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 fantasy 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 the Two-Point Stance Podcast, while he and Chris Wecht will discuss the entire XFL slate Thursday afternoon, including best bets, on the Fantasy Points XFL Breakdown on our YouTube channel.
XFL Projections are available to any Standard or Premium Fantasy Points subscriber.
Seattle Sea Dragons (21.25) @ Arlington Renegades (16.25)
San Antonio Brahmas (18.0) @ Vegas Vipers (21.0)
DC Defenders (28.0) @ Orlando Guardians (18.0)
St. Louis Battlehawks (21.0) @ Houston Roughnecks (24.0)
Justin Freeman from RunTheSims is kind enough to aggregate injury information for us here. That sheet is a great resource, and I would recommend bookmarking it for future reference.
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: Quinten Dormady, AJ McCarron, Jordan Ta’amu, Kurt Benkert, Ben DiNucci, Jalan McClendon, Cole McDonald, Drew Plitt
RB: Jacques Patrick, Abram Smith, Leddie Brown, Brian Hill, Max Borghi, John Lovett, Rod Smith, De’Veon Smith, Morgan Ellison, Devin Darrington
WR/TE: Dan Williams, TJ Vasher, Eli Rogers, Justin Smith, Lucky Jackson, Cedric Byrd, Charleston Rambo, Juwan Green, Jordan Veasy, Blake Jackson, Hakeem Butler, Jahcour Pearson, Darrius Shepherd, Travell Harris, Deontay Burnett, Jeff Badet, Sal Cannella
Quinten Dormady ($8,000): Dormady was the clear top value at QB in Week 6, but didn’t carry the ownership to match. Despite missing on nearly every deep throw (he went 0 for 6 on passes of 20 or more yards) and coming up just short of a rushing TD, Dormady still managed 243 passing yards, 43 rushing yards, and 14.02 DraftKings points.
If we assume Dormady hits on some deep throws and experiences any positive TD regression, it’s tough to argue against him as one of the top-value QB plays on the slate. Dormady (6.3 offensive points per quarter) has nearly tripled Orlando’s offensive efficiency (2.7 points per quarter without Dormady), and he’s averaging 21.5 DraftKings FPG per 4 quarters – a mark that would rank behind only AJ McCarron (22.2 FPG) over the full season. Among QBs with at least one full game, Dormady leads the way in aDOT (10.0) and ranks 4th in PFF passing grade (68.6). I don’t think Dormady carries much ownership given the other options at QB, which makes me love him in GPPs.
Kurt Benkert ($6,000): Benkert played just 19 snaps in his debut and didn’t look very impressive, earning a 31.9 PFF passing grade on 7 dropbacks, throwing for just 2 yards, and an interception. Awful? Absolutely. But Benkert was only with the team for three days leading up to game day, and the vast majority of his misses appeared to be due to miscommunication.
Assuming the team has no confidence in Jawon Pass (which appears true), Benkert should be the starter moving forward. The jury is still out on Benkert’s skill as an XFL QB, but his $6,000 salary should make up for any doubts. And he draws a near-perfect matchup, with Vegas giving up 27.2 PPG (2nd-most), 232.7 passing YPG (2nd-most), and 8.5 yards per pass attempt (15% worse than the 2nd-worst team). He’s the top value at the QB position this week, but it’s tough to consider him a “safe” play in any capacity.
Jalan McClendon ($6,000): Luis Perez was traded to Arlington, so that solves the Vegas QB situation, right? RIGHT?!? Well…
McClendon over Hundley has to be a mistake in some capacity. Vegas has listed the wrong starting QB three times this season, by my count https://t.co/NBrIZc7L0b— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) March 29, 2023
Vegas hasn’t taken their depth chart seriously all season, but they seem pretty certain McClendon is the guy…
qb1.@JMac2__ pic.twitter.com/jt2apkDnZd— Vegas Vipers (@XFLVipers) March 29, 2023
Is McClendon worth consideration in tournaments? I lean yes, but tread with caution. McClendon has just 139 career college attempts, and 14 pass attempts in the preseason or 2020 XFL – his last football game being with the 2020 Los Angeles Wildcats. Based on his college and pro stats (or, lack of stats), it’s difficult to argue McClendon is a competent passer. But he likely provides some juice as a runner, especially at the goal line, considering he stands 6’4” and weighs 222. His inexperience could be argued as a plus (think of the upside) or as a negative (almost exclusively a backup QB in college). But he could be justifiable in DFS if you can stomach the benching risk (which is massive), considering he’s the minimum price, and Vegas QBs have managed 26.4 DraftKings FPG in their three full games this season.
