The long-awaited return of the XFL after almost three years is finally here, and XFL News Hub has Start/Sit recommendations for your Week 1 season-long fantasy contests!
Ben DiNucci, SEA at DC
Not many – if any – spring league quarterbacks have ever been able to lay claim to having logged a regular-season start for the Dallas Cowboys, but such is the case with DiNucci, who did the honors back in Week 8 of the 2020 season against the Eagles.
DiNucci also boasts plenty of NFL preseason experience in addition to his 43 regular-season pass attempts and has a couple of other particularly relevant factors in his favor right out of the XFL gate.
To begin with, he’ll have a highly talented, albeit mercurial, No. 1 receiver in Josh Gordon to throw to, and a solid pair of complementary options in Juwan Green and Jahcour Pearson as well.
Then, DiNucci will also be getting his play calls from the legendary June Jones, who helped the P.J. Walker-led 2020 Roughnecks to several stirring offensive performances and essentially paved the way to an NFL opportunity for the signal-caller in the process.
Luis Perez, LV at ARL
NFL veteran Brett Hundley is also in the fold for Las Vegas and expected to eventually take the reins of the Vipers offense. However, with Hundley arriving to training camp late, Perez is slated for the Week 1 start and could make a strong case to hold onto the job for a while given the talent he’ll work with.
Perez, who brings no shortage of spring league experience himself, will have what profiles as the most collectively accomplished starting wideout duo in the league in Martavis Bryant and Geronimo Allison at his disposal.
No. 3 receiver Jeff Badet is no slouch in his own right and put some good play on tape for the then-Dallas Renegades back in 2020. He’s also spent time on NFL practice squads and with the USFL’s Michigan Panthers. Perez should also benefit from a solid ground attack that will help keep the Renegades defense honest, as former Cowboys running back Rod Smith will helm the backfield.
Paxton Lynch, ORL at HOU
Lynch is getting yet another opportunity to try and prove his viability as a pro quarterback, but there’s no guarantee he’ll serve as the full-time starter in Week 1. The one-time first-round pick of the Denver Broncos has talented backups in Quinten Dormady and Deondre Francois, and a Guardians team that is projected to struggle could experiment liberally with a rotation to open the season. Wait a week to see how things shake out before rolling with Lynch, who’s struggled even at the spring league level on occasion with the USFL.
Abram Smith, DC vs. SEA
Smith could prove to be a prototype for the type of player that could use the XFL as a launching pad to the highest level after going overlooked coming out of college. The Baylor product rushed for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns at a whopping 6.2 yards per carry in his final college season before getting a cup of coffee as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints in training camp and preseason last summer.
Smith may also have some untapped potential as a receiver out of the backfield after recording 13 receptions for Baylor in 2021, and although there’s experienced depth behind him in Ryquell Armstead and Artavis Pierce, Smith notably beat out both NFL vets for the top spot to open the campaign. The Sea Dragons defense will have to respect the arm of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu as well, which should help open some running lanes for Smith.
Kalen Ballage, SAN vs. STL
Ballage is another noteworthy NFL alum that should be in a prominent role in Week 1. The 2018 fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins couldn’t latch on to an NFL roster in 2022 despite having several workouts, but he boasts 958 total yards and seven rushing TDs across 52 games in the league over a five-year period. That sample includes 54 catches, corroborating Ballage’s ability to pile up fantasy production through multiple avenues.
Brahmas head coach Hines Ward was a receiver by trade in the NFL, but one who was a firm believer in a tough, grind-it-out style of ground attack as one of the most aggressive blockers at his position in league history. Ballage is suited to handle a workhorse role as well, given the lethal combination of his 6-foot-2, 230-plus-pound frame and a 40 time that clocked in at 4.4 back in his Combine workout.
Adrian Killins, ARL vs. LV
Killins is an interesting scatback prospect at just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, but that also means his touches could be very limited as long as there’s good health in front of him on the depth chart. Moreover, backfield mates Keith Ford, who logged 21 regular-season carries with the Bills back in 2018, and De’Veon Smith, who compiled 427 total yards for the then-Tampa Bay Vipers in XFL 2.0 back in 2020, are unlikely to give up many touches.
