to the defensive backfield in Gunter, who is more of a zone corner that has the length and ball skills to truly restrict throwing windows. Gunter served as a full-time starter for the Green Bay Packers in 2016 on a football team that went 10-6 record and won its division. Gunter has the size needed to matchup with the bigger-bodied, physical receivers the XFL features. Defensive coordinator Jeff Fitzgerald can take advantage of complementary skill sets in his secondary and take away mismatches with players like Gunter.
Phase Five (Open Draft)
- LB A.J. Tarpley, Stanford Cardinal
A four-year starter at Stanford and team captain as a senior, Tarpley enjoyed a standout career as an impact defensive playmaker for the Cardinal. Across four seasons, Tarpley produced 299 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight pass breakups and three forced fumbles. Tarpley did spend one season with the Buffalo Bills and appeared in 15 games while starting two. In his NFL stint, Tarpley found a way to intercept two passes, force a fumble and breakup two passes. Tarpley has the processing skills, instincts, physicality and versatility to thrive as an inside linebacker for defensive coordinator Jeff Fitzgerald.
- SAF Matt Elam, Florida Gators
A former first-round NFL Draft pick, Elam was a two-year starter for the Baltimore Ravens. From his days at Florida, Elam was known for being a physical presence that aggressively attacked downhill as evidenced by his 154 tackles and 22 tackles for loss over his final two seasons with the Gators. And while his physicality is evident, Elam is fully capable of making plays on the ball with six interceptions in college. Elam has the ability to play up in the box, line up in man coverage against tight ends and defend split zones. Elam is experienced, talented and primed to make a major impact for defensive coordinator Jeff Fitzgerald.
Day One - Tuesday, October 15th
Written by Benjamin Solak
The Draft Network
Day One of the XFL's league draft is officially in the books. With so many of the players from the talent pool finding new homes, it's undoubtedly an exciting time for all who got the call -- and the coaches who now have their hands on players who can help bring their vision of a successful program come to life. For DC Defenders fans, here are a few players from each phase of today's phases that should be in a great position to succeed under head coach Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator Tanner Engstrand and defensive coordinator Jeff FitzGerald.
Phase One (Skill Players)
- RB Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State Aztecs
It will be fascinating to see what Pumphrey can bring in a prominent role for the Defende. The career NCAA record-holder for rushing yards, Pumphrey was a fourth-round selection for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft, but saw his rookie and sophomore seasons alike derailed by hamstring injuries that limited him in camp and in the preseason. Lightning quick and a natural receiver out of the backfield, Pumphrey also adds return value given his elusiveness and vision in open space. Few playmakers in the XFL bring as dynamic a skillset as Pump, who could be the premier big-play threat in the league if he’s able to stay healthy.
- WR Rashard Davis, James Madison Dukes
The honor of top pick in Phase 1 of the inaugural XFL Draft belongs to Rashard Davis, a dominant receiver at the FCS level for the James Madison Dukes -- there, he set the single-season record for punt return yards and touchdowns. Davis has bounced around NFL practice squads since going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, but has always piqued the interest of football executives for his speed and natural feel with the ball in his hands. The DC Defenders are all about adding speed to their skill positions, and Davis is as dynamic a runner as they come. Expect QB Cardale Jones to rely heavily on Davis in the quick game to generate tons of YAC.
Phase Two (Offensive Line)
- OT Kyle Murphy Stanford Cardinal
With their first selection in Phase 2, the Defenders went after Kyle Murphy, the ex-Green Bay Packer, as one of their bookends. Murphy was a 5-star recruit by Rivals and a Top-30 player on ESPN’s rankings for the 2012 class before he committed to Stanford and played under Mike Bloomgren during the heyday of the Cardinal offensive lines. A third-team All-American as a senior, Murphy was a sixth-round pick of the Packers, playing in six games and starting in three games at both right and left tackle. Injury cut Murphy’s 2018 short, but if he’s back to full health, he’s one of the most experienced and promising offensive linemen in the XFL.
- OT Toby Weathersby, LSU Tigers
Weatherbsy is a classic case of “What could have been?” and he could finally unlock his potential with the Defenders. A big-time 2015 recruit at LSU, Weatherbsy started as a true freshman for the Tigers, but regularly lost time and development opportunities due to injury. An early declaree into the 2018 draft in large part because his family was affected by hurricanes in Houston, Weathersby was a practice squad player at the NFL level. But few players have as intriguing of a developmental profile as Weathersby has, given his size, power, and hand strength, so a healthy and stable starting job for the Defenders could pay dividends in his growth.
Phase Three (Defensive Front Seven)
- DT Elijah Qualls, Washington Huskies
A 2017 sixth-round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles, Qualls saw playing time in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run on a deep defensive line rotation for DC Jim Schwartz. With a dense frame and powerful hands, Qualls was a strong two-gapping defensive lineman for the University of Washington who struggled to make hay as a one-gapping penetrator in the Eagles system. Now with the DC Defenders and defensive coordinator Jeff FitzGerald, who worked under Chuck Pagano, Qualls will have more opportunities to two-gap and could shine in a new role with the Defenders on the interior.
- LB Scooby Wright, Arizona Wildcats
Scooby Wright is a legend in Arizona sports, as the sophomore linebacker for the Wildcats in 2014 won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award -- as well as the Bronco Nagurski award -- for his tremendous production. A tackle-gobbling machine with 163 total takedowns, Wright declared for the 2016 NFL Draft after an injury-plagued 2015 junior season, but struggled to stick at the NFL level after the Browns selected him in the seventh round. With great physicality, good block deconstruction, and a willingness to stick his nose in the fan against bigger opponents, Wright is the ideal captain of a defense at the MIKE position.