By Mike Mitchell
As of press time, 31 XFL players have signed on with NFL teams. The list of XFL players on NFL rosters is 32 because of BattleHawks Safety Kenny Robinson’s selection in the fifth round of the NFL Draft by Carolina. The XFL’s only draft-eligible player. In total, 15 NFL teams have signed XFL players.
The XFL season ending after five weeks has affected the number of players that have signed on with NFL teams. If not for a shortened season, and most importantly, the limitations of player movement during the coronavirus pandemic, more XFL players would have signed on with NFL teams.
The restrictions in travel and player physicals have capped off the amount of XFL to NFL players for now, but more signings may occur as things open up (hopefully) in terms of camps and the preseason.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each XFL player that’s been signed and breakdown their chances of making NFL teams.
Quarterback- P.J. Walker (Houston Roughnecks-Carolina Panthers)
Panthers QB Depth Chart-Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier
Above all, XFL players signed. PJ Walker seems like the safest bet to make an opening-day roster. Walker found a safe landing spot with his former Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule.
It’s not of the realm of possibility that Walker ends up making starts next season for Carolina. Teddy Bridgewater’s entrenched firmly atop Carolina’s depth chart. Still, we are coming off a 2019 NFL season, where several teams went to option B at quarterback and, in some cases, option C. Something tells me that if Walker gets on the field, he’s going to be ready to shine.
Quarterback- Jordan Ta’amu (St. Louis BattleHawks-Kansas City Chiefs)
Chiefs QB Depth Chart- Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shea Patterson
Unlike PJ Walker, Jordan Ta’amu has a more difficult path to playing time and a roster spot. Working against Ta’amu’s favor to make the 53-man roster is the fact that he still has practice squad eligibility left. A modified or canceled preseason could also hurt Jordan’s chances. Typically, it’s the only route for backups to get reps.
Ta’amu is in a great spot under the learning tree of QB Guru Andy Reid and the NFL’s best quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The question is, can Jordan unseat veteran Chad Henne to be Mahomes caddy in 2020? Working in Ta’amu’s favor is the fact that he has a similar skill set to Mahomes.
Running Back- Jacques Patrick (Tampa Bay Vipers- Cincinnati Bengals)
Bengals RB Depth Chart- Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson, Samaje Perine, Devwah Whaley
Most NFL teams keep four running backs on their 53-man roster. Mixon and Bernard are Cincy’s one-two punch, but the competition behind them may create an opening for the former Vipers running back. Jacques Patrick graded out as one of the XFL’s most explosive runners. Averaging over 5-yards per run and leading Tampa to the league’s best ground attack.
Patrick’s hard-running style is similar to that of new teammate Samaje Perine. If Patrick can convince the Bengals staff, that he can pass block and bring value to specials, he may land on the active roster. A recurring theme with all XFL players is the uncertainty of the preseason and camp. Patrick would benefit the most from having his team seeing him live in action.
Wide Receiver- De’Mornay Pierson-El (St. Louis BattleHawks- Las Vegas Raiders)
Raiders WR Depth Chart- Henry Ruggs III, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor, Marcell Ateman, Rico Gafford, Keelan Doss, Anthony Williams Ratliff, Siaosi Mariner
Pierson-El has already spent time with the Raiders, on both their active roster and practice squad. The Raiders have a crowded receiver room, but Pierson-El brings value in the slot and as a returner. Renfrow and Algholor are ahead of De’Mornay in slot duties, so the best route to stick may be as a returner behind RB Jalen Richard.
Wide Receiver- Saeed Blacknall (Los Angeles Wildcats-Pittsburgh Steelers)
Steelers WR Depth Chart- JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Spencer, Chase Claypool, Deon Cain, Ryan Switzer, Amara Darboh, Anthony Johnson, Quadree Henderson
Pittsburgh signed several XFL players since March. Even, Quadree Henderson is a former XFL draft pick of the New York Guardians. Saeed Blacknall is a local product from Penn State and has excellent physical tools (6’3/210/4.3 speed) and untapped potential. While Blacknall doesn’t have a strong special teams background, He has a chance because the Steelers lack size and physicality at the receiver position.
Tight End- Donald Parham (Dallas Renegades- Los Angeles Chargers)
Chargers TE Depth Chart- Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Andrew Vollert, Stephen Anderson, Jared Rice
‘Starham’ was the most dominant player in the XFL at any position. A non-traditional in-line tight end, Donald Parham is more of a trumped-up slot receiver. Parham was a dominant force at the FCS level (Stetson) and continued his ways in the XFL.
At 6’8 and 243 pounds, a creative offensive coordinator can get a lot out of Parham. Hunter Henry is one of the NFL’s best receiving tight ends but has had issues staying on the field. Virgil Green is the most experienced player on LA’s depth chart. Parham has a realistic shot at making an impact for the Chargers from day one.
