In this second installment of XFL players the Buccaneers should consider, we look to the defensive side of the ball. For a team to be successful a staff must look high and low for help to round out the roster and add depth. The XFL can provide some help with that situation as they showcase some players’ talents that may have been overlooked.
Defensive Interior: Mike Tverdov
Out of Rutgers Tverdov didn’t hear his name in the 2022 draft. At Rutgers, he accumulated 121 solo tackles, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass deflections. In his own words in an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds, he had this to say about being a top prospect at his position.
He didn’t get the chance to prove it in the NFL yet though. But in the XFL he’s making a case for playing at the next level. With 16 total pressures (leading the XFL for linebackers) and seven tackles though six games he has a grade of 74 from PFF at this time. A solid contributor he could play a role on special teams and maybe find himself in rotation on an NFL team.
Other Defensive Linemen
Additional name(s) to watch for: C.J. Brewer from Coastal Carolina had a shot with the Bills last season. They however were pretty deep at the position and let Brewer go. So far this season he has six pressures and seven tackles. If he sees an increase in numbers he’ll be tracking in the right direction.
Edge: Trent Harris
For the most part I have been selecting players that are only a year removed from college. Trent Harris is 27 years old. He became draft eligible in 2018 and was picked up as a undrafted free agent in 2018 by the Patriots. In his four year stint across the NFL he only logged two sacks, 18 solo tackles, and a forced fumble in 19 games. In four games in the XFL he’s surpassed those numbers with seven sacks among his 17 total pressures (second in the league). That’s 4.25 pressures a game and 1.75 sacks a game. Impressive numbers. With sacks a t a premium teams will look into his performance.
More Edge Players
Additional name to watch for: Tim Ward of Old Dominion was a free agent signing by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. He too is putting in some work, as he has five sacks on the season for an average of one per game. His 16 total hurries is tide for third in the league. James Maison alum John Daka was a free agent signing by the Ravens in 2020. He leads the league in pressures with 21, but it has only equated to three sacks.
Linebacker: Carson Wells
Wells came out of the University of Colorado and is from Bushnell, FL. so maybe a return home is due. In his four years in college Wells totaled 103 solo tackles, 12 pass deflections, three interceptions, and a forced fumble in 41 games. He showed enough that Lance Zierlein labeled him a priority free agent for 2022. Cincinnati picked up that flier on him but he never saw the field. Now in the XFL well is showing he can be dependable and may warrant a look to be added on special teams with a possibility to grow into a small role. So far Wells has earned 18 tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and nine hurries across six games. His grade from PFF indicate a solid performer across all aspects of defensive play. 77.2 in total defense, 73.2 in run, 65.6 in pass rush, and 75.8 in coverage. Not bad.
Additional name to watch for: Tanner Beckett, former Thundering Herd linebacker, has carved out a nice role as a coverage sideline to sideline player. With 16 tackles over five games he’s also been targeted 17 times. The result has not been favorable for offenses as he’s only allowed nine receptions and has a single interception and pass break up.
Corner: Ajene Harris
Harris, a former 2019 undrafted free agent signing for the Philadelphia Eagles now finds himself on the Houston Roughnecks. The former USC Trojan was able to rack up 89 tackles, five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles. No to shabby. The biggest knock against him may be his size. At 5’10” and 185 ponds he is a smaller corner.
Now that hasn’t slowed him down in the XFL this season though. With 21 targets and allowing eight receptions he has a completion percentage of 38.1% working in his favor. To show that is not just over throws and bad quarterback play he’s gotten his hands on ten of those passes. Five break ups and five interceptions. Solid! XFL quarterbacks at this moment have only a 52.8 an NFL passer rating when targeting him. Again, solid. Enough to warrant a second shot in my opinion. While currently thin at corner this is a player the Buccaneers could bring in and test out.
Additional name to watch for: Luq Barcoo. 17 receptions on 36 targets. One interception and nine passes broken up.
Safety: Zafir Kelly
Kelly, hailing from the South Carolina State Bulldogs, is making a name from himself as a Seattle Sea Dragon in the XFL. Draft eligible in 2022, Kelly played well in his 2021 season with the Bull Dogs. Amassing three interceptions, 13 solo tackles, seven pass deflections and a forced fumble, Kelly looked as though he may be a late rounder or priority free agent. Pro Football Network had this to say about Kelly.
“Positives: Feisty, instinctive corner who is best facing the action. Quick-footed pedaling in reverse, smooth flipping his hips in transition, and mixes it up with receivers throughout the route. Fluid, instinctive, and plays heads-up football. Stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks, has a quick burst to the ball, and flashes on the scene. Easily runs downfield with opponents. Works well with safeties to bracket receivers over the middle of the field.”
Unfortunate he didn’t find a landing spot. Now hungry and playing in the XFL, Kelly is starting to show a solid foundation. In 16 targets he’s allowed only nine receptions. That equates to a 56.3% completion percentage. Though he has allowed one touch down he has five pass deflections to his credit so far. For the most part he has lined up against the slot far more often than anywhere else. What that shows me is that he’s getting his hands on catchable balls often. This alone make shim worthy of consideration for camp. If he can live up to the analysis above he may be a solid depth signing for the Buccaneers.
Additional name to watch for: None at this position.
Like the offensive players most these players didn’t make t to the NFL or didn’t stick. These players represent individuals that should be brought into camp with a corresponding try out in order to make a team. It never hurts to test the waters as you never know when you could find gem that needed another year to mature before becoming productive. Either way a good staff leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of winning.