The Houston Roughnecks seemingly ran the South Division of the XFL most of the season, but unfortunately when crunch time came, the Arlington Renegades the only team with a losing record in the playoffs defeated the Roughnecks. With Houston bumped from the playoffs a week earlier than expected they were allowed to begin self scouting and looking at positions of need long term.
It turns out one position that caught their eye was quarterback. This was somewhat a surprise given that their current quarterback room holds Cole McDonald and Brandon Silvers two men who warrant starting consideration. This didn’t stop them from drafting a man who watched his name selected by the USFL as well.
Lindsey Scott Jr.
5’11 212 pounds
College: LSU 16, East Mississippi CC 17, Missouri 18, Nicholls 19-21, Incarnate Word 22
Lindsey Scott Jr. is one of the most intriguing dual threat quarterbacks still currently available after the rush of NFL/CFL signings following the 2023 NFL Draft. After a long college career that saw him make stops at five different schools. Winning the Walter Payton Award, while being named Southland Player of the Year, and First Team All FCS in 2022. He also set FCS Division 1 Records with 60 passing touchdowns and most total touchdowns with 71.
In one of the most interesting collegiate careers I’ve ever followed, Scott who originally ended up at LSU opted to transfer after Les Miles was fired. Landing at East Mississippi Community College he became an immediate starter, and threw for over 3,400 yards with 29 touchdowns.
After this season he chose to transfer to Missouri but ended up missing the season with an injury which prompted another move. This time to Nicholls State. This transfer forced him to sit out another year. His third season riding the pine due to transfer and/or injury in four seasons. This time he would get a chance to stick with a school.
Sticking with Nicholls for three years, he lived through Covid 19 at the school which only further pushed back his chance to show what he could do. Finally in Spring of 2021, he was able to start for Nicholls. He would go on to total 2,241 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a redshirt senior in 2021’s regular season he managed to add 2,083 yards passing, 990 yards rushing and 9 more touchdowns. This time he topped 3,000 all purpose yards with 25 touchdowns.
Not satisfied with his production he chose to move schools one last time. This time to Incarnate Word where he would overlap with another 2023 XFL Rookie draft pick, Darion Chafin who had a MONSTER season with Scott as his quarterback. Lindsey Scott Jr went on to have one of the single greatest seasons EVER in the history of college football. Racking up 60 passing touchdowns and 71 total touchdowns.
The more impressive feat is for 60 passing touchdowns, Scott accounted for just 8 interceptions a 5 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio. He also completed over 71% of his passes for the season, adding 712 yards rushing and 6 yards receiving as well. With 5,398 yards on the year and 71 touchdowns it was shocking to see Scott unsigned after allowing the USFL season pass him by as well.
Heading into the 2024 season Scott will have his pick of alternative football leagues, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see a CFL team throw their name in the ring as well. One thing is for sure Scott will be on someone’s roster in 2024. Even if it takes multiple training camps (XFL, USFL, CFL) to make it happen.
6’6 276 pounds
Defensive Tackle/Defensive End
College: Colorado State Pueblo 17-22
Momar Fall is a very interesting prospect born and raised about 2 hours away from where he attended college in Pueblo, Colorado. Originally hailing from East High School, he committed to college weighing just 234 pounds at 6’6. In six seasons of college he added 42 pounds of muscle, and rounded out his tool box of pass rush moves.
He wasn’t the only CSU-Pueblo player to get a look either. Trey Botts another defensive lineman was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and drafted by the Philadelphia Stars. Fall provides scheme and positional versatility able to play inside or outside in a 4-3 scheme, as well as defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. This could prove extremely valuable for Houston and Wade Phillips who likes to get creative with his defensive fronts.
I expect Fall to primarily play end in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme he is famous for at this point. His knack for applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks is unrivaled from XFL Coaches, and Fall is just the latest piece to this puzzle for the legendary defensive mind.
During his pro-day Fall put up a 5.01 40-yard dash, 26 reps on the bench press, had a 28 inch vertical and measured with an 82 inch wingspan. This is a huge asset as a defensive lineman hand fighting to prevent and offensive lineman from getting control and getting off blocks. After producing 35 sacks, and leading the league by just under double digits, this defensive line watched several players sign NFL contracts, spending draft capitol on the defensive line was a given, but seeing a CSU-Pueblo kid on a draft board, I couldn’t help myself I had to highlight a hometown hero for where I call home.
Lots of Linebackers
The Roughnecks opted to bring in three different linebackers via the rookie draft: Austin Ajiake from UNLV, Michael Ayers from Ashland, and Marvin Pierre from Kent State. What do these three players have in common?
All three players are above average athletes at linebacker. All of which have played other positions at some point in their career.
All of these guys stand around 220 pounds, and look on the surface like inside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme. Traditionally Wade Phillips likes larger outside backers around the 250 pound mark or larger. At one point we saw him move Mario Williams to OLB with Houston when he was closer to 300 pounds than he was 250 pounds.
Short term, high-level production. All of these guys were late bloomers, and had a very short period of production in college. Why is this significant? This is significant because Wade Phillips doesn’t necessarily want finished products, he wants players he can develop and mold into NFL level talents long term. If you’re a rookie linebacker, this is the ideal landing place for you. Now it’s up to these rookies to make an impression sooner rather than later.
