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DC Defenders’ Depth Chart Projections And Analysis

DC Defenders' Depth Chart Projection And Analysis

The inaugural 2023 XFL Draft took place this past week in Las Vegas, Nevada. All told, 49 players were selected across six phases of the draft and added to the DC Defenders’ depth chart. With initial rosters set, it’s time we take a look at depth charts and positional battles that will be had leading up to the start of the 2023 season. Surely Audi Field will bring the firepower and beer snakes, and the players will need to provide the firepower as well.

DC won a random drawing with all eight XFL teams this past Tuesday and was awarded the number one overall selection in the 2023 draft. The first eleven rounds comprised offensive skill positions consisting of running back, fullback, wide receiver, and tight end prospects. With the logistics out of the way, it’s time we look at depth charts for each position, along with an analysis of each.

In the weeks following the initial XFL draft, a Supplemental Draft, NFL Alumni Academy assignments, as well as an ongoing free agency period have occurred. With the logistics out of the way, it’s time we look at depth charts for each position, along with an analysis of each.

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DC DEFENDERS’ DEPTH CHARTS AND ANALYSIS

OFFENSE

Quarterback
QB1: D’Eriq King
QB2: Jordan Ta’amu
QB3
: Eric Dungey

First on the DC Defenders’ depth chart is D’Eriq King. The playmaking Quarterback lit it up in college for both the University of Houston and the University of Miami. At just five-foot-nine, questions regarding King’s ability to translate at the next level arose around the time of the 2021 NFL draft. King would later sign in Carolina with the Panthers. D.C. looks to give this talented player his first chance to play QB at the professional level.

Next up on the depth chart for the Defenders is Jordan Ta’amu. The former Ole Miss Rebel is a journeyman at the professional level. Following the 2019 NFL draft, Ta’amu would sign with the Houston Texans as a UDFA. Since then, the 25-year-old has been a part of five different NFL clubs. Ta’amu duked it out with current Washington Commanders Quarterback Taylor Heinicke for the starting job in St. Louis for the BattleHawks in 2020. Most recently, Ta’amu was the starting QB for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.

Lastly at Quarterback is former Syracuse University Quarterback Eric Dungey who was assigned to the DC Defenders back in November of last year. Dungey has experience in the XFL, TSL, and some NFL Camps.

All three quarterbacks bring a dual-threat ability to a Fred Kaiss-led offense. For context, Kaiss and Head Coach Reggie Barlow have worked together at Arkansas State and are familiar with putting together a run-first offense with a mobile quarterback. Regardless of who wins the battle for QB1 on the DC Defenders’ depth chart, this team will run its high-powered offense through a dynamic Quarterback.

 

Running Back

RB1: Abram Smith
RB2: Ryquell Armstead
RB3: Pooka Williams Jr. / Artavis Pierce / Brian Herrien

The Defenders selected former Baylor University Running back Abram Smith with the number one pick in the 2023 XFL Draft. The former Baylor Bear ball carrier provides a workhorse back for the Defenders. Smith broke Baylor’s single-season rushing record last season, rushing for 1,601 yards while adding 12 touchdowns to his tally. Look for Smith to be the “Bell Cow Back” in DC.

In round six of the offensive skill positions rounds of the draft, the Defenders selected former Temple University ball carrier, Ryquell Armstead. Following a stellar career with the Owls, Armstead was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. Armstead looks to be perhaps the best backup running back in the league. Pooka Williams, Jr. has positional versatility and is a great receiver. He projects to be a backup for the Defenders, who can be used on third downs to create an additional receiving threat.

The Defenders selected one other back in the Open Phase of the draft on day two. Artavis Pierce out of Oregon State was their selection. Lastly at Running back, the Defenders added Brian Herrien out of Georgia in the Supplemental Draft. Look for the likes of Williams Jr., Pierce, and Herrien to compete for a role on this D.C. squad.