Josh Gordon, SEA at DC
No one XFL skill-position player can match the luster of Gordon’s 2013 season with the Browns, when he racked up an 87-1,646-9 line across 14 games. The Baylor alum also has 800- and 700-yard campaigns on his pro resume, yet those are accompanied by three full seasons squandered to suspensions.
Gordon appears to be in a good place as he attempts to jump-start his career yet again, however, and has a capable hand targeting him in DiNucci. Then, the Sea Dragons offense figures to be very pass-centric considering Jones is the offensive coordinator, which makes Gordon’s standing at the top of the depth chart even more valuable from a fantasy perspective right from the jump.
Deontay Burnett, HOU vs. ORL
Burnett doesn’t have the same name recognition as Gordon, Martavis Bryant or Geronimo Allison by any stretch, but the USC product certainly doesn’t lack for upside and has some NFL experience in his own right. Burnett recorded 15 receptions for 210 yards across eight games over three seasons with the Jets and Eagles from 2018-20, and the XFL could be just the platform he needs to eventually get another look with the big boys. If Burnett gets back to the NFL it will naturally be largely because of his talent, but the offensive scheme he’ll walk into certainly won’t hurt his chances to put up some eye-catching numbers.
Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips will undoubtedly give offensive coordinator AJ Smith, who was the receivers coach with the franchise’s 2020 squad, all the freedom he wants to run his hybrid Air Raid/Run and Shoot attack, which he partly crafted under June Jones when the latter was the head coach in Houston in 2020. The expected aggressive approach equates to the potential for big fantasy production for Burnett in his starting role, beginning in Week 1 against a Guardians team that is expected to have plenty of question marks on both sides of the ball.
Eli Rogers, ORL at HOU
Rogers is another NFL-pedigreed wideout that many XFL observers will recognize from his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as his solid stint with the Defenders in the XFL back in 2020. However, the veteran appears to be a bit buried on the Guardians depth chart to open the season, with the likes of Charleston Rambo, Stephen Guidry and Dontez Byrd ahead of him. Given there could also be shaky QB play for Orlando in Week 1, Rogers is likely a safe benching option to start the season.
Sal Cannella, ARL vs. LV
Renegades head coach Bob Stoops telegraphed a big role for Cannella in his offense months ago when he selected the emerging tight end in the first round of the XFL Draft, and training camp has done nothing to change that expectation. Cannella spent time with the Packers in camp and even recorded three receptions during preseason before being let go in final cuts.
However, the Auburn alum thrived less than a year ago in the USFL, earning all-league honors while posting 32 receptions for 364 yards for the New Orleans Breakers and then turning in a monster 12-154 line on 16 targets in a postseason loss. Cannella should be heavily involved right out of the gate for the Renegades and has the experience to produce from Week 1.
Sean Price, LV at ARL
Price may be our sneakiest Start recommendation overall, as he isn’t listed as a starter on the Week 1 depth chart. However, word out of training camp is that coaches are absolutely enthralled by what Price, who had six receptions for 78 yards on nine targets for the Renegades in XFL 2.0 and put together a 76-907-6 line at the University of South Florida across 32 games (27 starts) from 2012-15, could bring to the table.
Vipers coaches have already said they plan to get their tight ends involved in what’s shaping up as a talent-rich offense. While the likes of Bryant and Allison are going to command plenty of targets in their own right, don’t discount a player the staff has been raving about as capable of making an impact while taking advantage of the defensive attention that’s likely to go his teammates’ way.
Garrett Owens, HOU vs. ORL
Owens is a converted running back who finished playing his college ball at Duquesne and offers an intriguing skill set that helped him produce 5,120 all-purpose yards in a career that began at Division II Mercyhurst. However, Owens has the misfortune of opening the season on the Roughnecks tight end depth chart and could well be mostly ignored for the most part in an offensive system that’s expected to be a hybrid of two systems (Air Raid and Run and Shoot) which have often given little priority to the position.
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