The defending XFL Champions, the Arlington Renegades, came into the XFL rookie draft on cloud nine. After upsetting the top two regular season teams on the way to bringing the XFL trophy to Arlington, the Renegades looked to be dead in the water. After having one of the worst offenses in the league, the Renegades went out and made a trade with North Conference bottom-dweller, the Vipers and bring in bowling-pro-turned-YouTube-Quarterback-turned-prolific spring quarterback, Luis Perez. After that trade, the Renegades offense started getting more comfortable and gaining momentum week in and week out, which eventually led to the championship.
Despite the championship win, the Renegades haven’t seen a ton of players sign NFL contracts. They had a lot of invites, but overall, the team didn’t lose a ton of playmakers. A majority of their losses have come in the trenches and on defense, which makes the most sense considering the defense was the strongest point all year. So, as a team, how do you tackle a rookie draft? Primarily the Renegades decided to build for the future. They opened their draft by selecting wide receiver Sy Bennett out of Davenport. A small school star, Bennett brings good size and speed(4.39 40) to the Renegades. One of the biggest issue the Renegades faced in 2023 was their inability to take the top off a defense. So, they address that early and get themselves a receiver with the ability to do just that. Bennett has a really good chance of making this roster and contributing since he returned punts in college, as well. The Renegades also did something interesting with their second selection: they selected quarterback Connor Degenhardt from New Haven. One of only two teams to select a QB, the Renegades decided that trying to get a talent they can groom to eventually take over the reigns was the best approach. Obviously the unique nature of these spring leagues, grooming rookies isn’t a guarantee for future success like the NFL, but the approach can succeed if they feel it’s the right direction for the future of the franchise. Degenhardt has great size and was successful at New Haven, while he’s unlikely to contribute right away, if Degenhardt sticks with it and shows promise, he could work his way into a role in the future. In the fourth round, the Renegades came back and drafted another WR: Charles Hall, from Arizona State. A one year transfer from Virginia Union, Hall didn’t have a major impact with the Sun Devils in 2022 due to injury. But Hall does bring some big play ability and a chance to be another dynamic playmaker for the Renegades in 2024, assuming he’s healthy. If he doesn’t carve out a role immediately, look for his presence to be felt late in the season heading into the 2025 season.
Rounds five and six were spent bringing in younger talent to rebuild the trenches. In round five, they drafted James Jackson from Sun Belt Conference team, South Alabama and in the sixth, they drafted Jordan Rhodes, double dipping the SBC, from Arkansas State. Both offensive linemen are maulers. They both are more suited to play that guard position and they’re strongest asset is the run blocking ability they bring to the OL. The Renegades struggled at times with the running game and it’s obvious the coaching staff and front office understand that they needed to bring in players to help them establish themselves better for the 2024 season if they want to repeat. If they don’t end up starting right away, they could definitely end up being depth and rotational pieces for next season.
Four of the picks that Arlington used were on defense. They spent the third round drafting defensive lineman Ami Finau out of Maryland. Finau is the definition of space-eater. He’s better suited as a run stuffer than he is a pass rusher and that’s an area the Renegades clearly want to get stronger in. Finau should bring a level of grittiness to the defensive line and should carve out a solid first and second down rotational role with the team for 2024. Rounds 7-9 were linebacker haven for the Renegades. One of the strongest parts of the defense for the Renegades in 2023, Arlington went back to the well drafting three for the 2024 season. In round seven, they drafted Merlin Robertson, out of Arizona State. A big middle linebacker who is excellent in the run game, Robertson adds a second level of toughness in the middle of that defense to help support against the run. Robertson has good blitzing ability and was able to get to the quarterback for a career high 2.5 sacks in 2022. If Robertson can have the XFL game slow down enough for him in the passing the game, he could become a well known player in the league very quickly. Their next selection was Chris Whittaker from Incarnate Word. UIW is an FCS school that has had a ton of success the last few seasons. They saw their head coach leave for Washington State, along with their talented QB Cameron Ward. But they continued their winning ways and Whittaker was a large part of that success. While he’s listed as a LB, he’s primarily an Edge player, making him an OLB. Whittaker was a monster in 2022, totaling 7.5 sacks to along with 2 forced fumbles. He had a career high in all categories that he tallied a statistical number in and looks to become a rotational force for the Renegades in 2024. The Renegades last pick was Jordan Wright from the recent SEC powerhouse the Kentucky Wildcats. Wright is a lengthy Edge player who didn’t have the same level success as fellow draftee, Chris Whittaker, had in 2022. Wright only tallied two sacks last season as his production dipped a little, while he fought for playing time as part of a rotation at the Edge position. It might be an uphill battle for Wright in 2024 to carve out any kind of playing time, but if he does, he’ll need to work on refining his technique in order to see the field in 2024.
The Renegades did have 10 draft picks, I only covered nine in this article. They also drafted DB Jalen Green from Mississippi State, but Green ended up signing with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL shortly after being drafted. Green’s rights will revert and stay with Gamblers of the USFL for the 2024 season likely, so it’ll be a while before we see Green, if we ever, in the XFL.
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