The XFL 2023 regular season is rapidly approaching on the weekend of Saturday, February 18th, and Sunday, February 19th, on ABC, ESPN, and FX. That’s a long sentence that I wasn’t sure I’d be typing three years ago after the second iteration of the league fell prey to a pandemic.
Notwithstanding the possibility of nuclear threats, another super virus, or an alien invasion. Maybe this iteration of the XFL gets a fairer shake from the football gods.
The fantasy of another improbable XFL return is about to become a reality.
The Untapped Potential Of Fantasy Football In Alternate Pro Leagues
One of my biggest pet peeves as a “blogger” of non-NFL leagues is their halfhearted attempts at fantasy football. The most recent spring pro football leagues (AAF, XFL 2020, & The USFL) have missed the mark on capitalizing on the immersive qualities of fantasy football.
You can play XFL Fantasy Football on our sister site News Hub Fantasy but the options are very few.
I would argue that the boom of the NFL’s overwhelming growth in popularity over the last two-plus decades is directly tied to the rise of fantasy football. The combination and merger of gambling and fantasy football have evolved and are the secret sauce to the NFL’s success.
No matter what individual team fans root for, because of fantasy, they are invested in every game from start to finish. Much the same way gamblers have always been. Whether a game is competitive or not, fans will tune in and watch every second because they are invested in how their players perform statistically. Fantasy players hang on every second of every game, even if it’s a typical lousy Amazon Prime Thursday Night game.
Fantasy football has also helped convert casual football fans into regulars. And it goes beyond monitoring the action on game day.
Monitoring injuries and practice reports are all tied into an NFL fan’s daily routine before and during a season. This is particularly true for fantasy players when a season starts. During the middle of the day, when an employee should be completing a work assignment. They are secretly checking their phone to see if Saquon Barkley missed practice.
XFL 2020 dipped its toes into fantasy football, aligning itself with DFS entities like DraftKings. And while there was some enthusiasm for fantasy play in the XFL. It was mostly an underground movement. My ‘Team Ten’ and ‘Walker Texas Roughneck’ fantasy squads three years ago remain eternally undefeated at 10-0. (Thank you, June Jones).
One of the things that ail secondary pro football leagues is the lack of notoriety associated with the players involved.
Fantasy football in the NFL has helped educate millions of fans on all team rosters. For example, A Jets fan who plays fantasy knows who the Cardinals third-string running back is and how that player fared when given an extended opportunity in the preseason. That’s how deep knowledge of an entire league becomes when fans play fantasy.
From a league-building standpoint. Not only can Fantasy Football be a fun interactive tool for fans, but for the XFL, it can also be a way of getting fans to know your players and teams.
Knowledge of players and teams is what drives fantasy and gambling. Injury reports and transactions are the conduits to driving that attention. At some point, these alternative pro leagues not named the NFL will figure that out and capitalize on it to the fullest extent possible.
XFL Fantasy League Setup
One of the drawbacks of an 8-team pro football league is that it differs from the traditional NFL Fantasy League setup. For example, there are only eight starting Quarterbacks, Running Backs, etc., so having a season-long fantasy league with more than eight owners makes things very challenging. Six league owners would be preferred.
A season-long fantasy league is still doable but needs some tweaks from the standard NFL fantasy league because of the lack of player depth.
That’s why most fantasy players, who take the XFL plunge, will opt for weekly DFS play instead of traditional season-long league play. At outlets like RunTheSims.com
With the clock ticking on the season, The XFL will be in partnership again with DraftKings and has announced SMT Live as its official scoring and stats provider. However, to maximize the value of stat tracking for fantasy, the XFL needs to make the data accessible for all fantasy play entities. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are essential for allowing access to all sports-required data for websites and mobile apps.
The XFL in 2020 used Sportradar for API. XFL 3.0 doesn’t currently partner with them or any similar entities. However, the latest word is that the league will soon announce a sports betting data provider. Better late than never, I suppose.
The people who do have an interest in playing season-long XFL fantasy will seek out alternate playing options. Because ESPN, despite being the XFL’s broadcast partner in 2020 and today hasn’t included the league in its fantasy realm.