Collectively, this group of backs has the potential to be the best in the league. As mentioned, D.C. fans should expect this offense to run through its running game. With four talented backs, the Defenders will ground-and-pound their way to victories. The D.C. Defenders’ depth chart at this position is rock solid.

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Wide Receiver

WR1: Jazz Ferguson
WR2: K.D. Cannon
WR3: (Slot) Jequez Ezzard

Backups
Lucky Jackson
Zimari Manning
Josh Hammond
Manasseh Bailey
Simmie Cobbs Jr.
Josh Lanier
Tariq Bitson

The first receiver taken by DC was Wide Receiver Jequez Ezzard. The Defenders selected Ezzard with the final pick in the second round of the offensive skill positions phase. A slot receiver out of Sam Houston State with a trait that cannot be taught. Speed. Furthermore, look for Ezzard to be in the mix for the punt-returning job in DC, too. The next receiver chosen by the Defenders is an NFL, XFL, and CFL veteran in K.D. Cannon. Cannon brings a unique mix of speed, quickness, and veteran prowess to this Defenders receiver room. Third off the board in the receiver department was former XFL receiver, Jazz Ferguson. Most recently, Ferguson spent time in The Spring League in 2021 for the Generals. Ferguson is a big target at 6-5, 223 pounds, who will play on the outside for the Defenders.

Next up for receivers, DC selected Josh Hammond in the ninth round. The shifty receiver out of Florida finished his collegiate career with just over 1,100 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. Rounding out the receiver group in the offensive skill position phase, the Defenders selected former Western Kentucky receiver, Lucky Jackson, in round 11. The former Hilltopper is a speedster who can stretch the field vertically for the Defenders.

Backup Wide Receivers

Three additional receivers were chosen in the Open Phases selection of the draft to be added to the D.C. Defenders’ depth chart. First up, DC selected receiver Zimari Manning out of Tarleton State University. The remaining receivers appointed in the Open Phase were Manasseh Bailey and Simmie Cobbs Jr. all in all, this group of receivers has plenty of size and speed. Whoever the quarterback is will have plenty of options at the receiver position.

Rounding out the receiver position in D.C., the Defenders selected receiver Josh Lanier in round 12. The playmaker out of Jackson State will compete with several other receivers to secure a spot on the opening day roster. Additionally, ArDarius Stewart was assigned to the Defenders following his completion of the NFL Alumni Academy. Look for Stewart, a former third-round-pick back in 2017, to push for playing time in 2023. Lastly, D.C. recently signed Tariq Bitson out of Tarleton State. Bitson will fit in well with the receiver group and can line up on the outside at the “X” position.

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Tight End

TE1: Briley Moore-McKinney
TE2: Kahale Warring / Ethan Wolf
TE3: Trae Barry / Tommy McIntyre

Enter former Northern Iowa and Kansas State Tight End Briley Moore-McKinney. Moore-McKinney flashed for both NI and KSU during his college career. The 6-4, 240-pound pass-catcher has a unique combination of size, strength, and short-area quickness. Next, former University of Tennessee Tight End Ethan Wolf was selected in the eighth round. Wolf left Tennessee ranking second in receptions and third in receiving yards among tight ends in school history. All told, Wolf has played for eight NFL teams, the bulk of that being on practice squads.

D.C. selected Kahale Warring out of San Diego State in the tenth round. Perhaps the tight end with the most prior NFL pedigree, Warring was drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round of the 2019 Draft. Though Warring has played sparingly in the NFL up to this point, he brings some much-needed size and versatility to the Defenders.

Finally, for the tight end group, D.C. was assigned a trio of players following the completion of the NFL Alumni Academy. First, Trae Barry out of Boston College was assigned to the club. He brings great athleticism and speed to the position. Second, Tight End Tommy McIntyre out of SMU was also assigned to the Defenders. He’s a big-bodied receiver who could be used as an in-line blocker in obvious rushing situations.

All in all, this tight end group has some potential to shine in the XFL in 2023. They will undoubtedly be asked to block with the great Running backs on the roster. As it stands now, Moore, Warring, and Wolf are the players to beat out as we head into the 2023 season.

