Houston Roughnecks 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 Houston Roughnecks fans, here are a few players from each of today's phases that should be in a great position to succeed under head coach June Jones, offensive coordinator Chris Miller and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.
Phase Four (Defensive Backs)
- CB Robert Nelson, Arizona State Sun Devils
A transfer from UL-Monroe, Nelson quickly proved his ballhawking skills in two seasons with the Sun Devils as he logged 18 pass breakups and nine interceptions combined in 2013 and 2014. Despite going undrafted out of Arizona State, Nelson played in 20 career NFL games. Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell now has a cornerback that thrives in zone coverage where he can keep his eyes on the backfield while utilizing his instincts to restrict throwing windows and make game-changing plays on the football. While he isn't the biggest defensive back, Nelson makes up for a lack of size with excellent short area burst that enables him to rapidly close at the catch point when challenged.
- SAF Ed Reynolds, Stanford Cardinal
Adding Reynolds was a clear indication of how much the Roughnecks value ball skills and the ability to create takeaways in the defensive backfield. In two seasons as a starter at Stanford, Reynolds hauled in seven interceptions, including a school-record three returned for touchdowns in 2012. His 301 interception return yards in 2012 was just one yard short of the NCAA single-season record. His historic 2012 season earned Reynolds the Jack Tatum Trophy which is awarded annually to the top collegiate defensive back. He'll provide the Roughnecks with a smart and physical ballhawk on the backend of Ted Cottrell's defense.
Phase Five (Open Draft)
- DE Kony Ealy, Missouri Tigers
Ealy is the ideal player to work on the edge of defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell’s front line. He is a powerful player at the point of attack that knows how to play with extension and set a firm edge against the run. Ealy played in 65 NFL games, starting 19, for the Panthers, Jets and Raiders where he racked up 96 tackles, 15 sacks and six forced fumbles. Ealy is a long-levered defensive linemen that has the functional strength to reset the line of scrimmage and collapse the width of the pocket. Ealy was a First-Team All-SEC selection during his final season at Missouri.
- LB Carl Bradford, Arizona State Sun Devils
A standout defensive playmaker at Arizona State, Bradford was a two-time All-Pac 12 selection including first team honors in 2014. He finished his Sun Devil career with 40.5 tackles for loss while adding 21.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Bradford plays with tremendous urgency while offering the upside to serve in a standup role or on the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell maximized talents like Bradford throughout his coaching career and Bradford is in a terrific situation to thrive. If Bradford is given opportunities to blitz and shoot gaps, he’s proven his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
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 Houston Roughnecks 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 June Jones, offensive coordinator Chris Miller and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.
Phase One (Skill Players)
- QB Connor Cook, Michigan State Spartans
The long-term starter at Michigan State -- a record-holder for wins as the Spartan’s starting QB -- gets another opportunity to compete for a starting job, as the Roughnecks immediately added Cook to compete with Temple product Philip Walker as their starting slinger. Cook was initially a depth player for the Raiders after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he ended up starting a playoff game due to injury -- his quick release and short-area distribution help keep offenses on schedule without putting the ball at risk. Cook maximizes his playmakers, of which the Roughnecks have added many, and should bring his winning pedigree to the Houston roster.
- WR Sammie Coates, Auburn Tigers
Whoever ends up throwing the ball for the Roughnecks will likely rely on Sammie Coates as one of their top targets, as he pairs with WR Khalil Lewis to start on the outside for Houston. Coates has a long NFL tenure, having started six games over the four years he played in the league. Coates is a dynamic downfield threat, with a career 18.2 yards per reception and a 4.43 40-yard dash to boot. Coates’ athleticism was the foundation on which he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while he struggled to become the top receiver he was projected to be in the NFL, his athletic profile remains an enticing framework for a Number 1 wide receiver in Houston.
Phase Two (Offensive Line)
- OC Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M Aggies
A long-tenured NFL journeyman, Lewis brings starting experience and veteran savvy to the Roughnecks’ offensive line. Originally an undrafted rookie in the 2013 NFL Draft class, Lewis made stops in Green Bay, Cleveland and Jacksonville before landing in Seattle and starting 15 games across two seasons for the Seahawks following the injury and trade of Max Unger. Stout and thick, Lewis is a tough player to move off his spot, and brings good power to the point of attack when creating displacement against interior defensive linemen. He’ll likely challenge for one of the three starting interior spots for the Roughnecks, as he has the requisite size and strength to play both center and guard in the XFL.
- OT Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M Aggies
Staying in the theme of Texas A&M offensive linemen, another fascinating player for the Roughnecks is offensive tackle Avery Gennesy, an ex-Aggie and UDFA from the 2018 NFL Draft. He signed with the Jaguars but struggled to stick at the NFL level, as poor testing illustrated athletic deficiencies that may spell a more promising future for Gennesy at guard. As it is, the two-year starter for the Aggies showcased length and strength on the outside, and has the requisite size to develop into a plus pass-blocker at either tackle or guard -- during the NFL Draft cycle, he was lauded for his footwork and balance on passing downs. Gennesy is a candidate to start both at guard and tackle for the Roughnecks.
Phase Three (Defensive Front Seven)
- DT Trenton Thompson, Georgia Bulldogs
Houston made Trenton Thompson their first-round pick in Phase 3, and rightfully so, as the Georgia product has always had the upside through the course of his career. A 2018 UDFA who had a quick stop in Cleveland before moving on the AAF, Thompson is an aggressive penetrator on the interior when he times the snap correctly, and has the mass and strength to hold down his gap and absorb double-teams as an interior anchor. With continued development as a young and raw player for the Roughnecks, he looks like a future impact rusher in the XFL.
- DT Olive Sagapolu, Wisconsin Badgers
With NFL bloodlines and undoubtedly enough size to play professional ball, Sagapulo is one of the most exciting nose tackle prospects in the NFL pool. The Wisconsin product may have gone viral for his freaky backflips at 330+ pounds, but even more impressive is how effective he is at ceiling interior gaps and disrupting climbers/double-teams to free up linebackers behind him. Sagapulo is not much of a pass-rusher, but neither was his uncle, Domata Peko. The value he’ll bring will be in defending the run with violence and determination.