13 former Auburn players taken in XFL draft
Some former Tigers are getting their second, third and even fourth chances.
Thirteen players from Auburn were selected during the two-day draft for the re-launch of the XFL, an alternative pro football league that will begin play this coming spring.
Here’s where they landed across the map.
Sammie Coates, receiver — Houston Roughnecks
Coates was the first Auburn player off the board, selected 18th in the skill-position phase of the draft on Day 1. The quarterbacks on the roster for Coates, who figures to be one of Houston’s top wideouts, are Temple’s Phillip Walker and Michigan State’s Connor Cook.
At Auburn, Coates caught 82 balls for 1,757 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a 206-yard day in the 2014 Iron Bowl. He led the SEC in yards-per-reception in back-to-back seasons from 2013-14.
“Whoever ends up throwing the ball for the Roughnecks will likely rely on Sammie Coates as one of their top targets, as he pairs with WR Khalil Lewis to start on the outside for Houston,” Houston’s official draft evaluation of Coates said. “Coates has a long NFL tenure, having started six games over the four years he played in the league. Coates is a dynamic downfield threat, with a career 18.2 yards per reception and a 4.43 40-yard dash to boot.
“Coates’ athleticism was the foundation on which he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while he struggled to become the top receiver he was projected to be in the NFL, his athletic profile remains an enticing framework for a Number 1 wide receiver in Houston.”
Cameron Artis-Payne, running back — Dallas Renegades
Three picks after Coates, a former teammate, Artis-Payne, was taken off the board by an in-state foe.
After a standout 2014 season in which Artis-Payne ran for 1,608 yards — the third-best single-season mark in program history behind Tre Mason and Bo Jackson — and 13 touchdowns for Auburn, he played four seasons for the Carolina Panthers, appearing in 32 games and rushing for five touchdowns.
Darius James, offensive tackle — Dallas Renegades
Possibly blocking for Artis-Payne in Dallas will be James, a former Texas transfer who started at right tackle along Auburn’s offensive line from 2016-17. James was the 28th player taken in the offensive line phase of the draft.
After going undrafted two years ago, James bounced around NFL practice squads for the past two seasons.
Tre’ Williams, linebacker — Los Angeles Wildcats
In the front-seven phase on Day 1 of the draft, Williams was the 36th player chosen.
After going undrafted to the NFL, Williams worked in Auburn’s recruiting office for a year before being signed by the Detroit Lions this past February. He was released three months later.
A second team All-SEC selection following the 2017 season, Williams racked up 188 career tackles on the Plains.
Chris Davis, cornerback — Seattle Dragons
There goes Davis — all the way to Seattle.
The hero of the 2013 “Kick Six” Iron Bowl victory was the 11th defensive back taken in that phase of the draft.
His scouting report from the Dragons makes for a good summary of the Birmingham, Ala., native’s career.
“Davis is most famous for his return skills in beating Alabama in the now famous "Kick Six" edition of the Iron Bowl in 2013. But don't sleep on Davis' athletic talents, either -- he's a blazer who holds 1st-team All-American status on his resume in 2013 before making the jump to professional ball,” Seattle’s official draft evaluation of Davis said. “Davis made his mark in the pros with special teams play, averaging over 25 yards per kick return in 2014 as an undrafted rookie in San Diego.
“Last seen with the Birmingham Iron in 2019, Davis now looks to build off the momentum of getting back into pro football this past spring by using it as a springboard to a successful campaign in the XFL in 2020.”
John Franklin III, cornerback — Dallas Renegades
Though he played just one season at Auburn, Franklin’s athletic ability hasn’t gone unnoticed to the pros. He was taken 38 picks after Davis in the defensive backs phase.
After beginning his career as a top-30 QB recruit with Florida State — even winning a BCS National Championship against Auburn with the Seminoles in 2013 — Franklin transferred to East Mississippi Community College and became a fixture in the TV show, “Last Chance U.”
Prior to the 2016 season, Franklin transferred again, this time to Auburn. He started one game at quarterback for the Tigers and scored three total touchdowns on the season.
