The Houston Roughnecks made some tremendous additions to their organization during the UFL Dispersal Draft. While the organization has adopted a new name, the team still features the personnel and staff of the Houston Gamblers (i.e. HC Curtis Johnson, GM Lionel Vital).
The Roughnecks addressed some key needs during the draft, especially on the defensive side of the football. Aside from protecting 42 of their own players, Houston picked up 20 playmakers who bring a lot to the table.
WR Cyril Grayson Jr. | Philadelphia Stars
Houston picked up a couple of speedsters, starting with Cyril Grayson. Grayson has a remarkable professional story, as he was a track star at LSU, but couldn’t play football due to some stipulations surrounding that aspect. Cyril ended up performing at LSU’s pro day, though, turning heads.
This led to a couple of NFL opportunities for Grayson – who landed in Tampa Bay, winning a Super Bowl with the team a couple of years ago. He racked up 212 receiving yards and two touchdowns with the team in 2021.
Cyril signed with the Stars late in the USFL season, mainly playing a role on special teams to fill in for an injured Chris Rowland and Jordan Suell. Now, he takes his speed to Houston.
WR Isiah Hennie | Pittsburgh Maulers
Hennie-time, Hennie-place, Hennie-where. The place and whereabouts have switched to Houston, and the time is now. The All-USFL punt returner and electrifying wideout was picked up by the Roughnecks in the draft, after two exceptional seasons with Pittsburgh.
Hennie proved himself as much more than a returner in the USFL in 2023. He was a spark plug offensively for a team that desperately needed it. Isiah posted 474 receiving yards and three scores, while adding 297 punt return yards and a touchdown to his final tally.
Throughout the year, Isiah was a stabilizing factor in Pittsburgh despite their offensive struggles. Hennie finished the year with a 73.0 offensive grade according to PFF.
TE Braedon Bowman | New Jersey Generals
Braedon Bowman spent the last two seasons in the USFL with New Jersey. He started in six of ten games played with the Generals, registering 210 yards and a touchdown. Bowman is an excellent pass blocker (79.0 pass-blocking PFF grade in 2023).
How about some trickery from the @USFLGenerals? Darius Victor takes a toss – before chucking it to Braedon Bowman for the score, fooling everyone.
Braedon has plenty of professional experience. He played with the Birmingham Iron (AAF) in 2019, and has had a few NFL stops along the way (Los Angeles, NYJ, New Orleans). Now, he will help fill out the tight end room with the Houston Roughnecks.
TE Ryan Izzo | Philadelphia Stars
The former Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots wasn’t utilized often in Philadelphia this season, playing only 49 snaps. Izzo finished the year with 23 receiving yards, and a touchdown.
Ryan has been in the NFL for the past several years, most recently with the Carolina Panthers.
TE Woody Brandom | New Jersey Generals
Woody Brandom and Braedon Bowman are reuniting in Houston, after spending the last two years together in New Jersey.
Brandom racked up 175 receiving yards across those two seasons. One of his main highlights came in week five, catching a clutch two point attempt against Philadelphia.
C Jack Kramer (Breakers): Kramer joins Houston after starting all ten games for New Orleans in 2023. Jack was the Breakers’ center, helping RB Wes Hills set a modern rushing record with 680 yards.
OT Isaiah Battle (Generals): Battle was traded to the Generals from the Maulers prior to the 2023 season. He ended up playing in five games, starting four.
OL Marcus Tatum (Breakers): Tatum was a key piece to a strong Breakers offensive line, starting in 8 of 10 games in 2023. Marcus is a talented lineman, having started in all 13 games at UCF during his senior season.
OL Robert Myers (Generals): Myers is a spring football veteran, playing in the AAF, XFL, TSL, and the USFL. He played in four games with New Jersey in 2023.
OG Paul Adams (Breakers): While we’ve heard some rumors surrounding Paul Adams being available to play in 2024 (potential retirement), Adams was a starter for New Orleans in 2023. Would be an excellent addition, given that he plays.
OG Shamarious Gilmore (Stars): One of the most underrated pickups of the entire dispersal draft is Sharmarious Gilmore, who was stellar for Philadelphia despite their O-Line struggles. Gilmore allowed only 10 QB pressures all year, finishing as the second highest PFF graded player on the team at 74.0.
