The stage is set for the Houston Gamblers’ roster as they completed with 45 players calling the Gamblers their new home.
Last week, the team concluded their search for players in the supplement draft after going through 34 rounds of picks last month. Day 2 was focused on wide receivers, safeties, centers, guards, inside linebackers, defensive tackles, running backs, outside linebackers, special teams, and tight ends.
The supplemental draft was a mixture of different positions in ten rounds. Five of the players were defense, four were on offense, and they drafted a long snapper to add to the special teams.
Houston fans will be able to see their full team in action when they kick off the season in April 17th against the Michigan Panthers. Here are the key players drafted from Day 2 and the supplemental draft.
Top Day 2 Draft Picks
Round 30, Pick 6: Donald Payne, OLB
Overall, Houston drafted well at the linebacker position and Donald Payne might be the class of the group drafted. Payne comes in the USFL with about five years of NFL experience under his belt. He’s played for multiple teams including the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Commanders, Miami Dolphins, and the San Francisco 49ers.
Most of his playing time came in both of his stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2017, Payne was third in the NFL in special teams tackles with 16 and helped the team reach the AFC title game. He rejoined the Jaguars in 2019 where he recorded 34 tackles, one sack, and one pass deflection.
Payne gives the Gamblers some much-needed experience on the defensive end of the ball. He surely comes into the season as a player to watch coming off the edge. Fans should look for him to be a leading tackler for the team and a tone-setter on defense.
Round 27, Pick 6: Dalyn Dawkins, Running Back
Houston’s running game will be consistent with a heavy dose of Dalyn Dawkins, Mark Thompson, and Devwah Whaley. What makes Dawkins the top guy on the three is his versatility of catching the ball out of the backfield and running the football. He possesses the most NFL experience with his time in the league.
Dawkins finished third on Colorado State’s running yards list at 3,185 yards while running for 14 touchdowns. He also caught 70 passes in three seasons at the school. Two of his three NFL seasons were spent with the Tennessee Titans where he ran for 26 yards on 11 carries in 2019.
He won’t kill you with speed, but he makes up for it as a threat in the passing game and running the ball. Quarterback Clayton Thorson isn’t known for throwing the deep ball so Dawkins could be used in the screen pass game to help take the pressure off of Thorson. Dawkins should contribute early and often in head coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense.
Round 34, Pick 9: Brandon Barnes, Tight End
Spring football fans should be familiar with Brandon Barnes as he has had an impact in the passing game in multiple leagues. Barnes had his first shot playing in a regular-season game in the pros with the Memphis Express of the AAF. He caught nine passes for 75 yards in eight games with the team before the league closed operations.
Barnes joined the XFL in 2020 where he was drafted by the LA Wildcats. The Wildcats were among one of the best passing games in the league thanks in part to Barnes’ performance. He was the starting tight end for the team as he recorded 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the rest of the season, Barnes injured his knee that required surgery ending his 2020 campaign.
Houston’s receiving core doesn’t have the experience that other teams’ receivers do, but Barnes has a strong reputation in the spring football community. Looking for him to bounce back from his injury and be one of the top targets on offense this season.
Round 32, Pick 7: Nick Vogel, Kicker
Never sleep on the kickers. Nick Vogel has proven to be an accurate kicker throughout his college and pro career. His senior season at UAB in 2019 proved to be his strongest season converting about 82% of his field goals and didn’t miss an extra point during that whole season.
His only season in professional football came when he kicked for the BC Lions last season. Vogel made the most of his time with the team converting all eight of his field goals in three games with the team.
Long-distance is not a strength for him as he only made one kick over 50 yards in his college career and never attempted a 50 plus yard field goal in the CFL. Vogel has shown improvement year after year and now with a chance to shine on national television, it could be his ticket to reach the NFL.
Round 22, Pick 4: Tyler Higby, Offensive Guard
One of the two starting guards heading into the season for Houston Gamblers should be Tyler Higby and one that should work out for them. Higby started 31 games in four seasons with Michigan State but struggled with injuries in his last season at school. Last year, he spent time in the CFL with Edmonton as he played in eight games and started one of them.
Higby shows great versatility which could see him in multiple positions on the offensive line which bolds well with the smaller roster sizes of the USFL. His strength comes from pass blocking. He should be able to make an immediate impact on the line from day one.
Top Supplemental Draft Picks
Round 4, Pick 27: Micah Abernathy, Cornerback/Safety
The USFL has him listed as a cornerback, but fans could see Micah Abernathy playing safety as well if needed. During his college career at Tennessee, Abernathy recorded 197 tackles, 11 pass deflections, and two interceptions. Dallas Renegades fans should remember him as a key piece to their secondary in the 2020 XFL season. He recorded 16 tackles, one sack, and one tackle for a loss.
Not a player that is known as a ballhawk, but Abernathy is tough, instinctive, and tackles with ease. The question comes to whether Sumlin will keep him as a corner or move him over to safety before the season starts. He’ll have some competition at the safety or corner positions, but should be able to find playing time.