XFL Draft Preview: Players to Watch

Landry Jones is one of several former NFL players that could be in the XFL next year

The XFL is holding its inaugural draft on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 15-16), where its eight teams will stock up for the upcoming 2020 season with 71 new players. The draft will be slightly different than its NFL counterpart, as this will be held in five phases by position group.

 

The players who entered this XFL draft have a wide range of football experience. Many players have tried their hand in the NFL, Arena Football League, Canadian Football League, or the more recent Alliance of American Football. Other players are college standouts who are still looking for their first big chance in the professional ranks.

 

Here is a rundown of 23 names you might recognize, listed in alphabetical order:

 

Roberto Aguayo, K

After making 88 percent of his field goals and every single one of his extra points at Florida State from 2013-15, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose the former Seminole with the 59th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Aguayo wasn't as automatic in the NFL, as he converted just 71 percent (22-of-31) of his field goal attempts. He did, however, make 98 percent (32-of-34) of his extra-point tries. In the end, it wasn't enough to stick around in Tampa, as the Bucs cut him after the 2016 campaign. Aguayo also saw some preseason reps with the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, and Los Angeles Chargers but couldn't land a roster spot.

 

Frank Alexander, DE

The Carolina Panthers used a 2012 fourth-round selection on the former Oklahoma standout after he posted an outstanding 44 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks for the Sooners from 2008-11. Alexander spent the next four seasons in Charlotte where he posted 34 tackles and 3.5 sacks before the team parted ways with him. He also spent some time the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, and now he's looking to return stateside.

 

Austin Allen, QB

Despite being quite the efficient quarterback in the then-pro-style system of the Arkansas Razorbacks from 2016-17 (59.1 completion percentage, 5,045 yards, 36 TDs, 8.3 YPA, 21 INTs, 141.6 passer rating), Allen has struggled to find a home in the professional ranks. He spent the 2018 preseason with the Buccaneers and saw some brief playing time with the Salt Lake Stallions of the short-lived AAF. He registered 120 passing yards before the league folded after nine weeks, and now he looks to the XFL for a more permanent roster spot.

 

Brandon Bell, LB

From 2013-16, Bell posted 226 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six pass deflections, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries for Penn State. It earned him an opportunity with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent. He posted 14 tackles for Cincy before being let go at the end of last season, and he failed to land a roster spot with the Carolina Panthers earlier this season.

 

Jordan Bradford, DT

Bradford was a force for Louisiana Tech who made 119 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, and 6.5 sacks over four seasons (2015-18). Sadly, he didn't pop up on the NFL's radar, perhaps playing on the same line as Jaylon Ferguson overshadowed him.

 

David Cobb, RB

Most fans will remember Cobb from his days at the University of Minnesota, where he totaled 3,235 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns from 2011-14. But his most recent adventure saw him post 148 yards from scrimmage with the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF earlier this year. In between, Cobb had a brief run with the Tennessee Titans in 2015 (52 carries, 146 rushing yards, 1 TD), and he also tried his hand with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the CFL. Cobb is a versatile back who is underrated.

 

Connor Cook, QB

The former Michigan State standout spent some time as Derek Carr's backup with the Raiders after he led the Spartans to two Big Ten Championships (2013, '15), the College Football Playoff (2015 Cotton Bowl), and back-to-back New Year's Six bowl victories in both 2013 (Rose) and '14 (Cotton). His NFL tenure, however, was short-lived, as he lasted just two seasons in Oakland (2016-17) before becoming a practice squad player for both the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals in 2018. He completed 66 percent of his NFL pass attempts for 150 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

 

Jonas Gray, RB

Gray is best known for his time at Notre Dame from 2008-11 (1,205 yards from scrimmage, 12 total TDs), and he was a member of the Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots. The former Fighting Irish standout has 671 yards from scrimmage with five rushing touchdowns in the NFL, and now he looks to have bigger numbers in the XFL.

 

Tony Guerad, DT

This fierce pass rusher was a core player during the Scott Frost era of UCF Knights football (2016-17) when he collected 142 tackles, 24 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks. The NFL passed him up, but Guerad he posted four tackles in seven games for the AAF's Orlando Apollos this year. He could be one of the first defensive players selected.

 

Jerrod Heard, WR

From 2015-18, Heard was used as both a quarterback and wide receiver for the Texas Longhorns. When his time in Austin came to a close, Heard accounted for 1,243 passing yards, 605 rushing yards, and 540 receiving yards, and he was responsible for 14 touchdowns. But for whatever reason, he has yet to shine on the professional stage. The XFL will now give him that opportunity, and he's entered the XFL draft as a receiver.

