This is it folks. We are on the precipice of having a legit Spring professional football league. All of our prayers have finally been answered by money man Vince McMahon, and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck. The top level duo has successfully Frankensteined together the best parts of failed leagues of the past, while beautifully tip toeing the line of doing too much.
What we are left with is a fan-centric, action-filled, and player-agreeable league with all the feel of the classic football we know and love, while making some common sense adjustments to the archaic rules of the NFL.
Here are the XFL Moment week 1 power rankings:
8 – St. Louis BattleHawks
Jonathon Hayes has served some good years as the tight ends coach for not only the Cincinnati Benglas, but also under fellow XFL coach Bob Stoops. That being said, he is the least experienced coach when it comes to running an entire team.
Jordan Ta’amu Was recently named the starter in St. Louis, and he has shown flashes of talent through he preseason, but does not have enough post collegiate tape to really get a good read on his ability at the next level. But he has a strong arm. This is evident though his success at Ole Miss (although he was throwing to two future NFL success stories back in those days).
The Oline has good size to open up some hole for former Texas A&M stud RB Christine Michael. WR’s L’Damian Washington and Alonzo Russel will be the guys looking to come down with some Ta’amu touchdown passes. The offense will have a strong running game, and as mentioned previously, we have seen Ta’amu make clutch plays before, but the question is whether or not he can consistently do it in the pros.
The Defensive line will be bolstered by DT Will Clarke (who does have 7 NFL sacks to his name) and Channing Ward. But the surprising thing about the defense is the fact that the secondary currently has 10 players rostered. The only reason I can see keeping that many guys around is to help contribute to a rotational scheme for situation or matchup.
Seeing as the season is just about to kick off, I hope St. Louis Battlehawks fans don’t take this personally. Its possible that the Battlehawks get to a hot start right out of the gate and I will have to eat crow next week. I don’t think thats going to happen, but only time will tell.
Player to watch: Christine Michael
Projected wins: 2
Most Underrated Player: Matt Jones
7 – Seattle Dragons
The Dragons are really relying on Jim Zorn to make some magic happen with QB1 Brandon Silvers. Zorn has tons of experience as a quarterbacks coach, and many are excited to see what he can make happen in Seattle.
Brandon Silvers had a pretty good stretch with the Memphis Express following a productive career at Troy University. He may have out done Johnny Manziel with the express, but I’m not convinced. Silvers has a lot to prove if he ever wants to be gold.
Ja’Quan Gardner won the first spot for totting the rock, but fellow running backs Kenneth Farrow and Trey Williams will likely get regular looks as suffice-able subs. Paired with the Dragons currently harboring the most TE’s in the league (5), its safe to say that Seattle will be working with a safer, short yardage kind of scheme.
On Defense, Will Sutton (former Chicago Bear) Will look to hold down the interior, while experienced corner Jeremy Clark and FS Jordan Martin get him time in the secondary. The defense is lacking starpower, but there are some guys that could surprise you.
Seattle could surprise people with scheme and physicality, but Jim Zorn has a lot of work to do if he wants to get these dragons off the ground.
Player to Watch: Ja’quan Gardner
Projected Wins: 3
Most Underrated Player: Kasen Williams
6 – Houston Roughnecks
June Jones has 34 years of coaching to guide him through the season, so he has seen it all. As a known fan of the run and gun style of game play, its likely he will try to continue that pattern in the faster paced XFL.
I can say this with confidence knowing that Jones drafted 6’1″ 212 lb Sammie Coates (who was an NFL active roster spot holder from 2015-2018) and QB P.J. Walker. Coates is one of the most well known names coming into the XFL this year due his brief success with the Steelers and the Browns. P.J. Walker is someone who is athletic enough to scramble if need be, while having the arm talent to let it rip from deep in the pocket.
RB1 Andre Williams has looked promising in the preseason, so he should get good production on the ground. He will have to in short yardage situations considering the fact that Jones neglected to draft any tight ends.
Defensivley, DE’s Gabe Wright, Caushaud Lyons, and Kony Ealy will be getting after quarterbacks every game. This will be helpful for FS Corrian Ballard and SS Deatrick Nichols in their quest to lock down the secondary. But we are going to have to see this machine run at full speed to see if it can actually work.
The Houston Roughnecks have a balanced team with play makers here and there, but will it be enough to beat the odds this season? We’re not so sure.