Tight End- Khari Lee (DC Defenders- Atlanta Falcons)
Falcons TE Depth Chart- Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier, Jared Pinkney, Caleb Repp
The Falcons are very young and inexperienced behind Hayden Hurst. Khari Lee was the XFL’s best in-line blocker at tight end. PFF graded Lee the highest of any tight end in the XFL (70.3) Lee has a realistic chance to make the Falcons roster because of his blocking skills.
Tight End- Colin Thompson (Tampa Bay Vipers- Carolina Panthers)
Panthers TE Depth Chart- Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemmingway, Giovanni Ricci, Cam Sutton
Much like PJ Walker, Thompson is reuniting with former college coach Matt Rhule. Much like Khari Lee, Thompson’s blocking skills give him a fighters chance to make the Panthers roster. Thompson also brings value on special teams. He is a high character player that can quickly fill several roles on the team.
Offensive Tackle- Storm Norton (Los Angeles Wildcats- Los Angeles Chargers)
Chargers OT Depth Chart- Bryan Bulaga, Sam Tevi, Trey Pipkins, Trent Scott, Ryan Roberts, Tyree St. Louis
If Storm Norton plays as well as he did in LA for the Wildcats, he might crack the Chargers starting lineup. Norton was the first overall pick in the offensive line draft for LA, and he lived up to that status. Pro Football Focus gave Norton the highest-grade of any linemen in the league (80.2). At 6’8, 308, with a long wingspan, Norton is the prototypical left tackle. Outside of Bulaga, Norton is as skilled as anyone on the Chargers depth chart. Storm Norton has the potential to be the blindside protector for Chargers first-round pick Justin Herbert.
Offensive Linemen; Jarron Jones/Anthony Coyle (New York Guardians- Pittsburgh Steelers)
John Keenoy (Dallas Renegades- Pittsburgh Steelers)
Steelers OL Depth Chart- Alejandro Villanueva, Stefen Wisniewski, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, JC Hassenauer, Derwin Gray, Zach Banner, Christian DiLauro, Kevin Dotson, Christian Montano
The Steelers signed three XFL offensive linemen. T/G Anthony Coyle was voted first-team All-XFL at seasons end. His versatility to play inside or out will help him have a fighters chance to stick.
Coyle’s teammate in New York, Jarron Jones, was the most physically gifted offensive linemen in the XFL. A former college defensive tackle at Notre Dame, Jones (26) has spent his pro career transitioning back to the offensive line. In New York, Jones finally received an opportunity to play. Jones has excellent athleticism, footwork, and a nasty disposition. Pittsburgh struggled mightily at OT last year. Jones has a shot at cracking the starting lineup if given a chance.
Former Renegades center John Keenoy has a more challenging path. He has Maurkice Pouncey and JC Hassenauer ahead of him on the depth chart. Keenoy is tough and physical and was a first-team All-Mac player at Western Michigan.
Offensive Guards: Avery Genessy (Houston Roughnecks- Tennessee Titans), Zac Kerin (New York Guardians- Tennessee Titans)
Titans G Depth Chart:
Rodger Saffold, Nate Davis, Jamil Douglas, Daniel Munyer, David Quessenberry
Avery Genessy was one of the best guards in the XFL. Genessy allowed only one pressure and 0 sacks on 317 snaps in a high volume passing offense. He’s a good run and pass blocker. There is some wiggle room on Tennessee’s depth chart for Avery to make the team.
Zac Kerin was one of the Guardians’ top draft picks and was expected to start on the interior, but injuries prevented him from seeing the field. The odds are against Kerin making the Titans, but staying healthy could help his cause.
Guard- Khalil McKenzie (Los Angeles Wildcats- Seattle Seahawks)
Seahawks G Depth Chart- Ethan Pocic, Phil Haynes, Mike Iupati, Damien Lewis, Chance Warmack, Kyle Fuller, Jordan Simmons, Demetrius Knox, Jordan Roos
Khalil McKenzie is going to face an uphill battle to make this roster. The son of former Raider GM Reggie McKenzie. Khalil is a former nose tackle at the University of Tennessee. McKenzie has a high upside and is worth developing but is probably headed to the practice squad.
T/G- Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Houston Roughnecks- Carolina Panthers)
Panthers OL Depth Chart- Russell Okung, John Miller, Matt Paradis, Dennis Daley, Taylor Moton, Greg Little, Brandon Bowen, Michael Schofield, Matt Kaskey, Tyler Marz, Mike Horton, Frederick Mauigoa, Sam Tecklenburg, Chris Reed, Aaron Monteiro
Juwann Bushell-Beatty reunites with his Houston Quarterback PJ Walker in Carolina. Juwann played in the XFL as a rookie. The former Michigan Wolverine has the versatility to play guard or tackle. As a result, it could land him a spot on the Panthers practice squad.
