It may seem like the XFL’s resumption of play is a long ways off, but the 2023 target means that the next year will be full of activity. An actual draft is likely 12 months away if they follow the schedule for the 2020 season, but until then we’re hoping to see minicamps and scouting sessions as they refresh the talent pool.
As always in the world of football, the quarterback position is a focal point, so we’ll get started here looking at players who could fit in with the XFL. Last year when hopes were high for the possibility of a 2021 season, I wrote a similar list here. I still stand by those names, though the passing of another two years may age a couple of them out, but it’s a new year. Let’s look at some new quarterback prospects who could be a fit.
Couple caveats, while there are some QB’s on depth charts and practice squads around the NFL and CFL who could make an impact in the XFL, we’ll root for them to stick with their teams, and just look at free agent QB’s here.
Robert Griffin III – Baylor
It’s crazy to think that the 2012 draft was almost 10 years ago already, but one of the biggest questions from that class, is what could have been with Robert Griffin III. The back to back Heisman winner and Rookie of the Year had a monstrous debut season, throwing for 20 TD’s and just 5 picks while rushing for 815 yards and 7 scores. The future looked bright for Washington, but injury issues and (surprise surprise) dysfunction in Dan Snyder’s organization saw him out the door. After a stint in Cleveland as a starter and a good run as Lamar Jackson’s QB2 in Baltimore, he ended up as an analyst with ESPN this year, but is public in his desire to play again.
At just 31 years old, RGIII would make sense for the XFL in several ways. First, his athleticism and experience would lend itself well to the XFL’s brand of football, an he could well be one of the most electric players on the field. His desire to play, namely as a starter would also make it a good fit, as he’d be on the inside track to start on whatever team he’d land on. Finally, in terms of name recognition, he’d be a huge boost to the brand, and landing a Heisman QB would be a huge get for Dany & The Rock’s new league.
Blake Bortles – UCF
Let’s go get the B.O.A.T. A former 3rd overall pick, Bortles had some great moments in Jacksonville, and people are too quick to forget that he got this team to the AFC Championship. In the 2017 playoffs, he was steady in wins over Buffalo and Pittsburgh, while eventually losing to the Patriots 24-20. Many pointed to his play holding back Jacksonville’s offense, but after moving on to Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew and now Trevor Lawrence, it seems apparent that this organization has issues beyond the QB position.
Bortles led the Jags to their first and only winning season/playoff appearance since 2007, and though his gunslinging ways would lead to turnovers, he delivered some big moments as well. A prototypically-built QB with a big arm and good mobility, he could be a great centerpiece of an XFL offense after stints with the Rams, Broncos and Packers in recent years. He is working out with the Seattle Seahawks as of the writing of this article, but if he ends up available next year, the XFL should pounce.
Bryan Scott – Occidental
The Aaron Rodgers of Division III absolutely belongs in the XFL. Highly prolific at Occidental College, he broke numerous school and conference records from 2013-2016. Scott also competed in the International Federation of American Football’s World Championship, leading the US team to a stunning comeback win over Canada.
In the pros, he’s been around the CFL and NFL with tryouts and stints with a few different teams, but we’ve really gotten to see him shine in The Spring League. In a turbulent Fall 2020 season, Scott went 91 of 133 passing for 13 TD’s and just 1 pick. The Generals, with Scott under center went 4-0 and won the championship in a great run, and the up and coming QB was named the League’s MVP for the second time. He recently worked out with the Indianapolis Colts this past offseason, and the 26 year old passer would be a fantastic add for the XFL heading into 2023. He is a TSL veteran, leading to the idea that he could be involved in the USFL moving forward, but I’d like to see him with us.
DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame
Coming into the 2017 Draft, DeShone Kizer was viewed as a raw, but high upside prospect. He had great physical tools, and delivered some big moments at Notre Dame, but likely needed time to develop and adjust to the NFL game. So what did Cleveland do with their 2nd round QB?
Start him immediately and feign surprise when they went 0-16. Kizer took a beating, getting sacked 38 times, often while trying to create outside the pocket on broken plays. He threw 22 picks to just 11 TD’s, and was replaced the next year by Baker Mayfield. He’s since served tours as a backup with the Packers, Raiders and Titans, but I don’t think it’d be fair at all to pin the stink of that 0-16 season on Kizer.
The Browns had been historically bad for over a decade at that point, and their handling of Kizer made his selection seem like a dart throw en route to another #1 overall pick. The kid’s just 25 years old, and while there’s not a lot of pro tape to fall in love with, I’d be really interested to see if he could rejuvenate his career in the XFL. A young, big QB with a great arm, I think this league could be a great venue for him to develop his game outside of the dumpster fire that was Cleveland.
JT Barrett – Ohio State
There was a wild period in Ohio State football where the team had an abundance of starting QB’s from Braxton Miller to Cardale Jones, Dwayne Haskins to Joe Burrow and JT Barrett himself. Yet through all that upheaval and competition, Barrett was perhaps the steadiest presence on that team during this time.
Barrett was a 3 time Captain with the Buckeyes, and reports all around were that he was univerally beloved and respected in that locker room. A dual-threat QB, he passed for 9,434 yards, 104 TD’s and just 30 interceptions along with 3,263 yards and 43 TD’s on the ground. Though NFL teams didn’t wager a draft pick on him, he has been with the Saints, Seahawks and Steelers since coming out of college, sterling franchises all.
