A lack of NFL football, or football in general, is a terrible thing. Thankfully, football is still hanging around thanks to the XFL! And since DraftKings is offering DFS tournaments, it’s time to discuss the top plays and contrarian options so we can bink some XFL tournaments.
I’ll be going position by position, highlighting my favorite plays for tournaments, with a TL;DR included for those who don’t want to read my reasoning and just want the top-value plays. I’ll also include teams’ implied totals directly below, to help readers get a sense of the offenses Vegas thinks will put the most points on the board.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jake Tribbey discussed his love for spring football on this week’s Two-Point Stance Podcast, while he and Chris Wecht will discuss the entire XFL slate Friday afternoon, including best bets, on the Fantasy Points XFL Breakdown on our YouTube channel.
Seattle Sea Dragons (20.5) @ Vegas Viper (17.5)
St. Louis Battlehawks (17.5) @ DC Defenders (19.5)
Orlando Guardians (14.25) @ Arlington Renegades (22.75)
San Antonio Brahmas (16.25) @ Houston Roughnecks (20.75)
The XFL is not making this easy. There isn’t uniform injury reporting. To be frank, it’s a mess. Below, I’ll link every team injury report I can find, and I’ll do my best to keep this updated as the new or updated reports roll in throughout the week.
In the TL;DR, I’ll list out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict, it does not factor in ownership, and in some cases, it’s sort of arbitrary. It also doesn’t matter nearly as much as my readers think it does. What does matter is maximizing the correlations within your lineups, and making sure you include at least a few players on each tournament team who should be on the lower end of ownership (I highlight a few in my write-ups). Get creative!
Plays ranked in order, with tier 1 in bold, and assumes notable questionable players suit up…
QB: Ben DiNucci, Brett Hundley, Jack Coan, Brandon Silvers, Kyle Sloter, AJ McCarron, D’Eriq King
RB: Morgan Ellison, De’Veon Smith, Max Borghi, Brian Hill, Ryquell Armstead, Nick Holley, Kelvin Taylor, Abram Smith, John Lovett, Kalen Ballage
WR/TE: Darece Roberson, Jordan Veasy, Tyler Vaughns, Eli Rogers, Cody Latimer, Blake Jackson, Jahcour Pearson, Alize Mack, Sal Cannella, Austin Proehl, Jontre Kirklin, Lance Lenoir, Deontay Burnett, Jeff Badet, Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, Hakeem Butler
Ben DiNucci ($10,500): DiNucci should be one of, if not the, highest owned QB of the slate. It’s easy to see why, as the Sea Dragons have posted a league-leading 69% pass rate, while going for a 3-point conversion after every TD. Sure, we haven’t seen a true offensive explosion from this passing attack yet, but Seattle’s 20.5 implied team total (3rd-highest of the slate) suggests Vegas still has faith that this is one of the best offenses in the XFL. Full-fading the QB on the league’s most pass-heavy offense just feels too galaxy-brained for me, so I’ll be double-stacking DiNucci and his pass catchers on a significant portion of my GPP teams.
Jack Coan ($8,600): Coan has quietly been the XFL’s most efficient passer through two weeks, leading the position in PFF passing grade (77.3), adjusted completion percentage (83.6%), big time throws (5), and passer rating (100.3). His only obstacle to fantasy dominance is the Brahmas’ pass rate (50%) – the 2nd-lowest of any team. But it’s easy to foresee an uptick in pass volume with San Antonio listed as 4.5-point underdogs to the league’s most explosive offense in Houston. This should be the first game all season in which San Antonio is forced to play from behind, opening up the potential for high-end passing volume for Coan. He’s a top-3 value at the position, and he likely won’t carry ownership that matches that value.
Brett Hundley ($7,400): Hundley profiles as the most appealing “pay down” option at QB. Hundley appeared to secure the Vipers’ QB role during their Week 2 loss to Arlington, and I’d be surprised if we saw Luis Perez under center again for Vegas any time soon. Sure, Hundley didn’t look great — throwing for just 99 yards and zero TDs on 18 pass attempts — but I’m more than willing to give him a pass, given the weather and field conditions.
We can’t forget that Hundley is right there with AJ McCarron as the most experienced NFL QB playing spring football. Hundley also has one of the league’s most talented groups at WR, and the Vipers are 3.0-point underdogs, suggesting they may be forced into a pass-happy approach should the Seattle offense put points on the board as expected. Combine that with a 64% pass rate (4th-most) and it’s relatively easy to make a case for Hundley as a GPP play this week.
D’Eriq King ($7,000): King isn’t in play for those making just a handful of lineups on the four-game main slate. But I do think he’s worthy of consideration for MME players, and he’s a crucial piece for the showdown slate. Through just 2.5 quarters of play, King has recorded 46 rushing yards (a 42-yard run was called back due to a very iffy penalty in Week 1) and 2 TDs. If we spot King that 42-yard run and extrapolate his rushing production out to a full game, he would be averaging an absurd 33.3 DraftKings FPG on rushing production alone.