Kicker- Austin MacGinnis (Dallas Renegades- Los Angeles Rams)
Rams Kickers- Sam Sloman, Lirim Hajrullahu
It’s somewhat surprising that more XFL kickers haven’t been signed by this point. From top to bottom, the league had excellent specialists. Austin MacGinnis was a perfect 10/10 on field goals, led the league in yards per kickoff and touchbacks.
In LA, there is a massive opening with Greg Zuerlein leaving for the Cowboys. The Rams went to the CFL, XFL, and drafted Sam Sloman in the seventh round to replace ‘Legatron.’ If there are no preseason games, it will be interesting to see how the Rams staff determines a winner in this competition.
Defensive Linemen: Cavon Walker (New York Guardians- Pittsburgh Steelers) Dewayne Hendrix (St. Louis BattleHawks- Pittsburgh Steelers)
Steelers DL Depth Chart- Cameron Heyward, Chris Wormley, Stephon Tutt, Isaiah Buggs, Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers, Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux, Calvin Taylor Jr, Josiah Coatney
In the Steelers 3-4 defensive scheme, the XFL sack leader Cavon Walker figures to line up at tackle and end. The majority of the Steelers defensive players up front are 300 pounds plus. Walker is undersized for the scheme at 6’2 and 278 pounds, but he brings a different dimension to Pittsburgh’s line and could carve out a role on rush downs.
Dewayne Hendrix is also a unique hybrid player. Hendrix is listed as a defensive end at 6’4 270. but he can also stand up and rush as an outside linebacker. Having that type of position versatility aids backup players in making the team.
Defensive Lineman- Davonte Lambert (St. Louis BattleHawks- Carolina Panthers)
Panthers DL Depth Chart- Stephen Weatherly, Yetur Gross-Matos, Derrick Brown, Kawann Short, Chris Smith, Woodrow Hamilton, Zach Kerr, Bravvion Roy, Efe Obada, Myles Adams, Austrian Robinson
The Panthers are transitioning to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Phil Snow. Carolina went all-defense in the draft and selected three different defensive linemen. Davonte Lambert, the former Auburn Tiger, has position flexibility, but the numbers game is against him.
Linebacker- DeMarquis Gates (Houston Roughnecks- Minnesota Vikings)
Vikings LB Depth Chart- Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson, Cameron Smith, Ben Gideon, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch, Jordan Fehr
DeMarquis Gates was the XFL’s best all-around linebacker. A force against the run and pass. Gates is entering a very deep linebacking corps in Minnesota that just drafted Troy Dye out of Oregon. It won’t be easy making this roster, but Gates has tremendous value as an every-down player.
Linebacker- Edmond Robinson (Houston Roughnecks- Atlanta Falcons)
Falcons LB Depth Chart- Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, LaRoy Reynolds, Ahmad Thomas, Mykal Walker, Jordan Williams, Ray Wilborn
Edmond Robinson is very similar to his teammate in Houston, DeMarquis Gates. Robinson, however, is entering a different style defense under Raheem Morris. The Falcons like to play only two linebacker sets, but Robinson could stick because of his versatility and experience.
Cornerback- Deatrick Nichols (Houston Roughnecks- New Orleans Saints)
Saints CB Depth Chart- Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, PJ Williams, Patrick Robinson, Justin Hardee, Johnson Bademosi, Tino Ellis, Keith Washington Jr
Deatrick Nichols made the All-XFL team at cornerback. Nichols has a real shot at making the Saints because his best work is in the nickel. He led the league in interceptions (3) and is a willing tackler.
Cornerback- Josh Hawkins (Dallas Renegades- Atlanta Falcons)
Falcons CB Depth Chart: AJ Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Jordan Miller, Kendall Sheffield, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CJ Reavis, Delrick Abrams, Rojesterman Farris, Tyler Hall
Josh Hawkins, held up well for Dallas in the XFL as a real shutdown corner. Most notably holding XFL star receiver Cam Phillips to only one catch. The Falcons are incredibly young at the cornerback position. So Hawkins has a shot of making this group.
Cornerback- Saivion Smith (Houston Roughnecks- Dallas Cowboys)
Cowboys CB Depth Chart: Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Trevon Diggs, Daryl Worley, Reggie Robinson II, CJ Goodwin, Deante Burton, Chris Westry
On paper, the former Alabama cornerback Saivion Smith has everything you are looking for. 6’1, 200 pounds with great athletic ability. Only 22 years old, but it will be challenging to make the Dallas roster. Saivion Smith will have to bring value on special teams to make it. With practice squads extended, that maybe Smith’s best destination for his development.
