The Houston Gamblers and seven other United States Football League teams have completed the 2022 Draft and filled their rosters. The USFL draft took place over two days and involved thirty-five rounds! Each round of the USFL draft had to draft a specified position. The first day consisted of 12 rounds, drafting quarterbacks, defensive ends, offensive tackles, and cornerbacks. The second day of the USFL draft consisted of rounds 13 through 35. Positions drafted included wide receivers, safety, centers, guards, linebackers, kickers, punters, defensive tackles, and long snappers.
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Houston Gamblers’ Roster: USFL Draft Results, Rosters, and Roster Analysis
What Kind Of Team Will Kevin Sumlin Run
One of the biggest questions when looking at the Houston Gamblers’ roster is what type of offense coach Kevin Sumlin will run. At Texas A&M, Sumlin ran a one-back set with four wide receivers on the field as the base formation. Normally there were two slot receivers on the field at the same time. However, Sumlin has tried to adapt to his players’ strengths at Arizona. Therefore, he’ll look to take the players they drafted in the USFL draft, and mold the offense and defense to their strengths. Let’s take a look at the entire Houston Gamblers’ draft class and how the depth chart will play out.
The first thing Kevin Sumlin did for the Houston Gamblers’ draft was go out and get his starting quarterback. That quarterback was Clayton Thorson, out of Northwestern college. Thorson is a tall quarterback who has four years of starting experience. In college, Thorson displayed toughness, good football IQ, and competitiveness even though he was never surrounded by a lot of supporting talent. Sumlin’s offense normally has a pocket passer and Thorson fits that mold.
Backing him up is Kenji Bahar out of Monmouth. Bahar is another four-year starter who threw for 9,642 yards and 70 touchdowns in college. Should Bahar need to jump in and run the offense, he is very athletic and a dual-threat quarterback. He can also throw on the run from offset body positions when escaping pressure. They’ll both compete for a starting spot on the Houston Gamblers’ roster, but I see Thorson getting the first shot.
The Houston Gamblers’ draft went after an NFL pedigree running back for their starter. Nephew of safety Brian Dawkins, Dalyn Dawkins out of Colorado State will get an opportunity to lead the backfield. Dawkins has the third-most rushing yards in Colorado State history, finishing with 3,185 yards total. He also had 14 rushing touchdowns, 650 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. Dawkins spent time on both the Titans’ and Lions’ rosters the past couple of years. He’ll look to rejuvenate his professional career on the Houston Gamblers’ roster.
Another running back with time on NFL squads taken in the USFL draft by the Gamblers is Mark Thompson. Thompson is well known for his 85-yard screen catch and run for a touchdown against Iowa in the 2017 Outback Bowl. While Thompson has a sturdy 235-pound frame, he’s got great finesse and agility. Both of these backs will be given the opportunity to make an impact on the Houston Gamblers’ roster.
When watching wide receiver film on the Houston Gamblers’ draft class one thing stands out: speed. All four receivers are known for their speed. Maybe the fastest, Jojo Ward out of Hawaii, will get an opportunity to burn defensive backs for big plays when he catches passes from Clayton Thorson. He has great footwork and breakaway speed that will make him a puzzle for defenses to try and figure out. Another speedster, Isaiah Zuber out of Kansas State and Mississippi State, spent some time with the New England Patriots. Zuber also excels as a return specialist. In 2018 he led the Big 12 in punt return average.
The speed continues with Tyler Simmons out of Georgia. He has an impressive burst and tremendous explosiveness. Simmons also has excellent jumping ability for jump balls. Last, but not least, Anthony Ratliff-Williams out of North Carolina, has a great combination of both size and speed. All these receivers on the Houston Gamblers’ roster had productive college careers and will look to make an impact at the professional level. If Sumlin goes with a four-wide receiver set, I could see Simmons and Ratliff on the outside with Ward and Zuber taking the slot positions.
While the Houston Gamblers’ draft didn’t get a towering wide receiver, they made up for that with their tight end selections. Out of Alabama State, Brandon Barnes didn’t have an extremely productive pass-catching stat sheet in college but he was dominant during his time in the XFL. His 6-4, 255-pound frame will give the Houston Gamblers’ roster a huge red-zone target. Another tight end taken by the Houston Gamblers in the USFL draft was Julian Allen. Allen played fullback in college at Southern Mississippi but has experience playing tight end on a couple of NFL rosters. He is also 6-4 and has a bruising 234-pound frame. He’ll help the Houston Gamblers in both the run game as well as in the red zone.
(OT) Brandon Hitner
(G) Tyler Higby
(C) Nick Buchanan
(G) Terronne Prescod
(OT) Avery Gennesy
(OT) John Yarbrough
The Houston Gamblers’ draft went after athletic lineman which leads to believe they’re ready to sling the ball. The tackle positions that will protect Clayton Thorson are anchored first by 6-6 Brandon Hitner out of Villanova. Hitner is an extremely smart and athletic tackle with basketball-like feet. He’s also very good at pull blocking. On the other side at tackle Avery Gennesy, from Texas A&M, is also known for his athleticism and quickness. Gennesy is also great at pull blocking. And as talented as those two are, John Yarbrough out of Richmond, is also very talented. He was most recently seen in the XFL with the Vipers. Yarbrough can play center, guard, and tackle, making him a key piece on the Houston Gamblers’ roster.