If we somehow got confirmation that King was the full-time starter, he would be a lock-button play and arguably more than twice as valuable (for fantasy) as the next-closest XFL QB. But Jordan Ta’amu will almost certainly start this game and play when DC needs to pass. So the real question is this: just how quickly does Ta’amu get benched? I honestly have no idea. But if the answer is “sometime in the first half,” then King is worthy of consideration on the main slate (for those making 20 or more teams) and a must-play for those grinding showdown slates.
Kyle Sloter ($6,000): Sloter has been named the Renegades’ official starting QB for Week 3, which makes him a lock-button play, right? Well, I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Sloter will pop industry-wide as a strong value due to his price, and don’t get me wrong, he’s certainly in play for GPPs. But I’m hesitant to call Sloter a better play (agnostic of ownership) than the QBs who we know will earn 100% of their team’s snaps.
Sloter was most recently a mid-tier USFL QB after serving as Minnesota’s backup QB for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 163 preseason dropbacks from 2017 to 2019, Sloter posted a quite impressive 119.4 passer rating – never recording a PFF passing grade below 75.0 in each individual preseason. Encouraging, sure, but Sloter averaged just 10.7 FPG in the USFL, ranking 2nd in interceptions (11), while scoring more than 20.0 DraftKings points just once. So, he might just not be very good. Even if he plays the full game, Sloter could fail due to Arlington’s low-end pass rate (56%, 3rd-lowest) or his incompetence. Add in the risk that Drew Plitt still earns snaps, and we have a dicey situation on our hands. I’ll largely be avoiding Sloter in my GPP builds if we assume decent ownership here, but I couldn’t fault MME players for wanting some exposure in GPPs.
Weighted opportunity, snap/route shares, and raw opportunities through 2 weeks:
Max Borghi ($9,000): Borghi leads all XFL RBs in weighted opportunity points per game (13.5) and targets per game (5.0), while playing in the league’s top offense in Houston (28.0 PPG). We’d love to see more snaps and routes from Borghi, but he's earning opportunities when he’s on the field. Borghi has recorded 75% of Houston’s weighted opportunity, easily leading the position (Jah-Maine Martin is 2nd with 65%). He’s clearly the top option in Week 3 for those willing to pay up at RB.
Brian Hill ($6,700): Ahead of Week 2, I had this to say about Hill:
Hill started the game for the Battlehawks and dominated usage in the first quarter until he suffered a hamstring injury, before returning near the end of the 3rd quarter – again dominating backfield usage. Crucially, Hill played nearly every snap during the Battlehawks' final two drives (both of which were 2-minute drills). Had he not been injured, Hill’s workload may have rivaled De’Veon Smith and Kalen Ballage as the best of Week 1. Now that Hill is confirmed to be at or near full health, it’s relatively easy to regard him as one of the top RB plays of Week 2 – even with the risk that St. Louis could be faced with negative gamescript as 3.5-point underdogs.
The result? Well, Hill was a rather shocking Week 2 inactive, leaving the backfield in the hands of Mataeo Durant and Kareem Walker. Neither Durant (2.6 YPC) nor Walker (3.9 YPC) looked particularly impressive, leading me to believe Hill will be a borderline bell cow for St. Louis if active. And this is the most valuable backfield in the XFL by weighted opportunity (23.0 weighted opportunity points per game) – suggesting Hill is an awesome play if he can simply reclaim the role he had in Week 1. But that’s still a total unknown for now, with Hill listed as a limited participant in Thursday’s practice with the same hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1.
De’Veon Smith ($6,500): If Morgan Ellison is the clear RB1 of Week 3, then De’Veon Smith is the clear RB2. Smith has captured 63% of backfield weighted opportunity (4th), 69% of backfield snaps (1st), 61% of backfield routes (1st), and 2.5 red zone opportunities per game (1st) through two weeks of action. The Renegades should see nothing but positive gamescript this week as an 8.5-point favorite over Orlando – a defense that’s allowed a jaw-dropping 31.5 PPG this season. So, Smith is in a perfect position to see one of the best workloads on the team that Vegas expects to score the most points. Plus, the team just cut Keith Ford – a player who had earned 5 total red zone carries over the last two weeks. Expect Smith to dominate backfield usage, especially in the red zone. He’s a comparably great play to Ellison this week.
Morgan Ellison ($4,600): Ellison looked awesome in Week 2, leading all RBs in snap share (69%), YPC (6.2), missed tackles forced (5), and yards after contact per attempt (5.1). Given Brendan Knox isn’t playing in this week’s game, I’d expect Ellison to dominate backfield usage in Week 3. At just $4,600, that clearly makes him the top RB value of the slate.