 

Sean Hickey, OT

This 6-foot-6 lineman started 38 games at left tackle for Syracuse before beginning his pro career. He's practiced and played preseason games for the New Orleans Saints, Patriots, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and Jaguars from 2015-18, although he has yet to see a regular-season snap.

 

Demontre Hurst, CB

Hurst, 28, played in 32 games for the Chicago Bears from 2014-16, where he posted 56 tackles, seven quarterback hits, three tackles for a loss, three pass deflections, and two interceptions. He was also a contributor on special teams and played sparingly for the Tennessee Titans (2017-18) after playing his college ball at Oklahoma (2009-12).

 

Landry Jones, QB

Jones was the first player to sign a contract with the league back in August. Jones was a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 after he threw for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns at Oklahoma from 2009-12. He suited up for the Steelers (2013-17) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2018) as a backup and threw for 1,310 yards and eight scores. Jones joined the XFL after being unable to land a roster spot with the Oakland Raiders earlier this year, and now he waits to see which XFL franchise will give him his next opportunity.

 

Junior Joseph, LB

From 2014-17, the UConn Huskies posted a 14-25 record and made one bowl game appearance (lost in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl). But during that rough patch, they had a stud on defense named Junior Joseph. He carried Connecticut's defense by registering 306 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, and one interception. The Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he was cut after the preseason.

 

Keevan Lucas, WR

Here's another player that somehow missed out on the NFL. Lucas was a four-year starter at Tulsa (2013-16) who caught 240 passes for 3,250 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 33 times for 230 yards and posted 102 kick return yards as well.

 

Evan Rodriguez, TE/FB

Between the NFL and the AAF, Rodriguez has 181 combined receiving yards. He's a solid blocker from both positions, and he can play special teams as well. The Bears made him a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft after three seasons at Temple, but he bounced around three teams in his three NFL seasons.

 

Reggie Northrup, LB

Northrup was a starter for the AAF's Orlando Apollos, and he posted 35 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, four QB hits, two pass deflections, and one interception during that brief season. Northrup registered 271 tackles in four seasons at Florida State, including a team-high 122 in 2014, and briefly signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in '16.

 

Nick Orr, S

Need a solid player for the back end of your defense? Orr can be your guy. He posted 205 tackles, 20 pass deflections, nine interceptions, seven tackles for a loss, and a sack for TCU from 2014-17. It didn't get him an NFL slot, but he did allow him to make six tackles for the AAF's San Antonio Commanders earlier this year.

 

Cedric Reed, DE

It amazes me how someone who was not only a Second Team All-Big 12 selection, but also posted 180 tackles, 33 TFLs, 18.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles as a Texas Longhorn for four seasons (2011-2014) can't get an NFL roster spot. Reed had a couple of training camp runs with the Buffalo Bills (2015) and Dolphins (2016), and he also tried to latch onto a CFL franchise. Whichever XFL team drafts Reed will be making an excellent investment.

 

Bumni Rotimi, DE

Old Dominion has made a serious impact since moving to the FCS in 2014, and Rotimi is one of the players who's made this progress possible. He's proven himself to be quite the pass rusher in college (2014-17), but he's still looking for his first break in pro football. At ODU, Rotimi was responsible for 138 tackles, 25 TFLs, and 19 sacks.

 

Jalen Rowell, WR

Rowell (formally Jalen Robinette) is the Air Force Academy's all-time leader in receiving yards (2,697). He's second on the Falcons' all-time list in both receptions (120) and touchdown catches (18), he ranks in the top 15 in average yards per reception (22.5), and he made the Falcons' option/pro-style hybrid offense one of the most efficient in college football. Rowell entered the 2017 NFL Draft, but his mandatory two-year service commitment to our Armed Forces scared teams away, and he went undrafted. But with his military commitments completed, Rowell is ready to finally show that service academy players can succeed at the next level.

 

Darron Thomas, QB

This name should be familiar to you. From 2009-11, Thomas was under center for the Oregon Ducks as they won three consecutive Pac-10/12 titles (2009, '10, '11) and made an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game (2011). As one of many dynamic signal-callers during the Chip Kelly era in Eugene, Thomas accounted for 5,910 passing yards, 719 rushing yards, four receiving yards, and 26 combined trips to the endzone. The NFL passed on Thomas but he made an impact in the Arena Football League over five years, where he's thrown for 1,451 yards and 27 touchdowns plus another 96 yards and 11 scores on the ground.

 

Cole Tracy, K

Tracy is looking for his first professional opportunity after he made 87 percent (29-of-33) of his field goal attempts and all 42 of his extra-point tries for LSU last year. He has yet to sign with an NFL team even for training camp, although he got tryouts with the Saints and Jets.

 

— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

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