Player to Watch: Sammie Coates
Projected Wins: 4
Most Underrated Player: Kony Ealy
5 – New York Guardians
Kevin Gilbride may have already hoisted two Lombardi’s with the Giants in the NFL, but unfortunately that’s not enough for us to put the guardians in the top half of the pack.
Matt McGloin will bring good veteran experience to the team. The Penn State legend came from the humble beginnings of a walk on in 2009. After riding the bench his freshman year, he became the on again off again starter until his senior season when he blew up and laid claim to the all time PSU touchdown record (45), single season passing yard record (3,003), and single season completion record (234).
McGloin went undrafted to the NFL int 2013,but was picked up by the Oakland Raiders. He had some starts his rookie year, but then things slowed down. After his stint with Oakland ended in 2016, McGloin bounced around a few teams, never really seeing much action, until he eventually was allocated to the New York Guardians.
If Mcgloin can keep his accuracy in check, threats at WR like Mekale McKay, Austin Duke, and Colby Pearson will be able to make the big plays when they come to them.
Defensively LB Ben Heeney seems like the obvious choice for the man in charge. He has 24 games of NFL experience under his belt, and will be able to help lead the younger guys. This will be essential to the Guardians success this year. If less experienced and lesser known players don’t step up, it will be tough treading for New York this year.
Player to watch: Mekale McKay
Projected wins: 4
Most Underrated Player: Jake Powell
4 – Tampa Bay Vipers
Led by Canadian football coach Marc Trestman, Aaron Murray’s job as starting quarterback of the vipers recently got a little more difficult. His likely top target WR Antonio Callaway was put on the Injured Reserve list this week due to a practice injury. Never good to see. But that plays a huge part in having the vipers in the middle of the pack as far as rankings go.
Murray will still have plenty of weapons in RB De’Veon Smith, WR Jalen Tolliver, and TE Nick Truesdell (who is 6’5″ with 4.4 kind of athleticism), and the depth at WR is deep enough to not count them out. But losing Callaway is a major blow. QB/RB Quinton Flowers also throws a hint of interest into the game, even from his current position of QB2. It will be interesting to see how the team utilizes his skills.
Defensively, a big surprise is CB Jalen Collins being listed as their 3rd string CB. The Vipers made a big early trade giving up CB Arrion Springs to the LA Wildcats in exchange for him. Not a good sign. Regardless, the Vipers will turn to guys like CB Shelton Lewis, CB Anthoula Kelly, and NCB Micah Hannemann to operate their planned irregular style defense to play more to the perimeter of the field. Up front, they have DE Jason Neill to get after the quarterback, former Toronto Argonaut LBbTerrance Plummer, and DT Josh Banks to stuff the run. It should be a relatively stout defense.
Some odds have Vegas going all the way this year, in spite of the devastating loss of Antonio Callaway, and they might just have the depth to do it. If Aaron Murray can consistantly perform at a high level, and some young guys step up to the plate, the sky is the limit for these Vipers.
Player to Watch: Nick Truesdell
Projected Wins: 6
Most Underrated Player: Tanner McEvoy
3 – Los Angeles Wildcats
Winston Moss and Norm Chow could be one of the most talented coaching duos in the XFL this year. Moss won a super bowl with Green Bay, and Chow has worked with NFL studs like Philip Rivers and Jim McMahon. This bodes well for starting quarterback Josh Johnson.
Speaking of Josh Johnson, the team ranking 3rd is, at this point, entirely reliant on his ability to get healthy. Johnson was the number 1 overall pick in the 2019 AAF draft, getting assigned to the San Diego Fleet. But Johnson has been bouncing around NFL programs since 2009 so he certainly knows the ropes. In the 2018 NFL combine, he posted the best 40yd dash time (4.53s) and verticle jump (33 1/2″) out of any other quarterback. So he has the ability to make things happen. Maybe that’s why NFL teams are still after him while he’s in the XFL. But he is questionable rolling into week 1, so his full recovery is imperative for this wildcats program.
Another big player with a current injury is WR Tre McBride. McBride, when healthy, should be the biggest threat on the Wildcats roster. He should be since they traded Rashad Ross, who carries very lofty XFL expectations, to DC to get him. We will have to see how he recovers.
On the defensive side, Winston Moss knows how to get those boys moving. With massive size to stuff the run, Shawn Oakman, Boogie Robert, and Latarius Brady will be a force to be reckoned with.
The secondary has some NFL experience with names like Ahmad Dixon, and Jack Tocho, but nothing of great significance. They are talented but will have to show it to move up in the rankings.
If the guys dealing with injuries are able to fully recover in the short term, the LA Wildcats will be right in the thick of things this year.