The interior line of the Houston Gamblers’ draft is full of power and starts with Tyler Higby. Higby played guard at Michigan State but also has experience at left tackle and center. He is great at jamming defenders with a punch and keeps his feet working. The other guard selected was Terronne Prescod out of North Carolina State. Prescod is 6-5 and 330 pounds and is able to utilize his size to neutralize anybody lining up across from him. Centering the entire line is center Nick Buchanan out of Florida. Buchanan is used to being a leader and is also a very athletic lineman.
(DE) Drequan Brown
(DT) Cory Thomas
The Houston Gamblers’ draft of defensive lineman found experienced, versatile players that can complement each other well. Defensive end Ahmad Gooden out of Samford College has spent time with the Broncos, Jets, and Bills. He has NFL playing snaps and logged a tackle and a quarterback hit during his time with Denver. He’s a strong physical lineman who had 273 tackles, 22 sacks, two forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries in college.
On the other side, Chris Odom, out of Arkansas State has also spent time in multiple professional leagues. He ranked as the 41st best defensive end on draft day in 2017 but didn’t get a chance to play in the NFL until 2019 on the Commanders. In Week 13 he registered two sacks, including one that was a strip-sack to help seal their win. Not far behind either of these guys is Drequan Brown out of Central Oklahoma. Brown is athletic and has the ability to push around offensive tackles quickly. He also has a very high football IQ and can read offensive plays quickly.
The interior defensive line of the Houston Gamblers’ roster is led by Tomasi Laulile out of BYU. Laulile is strong, quick, and has excellent footwork. He has good handwork and can disengage from blocks with shedding or spin-outs. Another experienced lineman, Dominique Davis out of UNC Pembroke has spent time with the Jets. Davis had 122 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks prior to tearing the labrum in his shoulder his senior year. Healthy, Davis is a menace in the middle of the defense and constantly has guards and centers backpedaling.
Behind them is the former Mississippi State Bulldog, Cory Thomas. Cory doesn’t have as many starts as the other two but has a large frame and is a very physical lineman.
(OLB) Drew Lewis
(ILB) Beniquez Brown
(OLB) Donald Payne
(OLB) Azeem Victor
(ILB) Reggie Northrup
The Houston Gamblers’ draft appeared to go after hard-hitting, quick linebackers. Outside linebacker Drew Lewis out of Colorado will fit the Houston Gamblers’ roster perfectly as a fast-flying linebacker who can play both outside and in. He’s able to blitz or drop in coverage as needed. On the other side Donald Payne, out of Stetson, is getting another opportunity in a professional league. He has spent time in the NFL on multiple teams. Payne has the third most Division 1 tackles with 538 in college. He also had 14 sacks and 9 interceptions. In 2019 on the Jaguars, Payne recorded a team-high 13 tackles and 1 sack.
The other outside linebacker is Azeem Victor out of Washington. A broken leg set his career back a bit. Now another opportunity arises as he’s selected in the USFL draft. He’s a hard hitter and a quick decision-maker and will provide excellent depth to the Houston Gamblers’ roster.
The middle linebacker spot will most likely go to Beniquez Brown out of Mississippi State. Brown is a sure tackler and quick to pursue. He can run sideline to sideline and is great at directing defenses on the field. He’ll get the first chance to lead the defense. Behind him is Reggie Northrup out of Florida State. Northrup gets a chance to perform at a professional level again and to return to his dominant college performance. He had 271 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and an interception after being a four-year starter at Florida State.
(CB) Jamar Summers
(CB) William Likely
(S) Manny Bunch
(S) Andrew Soroh
(CB) Howard Wilson
(CB) Jerry Cantave
The cornerbacks taken in the Houston Gamblers’ draft are all feisty, ball-hawking players. Out of Connecticut Jamar Summers will look to lead the group. Summers had 12 interceptions in college. He has experience at both cornerback and safety and has excellent hands. Not his first professional experience, William Likely out of Maryland gets another opportunity to shine. Likely holds records at Maryland for single-season interception return yards, single-season interceptions returned for a touchdown, single-game kickoff return yards, and single-game punt return yards. He’s electric on special teams and in coverage.
Also with some NFL experience, Howard Wilson from Houston College joins the Houston Gamblers’ roster. At Houston, Howard didn’t have much starting experience, however the season as a full-time starter he averaged an interception every 15 targets! Last, Jerry Cantave out of William Jewell College. Graduating just last year Cantave will look to gain experience from the veterans around him and continue to develop his ball skills.
The Houston Gamblers’ draft at safety consisted of Manny Bunch out of Tulsa and Andrew Soroh out of FAU. Bunch had three career double-digit tackle games in college as he is used to flying around the field. Soroh played linebacker in college but has the speed to play safety and is an extremely hard-hitting player.
(K) Nick Vogel
(P): Andrew Galitz
While some teams used up their USFL draft picks with compensatory picks, the Houston Gamblers’ draft room was able to get both a kicker and a punter. First up was kicker Nick Vogel out of UAB. Vogel finished his college career as the third-leading scorer in program history. He also has the record for career PAT percentage (.977). A kicker and a punter, Andrew Galitz out of Baylor was next to join the Houston Gamblers’ roster. Galitz is a two-time All-Big 12 punter who has done it all. He has punted, gone 10/10 in field goals, and handled kick-off duties for Baylor. Both of these special teams players provide great value to the Houston Gamblers’ roster