1: Carolina Generals (St. Louis Stallions) – Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
The defending Metropolitan Conference Champions somehow managed to turn a backup quarterback into the No. 1 overall draft pick and were able to make their offense a lot more explosive with a local talent in Tarik Cohen. Just a few months ago nobody was thinking of Cohen as a possible top pick in he draft but he was incredible in pre-draft workouts, showing off his incredible speed and playmaking ability both as a runner and receiver. The Generals were more of a blue-collar type of team last year but this will give them some pop. It is also very interesting to see them pair this home run threat with a plotter-type of back like Kenneth Dixon, their first round pick last season.
We’d also be a bit remissed if we did not mention what St. Louis go out of this. Their move away from the top pick may be questionable to some, but this is a new expansion team that wanted a proven veteran quarterback to lead their team instead of a young quarterback who really wasn’t not worth being the top overall pick. Mettenberger certainly has been inconsistent, but maybe that seven touchdown game against Louisville two years ago still rings pretty fresh in the mind of Stallions owner Alex Gray.
2: Mississippi Cottonmouths – Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
Mississippi is hoping that Memphis’ mistake is their gain. The Bombers declined to sign Will Holden to a contract as a territorial draft pick, claiming that he was “really bad”. Well, The Cottonmouths ownership begs to differ. They are making Will Holden, who most experts to believe was the clear top offensive linemen in this draft class, an anchor of their offensive line. Holden is a very strong and technically sound blocker, but obviously only time will tell which owner was right on their evaluation of him.
3: Iowa Threshers – David Sharpe, OT, Florida
While Will Holden is probably the most ready to be a force right away, David Sharpe has a ton of potential to be the anchor of the Iowa Threshers offensive line. This league has proven that offensive linemen are the most important and toughest position to fill so this expansion team looked at that and went with the potential. Sharpe is a massive 6-foot-6, 343-pound offensive tackle with great athleticism for the position.
4: San Diego Diablos – Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas
Look at the defensive line this team has already built. After drafting a pair of promising young defensive tackles in the expansion draft and spending quite a bit of money on Justin Capicciotti in free agency, San Diego got their fourth starter with the fourth overall draft pick, taking Deatrich Wise. Wise is a very big and powerful defensive end, standing 6-foot-5, 274-pounds. He’s not overly fast, but he has rare athletic ability that makes him a very intriguing prospect.
5: Houston Wranglers – Chase Allen, OLB, Southern Illinois
Houston was really bad last season, and bad all around. That makes things pretty easy for them in a draft because any position they take is the right decision, so they are simply just going best player available. Allen was the top guy on their board when this pick came around. Allen is a very good run-stopping outside linebacker with a great motor and strong instincts who can help Tyler Matakevich lead the defense.
6: Minnesota Freeze – Chase Roullier, C/G, Wyoming
Minnesota had a lot of problems last season, but one of the biggest ones was their offensive line. The Freeze’s offensive line struggles didn’t held a poor crop of running backs and it led to the worst rushing attack in the league. The Freeze also ranked near the bottom in he league in sacks allowed. Chase Roullier is a talented and versatile interior offensive linemen who will help make this team a lot of more physical up front.
7: Utah Raptors (Louisville Cougars) – Jayon Brown, OLB, UCLA
Utah made a big move all the way up to the seventh pick in the draft to take the top guy on their entire draft board. Jayon Brown may not have been the top guy on too many other draft boards, but the team struggled defensive last year, ranking 20th against the run and 15th against the pass. Brown is a very, very fast outside linebacker who the Raptors see as guy who can match up against any tight end and also make life miserable for any receiver trying to go over the middle.
8: Charleston Dragons – Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
Coming into the draft it was out of Cooper Rush and Brad Kaaya as to who was the best quarterback. In Charleston’s eyes Rush was the top guy and they are hoping he will be the answer they need at quarterback. Aaron Murray is still in Charleston, but Rush has been dubbed their future already. He has a nice arm and made accurate throws. He just needs to be consistent and has to prove he can make the throws against much better competition.
9: New Orleans Nightmare (Utah Raptors) – Samson Ebukam, OLB, Eastern Washington
Another smaller-school prospect, but Samson Ebukam is a very gifted athlete who also played basketball and track and field in his past. That athleticism makes him quite the pass rusher. New Orleans had one of the better pass rushes in the league last season, but Ebukam will make them even more fierce.
