The 2020 XFL season and inaugural season of the St. Louis BattleHawks is inching closer as we speak. The long awaited XFL Draft commenced over the last two days, and the rosters for all eight teams have been set. The BattleHawks added a plethora of talent, building up to what should be an exciting team to watch this coming February. Let’s take a look at a few of the key players Head Coach/General Manager Jonathan Hayes added to the squad over the last couple days.
First off, every XFL team was assigned a quarterback before the draft. St. Louis was assigned Jordan Ta’amu , former Ole Miss quarterback. Ta’amu started all 12 games for Ole Miss as a senior in the 2018 campaign where he would throw for just shy of 4,000 yards with 19 touchdowns along with 342 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft and was then signed by the Houston Texans but was released on the final wave of cuts in late August. Ta’amu is incredibly young and is yearning to prove he can play in the NFL. Ta’amu is hungry and will likely play with a chip on his shoulder and has all the potential to become a quality quarterback with the BattleHawks.
The BattleHawks backfield could be a nightmare to defend in the XFL, as St. Louis selected former Seattle Seahawk and Super Bowl Champion Christine Michael with their first overall pick. Michael spent six seasons in the NFL and while serving as Marshawn Lynch’s primary backup, earned a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks in 2013. The BattleHawks also added RB Matt Jones, the big bodied back who was a former 3rd round pick by the Washington Redskins and in 2016 was on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season before suffering an injury.
Aside from their talented running backs, the BattleHawks gained some quality wide receivers as well. St. Louis selected former Mizzou WR teammates L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, both who were important factors as seniors in 2013 in leading Mizzou to its first ever SEC East Division Title. Other WR’s in the group included former Nebraska receiver and kick return specialist De’Mornay Pierson-El, James Madison product Ishmael Hyman who nearly cracked the Cleveland Browns roster this year, former Toledo star Alonzo Russell, and Jordan Lasley who was a 5th round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2018.
After the skill position phase of the draft, the next phase up was drafting the big boys up front: the offensive linemen. The BattleHawks first pick in this phase was Matt McCants, the 30-year-old Tackle who spent seven seasons in the NFL is and looking to prove to teams that he still can block at an elite level. The next pick was a familiar name, as the BattleHawks took Guard Brian Folkerts. Folkerts was born in Florissant, MO and attended Hazelwood Central High School and Washburn University. He played for four different NFL teams, including the St. Louis Rams in 2015. Next up taken was Guard Dallas Thomas, the former Tennessee Volunteer. Thomas was a 3rd round pick in 2013 and spent four seasons in the NFL with the Dolphins and Eagles. The rest of the players selected in that phase were OT Kent Perkins, G Jake Campos, C Tyler Gauthier, G Blake Muir, C James Murray, G Juwann Bushell-Beatty, and G Dejon Allen. Overall with their ten picks in the OL phase, the BattleHawks added some seriously experienced beef in the trenches, making way for what should be a good-looking offense in their inaugural season.
The third and final phase of the first day of the XFL Draft was for the defensive front seven players, which meant defensive linemen or linebackers. Just like the offensive side, the initial defensive front seven unit of the St. Louis BattleHawks boasts a decent amount of NFL experience as well. Highlighting the front seven group would be Terence Garvin, who came from West Virginia University and appeared in 75 NFL games across six seasons after going undrafted in 2013. Selected after Garvin was DE Andrew Ankrah, former FCS Defensive Player of the Year and Washington Redskin. Another NFL experienced player on the defense was selected with their 5th pick in the phase, and that is DT Channing Ward, who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2016-2018. Right next to him will be Khyri Thornton, the former 3rd round pick by the Packers who spent five seasons in the NFL. The player selected after Thornton has the potential to have the best name on the team, as that man is Gimel President, the former Illini defensive end. President spent time with the Titans and Texans and saw playing time in four games with the Texans in 2017. Other players selected during this phase included DT Casey Sayles, DE Jamell Garcia-Williams, DT Marcus Hardison, LB Nicholas Grigsby, and DE Corbin Kaufusi.
On the second and final day of the XFL Draft, the BattleHawks added a reputable name early on in the defensive back phase of the draft. That name would be Safety Will Hill, former NFLer. Hill was undrafted out of Florida in 2012 but stuck on rosters with the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens over the span of four seasons. While with the Ravens, Hill had a pick six on Drew Brees in a 34-27 win in 2014. The following season, Hill picked up a blocked field goal and returned it for a touchdown to win a game against the Browns as time expired on Monday Night Football. However, Hill was later released in the 2016 offseason due to a failed drug test and has not been back in the league since.
The BattleHawks also picked up S Dexter McCoil, the former Los Angeles Chargers safety who made one start for the team and played in all 16 games for the team during the 2016 season. Two picks after McCoil, St. Louis selected CB Marquez White, a former NFL Draft pick out of Florida State. White saw some time with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 and 2018 and at the age of 24, is still trying to prove himself worthy of an NFL roster spot. Selected right after White was CB Trovan Reed, former Auburn Tiger. Reed actually went to Auburn as a wide receiver, but due to massive amounts of injuries at the defensive back position, Reed converted to a corner for his senior year and later on found himself in the NFL as a corner for four seasons including with the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks. The other players selected during the defensive back phase included S Herb Miller, CB D’Montre Wade, S Kenny Robinson, S Joe Powell, CB Trey Caldwell, and CB Ryan White.
The final phase of the draft was the open phase, meaning teams could select any player they wanted at any position. The BattleHawks used their first pick in this phase to select Elliott Fry, the former kicker from South Carolina. Fry was the Gamecocks primary kicker all four years he was at the school from 2013-2016 and went 66/88 (75%) on field goal attempts. He also only missed one extra point in 162 attempts throughout his career and the lone miss was because of a bad snap. His career long in college was 55 yards. Fry kicked in the AAF and had initially signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears for the 2019 season but was later cut in favor of Eddy Pineiro.
Other notables taken by the St. Louis BattleHawks in the final phase of the XFL Draft included former Patriots draft pick LB Steve Beauharnais, who was a seventh-round pick of out Rutgers in 2013. The BattleHawks also scooped up TE Cole Hunt, formerly of TCU and the LA Chargers. Hunt will likely be the starting tight end for the team, because the BattleHawks had taken TE Wes Saxton from South Alabama in the first phase of the draft but just hours after being drafted, Saxton was signed to the Redskins practice squad. Other former NFLers the BattleHawks added in the open phase was former Buccaneer DT Davonte Lambert, OT Andrew McDonald, and DE Markus Jones. The team also added Brandon Reilly, a wide receiver from Nebraska who spent parts of three seasons in the NFL and was teammates in college at Nebraska with BattleHawks WR De’Mornay Pierson-El. Other final draft picks for the BattleHawks were LB Ro’Derrick Hoskins, DT Jake Payne, and WR Devozea Felton.
Overall, the BattleHawks drafted on paper what looks like an incredibly solid football team. Their offense is well rounded, starting with an experienced offensive line, a young quarterback with a cannon, solid former NFL RB’s that were once starters, and a good mix of deep threat and speed guys at receiver. The defense also touts NFL experience and the additions of Will Hill, Terence Garvin, and Dexter McCoil among others should excite BattleHawk fans for a team that should compete on both sides of the field. But now with rosters established, all we are now waiting for is the schedule, the jerseys, and then just for February to get here. It should be an incredibly exciting debut season for the St. Louis BattleHawks.