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With Expanded NFL Practice Squads, Could XFL Players Find Their Way?

Per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, NFL teams have increased their practice squad spots by 6.

These extra spots may just be for the 2020 season, but this is a significant change for roster fringe guys who struggle to earn reps and spots on the depth chart. We’ve already seen a rash of players in such a situation come to the XFL and find success on the field, but the question now is: how many will make their way back to the NFL and earn their keep?

PJ Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, Donald Parham, Deatrick Nichols and many others have already been signed to NFL rosters, but with these added roster spots, there’s a lot of guys who could make it.

WR Cam Phillips

He and PJ Walker set the league on fire in their undefeated run. Their connection on the field was uncanny, as they averaged an unbelievable 91 yards and 2TD’s a game over the course of the season.

These two were just a cut above, and while the Roughnecks boasted a deep offensive core featuring guys like Nick Holley, Khalil Lewis and Sam Mobley, Walker-Phillips was their bread and butter.

They always just seemed to be on the same page, and Phillips walked away from the 2020 season as the league’s all-time leading receiver.

Yet somehow, he has gone unsigned. He has previous NFL experience, after spending 2018-2019 with the Bills. He’s just 24 years old, and has proven at the very least that he can hang in the pros. Unfortunately, WR is an undervalued position, especially at the edges of the roster. I think the best spot for him would be alongside PJ Walker in Carolina, but lots of teams need a breakout star and Cam Phillips looks like just that.

Best Fits: Panthers, Seahawks, Packers, 49ers

QB Josh Johnson

I can’t talk about Considering that the XFL had to block the Detroit Lions, its mildly surprising that he hasn’t been signed thus far. The veteran Journeyman has been on 13 NFL teams, and had stints in the UFL and XFL.

He’s been around the block, and any team looking for a cool veteran presence in the locker room would do well to add him. I know we’re still hypothetically talking about practice squads here, and while that ship has sailed for Johnson, teams are now more likely to stash their young prospects there in favor of a capable backup on the active roster.

Johnson is not only experienced at 34 years old, he’s proven that he’s kept his edge. Just behind PJ Walker in all passing categories, he threw for 1076 yards, 11 scores and just 2 picks.

Best Fits: Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions

LB Steven Johnson

Had the 2020 season played out in full, Johnson would’ve been a frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year. He was unstoppable patrolling the middle of Seattle’s defense, racking up nearly 10 tackles a game with 48 on the season. He also had 6 stops in the backfield and 2 passes defensed, flexing versatility as a disrupter and in coverage.

He’s a proven commodity in the pros who served as a starter next to Von Miller on the high-motor Broncos defense from 2012-2014, and showed that he’s still got game at 32. MLB is another undervalued position in the NFL, but teams always need proven guys in that group.

Best Fits: Dolphins, Panthers, Broncos

RB Cameron Artis-Payne

Sure, other guys had more raw production. Cameron Artis-Payne changed the Renegades offense when they eased off the Air Raid and gave him the ball. He put up a glowing 5.1 yards per carry on the season, and whenever he was featured he excelled.

In week 2, he carried the ball just 14 times, but managed 99 yards at 7.1 ypc and 2 scores. He also contributed well as a pass catcher, finishing the season with 241 rush yards and 101 receiving.

While veteran running backs are criminally undervalued in the NFL, there are teams needing stability and proven talent at the position. The Auburn product has impressed with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, and is more than capable of contributing as a platoon guy, if not more.

Best Fits: Buccaneers, Steelers, Jets

Honorable Mentions

QB Luis Perez – New York Guardians

WR Dan Williams – Tampa Bay Vipers

CB Josh Hawkins – Dallas Renegades

WR Nelson Spruce – LA Wildcats

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Matt Nagashima has been covering the XFL since before the 2019 Draft, and has witnessed history being made as a Credentialed Reporter for the Dallas Renegades. While he is engrossed with the X's and O's, the roster building and more, it has always been his goal to keep the players first in mind in coverage, showing the human aspect of this sport behind all the action on the field. With Dany Garcia and Dwayne The Rock Johnson now at the helm, he's excited to see all the opportunities that this league will create for players to showcase their talent and make their dreams come true.

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