10: New York Marauders – Patrick Ricard, DT/FB, Maine
New York went into this draft saying “Patrick Ricard at all costs.” Why? Last year the Marauders had their problems, but after spending big money to get a running back and offensive linemen in free agency, their focus in this draft clearly was making up their defense would have the proper personnel for their switch for a 3-4 defense. Richard is a very big and powerful defensive linemen who can set the edge, but he should also help the running game too. He’s a bulldozer who will also play fullback for the Marauders, helping clear the way for the newly signed Jacquizz Rodgers.
11: New Orleans Nightmare (Birmingham Predators) – Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan
If the Big Ten is known for their very physical football and that is what the New Orleans Nightmare are getting in Kyle Kalis. The Michigan prospect may have been a tad over-drafted, but with offensive linemen being such a premium the Nightmare couldn’t risk him falling down to their next pick. With their first pick they added to their defense and a few picks later they bolstered their offensive line and with both picks the team got more physical and more imposing.
12: Dallas Six-Shooters – Jacob Hollister, TE, Wyoming
With Terrell Owens leaving Dallas in free agency and Owen Daniels retiring, the Six-Shooters used their first round pick to get a physical receiver to go over the middle. He nice hands and can also use them to get separation and positioning against defenders. He’ll have to be consistent against top competition, but he is a talented athlete. Still, this was an unexpected first round pick.
13: Omaha Express – Calvin Munson, ILB, San Diego State
Calvin Munson was one of the best linebacker prospects in a deep linebacker class and Omaha did need to make selections that would improve their defense, but Munson was clearly a pick of best player available over need. Actually, this was probably the last position they needed with $6 million invested in the position between Vontaze Burfict and Casey Matthews. Munson might have to play out of position on the outside, and that would not suit his skillset.
14: Utah Raptors (Atlanta Firebirds (Memphis Bombers)) – Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Utah traded up to get Jayon Brown earlier in the draft and later decided to send a 2018 first round pick to Atlanta to get a second top 15 draft pick. That is when one of last year’s worst receiving corps. got another huge boost with the remarkably talented Dede Westbrook, one pick ahead of Carolina, which really coveted the 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist. Westbrook should have an immediate impact with his field-stretching ability. The 2018 first round pick might be risky, by the Raptors are saying he is their future and don’t mind giving it up one bit.
15: Carolina Generals (New Orleans Nightmare) – Nicholas Morrow, ILB, Greenville University
Carolina had to call a quick audible after the Raptors traded one spot ahead of them to take the guy they really wanted. Carolina now didn’t end up with Tarik Cohen and Dede Westbrook, instead they used their second first round pick to improve their linebacking unit. It’ll be interesting to see how Morrow, who played strong safety in college, transitions to linebacker in the pros, especially considering how much the Generals like incumbent middle linebacker Mike Hull, but it was purely a pick of best player available for them.
16: Washington Wave – Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
It was a big surprise to see Samaje Perine still available at the 16th pick but the Washington Wave loved it. Last year they barely had a running attack outside of trick plays but wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but Perine will be their featured back, joining an already improved group of backs. The Wave selected Taquan Mizzell in the territorial draft and signed Cameron Marshall in free agency. Perine will be the best of the bunch of the leader of a potential three-headed backfield.
17: Memphis Bombers (Columbus Explorers) – Trent Taylor, WR Louisiana Tech
Previously the Nashville Renegades, last year the team’s worse area was their passing offense, which ranked 15th out of 22 teams. While they tried to get their passing game over the top with Allen Hurns last year, it didn’t work out. This year, they are still trying, adding former Columbus Explorers quarterback to their receiving corp, running opposite the highly-productive Jamison Crowder. Memphis is boasting Trent Taylor as their new slot receiver, hoping the quicker-than-fast Louisiana Tech product will show off his good hands while running over the middle. His 5-foot-8, 181-pound frame with just 4.6 speed is a bit of a concern, though.
18: Atlanta Firebirds – Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
Tanzel Smart was one of the very best defensive tackles in this draft and will be a very good plug next to Grady Jarrett and Joe Vellano. He’ll help make Atlanta’s team more physical, something defensive-minded head coach Rob Ryan certainly will enjoy, but it is hard to see where he can make a huge impact. The Firebirds has two starters already at defensive tackle, but the 20th-ranked pass defense and 13th-ranked pass rush. While an improved pass rush can help a pass defense, the 300-pound defensive tackle is more of a run-stuffer than a backfield disruptor.
