The XFL held a combine allowing players that may not have gotten an opportunity to participate in the NFL combine to showcase themselves. Not only did they give several players the ability to showcase themselves, they also did so in a manner like we have never quite seen before. They instituted new ways of testing players that focused on football movements.
With tests like the Force Deck, Dynamo Metrics, Bar Speed, and Catapult the league and its front offices collected data like jump height, quick twitch, max strength and pound for pound power this combine is unlike anything we have quite seen before.
In my personal opinion I believe this could lead to some players getting selected that might otherwise have been passed over in traditional drills. With that in mind I wanted to take a look at some of the players that impressed at the XFL combine.
Top 5 Performances at the XFL Combine
Corey Johnson Jr, Running Back, Kentucky Wesleyan
I had to start this portion off with running back Corey Johnson Jr. from Kentucky Wesleyan University/Cumberland. Looking at the drills the XFL put on, it’s almost as if this combine catered to Johnson’s athletic skillset. He was at or near the top of all the lists in his position group.
He led the wide receiver and running backs with a jump height of 26.8 and a pound for pound power of 91.7. He was ranked second in quick twitch behind Marcellus Sutton from Oklahoma. He also ranked second in max strength with 339.7 pounds. All that was impressive enough, but then you look at his collegiate career, and he could be one season away from an NFL roster spot.
He spent three seasons with Kentucky Weslyan from 2017-2019. During that stretch he was a crucial part of the running back rotation collecting 360 carries in 30 games. He would average 4.4 yards per carry for a total of 1,573 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught the ball well out of the backfield totaling 51 receptions for 213 yards and 1 touchdown.
In 2020 he would play for Marion University where he would appear in 5 games collecting 57 carries for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns adding 1 reception for 12 yards. In 2021 he added 15 carries for 96 yards and 1 touchdown in his only appearance for the school.
While I didn’t find Johnson’s stats in 2022, I did find this highlight reel below. Sit back and enjoy watching the 5’10 215 pound back go to work.
LaColby Tucker, Offensive Line, GCCC/MSSU
LaColby Tucker stole the show in the offensive line drills. Pacing the group with a jump height of 20.9 over 4 inches above the nearest competitor. In quick twitch he was .79 the highest mark for offensive linemen. In pound for pound power he scored 70.2, the next closest: 61.8. His max strength was 444.7 or 24.5 pounds over second place.
Grip Strength was the same thing. Left hand: first place 929 right hand: first place 925 total: first place by over 50 pounds. Go to the catapult metrics, and you find Tuckerrunning 19.70 mph first place, he was forth in mac acceleration with 4.15.
Tucker attended Garden City Community College before finding his way to Missouri Southern State University. At Garden City he was an All-American, and All-Conference selection, while being ranked as the 12th Juco tackle in the country. He also was a two sport athlete playing basketball at Garden City. At 6’9 290 pounds, he certainly had the height.
Originally after the 2018 season he committed to Utah choosing it over MSSU. However by 2020 he had joined MSSU and Played in just one game during the covid shortened 2020 season. He is an impressive athlete at his size and a player I expect to get several teams interested.
Chinedu Oparaku, Linebacker, Fairmont State
Oparaku put on a show at the combine finishing in the top position of every test except max strength. However standing 6’2 240 pounds he still found himself the pound for pound leader with 82.7 just under 6 points above second place.
He also had a 1.09 quick twitch which again was dramatically better than his next competitor who had a .88. He also had the highest jump height with 23.5 inches. In grip strength he was fourth in left hand with 836, third in right with 834, fourth in total. He showed up fourth in the Bar Speed Metrics for pound for pound power with a 37.73. We again find him fourth in top speed at 20.75 mph.
Hailing from little known Fairmont State he graduated in 2017. During his three year run at Fairmont he collected 46 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 1 sack, 5 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked kicks. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. I could see Houston taking a look at him considering how many players signed NFL contracts from their front seven.
During the 2020 season we saw Oparaku compete in The Spring League. He also spent some time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2018 right out of college.
James Jones IV, Defensive Back, Air Force Academy
It’s not very often the Air Force Academy players get an opportunity to plant NFL level. James Jones however did get that opportunity he was signed by the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent coming out of the 2022 draft class. He ultimately did not make the final roster, but he made an impression on an NFL team nonetheless. Now he looks to the XFL Combine for his next opportunity.
At the combine Jones put on a show. He was the a top two performer in every category but one. With a jump height of 26.4 inches, a 1.24 quick twitch score, and the second highest max strength with 329.5, behind only former NFL 2nd round pick and combine stand out Obi Melfionwu.
In college Jones had a productive run for Air Force. Which would come as no surprise given that Denver native attended Football powerhouse Mullen for high school, lettering all four years. He wouldn’t see any game action as a freshman but his sophomore season he appeared in 12 games starting 9. He racked up 43 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 pass break up.