Following reports of a position switch to receiver in the spring, and after Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham had arrived on campus, Franklin transferred for the last time — to FAU. With Lane Kiffin’s team, Franklin again had three touchdowns on the year.
“I need to be on the field,” Franklin told ESPN in Aug. 2017 of why he left Auburn. “It’s my last show to pursue my dream, and I need to be on the field every play.”
After going undrafted to the NFL, he was signed as an undrafted free agent at defensive back for the Chicago Bears. He was ultimately waived by the team before seeing any NFL action.
Trovon Reed, cornerback — St. Louis BattleHawks
Six picks after Franklin, an Auburn fan favorite was snatched off the board.
Reed played three seasons as a reserve receiver for the Tigers before moving to cornerback his final year. He jumped from practice squad to practice squad for four seasons, though during the 2016 season, he was promoted to the San Diego Chargers active, 53-man roster.
Reed made the most of his shot, starting once in six games and nabbing two interceptions. He was waived from the Chargers the following fall before, most recently, appearing on the Birmingham Iron’s roster this past spring.
Robenson Therezie, safety — Tampa Bay Vipers
Another Auburn defender who enjoyed a short, successful stint in the NFL, Therezie came off the board in the ninth round of the defensive back phase.
The Atlanta Falcons signed Therezie as an undrafted free agent in 2015, and the 5-foot-9, 215-pound nickel/safety hybrid immediately made the 53-man roster. He recorded an interception during the ensuing season before being released. He made the move to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders after coming up empty in the NFL for the next few seasons.
A second team All-SEC nod in 2014, Therezie boasts 119 career tackles at Auburn. During the team’s 2013 national title runner-up campaign, he led the Tigers in interceptions with four.
Ryan White, cornerback — St. Louis BattleHawks
In St. Louis, White and Reed will become three-time teammates — at Auburn, in the AAF with the Birmingham Iron, and now in the XFL, after White was taken two picks after Therezie.
White played at Auburn from 2010-13, serving as the team’s starting holder for his final three seasons. His senior year in 2013, he recorded 57 tackles, a pick and six pass deflections at corner.
An undrafted NFL prospect in 2014, White eventually found a home on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad during the team’s Super Bowl runner-up season in 2016.
Andrew Williams, defensive tackle — Los Angeles Wildcats
Williams was on an NFL roster as recently as two months ago, after he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent. He was waived by the team Aug. 30, before the LA Wildcats picked him up in the open phase of this week’s draft.
The McDonough, Ga., product appeared in 33 games for Auburn over four seasons (2015-18) as a reserve along the defensive line. He tallied 71 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
DaVonte Lambert, defensive tackle — St. Louis BattleHawks
Lambert went 33rd in the open phase. The former No. 1 overall JUCO defensive lineman in 2014, he played two seasons for Auburn starting 17 of 20 games and racking up 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Bucs following the 2016 NFL draft, and remained with the team for two years on the practice squad and injured reserve list before being released in 2018.
Ryan Davis, receiver — Tampa Bay Vipers
Davis is headed home.
A St. Petersburg, Fla., product, former Auburn wideout Ryan Davis was selected in the fifth round of the open phase by Tampa Bay.
With 178 catches from 2015-18, he’s the Tigers’ all-time leader in receptions, and his 84 catches in 2017 is the best single-season mark in Auburn history.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots and appeared in a few preseason games before being cut prior to the season.
Gimel President, defensive end — St. Louis BattleHawks
If Auburn fans are looking for an XFL team to latch onto, the BattleHawks have the most orange and blue on the roster, with four former Tigers after President was selected in the seventh round of the open phase.
After redshirting his freshman year, President had 47 tackles in three seasons with Auburn (2013-15) before transferring for his final college season to Illinois. He blossomed with the Illini, recording 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2016.
President signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and, at one point, was promoted to the active roster. He played in four games in the 2017 season, recording two tackles. He was waived the following April.
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