Playing a career college backup is gross. I get that. But if he’s good enough to start over Brett Hundley, maybe he’s good enough to post a tournament-winning fantasy score? I prefer Benkert in the battle of min-priced QBs, but so will everyone else. Ownership here should be non-existent.
Weighted opportunity, snap/route shares, and raw opportunities through 6 weeks:
Weighted opportunity by week:
Jacques Patrick ($5,700): Patrick was a high-end XFL bell cow on Sunday, earning a 79% snap share (1st), 67% route share (1st), 4 targets (2nd), and 14.9 weighted opportunity points (3rd). Effectively, Patrick is now Brian Hill – if Hill had worse efficiency (Patrick averages 4.0 YPC, Hill averages 5.1) and played on a worse offense (SA averages 9.4 fewer PPG than STL).
This maybe is not very tempting in isolation, but it should be obvious Patrick is a top value when you see his price tag ($5,700). It’s impossible to find a RB at sub-$8k with the underlying usage Patrick is expected to earn. If that’s not enough, newly added Kurt Benkert could (should?) improve the offense. At the very least, Benkert can’t make an offense averaging 14.8 PPG any worse.
Patrick draws the best rushing matchup of the season in the Vegas Vipers – a team that’s allowed a league-leading 130.7 rushing YPG and 4.5 YPC. PFF run defense grades tell the same story, with Vegas ranking dead last (47.9). In the perfect matchup with a better QB, maybe Patrick can match Brian Hill’s rushing efficiency, and the Brahmas can light up the scoreboard? I’m not sure, but I am sure he’s egregiously mispriced and can safely be considered the top RB value of the slate.
Devin Darrington ($4,800): Darrington scored 22.5 DraftKings points in Week 6, earning 82 yards and 2 TDs on just 7 carries. Darrington’s RB1 performance will certainly push DFS grinders toward playing him in Week 7. I don’t think he’s a terrible play in a vacuum, but if we assume any ownership here, Darrington becomes a clear fade.
The Orlando backfield is averaging just 11.9 weighted opportunity points per game, a mark that’s 22% worse than the 2nd-least valuable backfield (Seattle). Darrington himself averages just 6.4 weighted opportunity points per game, and he hasn’t exceeded a 33% snap share in a game this season. We essentially need a 50% increase in usage and snaps for Darrington to be justifiable in any format. Could it happen? Absolutely. Darrington (5.6 YPC) is lapping Jah-Maine Martin (3.9 YPC) in efficiency, and he’s PFF’s highest-graded RB (90.6 rushing grade) on just 25 carries. He might be really good. If we assume rational coaching, it makes sense to roster Darrington on the assumption he eventually becomes Orlando’s bell cow. But that’s not an assumption I’m comfortable making.
Leddie Brown ($3,000): Brown profiles as a comparable value to Jacques Patrick industry-wide after he became the first Arlington RB to challenge De’Veon Smith’s status as a bell cow. Brown earned 42% of backfield-weighted opportunity (the most by a non-De’Veon Smith Arlington RB this season), a 42% route share (also most), and a 49% snap share (most by 20%). The coaching staff clearly trusts him enough to force an outright committee with Smith in his first game of the season – certainly a good sign.
In a neutral matchup, Brown’s only realistic bear case is total offensive incompetency. That’s a serious concern with Arlington, given they are starting Drew Plitt (52.3 PFF passing grade this season) and have averaged just 13.0 PPG (last). That said, Brown is a clear top value at the RB position if you can mentally handle the dysphoria caused by playing Renegades in DFS.