In 2018 he missed the entire year due to an injury suffered in preseason. He returned in 2019 as a rotational piece playing in 12 games with 1 start. The 6’2 190 pound defensive back finished the season with 7 tackles and 1 pass break up. In 2020 again he lost a season this time to Covid 19. He returned in 2021 and again came off the bench logging 7 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery.
During his NFL Pro-day he put up a 4.56 40 yard dash, a 36 inch vertical, he did however look tight in and out of his breaks with a 7.43 3-cone drill which is below average for a safety. He could look to add some weight and play more in the box as a sub package linebacker or a third safety at times. I expect to hear his name called on draft day.
Finally we have a three way tie with three quarterbacks who could prove to be very intriguing prospects in the XFL. Ivory Durham IV, Kaylan Wiggins, and Hunter Raquet.
These three quarterbacks all appeared in the top 5 of multiple categories in the XFL combine while also putting up intriguing numbers at their pro day, or statistically to earn an opportunity with the XFL at their combine.
Ivory Durham IV, Valdosta State
Ivory Durham had an impressive showing and displayed that he is a next level athlete that could have some viability at other positions due to his skill set. He set the bar for jump height with 22.2. He was 4th in pound for pound strength, he also was 5th in max acceleration in the catapult drill with 5.05.
Depending on where you look Durham is listed as a running back in some places, and a quarterback in others. During his pro day he managed a 4.63 40-yard dash, and a 36 inch vertical but his three cone drill was horrendous at 7.79. Durham was a two year starter at Valdosta.
During his time there he attempted 840 passes racking up 6,804 passing yards, 69 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions. His completion rate of 57% isn’t great but in the right scheme he is a 65% passer. At 5’11 205 pounds it will be interesting to see how teams use him. During his sophomore season he was used as a running back/wideout and even got in two punt returns as a freshman.
He graduated with 298 carries for 2,403 yards and 27 touchdowns, 16 receptions for 122 yards and 1 touchdown, and 2 punt returns for 27 yards. This displays nearly unrivaled versatility as a player who is listed as a quarterback. Keep in mind the XFL allows offenses to throw two passes on a given play.
I would expect that whichever team drafts Durham, realizes he can be used in many ways making him immediately valuable to an offense, while still being a rookie quarterback you can develop over the next season or two. Whoever selects Durham is essentially picking a cheat code to roster building as he can line up at QB, WR, RB, and play special teams. Similar to Taysom Hill in the NFL.
Kaylan Wiggins, Quarterback, FIU/SEU
Kaylan Wiggins is an intriguing young quarterback before you even get to his impressive testing numbers. Having started his career at Florida International University, where in four seasons he appeared in just 16 total games.
In those 16 games, he attempted just 64 passes, actually seeing more carries than passing attempts with 71. Wiggins never actually threw a touchdown pass with FIU, but ran in four touchdowns. He had 731 total yards for 4 touchdowns. He completed less than half his passing attempts. He knew he couldn’t finish his college career like that if he expected to have a future in football.
He would graduate from FIU and opt to attend Southeastern University as a graduate student. This amounted to his sixth season of collegiate football, and his most productive by a long shot. Playing in 8 games he attempted 218 passes completing 112, for 1,518 yards 10 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, 88 carries for 505 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Standing 6’2 204 pounds at his pro day he ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, and had a 31 inch vertical. He had a 10.02 broad jump as well. However at the XFL combine he scored a .92 on quick twitch second in his category, 72.8 pound for pound power fifth for his category. He was second for top speed with 21.39 mph as well. He could be another player teams ask to play other positions.
Hunter Raquet, MPC, Cal-Poly, Fresno St, CSU
Hunter Raquet bounced around in college attending three different schools. Raquet graduated from CSU-Pueblo as their starting quarterback. In 2022 playing just 8 games he managed to complete 59% of his 238 attempts for 2,316 yards 27 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. He also added 3 rushing touchdowns on 70 carries.
He got his start in college at Monterey Peninsula College. Starting there in 2017 he played well earning a scholarship at Fresno State where he would redshirt in 2018. He decided to return to MPC and led the team to a 10-1 record as a redshirt sophomore in 2019. In 2020 he landed with Cal-Poly, playing in 3 games for the spring season he attempted 32 passes completed 17 for 188 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, running 25 times for 68 yards.
By 2021 he was at his fourth school, this time it was Jacksonville State. He appeared in just one game completing his only attempt for 12 yards. If not for his time at CSU-Pueblo I’m not certain he gets this invite. I’m an interview with Gridiron Crew Raquet mentioned he can make all the throws, and has a strong arm. To back this claim up, he managed the third highest peak power in bar speed metrics. That’s among tight ends, and fullbacks.
In pound for pound power he ranked fourth with a 33.97 and fifth in quick twitch with .86. He is certainly very intriguing given his limited college sample size but strong finish. He’s got the right size at 6’4 220 pounds and even earned a minicamp try out with the Denver Broncos alongside Ben Dinucci. Could Seattle target Raquet? CSU-Pueblo is quickly turning into a haven for alternative football teams looking to recruit players.
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