XFL News Hub has fantasy leagues set up at newshubfantasy.com. There are also outfits like altfantasysports, which are in the game of making fantasy play in alt-leagues a reality. But the XFL has to make it easier for dedicated sites to play fantasy.
So here goes; thanks for humoring me with my long setup. This is my initial list of fantasy rankings by position for XFL 2023, and the list is guaranteed to age as poorly as Ryan Willis in a Battlehawks uniform photo shoot.
There will be names who emerge who are not listed in these rankings. That’s the fun part of the mystery attached to many of the XFL’s young, unproven players.
XFL 2023 Fantasy Football Rankings
- 1: Jordan Ta’amu, D.C. Defenders
- 2: Ben DiNucci, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 3: Kyle Sloter, Arlington Renegades
- 4: Brett Hundley, Las Vegas Vipers
- 5: Brandon Silvers, Houston Roughnecks
- 6: Reid Sinnett, San Antonio Brahmas
- 7: A.J. McCarron, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 8: Paxton Lynch, Orlando Guardians
The Week 1 starting signal-callers in the XFL may look much different when week four approaches.
Quarterbacks like Luis Perez (Vegas), Drew Plitt (Arlington), Cole McDonald (Houston), Steven Montez (Seattle), Jack Coan (San Antonio), De’Eriq King (D.C.) and Deondre Francois (Orlando) could be all factors in as potential starters when the season commences, or as it progresses. Injuries, trades, and benchings could and probably will happen.
The key as a fantasy player is to attach yourself to specific offensive coordinators and their playing styles. No matter who the starting quarterbacks are, bet on June Jones and the run-and-shoot in Seattle. Hitch your wagon to A.J. Smith’s Air Raid-inspired offense in Houston.
While there’s still uncertainty regarding XFL depth charts on opening day, there might be some surprises in starting lineups when the season arrives. No matter, You can be rest assured that Jordan Ta’amu will be one of the most productive weekly players in the XFL.
Not only is Ta’amu coming off a 2022 USFL season, where he led all quarterbacks in passing yards (2,014) and passing touchdowns (14). But he also led all signal-callers in rush yards from scrimmage (365). Ta’amu was ninth in the league in rushing.
In case you are not familiar with Defenders’ offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss. (pronounced Kice). The ‘Kice Man’ has coordinated some of the nation’s best-rushing attacks over the years. The Defenders will be multiple in their ground game, and Ta’amu is a perfect fit in an RPO-styled attack. A style of offense he excelled at in St. Louis three years ago.
Ben DiNucci has the potential to be a league MVP in June Jones Dragons offense. He has the background and is in the perfect setting to mature as a pro quarterback. Steven Montez, who finished the year on the Detroit Lions practice squad, also has the potential to be a league standout.
Kyle Sloter is the early favorite to lead the Renegades offense constructed by Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long. The Renegades will have more of a balanced attack than pass-heavy teams like Houston and Seattle, But if Sloter can stay healthy, he can be one of the league’s most reliable fantasy options at quarterback.
The floor on Brandon Silvers in Houston’s offense should be solid. Because of his experience playing in an Air Raid offense in the AAF and The Spring League, and his time working with OC A.J. Smith. However, be on the lookout for Cole McDonald. The Hawaii standout and recent NFL draft pick has arguably the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the XFL. McDonald has blue-chip tools as a passer and runner if he can start taking the next steps in the mental side of the game. Hopefully, his time spent with XFL Director of QB Development Jordan Palmer will prove fruitful.
Even though he is showing up late to the party, Brett Hundley could be this XFL’s version of Josh Johnson. A well-traveled NFL veteran who has a ton of pro experience. After years of being on NFL rosters as a traveling backup quarterback. Including the 2022 season with the Baltimore Ravens. Hundley is highly motivated to get an opportunity to lead an offense again. Notwithstanding that, never doubt Luis Perez in spring pro football. The veteran signal-caller has improved at commanding the controls in his last three playing stints in XFL 2020, TSL, and the USFL.
