Aaron Murray was incredibly prolific at Georgia, setting school records for Passing Yards (13,166) and Touchdowns (121). We can’t deny his production, and scouts liked his football IQ and intangibles coming out of college. However, he is more of a game manager type that benefited from playing alongside Todd Gurley, A.J. Green and Isaiah Crowell at Georgia.
NFL scouts thought enough of his skills to bring him into the building, and the Chiefs selected him in the 5th round in 2014. He spent a couple of years there behind Alex Smith, then went on to the Cardinals, Eagles and Rams rosters. He played in the AAF, completing 64.9% of his passes for the Atlanta Legends, but was not terribly good with 3 TD’s to 7 INT’s.
I think he’s a low floor/high upside type of guy, and his poor production in the AAF is not necessarily indicative of his skill. The Legends passing attack struggled all year with both Murray and Matt Simms under center, so it could’ve been schematic issues. Head coach Kevin Coyle was defensive-minded and his OC Ken Zampese is from the lackluster Marvin Lewis coaching tree.
Taylor Cornelius is an interesting option, and the 6’6″ passer had a big season after sitting behind Mason Rudolph in college. He’s big, athletic has good arm and will definitely benefit from more experience in the XFL.
Vincent Testaverde Jr. has roots in Tampa, and his father played with the Buccaneers, but he’s set out to write his own story. He’s an intriguing 3rd option and homegrown talent.
Running Back: B+
Quinton Flowers headlines this group and gives Tampa options on offense. A converted dual-threat QB, he put up 3672 yards and 41 TD’s on the ground, in addition to 8,124 yards and 71 TD’s through the air. He’s dynamic as a runner and has the size (5’10”, 214) and relative speed (4.6) to pound the rock. Having him on the field is a mismatch nightmare, however, as the team will essentially have 2 passers on the field.
Vipers coach Marc Trestman has always been known as a creative and unconventional mind on offense, so he should have a field day with a piece like this. The possibilities could be endless if Trestman wants to expand a role similar to LaDainian Tomlinson’s legendary bootleg passes. RPO’s, sweeps, trick plays could all very much factor in to keep defenses on their toes.
Jacques Patrick, 6’3″, 235 has the ability as a runner and receiver, and he strikes me as a gadget fullback. In 4 years at Florida State, he maintained a 4.9 ypc, and rushed for 17 TD’s. I can see him being used as a power runner, option in the flat and potentially a blocker with his frame. Lots of skillsets for Trestman to utilize here.
Ralph Webb has good speed (4.48) and runs with vision and anticipation, he’s ranked 6th all-time in SEC rush yards with 4,173. He’s a bit undersized at 5’9″ 200 but I think he brings some great speed and explosiveness to the backfield.
Wide Receivers: C
Overall, this is a sort of lackluster group. A few names who’ve cracked practice squads, and even gotten limited pro reps, but nobody who jumps out at me as a game-changer
Seantavius Jones has no problem getting open, and he was one of the most targeted receivers in the AAF, but he didn’t even pull in half of those targets. Maybe Trestman is hoping he and Aaron Murray can continue to develop chemistry after they shared the field with the Atlanta Legends.
Freddie Martino has solid size/speed at 6 foot with a 4.49 40 time. After putting up 3,766 yards and 26 TD’s at North Greenville, he spent time with the Falcons, Eagles and the Buccaneers, where he saw the field, scoring once.
Chris Thompson adds value as a returner/receiver. Though he has only 5 receptions in the pros, he contributed as a solid returner for the Texans in 2017.
Tight Ends: A+
Nick Truesdell is easily the most impressive TE prospect in the XFL. The 6’6″ 250 pounder ran a 4.47u 40 time at the NFL Veteran Combine in 2017 and is an absolute mismatch nightmare. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the entire XFL, not just TE’s in receptions.
He’s a threat up the seam at that speed, and in the red zone with that frame. Defenses are really going to have to plan their coverages around him. With 38 TD’s in the recently deceased AFL, and 3 TDs with Salt Lake in the AAF. He’s got proven production in the pros, and with 3 stints in the NFL, knows what’s required at the next level.
DeAndre Goolsby, 6’4″ had solid production in the SEC at Florida, making 68 catches for 724 yards and 5 TDs. He should be a solid 2nd option in 2TE sets.
Cole Wick is another big body at 6’6″ 257 and has receiving production in college, but his lack of speed should limit him vertically. He could still be a solid target over the middle and in the red zone and will be a real asset as a blocker.
Offensive Line: B
Martez Ivey started 22 games at LT, and 14 as an LG at Florida. Consistently one of the top performers in the SEC, he’s got good size 6’5″, 315, and an incredible wingspan at 36 1/4. He got a shot with the Patriots this offseason but didn’t make the final roster. He does need to develop his footwork, but with proven play against high-end talent in the SEC, he should be a solid starter.
Christian Morris was a highly valued prospect out of high school, and after playing his freshman year, suffered a neck injury in his sophomore season and stepped away from the game. He eventually transferred to Tennessee State, playing 11 games at both tackle spots. A former 4-star recruit, he’s looking to make a name for himself at the next level. Should slot in as the starting RT.
Andrew Tiller is a proven commodity at Guard, having played in 28 NFL games, starting 14. He’s been with 5 teams and recently played with the Orlando Apollos in the AAF. At 6’4″ 324, he should be a road grader in the run game.
Isaiah Williams started 21 games at both tackle spots in Akron, after switching from DL his Junior year. He performed well at the spot, winning the John Heisman award as a redshirt Senior. Projects as a guard in the XFL because of his 6’3″ frame, but moves well in space. He’s got good quickness and push and should be a solid presence on the interior.
