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XFL draft: What we learned about the Tampa Bay Vipers

The Vipers’ initial 71-man roster features numerous players who have ties to Tampa Bay. Plus, why coach Marc Trestman drafted big receivers and why 77-year-old defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville hasn’t changed a bit.
The Tampa Bay Vipers kick off their inaugural season in February. [XFL]
Published Oct. 17
Updated Oct. 17

After two days, five phases, 70 rounds and 560 picks, the 2019 XFL draft is in the books. Here are some things we learned about the league and the local team, the Tampa Bay Vipers:

1. For Vipers coach Marc Trestman, character outweighed talent.

“We wanted to bring in guys who love football and were good teammates,” he said. “That was the No. 1 criteria over talent. We didn’t take anybody who was a threat to the locker room, the culture of our locker room.”

2. There will be competition at quarterback.

Before the draft, the XFL assigned a quarterback to each of its eight teams. Though those quarterbacks are presumptive starters, their spots aren’t guaranteed. Six of the eight teams, including the Vipers, drafted another quarterback in the skill position phase of the draft Tuesday.

There will be four players in Tampa Bay’s quarterback room: Aaron Murray, the quarterback assigned to the Vipers and a former Georgia and Plant High standout; former University of South Florida star Quinton Flowers; Taylor Cornelius, who started as a fifth-year senior at Oklahoma State last season; and Vincent Testaverde Jr., the son of former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde and graduate of Jesuit High School in Tampa. (Testaverde Jr. played in the Bucs preseason finale in August.)

MORE XFL: Former Plant High quarterback Aaron Murray is coming home

Though Tampa Bay announced Flowers as a running back, Trestman made it clear that he will get reps at quarterback.

“We couldn’t pass up Flowers,” he said. “He’s a three-way threat, but he is a quarterback first. He’s really grown as a running back — pass protection, physicality, running the football, catching it — he can do it all.”

A crowded quarterback room is a good problem to have, Trestman said.

“Aaron’s not getting every rep,” he said. “He’s going to feel competition, and that should just make him better.”

3. Trestman likes big receivers.

Four of the six pass catchers the Vipers drafted in the skill position phase are at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and 200 pounds (tight end Nick Truesdell and receivers Seantavius Jones, Jalen Tolliver and Reece Horn). It brings to mind the big bodies Trestman had in Chicago in 2013 and 2014 when he was head coach of the Bears — tight end Martellus Bennett and receiver Alshon Jeffery.

“When you’re big, you have catch radius,” Trestman said. “There’s more margin for error, and there’s red zone threats. You’ve got to score. You need big bodies to make contested catches.”

At the other end of the spectrum: the Dallas Renegades and coach Bob Stoops. They drafted five receivers in the skill position phase, all of whom were under 6 feet and 200 pounds.

4. Trestman likes big receivers so much that he took one with the first pick of the defensive front phase (sort of).

The Vipers were the first team on the board in the defensive front phase and chose a player who began his college career as a receiver: Obum Gwacham (6 feet 5 inches, 250 pounds). In 2014, Gwacham’s final season at Oregon State, he transitioned to defensive end and recorded four sacks. A sixth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 NFL draft, he spent this past summer with the Indianapolis Colts.

“They love him in Indianapolis,” Trestman said. “The people I know there validated this kid on every level. He’s going to have a good chance of going back to the NFL, even before the end of the season. That’s as transparent as I can be. If he does, we wish him well, but we feel that if we get 12 games with him, we can really develop him and help him for his next opportunity.”

5. The Vipers are Tampa Bay’s team in more than name only.

The roster features numerous players who have connections to Tampa Bay. Joining Murray, Flowers and Testaverde Jr. are:

• cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimeh, who played for the Bucs in 2015 and 2016

• punter Jake Schum, who played for the Bucs in 2014 and 2015

• receiver Freddie Martino, who played for the Bucs for parts of three seasons from 2016 through 2018

• defensive back Robert Priester, a graduate of Robinson High School in Tampa

6. Jerry Glanville is still Jerry Glanville.

“You gotta have corners,” the Vipers defensive coordinator said of his approach to building a secondary. “You don’t have corners? You gotta get your wife a job at the Walmart because you’re gonna be out of work. Today decides (whether) you win or you lose.”

In the defensive backfield phase Wednesday, Tampa Bay picked seven cornerbacks (Arrion Springs, Picasso Nelson, Demontre Hurst, Adjei-Barimah, Lashard Durr, Herb Waters and Bryce Canady) and three safeties (Marcelis Branch, Micah Hannemann and Robenson Therezie).

“We really did well with cover corners,” Trestman said. “We’re gonna need them because we’re going to play four-wideout teams who don’t play with tight ends.”

7. The draft format prevented the Vipers from repeating a mistake the other local professional football team makes: taking kickers too early.

There are two ways to look at Tampa Bay’s kicker pick. 1.) The Vipers didn’t take a kicker until five picks into the 41st round. 2.) It wasn’t possible for them to take one any sooner. Kickers weren’t eligible to be drafted until the 41st round — the first round of the open phase — so technically they took a kicker the first chance they could. That pick, by the way, was Andrew Franks, who was the kicker for the Miami Dolphins in 2015 and 2016. He made 29 of 37 field goals.

Roberto Aguayo, whom the Bucs picked in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, went undrafted.

8. No one likes Trent Richardson.

Forty running backs were drafted. None of them was named Trent Richardson. Richardson, the Cleveland Browns’ first-round draft pick in 2012, rushed for 3.3 yards per carry in three seasons in the NFL.

9. XFL rosters are fluid.

The league is planning to hold a supplemental draft in November for players who were ineligible for this draft because they were on an NFL or college team.

10. The XFL won’t play any preseason games, at least not officially.

In December, the Vipers will convene in Plant City for meetings, conditioning exercises and practices — basically the XFL’s version of the NFL’s “Organized Team Activities.” In January, they, as well as the seven other XFL teams, will travel to Texas for training camp. In lieu of official preseason games, teams will play scrimmages.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.


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