In 2020, the XFL returned after an almost twenty-year absence to a lot of hardcore fanfare and a ton of skepticism. Vince McMahon, the CEO of the WWE, wanted to give his early-2000’s failure a legitimate chance at succeeding. And succeeding was the path that the league was headed until COVID hit the world. While 2020 ended up being a lost cause due to the pandemic, 2020 provided a shining light that there was a need for spring football. On the heels of the 2020 defunct XFL league, The Spring League gained momentum. Fast forward three years later and the XFL is back and the USFL was reborn in place of The Spring League: the demand for spring football is real and is finally being realized. While we’re two weeks away from kickoff in the inaugural season of the now Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Red Bird Capital-owned league, the question remains of whether or not the third attempt at the XFL will be successful. While I have no doubts that, if COVID hadn’t hit the world in 2020, the XFL would be entering their fourth season, here we are again with the same spring football enthusiasm and skepticism that, at this time, we’re all accustomed to having.
With all that said, we’re fourteen, FOURTEEN!, days away from kickoff with this version of a league we’ve all been paying attention to since the 2020 rebirth. So, if you’re still with me after I just very excitedly yelled the word “fouteen” at you while reading this, I’m going to rank and breakdown the offensive side of the ball for the eight teams.
I’m going to skip breaking down the offensive line units for now, after week one, I’ll start providing offensive line power rankings but they’re hardest position to break down in spring football as they’re the most unpredictable. While the rosters are constantly changing due to injuries, cuts and additions, this roster breakdown comes with up-to-date rosters from the fourteen day kickoff.
The DC Defenders top my rankings list for the Northern Division. Rookie professional head coach Reggie Barlow has done an amazing job at assembling a talented group of players. Experience is key in these spring ball leagues, and the Defenders are loaded with talent at every position. There’s going to be a lot of attention at the QB position in these leagues, but the unsung heroes are generally the productive RBs and WRs. The Defenders have one of the most talented running back rooms in the entire league and the style of offense they’re planning on playing could lead to a lot of big plays and games from this group. Ryquell Armstead is a player everyone should keep an eye on, his size and speed combination could provide deadly. Abram Smith, the first overall pick in the initial draft could easily be the best running back in the entire league. The QB is filled with talented players and versatile players: Jordan Ta’amu brings the experience and leadership that is needed to succeed at this level, Eric Dungey is a Taysom Hill-type player and if used as such, could provide mismatches all over the field and D’Eriq King is an explosive player with WR experience. The weapons don’t stop there for them as Jequez Ezzard could provide a season similar to Kavontae Turpin had in the USFL last year. Big and talented WRs Simmie Cobbs and Chad Hansen are going to provide a major red zone threat for opposing defensives and the recent signing of former fourth round pick Josh Malone provides another level of depth for this offensive unit. The TE room is the one question mark on this team but sometimes being relatively unknown is an advantage.
Offensive Rank: A-
The Vegas Vipers have had a crazy week. Several days ago, it was announced that the Vipers had parted ways with coveted free agent QB Bryan Scott and had signed recent NFL QB Brett Hundley. A ton of speculation followed while fans were trying to piece together what happened. Hundley joins a loaded QB room and will likely be handed the keys to the franchise. As I mentioned before about experience being key, Vegas has an experienced QB in spring legend Luis Perez on roster, as well. Perez watching this whole situation unfold isn’t something new for him as he lost his starting job with the Los Angeles Wildcats in 2020 before being traded to New York. He split time and lost his starting job last year when he was with the New Jersey Generals. But even with the bouncing back and forth between starter and reserve, Perez has a ton of experience and boasts some of the best statistical numbers of any QB that’s every played spring ball. The RB room is a major concern to me with currently only two active RBs, but the WR room makes up for the lack of depth and experience. Geronimo Allison spent several years at the NFL level and brings excellent experience to the group. Talented and explosive playmaker Martavis Bryant joins Allison and as long as his off the field issues don’t get the best of him provides one of the best WRs in the league. Jeff Badet and Saeed Blacknall have both been spring ball mainstays and will provide much needed depth to the offensive unit. The TE room is pretty solid with Sean Price, who played in the 2020 version of the league, and Cam Sutton, both of whom should present a matchup nightmare to opposing LBs and Safeties.