Like many XFL 2023 players, Reid Sinnett is a player who has spent time on an NFL roster in 2022. Brahmas coordinator Jamie Elizondo has had success with young quarterbacks in the past, and Sinnett has a chance to be a breakout star in the league who ends up back in the NFL later this year.
For several years, Battlehawks offensive coordinator Bruce Gradkowski has graded every NFL quarterback for Pro Football Focus. It will be interesting to see how the former NFL quarterback uses analytics and his grading system to determine how to utilize and judge his passing game in St. Louis. The most senior signal-caller in the XFL, A.J. McCarron, has plenty of NFL experience and could be a safe weekly option. Be on the lookout for Nick Tiano, who outplayed Ryan Willis in training camp, leading to the latter tapping out of the league.
Paxton Lynch has the best player profile to lead the Guardians’ offense. However, it hasn’t always been pretty with the former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. His play at the end of the USFL season with the Michigan Panthers was promising, and Lynch’s skills as a runner make him an excellent late-round bargain in fantasy drafts.
- 1: Abram Smith, D.C. Defenders
- 2: Jacques Patrick, San Antonio Brahmas
- 3: Mataeo Durant, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 4: Adrian Killins, Arlington Renegades
- 5: John Lovett, Vegas Vipers
- 6: Jah-Maine Martin, Orlando Guardians
- 7: Dejoun Lee, Houston Roughnecks
- 8: T.J. Hammonds, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 9: DeVeon Smith, Arlington Renegades
- 10: Pooka Williams, D.C. Defenders (WR)
- 11: Keith Ford, Arlington Renegades
- 12: Max Borghi, Houston Roughnecks
- 13: Devin Darrington, Orlando Guardians
- 14: Brian Hill, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 15: Nick Holley, Houston Roughnecks (WR)
- 16: Ryquell Armstead, D.C. Defenders
- 17: Brycen Alleyne, Houston Roughnecks
- 18: Brenden Knox, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 19: Kalen Ballage, San Antonio Brahmas
- 20: DeAndre Torrey, Vegas Vipers
- 21: Jon Hilliman, San Antonio Brahmas
- 22: Kareem Walker, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 23: Artavis Pierce, D.C. Defenders
- 24: Rod Smith, Vegas Vipers
- 25: Morgan Ellison, Seattle Sea Dragons
You are not reading this article to get a “your guess is as good as mine” analysis. So I will try my best not to fall into that trap.
The RB position in alt-pro football leagues is difficult to draft in fantasy football. The math doesn’t support a zero RB strategy. You have to draft RBs immediately. Otherwise, there will literally be no one left to pick up.
For example, as someone who played USFL fantasy football in 2022. DeVeon Smith and Mike Webber were the only free-agent options available long after they were released.
In the NFL, depending on your fantasy league setup, you can trot out three running backs every week with one of them in the flex position. But you only have eight starting runners in a league like the XFL. So, even setting a lineup that features two starters at RB is a chore. As a result, in deeper leagues, You are starting backups and rotational players every week.
So in the XFL, the handcuff strategy is an even sounder fantasy play than in the NFL. The first rule of advice, get your two starters immediately. If you don’t, you could be looking at inserting a fourth-string runner as a weekly starting option. That’s if you can find one still available.
Loading up your roster with multiple D.C. Defenders running backs could be a strong play. But the player at the top of that depth chart has league-leading potential.
Abram Smith should be the consensus’s first overall selection in all XFL fantasy drafts. The fifth leading rusher in the nation at Baylor was selected first overall in the XFL Draft. And he is an ideal fit in a run-dominant offense with the Defenders. Fred Kaiss’s ground attacks in college have routinely averaged over 200 yards per game.
D.C. has a loaded backfield. Featuring the likes of Ryquell Armstead, Artavis Pierce, and Pooka Williams, who all have recent NFL experience. The latter will likely see dual responsibilities as a receiver, and Pooka is worth starting every week because of that. If your league has him listed as a tailback. He might play a lot in the slot as a receiver, so that quirky roster status can be a hidden cheat code.
