Though teams like the Renegades and Guardians have entrenched veteran starters at QB in Landry Jones and Matt McGloin, many XFL teams have less positional certainty in their depth charts.
While Tier One QB’s are being paid much more this season, we could still very well see other passers contend for starting spots across the league.
Phillip Walker vs Connor Cook
The Roughnecks took Connor Cook with the second overall pick in the draft. Though they were assigned with Phillip Walker, taking another QB immediately suggests that they either have doubts about Walker or very high hopes for Cook. Either way. they’ll likely see a camp competition for the starting spot.
Phillip Walker put the Temple Owls on the map in college, and was incredibly prolific there, throwing for over 10,000 yards and leading the team to two bowl games. He was signed as a UDFA to the Colts, where he spent 3 seasons. Backing up Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett, he struggled at times in the preseason, but learning behind two QB’s like these was a valuable experience.
Connor Cook did big things at Michigan State, leading them to a Bowl Game every year. In 2012, they won the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 2013 he led the Spartans to a victory over Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship. 2014 was a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford, and in 2015 he beat Iowa in the Big 10 Championship and got Michigan State into the Playoff, where they fell to the eventual champions in Alabama.
He won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2015 and caught on with the Raiders as a 4th round pick. Like Walker, however, he struggled in preseason action. He has made NFL starts, one regular season and one playoff, without much success. His official statline through those two starts is 32/66 passing, 311 yards, TD’s and 4 INT’s. Sure, he was put into a bad position with the Raiders, but he’ll need to improve if he wants to be a viable starter in the XFL.
Both Walker and Cook are boom or bust prospects, and it’ll be interesting to see which one takes the edge here. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Houston tries to pick up a QB3 in the coming months to fill out the room.
Luis Perez vs Josh Johnson
Luis Perez is LA’s Tier One, but the league also just fought to keep Josh Johnson around by blocking the Lions from signing him. Perez is an intriguing young QB who’s generated a lot of hype over the last couple years, but Johnson is a wily Journeyman vet who’s been around the block.
Luis Perez is just 25 and is already cemented as a legend in D-II football. He never played in high school and walked on at Southwestern. They had 9 quarterbacks on the team, and he beat out each one of them to eventually lead Southwestern to a conference title.
He then transferred to Texas A&M-Commerce, where he lit up the Lone Star Conference. He led the team to two straight years in the D-II playoffs and won the National Title in 2017. That year, he passed for a whopping 5,001 yards for 46 TDs at a 70.1 completion rate.
He’s since been with the Rams, Lions, and Eagles in the NFL, and started last season with the AAF’s Birmingham Iron. There he led the team to a 5-3 record. He was 3rd leaguewide with 1460 yards, 5 TD’s and 6 2PT. Unfortunately, he threw 6 picks and only completed 52.3% of his passes. He’s got a lot of potential, but needs to adjust to the speed of the pro game.
Josh Johnson has played in 32 NFL games and has been viewed as a valuable veteran backup for years. Coaches think enough of his tools and intangibles to bring him in, time and time again, and Johnson has been on 13 different NFL teams. He was actually the first overall pick in the AAF’s draft, but was called up to the Redskins in the fall and couldn’t keep playing come spring.
He brings a wealth of knowledge about different schemes and looks, and with that experience, he’ll be pushing Perez each step of the way. Perez is a prototypical pocket passer with upside, and Johnson is an established veteran with good football IQ and plus athleticism that hasn’t faded at age 33.
Taryn Christion and Jalan McClendon should push for the QB3 spot.
St Louis Battlehawks
Jordan Ta’amu vs Taylor Heinicke
Ta’amu turned heads in the SEC when he came just second to Tua Tagovailoa in passing yards last year. He has a good arm, athleticism, and frame, and was highly productive in College Football’s toughest division, which is no small feat. He was, however, aided by the efforts of AJ Brown and DK Metcalf. These two WRs went in the top of the draft this year, and their talent really helped out his production at Ole Miss.
Ta’amu went undrafted this offseason, where he caught on with the Texans. He saw a little bit of preseason action but didn’t end up on the regular-season roster. The former Ole Miss passer is a raw prospect with high upside, but he’ll need to improve his vision and processing at the pro level.
Taylor Heinicke was a beast at Old Dominion, and though he didn’t face as stiff of competition as Ta’amu, he still put up crazy numbers in Division I ball. He still holds the record for most passing yards in a D-I game, after a 730 yard, 5 TD performance his Sophomore Year.
He went undrafted and spent time with the Vikings, Patriots, Texans, and Panthers, where he saw regular-season action. In his one start, he showed a lot of rawness, passing for a touchdown and 3 picks against the Falcons.
Heinicke has a ton of potential however and displays good athleticism, pocket presence, and accuracy.
This could be one of the offseason’s more hotly contested battles, as two young passers look to build their legacies in St. Louis.
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