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Ottawa Redblacks Sign Future XFL Roughneck Alijah McGhee

The Ottawa Redblacks have signed 2023 XFL Rookie Draft Pick Alijah McGhee.

Alijah McGhee didn’t want to wait until the 2024 calendar year to start his professional career. With that in mind the 2023 NFL Draft Hopeful, and 2023 XFL Rookie Draft pick has signed with the Ottawa Redblacks to finish out the 2023 season. It isn’t believed this will affect his status with the XFL for their 2024 season. McGhee follows the path of several XFL and CFL players making the jump between the two leagues to continue playing and maximize their earnings. 

Fit with Ottawa 

In college McGhee was used at multiple positions including in a hybrid safety/linebacker role, which could mean in the CFL we see him move to linebacker. The CFL has always liked to use smaller faster linebackers given their wider, and longer field which has promoted a pass-happy version of the game we all love so much. This has led many defensive backs to make a move to linebacker in the CFL, and this is a move some of these players could never parlay into an NFL contract due to their lack of size. McGhee is not on that list given his 6’2 frame, with a promising season, and some added weight, he could make the leap into the NFL as a full-time linebacker simply based on his ability to cover tight ends, and running backs alone. Factor in his background as a cornerback, and he could even cover bigger slot receivers.

Versatility is great, but the NFL has a tendency to ignore these type of players if they’re not pedigree players from large schools, or unbelievable athletes. If he is allowed to focus strictly on linebacker position which I believe is the best home for him currently it will give him time to settle into that position before jumping back to the XFL for 2024. 

To really make it back into the NFL as a linebacker McGhee might need to add weight. That’s definitely something that joining the CFL now will help. Getting into a CFL training regimen with similar players who are trying to keep weight on or add it themselves will only benefit him long term. 

At Minnesota-Mankato he was actually listed as a linebacker, so this isn’t a role he is unfamiliar with, he should be able to transition quickly, and make an early impact. In fact after moving from cornerback to more of a linebacker role as a senior he went from playing 8 games and racking up 17 tackles, 1 pass deflection, and 2 blocked kicks, to playing 10 games collecting 63 tackles, 7 for a loss, 2 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.

Athletic Ability

During the 2023 pro-day circuit McGhee put on a show: At 199 pounds McGhee ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, a 6.94 3-cone drill, 36.5 inch vertical leap, and 16 reps of 225 pounds on the Bench Press. Outside of his 3-cone drill which displays next level athleticism, the rest of his numbers were good but the combination of where he played, and his size played against him. If he had been 10-15 pounds heavier teams would have been gushing over him as an athlete, or if he had run even a few hundreds of a second faster he would have been regarded as a solid safety candidate. 

Final Thoughts

If McGhee has the right people in his corner they will tell him a move to linebacker or a focus on an in the box strong safety role is the best bet for him at the NFL level, and now is his chance to prove what he can do in that role full-time. He will also likely be given every opportunity to showcase his ability on special teams as a blocker on return units, and as a gunner on coverage units. This could be his best way onto an NFL roster, ultimately building toward a role on defense long term. 

Regardless how you look at McGhee positionally, his choice to jump into the CFL now, rather than waiting will only prove to be a benefit to him long term when he ultimately plays in 20 professional games by by the 2024 NFL season thanks to the CFL and XFL. One thing continues to stick out and that is now more than ever before these players have options, and flexibility to put themselves in the best position for success in their careers. Rookies in 2023 are paving the way for future two league players to grow this trend long term. 

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@SamShadySports Reporter
I began writing years ago out of an obsession with the NFL. I never intended to take it anywhere but after watching so many others succeed as freelance writers I decided it was worth a shot. I jumped I and have loved every minute of it. I have expanded my content to include YouTube, as well as Twitter Spaces, SoundCloud, and should be launching on Amazon Podcasts soon.
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