The same stock-up strategy exists in San Antonio. Draft Jacques Patrick, but make sure to add Kalen Ballage and Jon Hilliman as well.
There are several reasons to be bullish on the Brahmas’ trio of backs. But Jacques Patrick, in particular, was the second-highest-selected runner picked in the XFL Draft. He reunites with offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo in San Antonio. The two paired up in Tampa back in 2020. And it can be argued that Patrick was the most dynamic back in the entire league three years ago. Patrick should eat in XFL 2023. But there might be some food left on the plate for his backups.
Two players to watch out for who have boom or bust traits are UCF standout Adrian Killins, now with Arlington, and Duke star Mataeo Durant with St. Louis.
Killins can make a killing in the XFL as a pass receiver and as a big-play threat in the Renegades’ offense. The team will likely have a committee backfield, but he has the most upside. Killins, the All-AAC player, can be a game-breaker in open space. The track star has top-end 4.3 speed and, in college, never had a season without a touchdown of at least 71 yards. The question with Killins is the size (164lbs) and his capabilities near the goal line. So DeVeon Smith, and Keith Ford, who has experience with Jon Hayes, will eat into Killins playing time, but his dynamic traits are hard to ignore.
Durant also has a similar big-play profile. St. Louis waited until round four in the skill draft to select a running back. So there’s no guarantee that the Battlehawks employ an offensive system that features one runner exclusively. Brian Hill and Kareem Walker should see plenty of work. However, the pro rookie Durant, who made it to final cuts with the Steelers, has a good skill set to lead St. Louis’s attack.
As a senior in 2021, The 5’11, 195lb tailback rushed for 1,241 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His 2021 total set Duke’s single-season rushing yardage record. That level of production, combined with his 4.43 speed, is hard to ignore.
Seattle’s backfield will be tough to pinpoint until the games begin. Arkansas’s T.J. Hammonds was their top selection in the draft. But Morgan Ellison and Brenden Knox have had solid training camps. The Dragons might have a hot-hand approach in their backfield, and the wait-and-see approach certainly applies to Seattle’s backfield.
When it comes to running backs in fantasy football, sometimes, opportunity trumps talent. The Guardians backfield is very fantasy friendly. Why? Because Orlando has only two running backs. NC A&T star Jah-Maine Martin and Virginia/Ivy League standout Devin Darrington. Because there’s less wealth to go around, both backs will get opportunities to carry a heavy weekly workload.
Looking for a sleeper? Try Deleware RB Dejoun Lee. The CAA offensive player of the year in 2021 has been a standout in Roughnecks camp. Houston figures to be a pass-heavy outfit. But three years ago, James Butler, who has become a superstar in Canada, emerged in a similar offensive scheme. Lee has some of the same qualities.
One fun player to stash is Nick Holley, the former Roughnecks standout WR is penciled in as a running back in Houston this go-round. At the bare minimum, he could be a permanent fixture on passing downs coming out of the backfield and lining up at receiver.
- 1: Marcell Ateman, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 2: Charleston Rambo, Orlando Guardians
- 3: Josh Gordon, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 4: Jeff Badet, Vegas Vipers
- 5: Cedric Byrd, Houston Roughnecks
- 6: Deontay Burnett, Houston Roughnecks
- 7: Jordan Smallwood, Arlington Renegades
- 8: Juwan Green, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 9: Jalen Tolliver, San Antonio Brahmas
- 10: Jachour Pearson, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 11: Darrius Shepherd, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 12: Jequez Ezzard, D.C. Defenders
- 13: Josh Hammond, D.C. Defenders
- 14: Lucky Jackson, D.C. Defenders
- 15: Jontre Kirklin, Houston Roughnecks
- 16: Martavis Bryant, Vegas Vipers
- 17: Eli Rogers, Orlando Guardians
- 18: Hakeem Butler, St. Louis Battlehawks (TE)
- 19: Matthew Sexton, Vegas Vipers
- 20: Brandon Arcanado, Arlington Renegades
- 21: Travis Jonsen, San Antonio Brahmas
- 22: Andrew Jamiel, Orlando Guardians
- 23: Lujuan Winningham, Arlington Renegades
- 24: Chad Hansen, D.C. Defenders
- 25: Austin Proehl, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 26: Josh Malone, D.C. Defenders
- 27: Rannell Hall, Arlington Renegades
- 28: Tyler Vaughns, Arlington Renegades
- 29: Darece Roberson, San Antonio Brahmas
- 30: Blake Jackson, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 31: Justin Smith, Houston Roughnecks
- 32: Fred Brown, San Antonio Brahmas
- 33: Geronimo Allison, Vegas Vipers
- 34: Dontez Byrd, Orlando Guardians
- 35: Damion Willis, Seattle Sea Dragons
Similar to the QB position, the mission is to attach yourself to the DNA of a team’s offensive coordinator.
