After a successful XFL Championship run for the Arlington Renegades, now players on the team have their sights on the NFL.
It was a storybook ending for the Renegades after going into the playoffs at 4-6 and being able to run the tables for the XFL Championship. Multiple players on the team were key contributors to the success of Arlington. Now that the season is over, those players are hoping to get camp invites from NFL teams and eventually sign a contract with the league. The Renegades should start seeing a lot of their players get their shots in the NFL.
Renegades Players Potentially Signing to the NFL
Luis Perez, QB (149-224, 1,636 yards, nine touchdowns, seven interceptions, 66.5 completion percentage)
The XFL Championship MVP has to be mentioned as someone who will get some looks from the NFL. Luis Perez had an up-and-down regular season with the Vegas Vipers and the Arlington Renegades finishing with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vipers’ offense was inconsistent with Brett Hundley always hovering behind Perez throughout the season.
Once he was traded to the Renegades in week seven, he had the job to himself for at least the final three games of the season. The offense was moving the ball better but still struggled to score touchdowns as they barely got into the playoffs with a 4-6 record. Their playoff run would change with Perez completing 71 percent of his passes for 577 yards and six touchdowns to zero interceptions in two playoff games.
One of the shining moments of the XFL Championship game was Perez firing up the team at halftime with an inspirational speech that kept them focused for the second half. He has played on multiple teams and been in multiple offensive systems. Perez knows what it takes to adapt quickly and perform at a high level. If an NFL team wants a veteran quarterback who can learn quickly and step in as a backup, Perez will be the guy to look at.
Mike Horton, OL
There wasn’t a better run-blocking guard in the XFL this season than Mike Horton. Pro Football Network had him ranked as one of the top 50 in the XFL at one point with him being ranked as high as the third offensive lineman in the league. Pro Football Focus had him as the top-ranked run-blocking guard in the league and was praised for his pass-blocking throughout the season as well.
What made Horton so good throughout the season was his ability to pull to the other side of the line so quickly for outside run plays and be a lead blocker for the running backs. He was so quick to engage in his blocks and continue to bulldoze any defender. Horton was also very good at being so smart and avoiding costly holding penalties in the process.
While the offensive line showed great improvement down the stretch, it was Horton who was always the consistent lineman playing well. The XFL has talked about before how hard it is to find good offensive linemen, but they struck gold with Horton. His play on the field should get some looks from the NFL as a depth player.
Donald Payne, LB (61 tackles, 0.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, one interception)
One of the most important players on the defensive side for Arlington, Donald Payne was an impactful player from start to finish for this Renegades defense. Payne finished the season as the team’s leading tackler with 61 while also recording five tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, and one interception. He would play eight games with the team before getting injured.
The injury he suffered late in the season was feared to have knocked him out for the year. Renegades head coach Bob Stoops announced he would be out for the season in a media availability Zoom call late in the season. Fans got a major surprise with the announcement that he would return for the playoffs as he avoided surgery. He would go on to lead the team in tackles in the playoffs with 17.
Payne has a nose for the football and will always be around to make the tackle on the ball carrier. He has great vision and instinct to find an opening on the offensive line to attack the right gap. A good thing about Payne is he has prior NFL experience and has proven in the USFL and XFL to be a top defensive player. A trip to training camp should be in his future.
Willie Taylor, LB (16 tackles, four sacks, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one interception)
This one might be a surprise to some on the outside, but for those who have watched Willie Taylor play all season, he’s special. Being one of three XFL players who were eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft, Taylor wanted to use the XFL as a platform to build tape for NFL teams and he shelled out. Taylor finished tied for the team lead with four sacks along with 16 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and one interception.
The former Eastern Kentucky product proved his dominance as a pass rusher as he was so quick off the line to get to the quarterback. He showed off his versatility throughout the year by rushing the quarterback and dropping back into coverage to create turnovers. Taylor was able to show that he can do it all on the defensive side as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive lineman.
It’s unknown how many looks he will get being that he is young and from a small college. What helped him was going up against some NFL-caliber offensive linemen and proved to be able to make an impact. His hope was to use it as game tape and based on what he showed, it may be a stretch, but Taylor’s youth and athleticism make him a good candidate to develop in a second or third-string role in the NFL starting out.
Joe Powell, S (35 tackles, four interceptions, one tackle for loss, 17 punt returns, 146 return yards)
The injury to safety Jamal Carter earlier in the season resulted in a quick shuffle in the secondary resulting in former 2020 St. Louis Battlehawks star Joe Powell to step in and start. If there was anyone who made the most of his playing time from injury, it was Powell who became a ball hawk quickly. He finished tied for second in the league with four interceptions while also recording 35 tackles and one tackle for loss.
Powell was used a lot in run-stopping situations as he and fellow safety Will Hill ended up being two of the best tacklers on the team. He was one of the best in coverage as well on the team as he either was there for a big hit or get his hands on the ball. Another aspect of his game that is critical is his return abilities on special teams. Despite the fact he didn’t have a return for a touchdown, he did have it back in 2020 and has shown off his speed.
The NFL should look at Powell because he can help a team in multiple ways from defense to special teams. Based on his return skills and tackling abilities, that should get him a shot at making a roster through special teams. Powell is closing in on age 30 but hasn’t played as much so he is in the prime of his career so he should only get better from here.
Taylor Russolino, K (16-19 field goals, 56 long)
With field goal kicking an adventure for a lot of teams in the XFL, the Renegades were lucky to have a guy who was able to convert a high percentage of his kicks. Taylor Russolino finished second in the XFL in field goal made with 16 and had a field goal made percentage of 84 percent throughout the season. He came up big in the playoffs hitting all five of his field goals.
Russolino contributed on kickoffs and was a big factor in the offense early in the season. With every win during the regular season being within two points, it was Russolino’s field goals that made the difference in the game. Even in some of the games that were lost, Russolino was a key reason they were even in the games because of the points he was putting up.
There’s an NFL team down the road in Arlington that could always use a kicker to help them out after their struggles. Fans have already seen San Antonio Brahmas kicker John Parker Romo get signed to the NFL by the Detroit Lions. It should come as a surprise if Russolino gets another shot in the NFL as well.
Marquette King, P (40 punts, 46.5 average, five punts inside the 20, 70 long)
How Marquette King has not been back in the NFL since 2018 amazes many fans and experts as he was clearly one of the best punters in the XFL. King finished second in the XFL in average punts per game and had the second-longest punt of the season in the XFL with a 70-yarder. He also played a big factor as a holder for Russolino on field goals and didn’t make mistakes there.
Besides San Antonio Brahmas punter Brad Wing, King proved to be a consistent punter, and time and time again fans saw him make NFL-caliber punts. Even his strong performance in 2020 with the St. Louis Battlehawks did not get him back in the NFL. It’s one of those situations where it feels as though the NFL might have moved on from him, but his play shows that he can still be a high-performing punter in the NFL. It would be a major disappointment to see King not get in the NFL as he should get multiple calls.
Sal Cannella, TE (42 receptions, 415 yards, 9.9 average)
Garrett McGhin, OL
Davonte Lambert, DL (All-XFL Honors, six tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss)
TJ Barnes, DL (18 tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble)
Will Hill, DB (48 tackles, one interception, 0.5 sacks, two tackles for loss)
De’Vante Bausby, DB (19 tackles, one interception, two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, one touchdown)
Antonio Ortiz, LS
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