With their first pick in Phase II, the Vipers selected OC Jordan McCray out of UCF. McCray played all 4 years in college, earning Conference USA All-Freshman, All C-USA Honorable Mention, and All-American Athletic Conference First Team his senior year. He has spent time with the Packers, Panthers, Vikings, and Bears. We’ve yet to see what he’ll do at the pro level, but he stirred interest this offseason after being out of football for a couple of years.
Front Seven: B+
Devin Taylor is a fantastic pickup. At just 26 years old, he’s notched 94 tackles, 15 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 4 years with the Detroit Lions. He’s got incredible length around the edge at 6’8″, 267, and has good athleticism. He’s been overshadowed by Jadeveon Clowney and Melvin Ingram in college, then Ezekiel Ansah in the pros, but he’s a good pass rusher and should be one of the team’s stalwarts on defense.
Obum Gwachem is another good pass rusher who’s got NFL experience. The former 6th round draft pick has been in Seattle, New Orleans, Arizona, New York, and Indianapolis, and made 2.5 sacks and 2 ff in limited playing time.
Deiontrez Mount should factor in here too, and the former Tennessee Titan has a versatile skillset. With decent pass rush moves, good quickness and coverage ability, he could push for playing time across from Taylor.
Bobby Richardson has a good mix of NFL experience and youth, and the 6’3″ 286 pounder figures to be a regular presence on the interior. He was a solid contributor with the Saints and brings plus athleticism to the mix. He’s all over the field on tape.
Trevon Sanders is a great young prospect, who could serve as the heart of this defensive line. He’s got the bulk 6’2″, 327 pounds to hold down the middle, but he’s got penetration abilities as well. At Troy, he had 16.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks, which is about as good as you’ll see at the NT position.
Ricky Walker is disruptive in the middle and had 10.5 tackles for loss his senior year. He needs to work on his functional strength against the run game.
Reggie Northrup was the first linebacker taken by Tampa Bay in Phase III. He was an essential piece of Florida State’s defense from 2012-2015, racking up 271 tackles in his time there. A tackling machine with middling coverage skills, he strikes me as a solid 2 down thumper against the run.
Terrance Plummer is another thumper in the middle in the mold of Todd Davis. He may have limitations in speed down the field, but he’s got a heck of an instinct for the ball. He was a regular contributor to the Toronto Argonauts Grey Cup team in 2017 and should be a big factor in run defense.
Emmanuel Beal is a good complement to Plummer and Northrup. He a sideline to sideline player whose speed (4.58) and instincts make up for his relative lack of size (6’0″ 220). In nickel packages, he should be a real asset.
With the first pick in Phase IV, the Vipers went with Arrion Springs – Oregon. The 3-year starter played well in all phases of the game, from coverage (2 INT, 42 PD) to run support (137 Tackles, 8.5 TFL). A prototypical mold, at 6’0″ with 4.46 speed, he’s got the coverage skills to match. He allowed just a 38% completion rate his senior year in the PAC-12.
.@A_Springs1 was a breakout player with @oregonfootball – no doubt he’ll make waves in the @xfl2020.— Tampa Bay Vipers (@XFLVipers) October 27, 2019
44 career pass breakups
3 forced fumbles
Allowed a 40.6% completion rate#ReadyToStrike 🐍 pic.twitter.com/0AxSxMI0UV
Demontre Hurst is the veteran of this group and brings 6 years in the NFL to the secondary. In time with the Bears and Titans, he produced all over the field, with 58 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, 2 picks, and 3 pass deflections. At only 28 years old, he’s got time left in his prime and should be a reliable piece of this secondary.
Picasso Nelson’s dad was a defensive back as well, and the bloodlines show. He had 5 picks at Southern Miss and was a big factor against the run with 201 tackles and 11.5 for losses. With a 4.41 40 time, he’s got the athleticism coaches love, and he should be vying for one of the starting spots.
Jude Adjei-Barimah also has in-game NFL experience and will be in the mix for playing time as well. He had 3 pass deflections with the Buccaneers.
Marcelis Branch is their first option here, and he did big things at RMU. In 4 seasons he made 7 INT’s and 28 PD’s in coverage. He was brought in here to be a ballhawk and should lock down his half of the field. He’s also good enough vs the run, and they can bring him up near the line if need be.
Robenson Therezie has been in the pro football world since signing with the Falcons as a UDFA in 2015. He’s a tad undersized at 5’9″, but has performed well whenever he’s seen the field. He had 2 pass deflections and a pick in Atlanta.
Micah Hannemann is a solid all-around prospect, with plus athleticism, good length, and production in coverage and against the run.
The Vipers took two kickers here. Andrew Franks completed 78.4% of his field goals in two years with the Dolphins, with a long of 55. Matthew Wright got a try with the Steelers this season and completed 5 of 6 in the preseason. He also missed an extra point.
Jake Schum is a veteran punter at age 30, and though he hasn’t played since 2016, he has a respectable career average of 42.6 yards. He’s a proven commodity.
LS Nick Moore got an invite to the Senior Bowl after playing at Georgia.
Overall Grade: B
The Vipers have enough offensive talent to get by. I’m on the fence about Murray’s viability as a starter, but he’ll have massive help from Nick Truesdell and a strong run game. I’m skeptical about the viability of their WR corps but maybe Truedell can help compensate. The O-Line here has a decent mix of proven talent and potential, and shouldn’t be a liability in the pass or run game. Trestman is a creative mind, and he has some fun pieces to work with here.
Their defense is a real asset. I like all phases of the game here. They have strong presences upfront and won’t bend easily to the run, while an excellent looking secondary locks things down on the back end. They have one of the better-proven rushers in Devin Taylor, and I think we’ll be hearing his name all season long. The name of their game will be defense, and the depth chart they’ve put together on this side is as good as you’ll find in the new league.
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