Banking on as many receivers as possible in a June Jones offense is a good bet. Seattle and Houston figure to be predominant pass-based offenses. In particular, the Dragons will trot out four starting receivers in the run and shoot. Grab them before they get hot.
WR is always the deepest position in fantasy football to draft. Because most teams feature three or more starting receivers, nabbing pass-catching depth should be far less challenging in XFL fantasy. Even in an eight-team league.
However, in the XFL, prepare for the unknown or under-the-radar players to emerge.
Everyone jumped on Sammie Coates three years ago because of his name recognition with the Roughnecks. But it was Cam Phillips who lit up the XFL as the league’s most productive receiver.
While it will be hard to ignore the potential of Josh Gordon in June Jones Dragons offense, it’s possible that any one of Seattle’s receiving group can emerge as league standouts ahead of him. Don’t leave any Seattle pass-catchers lost at sea.
The same principle in Seattle applies to Houston. The Roughnecks have several draftable players. One deep sleeper to watch for is LSU’s Jontre Kirklin. The former Tiger has the versatility and experience to play QB, RB, slot WR, and return kicks. He can be a valuable tool in the Roughnecks’ attack.
Kirklin was an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2022. He scored two touchdowns in the preseason but did not make the final roster. He spent time on the Cards practice squad this season. A starring turn in Houston could find him back in the NFL later this year.
Marcell Ateman has the physical profile of someone who can lead the league in touchdown receptions. He has the size and pedigree to be a factor in Bruce Gradskowski and Anthony Becht’s Battlehawks offense. Very quietly, St. Louis has one of the league’s most balanced group of receivers. Tweener TE Hakeem Butler, Austin Proehl, and Darrius Shepherd are all starting-caliber pass catchers.
The Orlando Guardians may have uncertainty at quarterback. But their receiving core has a lot of promise, led by Charleston Rambo. The former Miami receiver and running mate to CeeDee Lamb at Oklahoma has a ton of upside and could lead the league in receptions, especially if Orlando is always trailing in games. Rambo could strike first blood in the PPR game. Veteran Eli Rogers is also a safe choice in fantasy because of his experience.
It’s not as sexy as some other selections. But a good play in fantasy can be drafting San Antonio’s Jalen Tolliver. The tall, lanky target has experience in Jamie Elizondo’s offensive scheme, playing for him in XFL 2020 and the CFL. That’s invaluable in these leagues where players are on an early-season learning curve with their teammates and coaches.
It will be challenging to pinpoint who to choose on Vegas and D.C.’s roster of receivers. Not because there isn’t plenty of quality to go around.
The Vipers have four players who can emerge with a significant share of targets: Jeff Badet, Geronimo Allison, the criminally underrated Matthew Sexton, and the notorious Martavis Bryant. I have been bullish on Jeff Badet since he suited up for the Renegades in 2020. The 4.2 in the 40 speedster has had some misfortune with injuries throughout his career. But if he can finally have some lady luck on his shoulders in Vegas. Badet can be the league’s best big-play receiver.