But I do think you can get away with fading Ellison, because the Seattle backfield is one of the least valuable (for fantasy purposes) in the XFL. Sea Dragons’ RBs are averaging just 13.1 weighted opportunity points per game – the 3rd-lowest of any team and 43% worse than the league’s most valuable backfield (St. Louis). So, there is a real risk that Ellison is a bell cow, but just can’t get there because Seattle relies so heavily on their passing attack. I still love Ellison as the top RB play of the slate, but just remember he isn’t without warts.
Deontay Burnett ($9,100): Burnett was one of the most popular WRs of the Week 2 main slate, but he burned all who played him with just 0.4 DraftKings points. Still, Burnett leads the league’s best offense in target share (21.2%) while running a route on every dropback this season. We can’t forget he scored 23.0 DraftKings points on 8 receptions in Week 1. Burnett will be popular in Week 3, but we should see a notable ownership discount relative to Week 2 after his dud performance. That’s a discount I plan on taking advantage of.
Martavis Bryant ($8,000): Bryant’s Week 2 goose egg killed a plethora of DraftKings lineups, but we can’t forget that game was played in the most extreme weather we’ve seen since the XFL rebooted – with both offenses combining for just 193 total passing yards. So, I give Bryant a pass for his lineup-destroying performance in Week 2, and I do think there are reasons to be optimistic in Week 3. Brett Hundley has taken over the QB job, which should boost the expectation of every Vegas pass catcher. Plus, Vegas is a 3.0-point underdog in the highest-total game of the week (38.0), suggesting this is the perfect spot for a Vipers offensive explosion. If that happens, we will want pieces of this passing attack in our DFS lineups, and Bryant is my favorite option (granted, Jeff Badet and Geronimo Allison are both in play).
Hakeem Butler ($6,100): Butler was the main beneficiary of Marcell Ateman going down at the start of the 3rd quarter in Week 2, earning a 71% route share and leading the team with 2 end zone targets and a 19% target share. Ateman looks to be legitimately questionable for Week 3 given he didn’t participate in Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday, which should make Butler a near full-time starter, if we assume Ateman sits out. Butler profiles as the top contrarian option in AJ McCarron stacks.
Travell Harris ($5,600): Harris was inactive in Week 2 after being limited all week in practice. But Harris was a full-time starter for Houston in Week 1, earning a 26% target share (2nd on the team) and an 85% route share. And based on current injury reports, Harris appears fully healthy. Like Brian Hill, if we project Harris to reclaim his Week 1 role, he’s a fantastic play. The problem is that we have no idea if Harris will reclaim his Week 1 role – especially so since he wasn’t moved into a starting role on Houston’s most recent depth chart. Our projections reflect that, as should ownership. Stacking Harris with Brandon Silvers and one of Deontay Burnett or Jontre Kirklin is my favorite way to make unique Houston double stacks, but there is certainly risk with playing Harris this week.
Jordan Veasy ($3,000): Veasy effectively plays the same role as the much-higher-priced Josh Gordon, running a route on roughly 70% of dropbacks (all on the outside), earning a 9% target share, and (most importantly) tying with Jahcour Pearson for the team-lead in inside the 10 targets (2). Veasy is a big-bodied end-zone threat, which is great news for fantasy since Seattle is throwing at a 90% rate inside the 10-yard line. Ben DiNucci should easily be the slate’s most popular QB option, meaning we need to figure out some creative ways to stack him. Veasy (and teammate Josh Gordon) are my favorite ways to get an ownership discount on this Seattle passing attack.
Darece Roberson ($3,000): Roberson was a Week 1 inactive, but he dominated the San Antonio passing game in Week 2, earning a team-leading 33% target share, an absurd 45% air yard share, and a full-time 89% route share. However unexpected, I think it’s safe to call Roberson one of, if not the, leading pass catchers for San Antonio moving forward. And DraftKings has really made this easy on us, listing Roberson at the stone-minimum $3,000 price tag. He’s the top WR value of the week and a great pairing with QB Jack Coan.
Lance Lenoir ($3,000): Lenoir isn’t remotely close to being the projected value that Roberson is, but I do think he’s in play as an extremely low-owned, salary-saving option at WR. Lenoir joined the Guardians ahead of Week 2, and was immediately active, earning an encouraging 50% route share, granted that led to just one target. Still, Lenoir was a force in the USFL, leading the league in targets (78), air yards (816), and target share (28%). My suspicion is that Lenoir is headed for a WR1 role in Orlando, granted that may take a few weeks to manifest fully. He’s an interesting galaxy-brain-esque pivot for those who don’t want to eat Roberson’s ownership, granted Lenoir carries significantly more risk.