DC Defenders 2023 XFL Draft Bentlee Sanders

DC Defenders 2023 Rookie Draft Breakdown (Part Two)

DC Defenders 2023 Rookie Draft Breakdown (Part Two)

This past Friday all eight XFL teams participated in the 2023 XFL Rookie Draft, which included all players that declared for the 2023 NFL Draft and were not drafted or signed for camp. 

The DC Defenders, who finished 9-1 their first year under HC Reggie Barlow, selected 10 players in this year’s draft. On paper, they did a good job at replacing players lost to the NFL, drafting 3 WRs, 3 OL, 2 LBs, 1 DB, and a punter. So far, five Defenders players have signed NFL contracts: WR Lucky Jackson (MIN), WR Chris Blair (ATL), WR Brandon Smith (ARZ), LB Ferrod Gardner (WSH), and P Daniel Whelan (GB). 

Throughout the process, the message has been clear from Defenders Director of Player Personnel, Von Hutchins:

If you missed part one of my draft breakdown on the wide receivers, be sure to check that out here.

DB Bentlee Sanders, Nevada

Home-grown Tampa native, Bentlee Sanders is deeply rooted in the Bay area as he attended USF his first four years of college before transferring to Nevada for his final two years of eligibility. Sanders saw most of his action at safety in college, but also played nickel cornerback as well. Sanders’ versatility on the backend will be a valuable asset, as Defenders DC Gregg Williams tends to rotate his defensive backs often during games.

At 5’9 179 lbs, Sanders has a style of play that lets him appear much larger than his size. Even on a bottoming Nevada team in 2022, Sanders shined with 80 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. 

This is a personal favorite pick. While undersized, Sanders brings a playmaker mentality to the defensive backs room that may be missed if CB Michael Joseph decides to depart. 

LB Mohamed “Momo” Sanogo, Louisville

Sanogo would likely be with an NFL team right now if he was two inches taller. Listed at 6’1 235 lbs, his speed combined with his run-stopping instincts were the foundation of a successful collegiate career at Ole Miss before transferring to Louisville for his final season of eligibility. This past season at Louisville, Sanogo finished with 89 tackles (9.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries. 

Sanogo will compete and add depth to a Defenders linebacking corps that currently includes Francis Bernard, Reggie Northrup, and Anthony Hines. 

LB Kaleb Oliver, Western Kentucky

Oliver is an interesting case, he falls under the hybrid-type linebacker as he played safety during his time at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Between the two schools, Oliver played a total of 58 career games, racking up 173 total tackles (11 for loss), 4 sacks, and 4 interceptions. Oliver truly has a knack for being around the ball.

His style of play carries striking similarities to current Defenders defensive back DJ Swearinger, who joined the team during this past season. Swearinger was used all over the field for DC Gregg Williams and it’s easy to see Oliver doing the same in 2024. 

OL Matt Carrick, Michigan State

The Defenders organization is showing zero complacency when it comes to the offensive line. 

After an impressive season by DC’s offensive line where they shuffled throughout due to injuries, they surprisingly have lost zero players to the NFL, yet. With that being said, they are still bringing in reinforcements via the draft, starting with Matt Carrick out of Michigan State. Carrick started 27 games through his collegiate career at MSU, including nine starts at right guard in 2022. Carrick is a mammoth guard, scaling 6’5 320 lbs, and should bring interior strength to the Russ Ehrenfield led OL group.

Carrick received an invite to the Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp after going undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, but went unsigned following camp.  

OL Alex Jensen, South Dakota

Jensen is another example of DC making it a priority to protect the quarterback in 2024. The FCS product started 38 career games for South Dakota over his four-season career, impressing as a two-time All-MVC performer. Jensen began his career at South Dakota as a tight end before making the transition to tackle ahead of the 2019 season. More specifically, Jensen played left tackle, a testament to his athleticism from playing tight end. 

Similar to recently drafted Defenders WR Trea Shropshire, Jensen has a decision to make when it comes to picking which league to take part in next season. The Houston Gamblers selected Jensen in the USFL Draft in February, so Jensen has options. 

OL Jack Plumb, Iowa

Plumb joins the Defenders as another athletic, possible swing tackle for an already stout offensive line. During Plumb’s five-year collegiate career at Iowa, he appeared in 46 games. Plumb primarily played right tackle for the Hawkeyes, starting six games his junior year, and registering 418 snaps as a senior. 

Plumb received an invitation to the Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp, but was not officially signed to the team’s roster. 

P Paxton Brooks, Tennessee

This one is pretty simple; Defenders standout punter Daniel Whelan signed with the Green Bay Packers following the 2023 XFL season. Defenders DPP Von Hutchins decided to waste no time filling that hole, adding Volunteers punter Paxton Brooks. Brooks had a very successful collegiate career, averaging 42.33 yards per punt, which ranks eighth in UT history. To add to that, 32 of his punts went for 50+ yards and 58 of his punts were pinned inside the 20. 

Brooks received an invite to the Indianapolis Colts rookie minicamp after going undrafted in the NFL Draft, but the XFL seems like the most likely path for Brooks at this time. 

Final Thoughts

When breaking down the Defenders 2023 Draft Class, a common theme throughout is versatility and the ability to play multiple positions. We see this in the NFL now too, teams want their quarterbacks to be mobile, their running backs to catch like a receiver, even their linebackers to cover like a safety. It remains to be seen if any of these players can serve that role for DC, but stay tuned to find out. 

What are your thoughts on the DC Defenders Rookie Draft? Which players would you like to see DC target in the offseason? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!