6’1 199 pounds
College: Kentuck Wesleyan 19-20, Minnesota State Mankato 21-22
Alijah McGhee is a player who has been listed as a cornerback, safety, and linebacker. His versatility might be unrivaled but I believe he was drafted by a team that might not need him to play more than one role.
This COULD in theory really help McGhee develop NFL interest. Versatility is great, but the NFL has a tendency to ignore these type of players if they’re not pedigree players from large schools, or unbelievable athletes. If he is allowed to focus strictly on the strong safety position which I believe is the best home for him currently, we could see him peaking NFL interest very quickly.
While McGhee is not an athlete you can just ignore, he is not the type of workout warrior that Jabril Peppers a similar player was regarded as. At 199 pounds McGhee ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, a 6.94 3-cone drill, 36.5 inch vertical leap, and 16 reps of 225 pounds on the Bench Press. Outside of his 3-cone drill which displays next level athleticism, the rest of his numbers were good but the combination of where he played, and his size played against him.
In two seasons with Minnesota State, McGhee played in 21 games, producing 80 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions, 11 PBUS’s, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 blocked kicks. Previously he played a multitude of positions for Kentucky Wesleyan including punter, defensive back, while also seeing snaps as a runner, and return man.
He graduated with a total of:
171 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 34 pbu’s, 11 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, and 4 blocked kicks.
He also had 79 punts for 2,729 yards 21 fair catches, and 13 inside the 20 with a long of 62 yards.
It doesn’t get much more versatile than that. How often can you say your rookie safety can double as your punter? This is a unique advantage for the Roughnecks when it comes to roster construction. If you’re looking for an impact player: McGhee once returned a fumble for a touchdown and had a pick six that helped win the game for his school, and in another game he blocked two kicks.
Just a couple days removed from the draft, the league announced that teams had claimed the XFL Rights to 44 undrafted rookies. While no contracts have been signed yet, several players have said they intend to play in 2024 if they don’t stick in the NFL.
Some intriguing names were picked up by Houston assuming they end up signing. Including USFL Draft Pick Cornerback Destin Mack, running back Isaiah Bower, wide out Cody Chrest, and even long snapper Dalton Godfrey. Having claimed 7 players total, the Roughnecks could be a very young team in 2024 if all 15 of these rookies end up on the roster or practice squad.
I really like the pickup of Chrest out of Sam Houston State. Playing on the local talent is a smart roster building tactic at this level for multiple reasons. Not only do you potentially see a boost to attendance depending on the individual support that player has, but it might make the player more likely to sign the deal sooner removing one of the unknowns for a rookie trying to adapt to the professional environment by practicing and playing in a state that he knows well.
Chrest’s numbers won’t blow you away but what they display is remarkable consistency. Over three seasons he played in 31 games. During that time he had 41 receptions in 10 games for the spring 2021 season, 54 receptions in 12 games during the fall 2021 season, and 36 receptions in 9 games in 2022.
If you’re looking for an intelligent player that will understand the finer points of the game look no further than this Harvard graduate who spent the first four years of college with the Ivy League. He spent four seasons there but appeared in just 13 games producing 51 receptions for 730 yards and 6 touchdowns, adding 1 carry for 18 yards and a touchdown.
During college he also showed value on special teams with 4 tackles, 1 kick return for 12 yards, and 10 punt returns for 64 yards. It’s his athleticism and physical attributes that could give him star potential at the XFL level. At the College Gridiron Showcase Chrest ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, an ankle breaking 6.77 3-cone drill, put up 16 reps in the bench press, and a 38 inch vertical at 6’1 200 pounds. He is a name to watch if he signs an XFL Contract.
Four Offensive Linemen
Ask any XFL or USFL coach and they will often tell you at the hardest position to find the starting level Talent is offensive line. There are millions of 6’0 200 pound receivers or defensive backs but start discussing the number of 6’2 or better 300 pound linemen that can move well enough and it becomes a fraction of the skill position pool. Now consider each professional outdoor team will typically carry between 7-10 linemen on their roster and/or practice squad and this talent pool dries up very quickly now with the NFL Practice squads, XFL, USFL, and CFL teams all picking at the same free agent pool.
Compound that one step further and consider that the growth of the ELF, LFA, Japanese X-League, or the lack of stringent salary cap standards in certain indoor leagues only further disperses the back-up and depth pieces for these second tier outdoor teams. All of a sudden you’re looking for anyone and everyone you can find who can play to make sure you not only have your roster full but have a list of next men up you can bring in when injuries occur.
With that in mind the Roughnecks opted to draft three, and claim another offensive linemen. With varying positions, level of play and experience as well as the multitude of options for young players these days we may not see all or possibly ANY of these guys ever sign an XFL contract, although the latter seems unlikely. This proves to be a smart move for Houston long term. Hedging your bets on the offensive line is always smart as you can truly never have too many good linemen on the roster.
They have the rights to:
Christian Ealey Kentucky Wesleyan
Quinton Barrow Grand Valley State
Ahofitu Maka UTSA
Marcus Minor Pittsburgh
When looking overall at the fifteen players the Roughnecks targeted I’m encouraged by what I see. I see a team looking to bring in talent that can help immediately but also long term as they develop into better players they can grow the XFL to NFL pipeline and continue to attract the best talent not in the NFL. I expect another strong season from Houston in 2024 but we are still a long way from the deadline to sign deals. This draft class looks amazing on paper but might look terrible it no one ends up signing.
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