Five Players For The DC Defenders To Target In Dispersal Draft

Five Players For The DC Defenders To Target In Dispersal Draft

With the USFL/XFL merger in full swing, the next step for the DC Defenders to take in the process is the USFL/XFL Dispersal Drafts. The USFLPA confirmed the news on X earlier this week:

Following this report, details emerged from multiple outlets about the XFL’s Dispersal Draft which will also take place on Friday, January 5th. After the XFL and USFL’s separate drafts, they will have an open draft for remaining players that takes place on January 15th.

The DC Defenders will be one of four teams taking part in the XFL Dispersal Draft on Friday, with their eyes set on another run to the championship. The Defenders came up just short this past season in the XFL after finishing the regular season with a 9-1 record, they fell to the Arlington Renegades in the XFL Championship, 35-26.

Here, we take an in-depth look at five players in the XFL draft pool that would fit the DC Defenders style of play, assuming that scheme stays the same with a returning staff.

TE Cody Latimer, Orlando Guardians

It’s scary to imagine what the Orlando Guardians offense would have looked like in 2023 without Cody Latimer. In just nine games, Latimer posted impressive numbers with 50 catches for 593 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns, which all ranked first for tight ends in the XFL. Even with the unknown at QB for DC, Latimer has undoubtedly shown the ability to play with any quarterback behind center.

For DC, last season’s starting tight end, Ethan Wolf, is no longer on the roster due to retirement, leaving the team with Briley Moore, Alex Ellis, Kahale Warring, and Josh Falo in the TE’s room. The Defenders also recently lost TEs coach, Cody Crill, to Marshall University, leaving the team without a TEs coach nearing training camp. Which provides an even bigger need at the position for Fred Kaiss’ offense heading into the inaugural UFL season.

With the expectation for Latimer to be off the board quickly on Friday, the Defenders may be forced to use early draft capital if they want to bring in the top tight end in the XFL Dispersal Draft.

WR Jeff Badet, Vegas Vipers

Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair have left for NFL opportunities, which leaves a major void at the wide receiver position for the DC Defenders. Jackson and Blair accounted for a total of 1,167 receiving yards last season, the second most of any receiving duo in the XFL (behind only Pearson and Gordon from Seattle).

WR Jeff Badet from the Vegas Vipers can be a player that steps in immediately and fills the void of a player like Chris Blair. In nine games last season, Badet hauled in 34 receptions for 449 yards, and five touchdowns. Badet’s speed, and ability to make a big play at any moment is exactly what the DC offense is missing.

The Defenders WR room currently includes Josh Hammond, Brandon Smith, Jazz Ferguson, Kelvin Harmon, Ty Scott, CJ Johnson, and Trea Shropshire. Physicality and length a notable trend for the Defenders wideouts, thus far.

QB Jalan McClendon, Vegas Vipers

With Jordan Ta’amu not back on the roster, and D’Eriq King leaving for a QBs coach job at SMU, that leaves unproven QB Geremy Hickbottom from Tennessee State as the only QB on the Defenders roster. The loss of Ta’amu and King leaves a gutting hole in the DC offense, which will need to, at least in part, be filled during this draft…

Former Vipers QB Jalen McClendon appears to possess the potential to fill the shoes of both Ta’amu and King, leaving no need for the two-quarterback system that was used at times in 2023. In just four starts, McClendon threw for 873 yards with 5 touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, McClendon added 137 yards on 30 carries.

With a limited number of QBs on the board, and DC only having one on the current roster, do not be shocked if they go quarterback in round one. Everyone knows what the most important position on the field is, and expect DC to get that solved swiftly.

DB Ajene Harris, Houston Roughnecks

If DC wants to make a statement and target their biggest area of need in 2023, Ajene Harris would be the clearcut pick. The XFL’s interception leader in 2023 snagged five in ten games, just one more interception than current Defenders CB Michael Joseph. Harris would provide much needed stability for the XFL’s bottom ranked pass defense this past season, along with experience from being a leader of the top ranked pass defense in 2023.

Having Ajene Harris and Michael Joseph as your outside cornerbacks entering the UFL season would provide a real sense of security for Gregg Williams and company. Would that be a wise move for a QB hungry team at the top of the draft? Big decisions to be made by Coach Barlow and the DC front office.

LB Tavante Beckett, Houston Roughnecks

With the linebackers being a strongpoint of the Defenders defense in 2023, this pick feels more like a personal favorite more than an actual fit. But Tavante Beckett deserves all the attention and praise for his performance in Houston during the 2023 season. Beckett’s consistent motor and drive has not gone unnoticed, on film he constantly pops off the screen due to speed and ability to play different positions. His hybrid style allows him to be in a steady state of change throughout the game, which can destroy an OC’s gameplan.

As mentioned, DC’s linebacking corps should not be considered a top need with guys like Francis Bernard and Reggie Northrup, but having a player like Beckett can completely change a defense and the looks it presents to opposition.

Final Thoughts

The DC Defenders could go a million different ways during this draft. With there being so much unknown surrounding it, expect to see the unexpected. Recent reports from PFN’s James Larsen have suggested the draft order will be determined by 2023 records, which would give DC the third overall pick.

What are your thoughts on this UFL Dispersal Draft process? Which players do you expect to see get picked up by the DC Defenders? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!