With the USFL season over, now the Houston Gamblers will wait and see who on their roster will get a shot at playing in the NFL this fall.
If there is any player in the league that is most deserving of getting a shot at the NFL, it has to be Chris Odom. There weren’t many defensive players who made more of an impact on a team than Odom did for the Gamblers. Without his contributions to pass rushing and special teams, Houston might have ended the season worse than they did at 3-7.
The USFL Defensive Player of the Year was the sack leader for the USFL recording 12.5 sacks in ten games which is an average of more than one sack a game. He was also the league leader in blocked field goals with four on the season which is almost unheard of in any football league players play in. Other key stats for Odom include 41 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, and one pass deflection.
Many offensive linemen struggled to block Odom singlehandedly throughout the season. There should be calls heading Odom’s way as he would make for a solid rotational defensive lineman. One of his biggest strengths is that he played in the NFL on and off from 2017 to 2019 so the experience is key. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear the news that Odom has signed with an NFL team when the time comes.
Houston was blessed to have two players who were stat leaders for the USFL with Donald Payne also in the picture. Another guy who had a nose for the football and was always in a position to find the ball carrier. It was rare to not see Payne in the area where the ball was when it was a running play.
Payne led the USFL in tackles with 117 which was 27 more than the second-place player Frank Ginda who had 90. He added six tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, two interceptions returned for a touchdown, seven pass deflections, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
When talking about NFL experience, Payne also has played in the league for a significant amount of time which is a plus. It’s hard to remember a time when Payne missed a tackle. He’s a smart, instinctive player who knew what needed to be done to stop the run as well as stop the pass. Any defense in the NFL would be happy to have him as well as a key contributor to special teams.
A lot of players were able to create at least one turnover in the USFL, but not many were able to get multiple interceptions. Will Likely proved a lot of people wrong as he was able to change his label from “special teams returner” to “ball hawk”. It was Jamar Summers who was getting all the attention in the secondary when it was Likely who was the strongest contributor at cornerback.
Likely finished third in the USFL in interceptions with four on the season. He added 63 tackles, three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one interception returned for a touchdown, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and eight pass deflections. Special teams returner was also a key position for Likely as he recorded 143 kickoff return yards and 110 punt returns yards finishing in the top five in punt return stats.
The Gamblers found a gem in Likely and someone who will get looks from NFL teams. Not only can he find the ball in coverage, but can play a major role in special teams as a returner and on special team coverage. A dual threat playmaker is hard to find and the NFL should into bringing Likely into camp as a player who can play multiple positions.
The Houston Gamblers’ offense struggled at times to get into the end zone this season and would often turn to their reliable kicker Nick Vogel to finish with points. Vogel quickly became a key contributor on the team converting multiple field goals a game to keep Houston in the hunt to win. It doesn’t hurt that the former UAB kicker had some familiarity with the area and knew how to kick in Alabama.
Vogel was second in the USFL in points with 66 and tied for first in field goals made at 18. He was also fourth in the league by hitting 78 percent of his field goals. Add top five in the league in average kickoff length (69.5) and kickoff touchbacks (14) to his stat line.
There were a lot of accomplishments on special teams for Houston and the majority of them came from Vogel. In a league where a lot of kickers struggled, Vogel was one of the most consistent kickers in the league and rarely had a bad game. The kicker position is a revolving door that sees new ones come into the NFL every year. Vogel should get some looks to step into camp and earn an NFL roster spot.