DL Olive Sagapolu | New Jersey Generals
Olive Sagapolu is an excellent pickup for this defensive line. Sagapolu has been a starter in Pittsburgh the past couple of seasons, racking up 50 tackles and five sacks across that span. He’s dominated – especially as a pass rusher – with a 70.8 pass rushing grade in 2023 according to PFF.
Olive spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2023 season. He then decided to sign to the Generals in free agency, but is now on his way to Houston.
DL Ethan Westbrooks | New Jersey Generals
The USFL’s Sportsman Of The Year, Ethan Westbrooks, is headed to Houston. Westbrook has had a unique journey so far in the USFL. He was with the Pittsburgh Maulers for the first several weeks in 2022, and then was traded to Michigan.
Westbrooks finished the 2023 season with 12 tackles and a sack, starting in seven of nine games played.
DT Keonte Schad | New Orleans Breakers
Houston’s defensive line got incredibly strong through this draft. The team picked up Keonte Schad, who was one of the most underrated playmakers in the USFL this past season.
Schad posted 25 tackles, 9 TFL, and 7.5 sacks (2nd) this year. Interestingly enough, he had spent the first couple weeks of the XFL season with the Orlando Guardians, but then landed in New Orleans – and provided the team with outstanding playmaking all year long.
DT Toby Johnson | New Jersey Generals
The two-time All-USFL DT, Toby Johnson, is now a member of the Houston Roughnecks. It’s almost unfair at this point, considering the depth the team already has.
Toby Johnson needs no introduction. He’s been one of the top linemen in all of spring football for years, and has showcased his dominance with the New Jersey Generals the past two seasons. Across that span, Toby has racked up 77 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and several TFL.
Rodriguez was a star in 2023 (no pun intended), earning All-USFL honors. He was the highest graded player on the team according to PFF, at 77.2. Rodriguez is a versatile edge who can do a little bit of everything. With the unreal amount of talent on this defensive line, expect Rodriguez to have another solid year in 2024.
DE Reggie Howard Jr. | New Orleans Breakers
Speaking of All-USFL talent, Reggie Howard joins the Roughnecks fold, from New Orleans. Howard was named to the All-USFL team in 2022, playing the majority of that season with the Tampa Bay Bandits.
Over the past two seasons, Howard has compiled 50 tackles, and 6.5 sacks. He started in all ten games for New Orleans in 2023.
LB Bryson Young | New Jersey Generals
Young is an underrated linebacker, having started in six of 10 games for New Jersey this year. Across the past two seasons, Bryson posted 47 tackles, alongside three sacks.
Sewell re-signed to the Stars during the offseason, and now brings his hard-hitting attitude to Houston. The Roughnecks have a stacked linebacker room, so it’ll be interesting to watch everything unfold in camp.
LB Reuben Foster | Pittsburgh Maulers
Last – but certainly not least – is Reuben Foster, who joins the fold from the Pittsburgh Maulers. The former NFL first round pick had an excellent year in Pittsburgh, despite dealing with some injuries throughout the season.
In 2023, Foster registered 53 tackles, 1 INT, and 0.5 sacks through eight games played. He was the top PFF graded player on the team, at 90.5. According to PFF, he was “the league’s lone linebacker to play 150-plus snaps and earn a 90.0-plus overall grade.”
Former Alabama LB and 49ers first round pick Reuben Foster has already forced a fumble for a TD a quarter into his USFL debut pic.twitter.com/S7IwCa28ir
Reuben’s talents translated into a workout with the Miami Dolphins this past offseason. Now, he returns to the spring football scene, with the Houston Roughnecks.
General Manager Lionel Vital targeted some key needs in this draft. The team had signed quite a few corners this offseason, so they focused more on the D-Line, and linebackers. In particular, they also grabbed some of the top offensive linemen available.
After a 5-5 record in 2023 that resulted in missing out on the playoffs, the Houston Roughnecks (Gamblers) are looking like a team ready to do some serious damage in the UFL in 2024.
What are your thoughts on these pickups for the Houston Roughnecks? Which player are you excited to watch in the UFL this year? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!