The Houston Roughnecks are coming off of a rollercoaster of an XFL season that featured quite a lot of highs and lows. Overall, most people would call the season a success as they made the playoffs, but they were upset by the Arlington Renegades in the conference championship game. The Roughnecks were completely outclassed by Arlington, only mustering one touchdown in the entire game.
Houston started the season on a four game win streak, looking like the early season favorites to win the championship. They were handling teams with no problem left and right (including a 23-14 win over eventual XFL champion Arlington Renegades), and even dismantled the Orlando Guardians 44-16. However, after this win streak is where the season took a turn. The team would lose their next three games. They lost to Seattle on the road, DC on the road, and then St. Louis at home. The early season favorites quickly turned into a team that didn’t look like they had what it takes to win a title.
A lot of their struggles could be related to losing star WR Jontre Kirklin after week 5, but the rest of the team should have stepped up. The offense was, at best, inconsistent at times. The best thing they had going was the rushing attack, but even that wasn’t enough to solve some of their glaring issues. They ended up getting their feet back under them, ending the season by winning their next three games. These wins were not as pretty as that original four game winning streak. Despite being the favorites to win the XFL South, we know what happened in that final game against Arlington.
Houston Roughnecks Overview
Houston prided itself on the defensive side of the ball, as we would expect from a Wade Phillips coached team. They have only lost two players to the NFL so far, DT CJ Brewer to the Buccaneers, and DL Jack Heflin to the Saints. However, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few other players go. Some potential candidates include HB Max Borghi and Edge Rusher Trent Harris. The biggest “holes” that this team should have looked to target for the Rookie Draft would have been offensive skill positions and to replace what they lost on defense.
It’s to no surprise that the Roughnecks targeted more defensive players in this draft, but I was shocked to see the lack of, and outright nonexistence, of skill positions selected. Given that we are still quite a long way from the 2024 season and we have multiple showcases lined up, there is still plenty of time to fill those holes. For now, let’s take a look into what the team DID draft.
LINDSEY SCOTT JR | QUARTERBACK | INCARNATE WORD
Considered by many to be one of the top guys in the Rookie Draft, it was a bit of a surprise to see Lindsey Scott get drafted by the Roughnecks. Scott posted a total 71, yes 71, touchdowns last season for the Cardinals. He also put together a combined 5,369 yards. All you have to do is look at the stats, and you can see why he is so sought after. Not only was he drafted by the Roughnecks, he was also selected by the Pittsburgh Maulers in their draft, so it’ll be interesting to see where he decides to play next season. The biggest problem that I have with Houston selecting Scott is not the talent, that is obvious to see, it’s the need for the position.
It's fascinating that the @XFLRoughnecks drafted QB Lindsey Scott, out of Incarnate Word.
I don’t believe that quarterback was truly one of their dire needs. Brandon Silvers may have had a slow end to the season, but he showed plenty of flashes at times, especially in those first 4 games. Cole McDonald was used a lot in rushing packages last year, and served as an effective backup, so it would be interesting to see what Houston does at QB if Scott decides to play for the Roughnecks.
MARVIN PIERRE | LINEBACKER | KENT STATE
In 2022 for Kent State, Pierre was a tackling machine. Through 11 games he accumulated a total 96 tackles, including 56 solo tackles and 7.5 for a loss. He also managed 1.5 sacks as well as an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Pierre also forced 2 fumbles on the season. I expect Pierre to make the final roster and play a good role for the Roughnecks next season.
MARCUS MINOR | OFFENSIVE LINE | PITTSBURGH
It’s no secret that the Houston Roughnecks could use some offensive line help, as they never had a true set line apart from Center Alex Mollette who started every game last season. Minor earned a First Team All ACC selection last year with the Panthers, and even earned a rookie minicamp invite from the Baltimore Ravens. Primarily slotted at Guard, I expect Minor to make some waves in Houston.
ALIJAH MCGHEE | DEFENSIVE BACK | MINNESOTA STATE-MANKATO
At 6’2’ 195 lbs, McGhee has a great frame for a DB. In 13 games last season, McGhee accumulated a total of 63 tackles, including 45 solo tackles and 7 for a loss. He also had 2 interceptions on the season with 10 pass deflections. McGhee had received an invite to the Atlanta Falcons rookie minicamp before being drafted to the Roughnecks.
AHOFITU MAKA | OFFENSIVE LINE | UTSA
Maka played his collegiate football at UTSA, who have been a fantastic team in the Conference-USA. UTSA have won the Conference-USA championship in back to back years in 2021 and 2022, and Ahofitu Maka played an important role in that. Maka earned First Team All Conference-USA honors in 2022. He received an invite to the New York Giants rookie minicamp before being drafted by the Roughnecks.
Ademilola was an important piece of the Fighting Irish defensive line throughout his college career. In 2022 he accumulated 29 total tackles over 11 games, including 9 solo tackles and 5 for a loss. Ademilola also had 3 sacks on the season. On top of this, Ademilola accumulated the second most pressures of any player on the Notre Dame roster last season. Ademilola had signed a UDFA deal with the Jaguars in April before being drafted by the Roughnecks. For a team that lost two defensive linemen to the NFL, this is a great pick for Houston.
AUSTIN AJIAKE | LINEBACKER | UNLV
Ajiake played his collegiate career at UNLV, and there’s one way to sum it up – Tackling Monster. Across 12 games in 2022, Ajiake had an outstanding 132 total tackles, yes 132, including 59 solo tackles and 11 for a loss. He also managed to grab 2 interceptions on the season. Ajiake was first in the Mountain West Conference last season in tackles, to no surprise, and was 5th across the entire NCAA. He signed a UDFA deal with the Carolina Panthers before being drafted by the Roughnecks.
MICHAEL AYERS | LINEBACKER | ASHLAND
Ayers was an incredible pass coverage linebacker for Ashland, which would lead him to becoming the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2022. Ayers grabbed 1 interception last season along with 9 pass deflections. He also added 81 total tackles last season, including 48 solo tackles and an impressive 10.5 for loss. Ayers also got 3.5 sacks on the season, putting together a great all around statistical season. Ayers signed a UDFA deal with the Seattle Seahawks before being drafted by Houston.
QUINTON BARROW | OFFENSIVE LINE | GRAND VALLEY STATE
Quinton Barrow played most of his collegiate career at Left Tackle for Grand Valley State, and was one of, if not, the best offensive linemen across Division II football. This is another great pick by Houston in an attempt to beef up and solidify their offensive line. After participating in the Shrine Bowl, a postseason college football all-star game, he would sign a UDFA deal with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs before being drafted by the Roughnecks.
MOMAR FALL | DEFENSIVE LINE | COLORADO STATE-PUEBLO
Momar Fall was a fantastic player at Colorado State-Pueblo. In 2022, he put together 6.5 sacks on the season. He accumulated 56 total tackles, including 21 solo tackles and 9.5 for a loss. Prior to 2022, Fall was not much of a presence on the defensive line in terms of generating pressure, but made a huge leap in 2022. This leap would get him an invite to the Denver Broncos rookie minicamp before being drafted by the Roughnecks.
What are your thoughts on these new Houston Roughnecks players? Did the team accomplish what they should’ve in the XFL 2023 Rookie Draft? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!