Player to Watch: Tre McBride
Projected Wins: 6
Most Underrated Player: Nick Novak
2 – Dallas Renegades
This one likely won’t surprise people as much. With championship odds set at +250, it would be hard to be upset about being a Renegades fan.
As the preseason favorites, its no surprise that the Renegade roster is top to bottom full of studs, starting with the head coach, Bob Stoops. Stoops coached the Oklahoma Sooners for 17 successful years from 1999 to 2016. Could be the most well known coaching name in the XFL this year.
Stoops will also have the luxury of seeing a familiar face around the Renegades’ locker room this year in Landry Jones (who played for Stoops at Oklahoma 2009-2012). Landry Jones was the starter for the Sooners for 3 full years and the majority of his freshman year.
He also saw significant NFL reps with several different teams between 2013 and 2018. For the most part as a preseason hero or a back up, but saw some starts with the Steelers due to injury or week 16 healthy scratches. But with a 63.9% completion percentage on 169 NFL pass attempts, he will likely be one of the better quarterbacks in the XFL, even at 30 years old.
Cameron Artis-Payne is the man that got the nod in the backfield. With a flashy 2 years in college at Auburn University, CAP racked up 2,218 yard on 394 rushes and 19 scores. Once drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2016, CAP secured 308 yards and 4 scores over the next 3 seasons. He brings needed ground game effort to the likely pass first offense of the Dallas Renegades.
With Jazz Ferguson ( who ran a 4.45 40 time) and Jeff Badet ( who ran a 4.39 40 time) at wide receiver, Landry Jones will have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball. Jeff Badet was selected first overall in the XFL open skill position draft, and although he is the smaller of the two ( 5’11” 182lbs compared to Jazz’s 6’5″ 228 lbs), he has the speed to get a step on most secondaries.
The Oline has 4 EX NFL players, which is more than the majority of opposing teams so they should be stout.
On D, they look to OLB Kau’oli Kikaha, LB Reshard Cliett, LB Ray Ray Davison, and DL Frank Alexander to lock down the front seven. Safety Derron Smith, along with Josh Hawkins, Dashaun Phillips and Micah Abernathy all have done the NFL team shuffle prior to the XFL, so they have the skills.
With veteran coach Bob Stoops calling the shots, and the top notch roster, not even the long arm of the law will be able to stop these renegades.
Player to Watch: Landry Jones
Projected Wins: 8
Most Underrated Player: Freddie Martino
1 – DC Defenders
Fan Duel Sportsbook might not have too much faith in the DC Defenders (preseason championship odds set at a surprising +700), but they come in at the very top of our rankings for week 1.
Pep Hamilton is a coach with 14 years of NFL experience, and has been running offenses since 1997. His personal protoge was Andrew Luck in the 3 years he served as the Offensive Coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. No big deal right? But the point is, this man knows offense, and how to get a QB in prime playing condition.
Which brings me to my next point!
Cardale Jones is taking the field behind the wheel of this years DC Defenders. This is the man who made his first collegiate start with Ohio State in the 2014 Big 10 Championship. Oh yeah, and his next 2 starts were the Sugar Bowl and National Championship of the same year. You can read more about his rise to stardom here. But the point is, this guy can step up to the plate and make the big play when you need him.
The backfield is loaded with the likes of Jhurell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey. Both rare breeds of strength and speed, primed to light up secondaries all over the country.
The receivers are no slouches either. DeAndre Thompkins (OUT Week 1), Rashad Ross, and Eli Rogers bring the necessary speed and size to make both make the tough catches, and beat people with quickness. Look for them in the endzone.
The Defense is filled with NFL level talent everywhere you look. The safety room of Rahim Moore, Matt Elam, and Shamarko Thomas have a combined 117 NFL games alone. Hard hitters like Jonothan Celestin and Scooby Wright (OUT Week 1) will make opposing offenses think twice about running up the middle. And XFL quarterbacks will be having nightmares all season about defensive linemen Tracy Sprinkle and Jay Bromley coming after them with elite physicality.
The only area that remains unproven is the Offensive Line. Not a ton of big names, and only Center Jon Toth has NFL experience past the preseason. Its something to keep an eye on to judge as the season progresses, but not something to be concerned about.
The DC Defenders will surprise people this year with big plays and big hits. I am claiming my spot at the front of the bandwagon right now. And I invite you to join me.
Player to Watch: Cardale Jones
Projected Wins: 8
Most Underrated Player: Tracy Sprinkle