Charleston Rambo ($8,000): Rambo was basically unplayable on four-game slates, given the QB play Orlando has been faced with until now. But with Quinten Dormady leading the offense, these Guardians WRs have some real juice for fantasy, and you could argue that starts with Rambo.
In Week 6, Rambo earned 10 targets (1st) and 134.2 air yards (3rd) – demonstrating the potential for slate-leading volume now that this offense can move the ball. The best part? Rambo will go massively under-owned relative to the other WRs in his price range, creating excellent leverage for GPPs.
Lucky Jackson ($6,400): Jackson just had one of the best fantasy performances of the season, catching 5 passes for 136 yards and a score, finishing the day with 27.6 DraftKings points. He projects to be one of the most popular WRs of Week 7, and I’m fairly skeptical. In his prior five games, Jackson averaged 8.9 DraftKings FPG (14th among WRs) and 5.6 targets per game (16th among WRs). So, the historic volume and production isn’t good enough to warrant significant ownership. And those volume issues are compounded by DC throwing the ball just 38% of the time in the red zone (last) and dropping back 23.2 times per game (last, 23% less than the team in 7th place). I’ll be full fading Jackson with the assumption he’s one of the most popular plays of the slate, as his floor is brutally low.
Justin Smith ($4,800): Smith didn’t do much in Week 6, earning 29 yards on 2 catches and finishing the day with 4.9 DraftKings points. Still, Smith was one of two players in the league to post a 100% route share in Week 6. His full-time role is as secure as can be. And remember, Jontre Kirklin averaged 19.1 DraftKings FPG (1st among flex players) and led the league in air yards (363.5) in that role. Even if we assume Smith is only 80% of the player that Kirklin is, he’s still severely under-priced as a full-time player in the league’s most prolific passing offense (Houston leads the league in passing YPG and situation-neutral pass rate). And, he should carry half the ownership in Week 6 after a dud performance. This won’t surprise longtime readers, but Justin Smith is once again one of my favorite WR plays in GPPs.
Jordan Veasy ($4,400): We want to target these outside WRs for Seattle; the tough part is knowing which outside WR to target…
RZ targets for Seattle outside WRs: 23— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) March 30, 2023
RZ targets for Seattle slot WRs: 7
For tournaments, Veasy is probably my favorite option. He’s been one of the main beneficiaries of Josh Gordon’s benching, earning a season-high 75% route share in Week 6. Crucially, Veasy has been the Sea Dragons' main red zone weapon over the last two weeks, leading the XFL with 5 red zone targets – a big deal for the team with the 2nd-highest red zone pass rate (56%). Plus, Veasy shouldn’t crack 5% ownership, as fantasy players will likely drift toward Juwan Green instead. I love Veasy as a low-owned piece in Ben DiNucci stacks.
TJ Vasher ($3,400): If we assume Kurt Benkert is an upgrade for San Antonio at QB, then it’s hard not to love Vasher in Week 7. Vasher led all Week 6 WRs in target share (37%), and finished 2nd in air yards (137.2), but recorded just one catch for 22 yards. He’s the definition of a positive regression candidate, but he needs Benkert to play somewhere close to league-average to realize those air yards. I like but don’t love Vasher – largely because there is a serious risk San Antonio just can’t move the ball.
Dan Williams ($3,000): I touted Lance Lenoir ahead of Week 6 only to watch him post 0.0 DraftKings points on 0 snaps, and then get placed on the reserve list. Dan Williams immediately filled the Lenoir role, leading the team in route share (96%) and ranking behind only Cody Latimer in target share (20%). We know Quinten Dormady has massively improved the Orlando QB play, meaning the remaining starting WRs in this offense (Eli Rogers, Charleston Rambo, and Williams) should be more efficient and productive moving forward. Williams is the clear top-value at WR given his rock-bottom price tag.