We most recently saw him in TSL during the 2020 Fall season, where he led the Alphas to a 2-1 record and won player of the game in Week 2. We haven’t heard much from his camp since, but the fact that he played for The Spring League means he’s open to different avenues and could be a solid addition to the XFL’s ranks.
Mark Sanchez – USC
I want to see the Sanchize back in action. The Jets’ winningest QB since Vinny Testaverde may have had a mercurial NFL career, but if the league wants to bring in a highly experienced veteran QB, I can think of none better. Just to change up the narrative, let’s look at what he accomplished in his NFL career. He came out of USC and led the Jets to back to back AFC Championships, even outduelling Tom Brady in the 2010 Divisional Round. Though his time in New York ended with a sputter, he gave them the most stability at QB they had all decade, had a successful run in Philadelphia, notably mentored Dak Prescott in Dallas and was a go-to spot starter at the end much like our very own Josh Johnson.
I’m not here anointing Sanchez as the next savior of the XFL, but at 34, he could prove a great veteran presence in a young league looking for experience and leadership. After seeing what journeyman vet Josh Johnson could do at that age in 2020, I think Sanchez could make an impact here too, and get a chance to change up the narrative. Bet USC fans would be interested to see him back in Red and Gold with the Wildcats too.
Ryan Mallett – Arkansas
Mallett turned a successful run at Arkansas into a 3rd round selection in New England back in 2011. His elite arm strength and success against high level competition in the SEC was attractive enough to Belichick & Co. to warrant a day two selection despite the presence of Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer on the roster.
After a couple of years in New England, he was traded to Houston and got his first chance to start, then spent 3 seasons in Baltimore backing up Joe Flacco. Always a high-upside pocket passer, he has 21 games experience in the NFL, and was actually close to signing with the XFL in 2019. He last played in The Spring League in 2021, leading the Generals to a 4-2 record and now, as the league reboots and looks around the football landscape he could be a good fit.
Khalil Tate – Arizona
The electrifying QB just ended a stretch with the Philadelphia Eagles as a WR, and his rare combination of speed and arm strength could make a huge splash in the XFL. His physical tools are absolutely off the charts, and given the right opportunity he could pay huge dividends on the field. While he struggled with inconsistency in the pass game with the Bearcats at times, he also proved he has the talent and ceiling to be a good quarterback in the pros.
His Junior campaign saw him pass for 2,530 yards, 26 TD’s and 8 picks, but he did regress a bit in his senior year en route to going undrafted. While I think his passing could definitely be refined as he grows (Tate is just 22 years old), his rushing ability alone could be enough to earn him a shot here. His first season as a starter, he rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 TD’s as a quarterback. In following years the offense shifted to focus more on the pass game, which is ultimately good for his development, but the raw potential as a dual threat is obvious. He’s still young so there’s plenty of room and time for growth, and Tate could be the perfect rookie prospect for the XFL’s 2023 campaign.
Colin Kaepernick – Nevada
Had to do it to ya. The decade’s most polarizing sports figure has been out of the game for some time now, but if we’re talking about available quarterbacks, Kap is a quarterback, and he is technically available. As of the bizarre NFL-prompted workout in 2019 (which centered around a waiver protecting the league from further litigation), Kaep looked fresh, and Adam Schefter reported on his “elite” arm talent.
Oliver Luck’s XFL had reached out to his team leading up to 2020, but salary demands in the $20 Million range put him far out of reach. The former 49ers QB has often butted heads with NFL Brass, and clearly a partnership with the XFL 2020 wasn’t going to work with in that price range. Yet perhaps Dany & The Rock could break bread with him, and Dwayne has voiced support for Kaepernick’s career in the past on several occasions. It’d be a long bridge to build, but what better way to bring in high level talent while setting the sports world ablaze with talk about the XFL.
Cam Newton – Auburn
Thought I was ending with a bang by putting Kap in there? Nope. Here’s my big pitch. I think the XFL should go after Cam Newton. Now, this was a tough conclusion to come to because I think he should be in the NFL. The big question is, Cam wants to start in the NFL rather than ride the pine, but would he be ok with dominating in the XFL for a year to remind everyone he’s an MVP quarterback?
Sure, a lot of things have changed since he took the Panthers to the Super Bowl, but Cam proved last year that he is still a starting caliber QB. Though there wasn’t much production through the air with a depleted offensive cast in Gillette Stadium, Cam did rush for 592 yards and 12 TD’s last year, his most ground scores since he won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. I think there’s a very high chance Cam ends up on an NFL team by XFL Draft time next year, but if he’s available, Dany & The Rock have got to at least think about it.
He took a veteran minimum deal (+incentives) to start in New England in 2020, and while the XFL has less money to work with, it’s not inconceivable they would want to put up a similar offer around $1 Million to land some serious star power at the game’s biggest position. Though Cam might be reluctant to move out of the NFL, Sportscasting.com’s Jake Elman likened a possible move to a different league to NBA stars playing overseas to get another shot.
Maybe he could see it like, Tracy McGrady playing for the Qindao Eagles before ending up with the Spurs, or Metta Sandiford-Artest playing in Italy and China before landing back with the Lakers.
If a quarterback of his caliber is still on the market come 2023, the XFL should make a call. I don’t think The Rock and Dany Garcia are thinking small these days, so why not think huge for a second? This could be the XFL’s version of poaching Herschel Walker/Jim Kelly/Reggie White if they pull it off.
Plus, the football world is better when Cam Newton is out there having fun, and what’s more fun than the XFL?
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