19: Pittsburgh Forge – Xavier Woods, FS, Louisiana Tech
One of my favorite WWE Superstars and an underrated member of The New Day…oh wait, a different Xavier Woods. Well, this guy is really good too. The Forge have a great offense, but their defense really needs work. Woods can start from day one in this secondary and make an impact. He had great ball skills and instincts and should be a true centerfielder-type safety for the Forge.
20: Orlando Rockets – Dylan Cole, LB, Missouri State
Orlando has been so solid over the years that it is hard to see what they really need, but that is fine because they can always just go best player available and that is once again what they did. Dylan Cole is a talented linebacker, who is absolutely shredded with muscles and had great strength. It’ll always be a struggle for rookies to get a lot of time for the Rockets and Cole will be behind some other talented linebackers, but he’s too good not to see the field right away.
21: Michigan Stags – Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State
A good anticipator who is very comfortable in a zone, Montae Nicholson will join a loaded secondary, but the Stags figured why not build on their strengths and make them even stronger? Nicholson should still get some time back there because of his talent. He was a guy the team scouted a lot in the territorial draft but an injury made them pass. After more time to see that he was perfectly fine, they didn’t pass a second time.
22: Seattle Orcas – Nigel Harris, ILB, South Florida
Seattle’s top-rated defense got even better with this first round pick. Nigel Harris might not pass the eye test with his physical traits or measurables, but but was highly productive in college, racking up 231 tackles in 43 career games. Maybe he was drafted just a little higher than expected, but he wouldn’t have lasted until the Orcas next pick so for them he was drafted right where they needed to take him.
23: Los Angeles Stars – Matt Milano, OLB, Boston College
The Stars run defense was a problem area last season, ranking 21st out of 22 teams in 2017. Matt Milano will improve that area right away. He is a potential day one starter who brings speed and intensity to the Stars defensive unit. He might need to get a bit bigger but his speed will benefit him when tracking down ball carriers.
24: San Antonio Marshals – Chris Carson, RB, Oklahoma State
Another great running back who fell a lot farther in the draft than expected, Chris Carson was once thought to be a top five pick but an injury heading into the draft hurt his stock a bit. He should be perfectly fine, though, the Marshalls are the benefactors to other team’s scepticism. Carson is a very talented back who should be a star in this league. This offseason the team choose Khiry Robinson over Jacquizz Rodgers when giving out a big contract, but the unexpected availability of Carson will help keep that two-headed backfield partnership in San Antonio.
EDIT: Actually, it’s an even better three-headed monster backfield created with this draft pick as D’Onta Foreman will also be joining the Marshalls as a territorial draft pick.
25: New Orleans Nightmare (St. Louis Stallions (Carolina Generals)) – Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (FL)
Once viewed as the clear No. 1 pick, Kaaya’s stock has fallen lately, but the Nightmare should be very happy that he dropped down to them, where they can trade up to get him. Kaaya has always been an immensely talented quarterback with plenty of potential, it’s always just been a matter of him living up to it. The Nightmare gave up on Zach Mettenberger last year and his replacement Tim Tebow announced his retirement to focus on baseball. Kaaya has some competition, but will have every opportunity to be the Nightmare’s new franchise quarterback.
26: Philadelphia Bulldogs – Jameer Thurman, LB, Indiana State
A small-school prospect, Jameer Thurman is a bit of a questionable pick by the champions as the final pick of the first round. There were other linebackers who probably ranked higher, but on the Bulldogs board Thurman was obviously the best one available. They do have a lot of retired players they need to find replacements for, but they only had four linebackers on their roster heading into the draft. Thurman gives them some nice depth, though he will likely be given the opportunity to become a starter pretty early.
Best Pick: RB Samaje Perine – Washington Wave
It is the first round so there were a lot of great picks, but Samaje Perine going to the Washington Wave stands out as spectacular. The Wave already have one of the game’s biggest playmakers in Tyreek Hill, but now Perine will give the Wave the rushing presence. This team has quickly gone from an 0-16 team to a team with a lot of big-time playmakers on their roster. Perine can be a great one.
Most Questionable Pick: ILB Calvin Munson – Omaha Express
It’s not the talent, Calvin Munson is a gifted linebacker who can really play at a high level. However, this seems like a rare occasion where drafting the best play available might not have been the best decision. Omaha has a lot of money invested at inside linebacker, with Vontaze Burfict making $5 million this year and Casey Matthews making $1 million. Unless the Express want to put some of these guys on the outside, which would put them out of position, it just seems like way too much invested in one position on a team that has quite a few needs.