The Defenders lost projected starters K.D. Cannon and Jazz Ferguson to injuries in training camp. As a result, D.C. is rolling with the promising young duo of Lucky Jackson and Josh Hammond on the outside at receiver. However, D.C. has added young veteran NFL pass catchers in Chad Hansen and Josh Malone. Both are savvy late pickups that can contribute in the long run. But be on the lookout for Jequez Ezzard could emerge as the league’s best big-play receiver before the smoke clears this season.
- 1: Sal Canella, Arlington Renegades
- 2: Jordan Thomas, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 3: Briley Moore, D.C. Defenders
- 4: Garrett Owens, Houston Roughnecks (FB)
- 5: Jovani Haskins, St. Louis Battlehawks (WR)
- 6: Alize Mack, San Antonio Brahmas
- 7: Cody Latimer, Orlando Guardians
- 8: Sean Price, Vegas Vipers
- 9: Brandon Dillon, Vegas Vipers
- 10: Charlie Taumoepeau, Seattle Sea Dragons (FB)
- 11: Shaun Beyer, Arlington Renegades
- 12: Jamal Pettigrew, San Antonio Brahmas
It’s anyone’s guess who to target at tight end if they are not named Sal Canella. The first-team All-USFL player is an ideal spot with former longtime NFL tight end and position coach Jon Hayes in Arlington as offensive coordinator. Plus, Canella is reuniting with his tag team partner quarterback Kyle Sloter. That type of chemistry and synergy is hard to ignore. Stack the former Breakers tandem together if you can.
Arlington is TE-friendly, and so is St. Louis, with head coach Anthony Becht. All three Battlehawk tight ends could be featured prominently in the passing game. Jordan Thomas is the safest bet because of his NFL experience. But it’s Jovani Haskins who could emerge with more upside. Be on the lookout for the possibility of WR Hakeem Butler moonlighting at tight end.
D.C.’s Briley Moore is one of the league’s more talented pass-catching tight ends. Injuries have derailed the young pass catcher since his productive college days at Kansas State and Northern Iowa. A clean bill of health and a healthy dose of playing time could see Moore change his pro trajectory.
Garrett Owens is an excellent choice at TE in fantasy. He could bring the most bang for your fantasy bucks. Owens is a highly versatile player who can effectively play running back, fullback, receiver, and tight end. The small-college jack of all trades, Owens can even return kicks. Even though he is not a traditional fit in Houston’s Air-Raid attack. It’s going to be hard to not include him in the offense.
The rest of the tight-end field in the XFL is a crapshoot. Ideally, you are in a fantasy league that allows you to start TEs at the WR spot or as a flex position.
One player who will be fascinating to watch is NFL veteran receiver Cody Latimer, who is transitioning to tight end in Orlando. The 6’3, 225lb pass catcher has played with Guardians quarterback Paxton Lynch in the past. Back when they were teammates in Denver.
Even though a June Jones run-and-shoot offense doesn’t employ tight ends in its base or scheme. Charlie Taumoepeau is a sleeper worth mentioning. He is the Dragons’ only true tight end on their roster that may be listed at FB/RB in some leagues. Seattle’s DPP Randy Mueller recently pulled the trigger and traded for the first-team All-Big Sky pass catcher out of Portland State. The Washington native had 73 catches for 1.253 yards and eight touchdowns in his last 20 collegiate games.
Taumoepeau has bounced around with four different NFL teams since 2020. The square peg, at 6’2 240, hasn’t been able to find playing time. But with the Sea Dragons, he could effectively line up out wide, something he did in school, and be a factor in the red zone.
- 1: Hunter Duplessis, Houston Roughnecks
- 2: Matthew McCrane, D.C. Defenders
- 3: Taylor Russolino, Arlington Renegades
- 4: Jose Borregales, Orlando Guardians
- 5: Dominik Eberle, Seattle Sea Dragons
- 6: Donny Hageman, St. Louis Battlehawks
- 6: John Parker-Romo, San Antonio Brahmas
- 8: Bailey Giffen, Vegas Vipers
Although some longtime fantasy players would love to outlaw kickers, that day has not yet come, even in a league like the XFL with no extra point kicks.