Offensive Rank: B+
Rankings this early without seeing any action is one of the hardest things any writer can do. If this rankings list was about the best fanbases in the XFL, St. Louis would have the number one spot and it wouldn’t be close. So, I’m sure BattleHawk fans will be angry with me for being this low in the Northern Division. The QB room contains one of the most talented spring ball QBs that I’ve ever watched in Ryan Willis. But Willis alone isn’t enough to make me feel comfortable boasting them as one of the best units in the league. AJ McCarron has had NFL success and even won some games; hell, he even started an NFL playoff game for Cincinnati. But, McCarron, will likely get the chance to start first and to me that’s a mistake. With McCarron’s NFL experience, you would think I have no idea what I’m talking about, but his lack of athleticism and overall mobility concerns me. In today’s game, a statute for a QB doesn’t usually end up providing the best results. The RB room is mixed with experience and an explosive college RB. Leddie Brown and Brian Hill have both bounced off NFL rosters; Hill even started several games for Atlanta. Mataeo Durant is the wild card. He was extremely productive at Duke and had a very good college career; it’s entirely possible that Durant ends up taking over the RB room early in the season. One of the deepest WR rooms goes to St. Louis, but that depth doesn’t necessarily translate to best. Marcell Ateman, Donteea Dye and Darrius Shepherd have all had experience in the spring and had success. Austin Proehl is the most recognizable name with the highst ceiling of the bunch, especially if they play a control style of offense and Hakeem Butler, if he can fix his drop issues, could provide a deadly red zone threat for the team. Coach Anthony Becht is a former TE and he probably knows more than I do when it comes to the position, but this TE is surprisingly lacking to me, especially for a coach who played the position. All that means is that when the season starts, I’ll be proven wrong – it happens more often than not.
Offensive Rank: B
The Sea Dragons pull up the last of the Northern Division. With only four teams in the division, there has to be somebody who fills in the fourth spot. Seattle doesn’t have the same explosive and experience laden players laced throughout the roster as the other three teams. Ben DiNucci has started in the NFL for Dallas, but he started and once he was cut from the team, he struggled to hang onto any other roster he attempted to make. Steven Montez has seen limited NFL action, primarily with Washington, but never saw any true success and never really got on with any other team. Harrison Frost is a wild card and he was the first signing to the XFL that is draft eligible for the NFL this year. The RB room is young and essentially unknown. Cam’Ron Harris saw good success in college with Miami(FL) and Brenden Knox was extremely productive at Marshall. I was actually surprised that both of these guys didn’t stick to an NFL roster and Seattle will see the benefits of their talent. The most polarizing name in the XFL is Sea Dragons’ WR Josh Gordon. A first round talent, Gordon had his career derailed by the NFL’s substance abuse policy; a policy he couldn’t seem to stop breaking. The XFL gives the veteran WR another chance to play the sport he loves and showcase his true talent, look for Gordon to be Seattle’s safety net and primary playmaker. The rest of the WR group has names that people may recognize but overall, none that standout. That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented and won’t prove people wrong, it just means that their names aren’t household names, YET, as we’ve seen numerous times in these spring leagues, there’s also several players that come out of nowhere to make a name for themselves. The TE room isn’t deep but they do have experienced TE in Charlie Taumoepau, who could be one of the better TEs in the league.
Offensive Rank: C+
One of the early favorites to win the inaugural XFL championship, it’s not a surprise to see Arlington top the list for the Southern Division. Having Kyle Sloter, who had a sensational season with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL in 2022, and Kevin Anderson in their room will definitely help you rise to the top of any list. Sloter has turnover issues but is talented enough to overcome those and if Coach Stoops can help him eliminate those mistakes, it’s absolutely likely we’ll see Arlington in the final. The wild card in this room is Drew Plitt: an extremely talented gunslinger out of Ball State, Plitt surprisingly didn’t make the final 53-man roster for the Bengals. Arlington gets to reap that reward. This QB room will be one of the most intriguing to watch all year with three really talented QBs. The strongest part of this team is their running backs. Arlington easily boasts the deepest and, probably, the most talented group in the entire league. Kenneth Farrow proved he can carry the workload in 2019 with the Commanders of the AAF. Keith Ford had success in 2020 with the BattleHawks and De’Veon Smith has been one of the most consistent and talented spring running backs in the last several years. The guy to watch for is De’Montre Tuggle. Tuggle was dynamic at Ohio and continually broke off big plays and big games during his time. He’s got really good size and a decent amount of speed to pair with that size that could make for a long day for defenses going against him. The WR group isn’t nearly as strong as the other three groups on offense. Flynn Nagel will provide good production from the slot position and Jordan Smallwood should provide a spark on the outside especially considering his experience with Coach Stoops from their time at Oklahoma together. They have the best TE in the league in former New Orleans Breaker Sal Cannella and Cannella could lead this team in team receiving without questions.
