The return of spring football in recent years has been a welcome addition to the sports landscape but, have its stars actually been able to break through and make a serious impact in the NFL? Today, we’ll be reflecting on the NFL impact of notable XFL players in 2023.
The increasing popularity of the NFL has made it the most bet on sport in America, attracting all the best betting sites to partner with teams across the league. Now, let’s see if any XFL stars have made an impact for US sports bettors.
P Daniel Whelan – Green Bay Packers
A former All-American punter at UC Davis, Whelan was the 2nd overall pick in the specialists phase of the 2023 XFL draft. And, he certainly lived up to his draft position. The former was as reliable as it comes for the DC Defenders, earning All-XFL honors while averaging north of 45 yards per punt.
And, in somewhat of a surprise move, Whelan managed to beat out the incumbent Pat O’Donnell for the Green Bay Packers punting job, becoming the only XFL 2023 player to win a 53-man roster spot outright. Although he didn’t have the best of years, finishing 28th in both net average yards per punt, and punts inside the 20, credit has to be given for holding down a starting spot on a playoff team.
QB Taylor Heinicke – Atlanta Falcons
Perhaps the greatest success story of the XFL so far, Taylor Heinicke managed to parlay a short stint with the St. Louis Battlehawks into a prosperous career as a quarterback, starting 29 games over the past four seasons, including an iconic duel with Tom Brady during the 2020 NFL playoffs.
Unfortunately, Heinickes chances of being a locked-in starter in the league seem to be dwindling. As the backup to Desmond Ritter in Atlanta this season, the former Old Dominion star wasn’t able to impress in the four starts he got, throwing for 890 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions.
OT Storm Norton – Atlanta Falcons
The highest-rated offensive lineman during the COVID-shorterned 2020 XFL season according to Pro Football Focus, Storm Norton took the most of this opportunity to carve out a very solid NFL career for himself. Between 2020 and 2022, Norton started 18 games at offensive tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers, before heading to Atlanta for the 2023 season.
Despite only starting three games for the Falcons, the former Toledo lineman had a great-season, especially as a pass blocker. Allowing just one sack across 153 pass blocking snaps, Nortons 97.6 pass block efficiency would have been top ten in the league if he had gotten enough reps to qualify.
While the XFL has yet to see a true star in the NFL pass through its doors, the league has produced plenty of solid contributors at a variety of positions. Now, with the XFL and USFL combining forces in the form of the United Football League, we could see a huge rise in the number of players coming out of spring football to make a serious impact in the big leagues.
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