NFL offseason pro football leagues have proven to be a good launching point for the careers of specialists. See future hall of famer Adam Vinatieri, or All-Pro Younghoe Koo, for example.
Alt-leagues have also been an avenue for restarting careers; see Nick Folk, who took a detour in the AAF before re-emerging in the NFL.
Some of the names on this list are only recognizable to die-hard college and XFL enthusiasts. But Hunter Duplessis has the profile of someone who could be kicking in the NFL for years to come. Let’s hope I didn’t jinx him. The first-team All-Conference USA specialist was money at UTSA.
Experience matters. Not just in the NFL but also in the XFL.
Matt McCrane might have one of the toughest jobs in the league because he will be kicking outdoors, potentially in the elements in D.C. But the NFL veteran was perfect in 2020, kicking at Metlife Stadium for the original Guardians team.
Taylor Russolino also has XFL experience and a big leg. After starring with the Battlehawks in 2020, he didn’t fare well in his short-lived NFL regular season audition with the Denver Broncos. So Russolino is in a bit of a redemption arc in Arlington.
Alt-leagues have also had a history of significant shakeups at kicker from the start of the season to the very end. It’s a thankless job. See the USFL in 2022. So there could be some struggling kickers on this list who get the boot swiftly. Some have already experienced that fate late in camp. See now former Dragons kicker Brandon Ruiz.
Because a good number of the league’s kickers have limited to no pro experience, their margin for error is much smaller than a veteran with a proven track record. Being able to deal with the type of pressure to be perfect immediately can be a great proving ground for neophytes Jose Borregales, John Parker-Romo, and Bailey Giffen.
- 1: Houston Roughnecks
- 2: Arlington Renegades
- 3: D.C. Defenders
- 4: Las Vegas Vipers
- 5: San Antonio Brahmas
- 6: Seattle Sea Dragons
- 7: St. Louis Battlehawks
- 8: Orlando Guardians
Based on talent, experience, and coaching. You have to like the first three teams on this list.
Wade Phillips is as accomplished of a defensive coach as you can have. And he has his long-time soldiers with him on his staff, like Brian Stewart. As a result, it would be shocking if the Roughnecks’ defense isn’t top-tier.
Then there’s the unique co-coordinator tandem in Arlington with Tim Lewis and Jay Hayes. Two accomplished long-time pro assistants reunited after success in St. Louis three years ago. The Renegades also have an experienced group of veteran defensive players to go along with them.
Gregg Williams may be a polarizing figure in some circles. But there’s no denying his resume as a play caller. The Defenders’ defensive attack will match their coordinator’s aggressive to a fault style. Davin Bellamy, a standout in the USFL, is undoubtedly a candidate to lead the XFL in sacks, and that type of performance would lead him back to the NFL.
The Vipers have a newcomer to the coordinator profession in Cris Dishman, who is coming off a tremendous turn in the USFL with the New Jersey Generals. Pass rusher Vic Beasley will be an intriguing veteran to watch in Sin City.
Experienced coaches like Ron Zook in Seattle or Jim Herrmann in San Antonio can also be an asset in their respective spots. It’s an overlooked aspect in alt-leagues filled with neophyte pro football players in their early 20s.
If your league rewards special teams play along with defense. Then hitching your wagon to the Defenders is not a bad bet. D.C. could have two of the best return specialists in the league in Sam Houston State star Jequez Ezzard and Pooka Williams.
Final Thoughts On XFL Fantasy
I have kept you long enough. Thanks for coming on board for the ride. Just a few closing thoughts.
Some players in XFL 2023 have name recognition based on their recent involvement in the NFL. However, one of the most exciting aspects of the XFL is that there will be players who emerge from the depths of the unknown to become stars. One of the fun aspects of these leagues is the mysteries that are unveiled as play begins.
As a fantasy owner for a league of eight recently formed teams, you don’t have the benefit of previous seasons or even preseason games. This dynamic will make fantasy football in the XFL more exciting and challenging. Hopefully, the league will embrace the concept one day, and they’ll score more than a well-drafted fantasy squad does in the long run.
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