Abram Smith DC Defenders XFL RB Signs Minnesota Vikings

Projecting The DC Defenders 50 Man UFL Roster

The 2023 DC Defenders were so close to closing out one of the most impressive spring football seasons ever, if they could’ve only overcome the underdog Arlington Renegades in the XFL championship. There is still a lot to get excited about for beer snake nation. With training camp rosters fully set with their 75 players and camp starting in about a week, I felt like it was the right time to throw out a way to early final 50-man roster prediction. Remember that this is my opinion and things will certainly change as the teams make their way through camp. With that being said, let’s jump into it.

Quarterbacks

Staying: Deondre Francois, Jalan McClendon, Jordan Ta’amu
Cuts: None

With the Re-Signing of XFL Offensive Player of the Year Jordan Ta’amu, the story of this quarterback room becomes a lot less interesting. It does make the preference of Deondre Francois over Jalan McClendon make more sense as Francois would seem to be the D’Eriq King replacement as he goes off to the QB coach at SMU. No matter who the backup is, this room feels pretty set for the moment with the most athletic QB room in the league. McClendon is an interesting backup as he played well for the Vipers last season and has all the tools with a 6’5 219 lb frame. Unless an addition comes, expect this room to be set.

Skill Positions

Staying:

RB Darius Hagans, Cam’Ron Harris, Abram Smith
WR John Hightower, Brandon Smith, Preston Williams
Slot Josh Hammond, Chris Rowland
TE Shaun Beyer, Alex Ellis, Briley Moore-McKinney

Cuts:

RB Pooka Williams, Tabyus Taylor
WR Jazz Ferguson, Kelvin Harmon, Ty Scott, Trae Shropshire
Slot CJ Johnson
TE Ben Bresnahan

The skill positions start with the backfield where All-XFL RB Abram Smith is located after a short stint with the Vikings. He’s joined by midseason addition Cam’Ron Harris and offseason addition Darius Hagans who was with Coach Barlow at Virginia State. That most notably leaves returner Pooka Williams on the outside looking in. At receiver they are going to have to move on from losing 2 starting receivers in Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair to the NFL and that starts with 2 former NFL wideouts in Preston Williams and former 5th round pick John Hightower. They also have Philadelphia Star Chris Rowland (My bet for their new returner), and returning receivers in Brandon Smith and Josh Hammond who are back after NFL looks. That means former NFL draft pick Kelvin Harmon on the chopping block along with all of their draft picks in CJ Johnson, Ty Scott, and Trea Shropshire.

At tight end the DC Defenders seem to be running it back with Moore-Mckinney and Ellis back and Shaun Beyer taking Ethan Wolf’s place after his retirement. This group has some serious potential that if they find replacements for Jackson and Blair, they could be ready to compete again in 2024.

Offensive Line

Staying:
T D’Marcus Hayes, George Moore, Kyle Murphy
G Matt Carrick, Liam Fornadel, Greg Long
C Lamont Gaillard, Mike Maietti

Cuts:
T Tommy Champion, Jean Delance, Jack Plumb, Chidi Okeke
G Adonis Boone, Sadarius Hutcherson
C None

DC seems content to run back the best offensive line in the XFL last season into this year with 4 of the 5 starters returning (Liam Ryan retired), on top of those 4 guys, they are adding Lamont Gaillard, Matt Carrick, Greg Long, and George Moore. There is a lot of talent at tackle with this team right now so I could totally see Jean Delance or Chidi Okeke getting in over George Moore or as a 9th offensive lineman if they want to go heavy there. Either way the continuity of getting this many guys back will pay dividends when facing a murderers’ row of fronts that the UFL has this year.

Defensive Line

Staying: TJ Barnes, Fadol Brown, Donavan Jeter, Boogie Roberts, Niles Scott, Joe Wallace

Cuts: Dennis Johnson, Tariqious Tisdale

The DC Defenders went out and decided to get a few fan favorites for their defensive line in TJ Barnes and Boogie Roberts. They add to a room that is bringing back key players in Fadol Brown and Joe Wallace and they are getting Niles Scott who was their top pick in the XFL Front 7 draft in 2022 before missing the entire 2023 season with an undisclosed injury. They also get Donavan Jeter who bounced around the NFL for the past 2 seasons. The 2 left out are spring football journeyman Tariqious Tisdale who’s in his 2nd stint with DC and Dennis Johnson who was an XFL Combine Standout. This rotation gives Gregg Williams a lot of pieces to play with to get after the quarterback and stop the run.

Edge Rushers

Staying: Davin Bellamy, Malik Fisher, Trent Harris, Andre Mintze, Tim Ward

Cuts: Derick Roberson

The Defenders were able to bring back 2 of their best rushers in Davin Bellamy and Andre Mintze and on top of that they got the Roughnecks top two rushers in Trent Harris and Tim Ward. This room totaled 23.5 sacks in the XFL last year even with Ward missing half the season. The only cut that is happening is Derick Roberson who was an offseason addition after spending last season with the Roughnecks on IR.

Linebackers

Staying: Francis Bernard, Jordan Evans, Reggie Northrup, Mohammed Sanogo
Cuts: Ferrod Gardner, Anthony Hines

This is another group that is getting short changed on the amount of spots and although it might not be as insane as the edge group, it’s pretty solid. DC brings back Francis Bernard and Reggie Northrup as their 2 starting backers and adds Seattle’s top linebacker in Jordan Evans and XFL Rookie Draft pick Mohammed Sanogo to the room. The cuts were tough and I considered putting both Hines and Gardner in as a LB5 but the math makes it a difficult move.

Secondary

Staying:
CB Deandre Baker, Gareon Conley, Michael Joesph, Anthoula Kelly, Dejuan Neal
S Deontay Anderson, Kentrell Brice, Montae Nicholson, Santos Ramirez, DJ Swearinger

Cuts:
CB Elijah Blades, Isaiah Johnson, Nydair Rouse, Adam Sparks
S Sam Kidd

The reason for cutting back in some other places like linebacker and receiver was because of this insane secondary. DC was able to get their starting 5 DBs back in Joseph, Neal, Kelly, Brice, and Ramirez plus some of their quality depth in NFL vets Swearinger and Nicholson. Then they went a step further and added 2 former 1st round pick corners in Deandre Baker and Gareon Conley and an all-XFL safety in Deontay Anderson. Even with 10 currently rostered which is a ton for a 50 man roster, there are still players that I hate leaving off like former 4th round pick Isaiah Johnson and Vipers cornerback Adam Sparks but that’s certainly a good problem to have as you can never have too many DBs.

Specialist

Staying: K Matt McCrane, P Paxton Brooks, LS Trae Barry
Cuts: K Enrique Yenny

The DC Defenders lost Daniel Whelan to the Packers in the offseason which led to them getting Paxton Brooks to be their new punter. He joins returning players in Trae Barry and Matt McCrane. McCrane has some competition though as a kicker from a Mexican football league is currently rostered in Enrique Yenny who I can’t put over McCrane right now but it would be interesting if he’s able to pull the upset and get the starting spot.

Final Thoughts

The DC Defenders have one of the better rosters in the UFL going into training camp. Although they don’t have the depth of a Birmingham Stallions team, they still made me make some hard cuts in players like Kelvin Harmon, Chidi Okeke, Ferrod Gardner, and Isaiah Johnson. They were able to add to a core that had championship potential which could make them one of the more dangerous teams starting in March.

Who do you think will make the DC Defenders roster in 2024? Will this team run it back to the Championship? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!