Offensive Rank: A-
Unlike the Northern Division, it wasn’t a close competition for who had the best offensive unit in the South. While Houston does have talented players in every positional group, it isn’t as strong as a collective as Arlington. One of the biggest hits Houston takes in these rankings is QB Brandon Silvers. Maybe I’m too critical of him, but Silvers had a shot with Memphis in the AAF and gave a mediocre performance, he returned to spring ball in 2020 with Seattle and again, put up some meager numbers. The real bright spot in this QB room are the two QBs of Cole McDonald and Kaleb Eleby; both guys have a much higher upside than Silvers, in my opinion. Silvers may get the start at the beginning of the year, but I don’t expect it to be long before one of those two takes the reigns of the franchise. The RB room is a mix of some spring veterans and a lot upside guys. Nick Holley returns to Houston after spending 2020 with them and they drafted Washington State standout Max Borghi. Adrian Killins and Sewo Olonilua has spent some time around spring leagues, but neither have forged an outstanding path. The RB room is going to be an interesting group to keep an eye on throughout the season. WR Cedric Byrd was dynamic when he was playing for Hawai’i, while Osirus Mitchell comes over from the USFL and had a prolific career at Mississippi State. Deontay Burnett might be the most talented WR of the group who has yet to reach his potential. The TE room is practically non-existent.
Offensive Rank: B-
A lot of eyes have been Orlando since training camp started, heralded by most of those who cover the league as potential the worst team in the league, they have had questions surrounding the QB room for weeks now. They signed Paxton Lynch, who last played with the USFL Michigan Panthers, but as of this writing he is not listed on their current team roster page. If Lynch is signed and healthy, he’ll likely be the starter, which is underwhelming in its own right. The highest potential of the group is Deondre Francois, who had a frustrating career with Florida State before transferring a couple times and landing at Hampton. Francois is a mobile, talented kid with a solid arm and the ability to create, but he’s never put it together. He gets a chance with the Terrell Buckley-led Guardians, who might need to rely on his abilities to make a late season run. Quinten Dormady is a big, strong kid who is extremely raw and unless the coaching staff is capable of polishing him up, it could be a season of being on the bench for Dormady. The RB group is young with good upside, but they’re relatively unknown as a group. Jah-Maine Martin is a short but thick running back that had a really good career at North Carolina A&T and could emerge as the guy in this running game. Kelvin Taylor is an SEC standout, but injuries have plagued his playing career. The strongest group on this offense is the WR group. They have the ability and talent to make up for mediocre QB play. Dontez Byrd had a solid showing with the AAF and XFL2020 and should provide the big play to take the top off of a defense. The two biggest names to keep an eye on would be Cody Latimer, who had playing time in the NFL with Denver and Charleston Rambo, who is a big body WR that had a good career with Miami(FL). Eli Rogers could lead the league in receptions, the former number one overall pick from the 2020 XFL Draft, he should provide stability out of the slot for whoever his QB is. The TE group is comprised of talented by unknown prospects, who could surprise the league if this offense shows any kind of cohesiveness.
Offensive Rank: C+
San Antonio is a city that has been burned by spring ball in the past and the city is probably a nervous ball of energy waiting to see how their Brahmas are going to open the season. Unfortunately for the people of San Antonio, the compiled team for their much-anticipated return isn’t the strongest assembled team in the league and could make for a long season. On the flip side of the coin, the Brahmas are biggest question mark in the league, and they could shock a lot of people. Jawon Pass, Jack Coan and Reid Sinnett hold little to no household name value, but they’re a young and talented bunch with a good amount of upside. Pass could win the starting job on his raw talent alone, but Coan played a big-time college and was successful and Sinnett is fresh off a couple year stint with the Miami Dolphins. While they’re the biggest names, they definitely have an aura of mystique surrounding them that could prove beneficial. The RB group has some talented former NFL players and a dynamic college player who doesn’t truly hold a position. While listed as an RB, Calvin Turner was an absolute beast catching the ball at Hawai’i and could be a huge playmaker for San Antonio. Jacques Patrick and Kalen Ballage are big RBs who will bruise the defense for four quarters and might even break the big one occasionally. This WR group falls along the same as the rest of the roster, it’s comprised of players who aren’t households’ names but have a good upside to surprise the league. It’s the one group that I’m the most intrigued by and will continually watch to see how they produce. They’re raw, but talented and I have a feeling by the end of the year, we’ll remember several of their names. The key player to watch for: Dai’Jean Dixon. The TE group is a solid group who has had spring production in the past, primarily De’Andre Goolsby.
Offensive Rank: C
Overall, these early season rankings are always hard to nail down. I’m looking forward to a majority of these players and teams to prove me wrong, because it makes me better when I do these rankings in the future. I will say that while the letter grades look to have a large discrepancy among them, a majority of these teams are really close and only need a handful of players to step up and these rankings could be absolutely nothing by week two or three. I’m excited for the season to start and it won’t be long before you’ll get my offensive line power rankings. Until then, enjoy the newest XFL and have a great time watching the season!
One thought on “XFL 2023 Offensive Preview”
As evident by the recent cuts, and several names in my article not making the cut, it shows just how competitive and unpredictable spring football can be. Sometimes, it’s the person you don’t know much about that really shines and that’s what these spring leagues are all about. These cuts just make me better as a writer for future articles and sometimes, I simply just don’t get it right.