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Offensive Line Depth Chart

LT1: T.J. Storment / Liam Ryan
LG1: Greg Long / Ty Clary
C1: Michael Maietti / Dwayne Wallace
RG1: Tyler Witt / Rod Taylor
RT1: Cody Conway / Tyler Catalina

Backups
D’Marcus Hayes
Liam Fornadel
Mike Brown
Kyler Murphy

The Defenders selected former Texas Tech Left Tackle T.J. Storment with their first pick in the offensive line phase. Storment started 31 career games between three different schools. Look for Storment to become the starting left tackle in DC. Next up, 26-year-old Cody Conway was drafted as the Defenders right tackle. While nothing is set in stone as far as depth charts are concerned, coaches may view Conway as a guard. We’ll pencil him in at right tackle in our breakdown. Former Arkansas Razorback Linemen Ty Clary was the following selection by the Defenders. Clary started 39 games across five years for Arkansas with a mix at all three interior line spots and even right tackle. The positional versatility Clary brings to the Defenders is paramount. Clary looks to be the starting Center in DC for 2023.

The starting guards appear to be former Purdue Boilermaker Greg Long and former Kansas Jayhawk Dwayne Wallace. Wallace has plenty of spring football experience, including stops in the XFL, TSL, and FCF. Key reserves along the line include Michael Maietti and Liam Fornadel.

Additional Linemen

Following the completion of the Supplemental Draft, the Defenders added two additional linemen to their roster. First up, D.C. added Tackle Liam Ryan out of Washington State. Additionally, the Defenders selected Tackle Tyler Catalina, who has started three games in the NFL. An emphasis was put on adding to the offensive line, specifically at the book-end spots, and D.C. accomplished that in the Supplemental Draft.

Lastly, the Defenders have added three more linemen via free agency. Of the three, Rod Taylor is a player who should push for playing time at Guard. The other two linemen, Mike Brown and Kyle Murphy, look to make an impact during training camp to unseat the top draft picks in D.C. The Defenders recently trimmed two linemen from their roster after initial roster cuts in training camp.

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Defensive Front Depth Chart

DT1: Niles Scott
DT2: Joseph Wallace
DE1: Jacub Panasiuk
DE2: Davin Bellamy / Fadol Brown

Backups
Jesse Anibonam
Aaron Sterling
Jarrell Owens
Josh Avery
Markell Utsey
Malik Fisher

As we switch gears to the DC Defenders’ defense, one thing is sure. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams will run his aggressive, 4-3 scheme using speed and power to get after opposing quarterbacks. Plugging the trenches in the middle will be Defensive Tackles Niles Scott and Joseph Wallace. Scott attended Frostburg State and is an NFL veteran, spending time with nine teams from 2018-2022. Filling out the Defensive End spots will be Davin Bellamy, Fadol Brown, and Jacub Panasiuk. For Bellamy, he comes over from the USFL and looks to be a starting DE in D.C. Brown spent time in the NFL on active rosters for both the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers from 2017-2019.

The Defenders have two additional backups along the defensive front in Aaron Sterling and Jarrell Owens. Owens spent time in the CFL with the BC Lions and is known for having a relentless motor. Both backups push for playing time as guys rotate in and out. Two more Defensive Linemen were adding during the Supplemental Draft. Josh Avery was selected in Round four and will fill-in at Defensive Tackle where needed. Also selected in the Supplemental Draft was Markell Utsey out of Arkansas.

Lastly for the Defensive Linemen, the Defenders were assigned the rights to Malik Fisher. Fisher, who played his college ball at Villanova, is a versatile pass-rusher will great size. Creating pressures and moving the pocket will allow the second level to drop back in coverage to create favorable matchups for the defense. Williams has assembled a great group along the front-seven for his scheme leading into the 2023 season.

