On Tuesday, the XFL began the first phase of their draft process by assigning quarterbacks to each of the league’s eight teams. Every team (with the exception of DC) was given two signal-callers, although it’s safe to assume that more will be added in both the open rounds of the draft and the weeks leading up to kickoff.
For the Houston Roughnecks, it was expected that Troy product and XFL 2.0 alum Brandon Silvers would lead the way, which ended up being an accurate prediction. However, the second quarterback, Kaleb Eleby, was viewed as a less traditional fit. In this article, we will dive deeper into the careers of both players, and what the expectation should be heading into this season.
Silvers, a native of Orange Beach, Alabama, was a four-year starter at Troy University from 2014 to 2017. Over that span, he completed 64% of his passes for 10,449 yards, 69 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions. Silvers’ production became somewhat stagnant after his junior campaign, which is likely why he received little interest from NFL teams.
After going undrafted in 2018, Silvers received an invite to the New Orleans Saints’ minicamp, but was not offered a contract. In November of that year, Silvers was selected by the Memphis Express during the Alliance of American Football (AAF) QB draft, beginning his career in the world of Spring football. Although Silvers was not the original starter, Memphis struggled with Zach Mettenberger at the helm, eventually getting benched in favor of a Silvers-Johnny Manziel duo.
He would finish the 2019 AAF season having completed 64% of his passes (just like the college days) for 799 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. While it was nothing to write home about, Silvers proved to be a solid option in a Bobby Blizzard-led offense, initially installed by Air Raid guru Hal Mumme before he left the team. This is an important distinction, as Roughnecks offensive coordinator AJ Smith is a student of Mumme himself, and will also be running the Air Raid system.
Silvers’ next stop would be with the Seattle Dragons in the previous edition of the XFL, where he unfortunately seemed to reach a low point in his career. During his Dragons tenure, Silvers went 1-3 as the starter, eventually being benched during a week four game against the St. Louis BattleHawks in favor of B.J. Daniels. He completed just 52% of his passes for 539 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. What’s most significant is that Silvers had just one game – the game that he didn’t finish – where no turnovers were recorded.
Silvers bounced back in 2021, joining The Spring League (TSL) and leading the Conquerors to a 4-2 record on the season. This is where he was first introduced to AJ Smith, who was the offensive coordinator under Jerry Glanville. Silvers showed great promise throwing the ball, leading all TSL quarterbacks in passer rating and posting a 9-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Hopefully, that duo can capture the same kind of magic in a few months.
At this point in his career, we know what Brandon Silvers brings to the table. His performances are solid and reliable, but nothing that blows fans away. Assuming he is the week one starter, the pass-first system put in place should suit him well, although it brings a decent amount of pressure and high stakes with it.
Eleby is the typical raw quarterback prospect, having a quick rise to prominence in college and yet to put out any film at the next level. Coming from a RPO system at Western Michigan, much of his production wasn’t considered comparable to the pros, but the numbers were impressive nonetheless. In 2020, which was Eleby’s first time as a starter during the COVID-shortened season, he recorded an outstanding 18-2 touchdown to interception ratio. In 2021, Eleby played double the number of games, and was able to throw for over 3,000 yards as a result.
Eleby left WMU for the NFL this year, but didn’t make it past the Seattle Seahawks’ minicamp. Much of what he was praised for on scouting reports – quick release and a powerful arm – could definitely work in Houston’s offense. However, Eleby’s abilities outside of the pocket will be tested even at the XFL level, and perhaps prove to be the steepest learning curve of them all.
Eleby is exactly the type of guy any alt-football league would go after, someone with a lot of upside but still needing time to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It will be interesting to see how exactly he is incorporated into this offense, since his running abilities were never considered a strength. Maybe he will be the boost needed to get big plays off the ground, or an experimental “guinea pig” of sorts. Either way, it seems like the Houston coaches are more than excited to have him in the room, and he will be more than just a backup.
Recent reports have suggested that former Hawaii QB Cole McDonald could also be on his way to Houston, and given his background, can likely beat out Silvers on the depth chart. McDonald comes from another pass-heavy offense in the Run-and-Shoot, and was a seventh-round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans just over two years ago.
Beyond that, there’s no doubt that this team could have their eyes on someone currently in the NFL, and is waiting to assess the situation further. Nothing is set in stone yet, but so far, it looks promising for the Roughnecks overall. Whether or not the coaching staff can turn any of these players into the next PJ Walker is yet to be seen, but they certainly have the tools and experience at their disposal.
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