Morgan Ellison ($7,000) is an excellent GPP play if he’s active. In the first four weeks of the season, Ellison led all RBs (min. 10 carries) with 5.3 YPC, 3.9 yards after contact per attempt, and 10 missed tackles forced. He’s almost certainly the most talented RB in the XFL, but he’s been derailed by his knee injury the last few weeks. Darius Bradwell (2.2 YPC on 22 carries) stinks, so if Ellison can go, there is a solid chance he dominates backfield usage like he did between Weeks 2 and 4 (12.1 weighted opportunity points per game). Remember that the risk of playing Ellison is massive (but that will keep his ownership low) as he could simply be used in a spell role to Bradwell, which we saw in Week 5.
Cedric Byrd ($5,300) projects well, but I don’t think I like him if he’s going to be popular. His aDOT (6.0) is by far the lowest on the team, and he hasn’t exceeded 60 receiving yards (or earned a red zone target) these last three weeks despite averaging 8.0 targets per game. The volume is good, but the upside appears minimal.
Brandon Silvers ($10,300) is listed as the Roughnecks starter, but he’s on thin ice after his brutal performance in Week 6. Cole McDonald ($8,400) might be worth a flier in the largest GPPs if Silvers get benched in the first quarter. And here’s why…
If McDonald secured the starting job for Houston, he would probably be the most valuable fantasy QB in the XFL. The Roughnecks QB is averaging 23.1 DraftKings FPG – a number that leads all QBs this season. Obviously, those fantasy points have been split (about 75/25) between Silvers and McDonald, as the team clearly loves what McDonald brings as a rusher. Despite averaging just 13.8 snaps per game, McDonald has managed 4.0 rushing FPG (3rd among QBs) and 119 rushing yards (3rd among QBs). With a full workload, could he push for double-digit rushing FPG on top of excellent passing volume, given Houston’s league-leading 72% neutral pass rate? To me, that answer is a resounding yes.
Realistically, the situation is super volatile and probably worth fading entirely. But I wanted to throw that out there for my extreme risk-takers.
Jaquarii Roberson ($3,000): I have no idea if Jaquarii Roberson will earn serious playing time this week. But he is a guy I’m very excited about for DFS purposes, because he might be really, really good.
Jaquarii Roberson, WR, Wake Forest— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) April 27, 2022
+ 92.6 PFF Grade (2020)
+ 47% Dominator Rating (2020)
+ 2,004 receiving yards (2020-21)
+ 3.14 YPRR (2020-21)
Among all Power 5 WRs those numbers rank:
+ 2nd-best since 2016
+ 3rd-best since 2018
+ 3rd-best in class
+ 2nd-best in class pic.twitter.com/2xkOZoERQC
We expect Cedric Byrd and Travell Harris to work ahead of Roberson in the slot. But neither player seems ingrained in a full-time role, collectively averaging a 56% route share. So, even if the coaches consider Byrd and Harris to be ahead of Roberson in the slot pecking order, there is still plenty of opportunity for Roberson to see the field. He’s super high-risk (he might run five routes), but I can’t help but want some exposure to Roberson this week in case he ends up being one of the most talented WRs in the XFL.
D’Eriq King ($7,800) is barely playing…
D'Eriq King snaps per game in Weeks 1-4: 18.8— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) March 31, 2023
D'Eriq King snaps per game Weeks 5 & 6: 6.0
Which is great news for Jordan Ta’amu ($8,500), who just had his best passing game of the season last week (245 yards). Ta’amu is a strong value, but expect him to be popular as a result.
Ryquell Armstead ($4,000) played more than I anticipated in his return, earning 7.0 weighted opportunity points, 9 opportunities, and 25% of backfield red zone opportunities. He’s a sneaky good play on the two-game, Saturday-only slate.
Rannell Hall ($3,000) earned a 52% route share on Sunday – the top mark among Arlington WRs. He’s the Arlington WR I’m the most excited for in Week 7, given he’s one of the team’s best athletes at WR (his nickname is speedy). It’s super thin (just like every Arlington WR) but worth considering for the GPP bros.