Cornerback- Arrion Springs (Los Angeles Wildcats- Pittsburgh Steelers)
Steelers CB Depth Chart: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Justin Layne, Alexander Myres, Breon Borders, Cameron Sutton, Trajan Bandy, James Pierre
Arrion Springs is the classic case of why leagues like the XFL make sense. At Oregon back in 2018, Springs was the 7th ranked corner in the nation by Pro Football Focus. Despite showing good speed (4.46), Springs went undrafted. For whatever reason, he has slipped through the cracks time in and time out. Even in the XFL, Springs was traded from Tampa to LA. With Pittsburgh, there’s room for movement up the depth chart, that’s if Springs doesn’t slip through the cracks again.
Safety- Tyree Kinnel (DC Defenders- Pittsburgh Steelers)
Steelers S Depth Chart: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, Antoine Brooks Jr, John Battle
Back to the well again with the Steelers. Kinnel just missed the cut in the NFL last summer as a rookie. His stint in the XFL got him another shot. Pittsburgh is pretty deep at safety, so Tyree Kinnel might have a hard time cracking the 53 man roster.
Defensive Back- Dravon Askew-Henry (New York Guardians- New York Giants)
Giants S Depth Chart: Julian Love, Jabril Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Sean Chandler, Nate Ebner, Mark McLaurin, Jaquarius Landrews
The headlines will focus on the fact that Askew-Henry is future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis’s cousin, but Dravon is more than just that. In the XFL, he made the All-PFF team for highest-graded players. Dravon is an excellent cover safety with the versatility to play in the nickel. The Giants drafted Xavier McKinney last month, so the road for Henry to make it got rougher, but he has plenty of talent to stick.
Safety- Andrew Soroh (New York Guardians- Kansas City Chiefs)
Cheifs S Depth Chart: Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, Daniel Sorenson, Chris Lammons, Armani Watts, Rodney Clemons
The signing of Andrew Soroh hasn’t been officially announced by the Chiefs, but Soroh posted about his excitement of rejoining KC on Twitter after the draft. Soroh was a part of an elite secondary with New York. A multi-talented defender, who hits like a truck and can play inside the box or in coverage. Soroh has value on special teams as well. That’s where he will need to make his mark initially if he wants to make the Chiefs roster.
Long Snappers: Christian Kuntz (Dallas Renegades- Pittsburgh Steelers), Nick Moore (Tampa Bay Vipers- Baltimore Ravens)
Steelers LS- Kameron Canaday– Ravens LS- Morgan Cox
Long Snappers are people too. Both of these players are long shots to make their rosters. Christian Kuntz was on the XFL’s best special teams unit in Dallas. He can also play linebacker.
The 34-year-old Morgan Cox has been the Ravens’ long snapper for several seasons and will be hard to unseat. Nick Moore was fantastic at Georgia and for the Vipers. If he doesn’t land a position with Baltimore, he may still get more opportunities down the road. Something that a secondary pro league like the XFL provided all of these players.
Safety Kenny Robinson (St. Louis BattleHawks- Carolina Panthers (5th-round draft pick)
Panthers Safety Depth Chart: Tre Boston, Jeremy Chinn, Juston Burris, Quin Blanding, TJ Green, Natrell Jamerson
How soon before Kenny Robinson assumes a starting role in the Panthers secondary? The Panthers resigned Free Safety Tre Boston to a three-year deal. Carolina also signed safety Juston Burris away from Cleveland on a two-year deal. The Panthers also selected strong safety Jeremy Chinn in the second round. So the competition for playing time will be challenging early on. Kenny Robinson projects as a free safety and his role may be in sub-packages early on. Robinson is fantastic in coverage and his pro experience in the XFL will help him transition into the NFL.
There are several quality XFL players that remain unsigned. Most notably superstar Roughnecks Wide Receiver Cam Phillips. Players like him are meant to be starters, but latching on to NFL teams as a starter is extremely difficult at this stage of the game. Phillips lacks special teams value, which would give him a quicker road to the back end of an NFL roster.
Other players that should be on NFL rosters are CB Jamar Summers, OT Martez Ivey, C Jordan McCray, OT Terry Poole, and so many others. Defenders CB Elijah Campbell was the highest-graded cover corner in the entire league by Pro Football Focus (88.8). It’s a crime that he hasn’t been signed yet.
The shortened season not only robbed XFL fans of a completed season, but it hurt players from putting out more game film. The average age of the XFL player was 24 years old. The majority of the players, over 95 percent had some form of NFL experience.
Most of the over 450 XFL players were on NFL rosters in 2019 but never got the opportunity to play. Above all else, that’s what the XFL was providing for the pro football landscape.
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