Linebacker Depth Chart

LB1: Andre Mintze / Trent Harris
LB2: Jamal Brooks / Reggie Northrup
LB3: Anthony Hines / Francis Bernard

Backups
Terill Hanks
Ferrod Gardner
Caliph Brice
Dame Ndiaye
Jordan Williams

The three starting Linebackers depending on alignment, appear to be Andre Mintze, Jamal Brooks, and Anthony Hines. Mintze is a young but experienced backer who made the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster in 2021. He also can play defensive end, and the Defenders will use that ability to the fullest. Following the completion of the Supplemental Draft, the Defenders retooled their linebacking core completely. D.C. added from USFL star Reggie Northup along with former Utah Linebacker Francis Bernard.

Lastly, the Defenders recently signed former University of Miami Linebacker Trent Harris. The battle for starting jobs in the second level will be fierce in D.C. following these impressive additions. Look for backups such as Jordan Williams and Dame Ndiaye to contribute as well. This linebacking core is very young and should produce results on the field. This front seven should be able to do an excellent job for Gregg Williams and company.

Defensive Back Depth Chart

CB1: Parnell Motley
CB2: Anthoula Kelly
CB3 (Slot): DeJuan Neal / Reggie Stubblefield
S1: Joshua Allen
S2: Kentrell Brice

Backups
Cortez Davis
Santos Ramirez
Travon Fuller
Junior Faulk
Holton Hill
K.J. Sails
Nydair Rouse

The second phase of day one of the draft consisted of defensive backs. The Defenders held the fourth pick overall in this phase, selecting Cornerback Parnell Motley out of Oklahoma. Motley has spent time in the NFL for several franchises, including the Buccaneers, 49ers, Broncos, Lions, and Browns. Motley was most recently a member of the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders in early 2022. Next, the DC Defenders drafted former Tampa Bay Vipers Safety Anthoula Kelly. The former Viper should line up as the Defenders CB2 on game day. Sliding in at the slot corner position will be DeJuan Neal. Neal most recently spent time in the USFL with the New Jersey Generals.

The starting safety position will consist of Joshua Allen and Kentrell Brice. Brice returns to the XFL, having been a Seattle Dragon in 2020. He’s also played for four different NFL teams and one CFL team. He’ll bring a plethora of experience to a secondary that needs it. Next, the Defenders have excellent depth in the secondary, with the likes of Cortez Davis, Travon Fuller, and others.

DC has ideal size and speed across the back end of the Gregg Williams defense. Lastly, in the open phase of the XFL draft, the Defenders added Reggie Stubblefield and K.J. Sails to their secondary. Look for the Defenders to face some tough cuts leading to their initial roster at Defensive Back.

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Specialist Depth Chart

K: Daniel Whalen
P: Jacob Shum
LS: Erik Lawson

Versatile Kicker Daniel Whalen stands at 6-6, and 215 pounds. The Defenders will use Whalen as their Punter this season. Long snapper Erik Lawson, out of ECU, has professional experience in The Spring League with the Sea Lions in 2021. The Defenders also added veteran Kicker Matthew McCrane after Whalen beat out D.C. draftee Jacob Schum in training camp. All in all, it’s an excellent specialist room led by Coach Jamie Sharper, who will lead the group in 2023.

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Recap

In conclusion, this DC Defenders team has many playmakers in all three phases of the game. Offensively, the running back position is its apparent strength. While the quarterback room consists of just one player currently, many believe DC will add at least one proven veteran to the room. The pass-catchers are a great mix of size and speed. Versatility, along with offensive line, will allow DC to play whichever type of game they want.

On defense, DC will rely on the front four to create pressure. Linebackers will blitz when called upon and play solid in coverage, depending on the situation. The secondary has plenty of depth at both cornerback and safety. Special teams will also be vital in getting the best possible field position for the offense and defense.

Head Coach Reggie Barlow looks to lead his squad to plenty of victories in 2023. The DC front office did an excellent job drafting a team that can hopefully compete for a championship this upcoming season.

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