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.
Vegas Vipers (19.25) @ St. Louis Battlehawks (26.75)
Arlington Renegades (20.25) @ Orlando Guardians (21.25)
Houston Roughnecks (22.5) @ San Antonio Brahmas (17.5)
DC Defenders (23.0) @ Seattle Sea Dragons (24.5)
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, Jalan McClendon, Jordan Ta’amu, Ben DiNucci, AJ McCarron, Brandon Silvers
RB: Jacques Patrick, Devin Darrington, De’Veon Smith, Leddie Brown, Brian Hill, Abram Smith, John Lovett, Ryquell Armstead, Max Borghi
WR/TE: Matthew Sexton, Dan Williams, Marcell Ateman Juwan Green, Cinque Sweeting, Cedric Byrd, Victor Bolden, TJ Vasher, Lucky Jackson, Fred Brown, Chris Blair, Alize Mack, Hakeem Butler, Jahcour Pearson, Darrius Shepherd, Cody Latimer, Deontay Burnett, Travell Harris, Justin Smith
Quinten Dormady ($9,400): Dormady had one of the greatest spring football performances of all time in Week 7…
The 48.32 DraftKings points that Quinten Dormady scored today is the 2nd-most by any player in spring football history.— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) April 2, 2023
1st was Case Cookus (48.68) in Week 8 of 2022 USFL.
Dormady was our top QB play this week: https://t.co/HSB4IO4ohR https://t.co/5feGk4cbWE
Dormady has played roughly three full games this season, and is averaging 30.4 DraftKings points per 4 quarters. For perspective, that would lead the 2nd-highest scoring XFL player (AJ McCarron) by 8.0 DraftKings FPG, and it would be 1.0 FPG better than 2019 Lamar Jackson (29.4 DraftKings FPG). With Dormady under center, the Guardians’ offense is averaging 29.1 PPG (2nd-best over the full season), compared to 10.8 PPG without Dormady (last).
His rushing near the goal line has been incredible, as he’s averaging 2.0 inside the five carries per game. That number is 252% better than the next-closest QB (Jordan Ta’amu) and would lead all XFL RBs.
It’s certainly fair to criticize these metrics based on sample size, but I think there’s a real chance Dormady’s fantasy upside is still being undervalued, despite what happened in Week 7. He might be the best fantasy QB in the XFL.
If Dormady is the best fantasy QB in the XFL, then he has to be considered a top play at his position, given he’s the QB4 by DraftKings pricing. The only viable criticism of Dormady is his matchup, as the Arlington defense has allowed 186.0 passing YPG (2nd-toughest) while grading out as PFF’s 2nd-best coverage unit (80.5 team coverage grade). But a below-average matchup isn’t close to enough to get me off Dormady. He’s a great play.
Jalan McClendon ($9,200): I was very hesitant to play McClendon in Week 7 due to benching risk and his lack of experience (139 career college pass attempts). I thought there was a real chance he could just be outright bad.
But, McClendon silenced the doubters – throwing for 264 yards and 2 TDs while finishing the week as PFF’s 3rd-highest graded passer (69.5 passing grade) and 26.1 DraftKings points (3rd-most among QBs).
And there is certainly reason to believe he can keep this up. Vegas QBs have averaged 26.3 DraftKings FPG in their four full games this season – a mark that would rank 1st (by 3.9 FPG) among QBs. Plus, McClendon should be playing from behind as 7.0-point underdogs, and his Week 8 matchup features one of the highest totals of the season (46.0).
McClendon is a bit riskier than Dormady, but that should keep his ownership a bit lower. He’s one of my favorite QB plays this week.
Weighted opportunity, snap/route shares, and raw opportunities through 7 weeks:
Weighted opportunity by week:
Phillip Lindsay ($7,800): Morgan Ellison has been placed on the reserve list, leaving newly-signed Phillip Lindsay as the presumptive lead RB in the Seattle backfield. And it’s pretty reasonable to believe Lindsay gets fed in Week 8, given Darius Bradwell is averaging a league-low 2.4 YPC and TJ Hammonds is averaging 3.5 carries per game since Week 4.
We should also expect Lindsay to be efficient, as non-Bradwell RBs in this offense are averaging 4.9 YPC, and Lindsay himself averaged a respectable 4.5 YPC across his NFL career. The only notable issue with Lindsay is that the Seattle backfield only averages 14.3 weighted opportunity points per game. So, even if we project him for 75% of the backfield work (which is probably too optimistic, given he’s listed as the backup to Bradwell), he still wouldn’t pop as a value. That should keep his ownership at sub-5%, which is reasonable enough for me to still consider him on tournament teams where I need an ownership discount at RB.
Jacques Patrick ($6,800): Patrick has averaged 14.9 weighted opportunity points per game (1st over the full season), a 77% snap share (1st over the full season), a 65% route share (1st over the full season), and 5.0 targets per game (1st over the full season) over the last two weeks. He’s arguably the league’s premier bell cow, rivaling the likes of Brian Hill and Abram Smith.
It’s easy to like Patrick as one of the top RB values of Week 8, given his usage and price tag. But I do think it’s reasonable to have doubts (if only modest doubts), as the San Antonio offense has averaged just 11.2 PPG since Week 3 (last), and Patrick himself is averaging a meager 3.6 YPC. But even if Patrick suffers from poor efficiency or this offense can’t find the end zone, the San Antonio backfield is the most valuable in the XFL (18.9 weighted opportunity points per game) largely because these RBs are peppered with targets (9.3 per game since Week 4).
Translation? Patrick’s floor is right there with Brian Hill and Abram Smith as the best in the XFL, but his ceiling is likely dependent on the Brahmas moving the ball – something that doesn’t appear likely given their league-low 17.5-point implied team total. Patrick is a great value at his price any way you look at it, but he’s certainly fadable in tournaments if you anticipate the San Antonio offense struggles this weekend.
Devin Darrington ($5,100): Darrington has vaulted Jah-Maine Martin as the lead RB in Orlando after earning a 63% snap share (the highest mark by an Orlando RB this season), 57% of red zone opportunities, 100% of inside the 5 carries (3 total), and a 39% route share (2nd-highest mark by an Orlando RB this season).
Clearly, it’s still a committee. But Darrington’s efficiency is great relative to Martin – he leads RBs (min. 15 carries) in PFF rushing grade (79.6), while ranking 5th in yards after contact per attempt (3.0). So, we should expect Darrington’s share of the backfield pie to continue to rise if he can keep out-performing Martin.
And Darrington should see the added boost of positive gamescript in Week 8, with the Guardians favored for the first time all season. Factor in a relatively cheap $5,100 price tag, and Darrington should pop industry-wide as a top RB value. So what’s the catch? The only bearish case I can make for Darrington is that the Orlando backfield is the least valuable in the XFL, averaging just 13.1 weighted opportunity points per game. But, since Quinten Dormady has taken over at QB, the backfield has averaged a much more respectable 17.1 weighted opportunity points per game (a mark that’s only 9% worse than San Antonio – the league’s most valuable backfield). Assuming the offense can keep up their recent success, Darrington is a top-3 RB value this week.
Leddie Brown ($3,700): Over the last two weeks, Brown has managed a 47% snap share, 39% route share, 7.7 weighted opportunity points per game, but just 4.1 DraftKings FPG. Based on price and recent usage, Brown may pop as a solid value at the position, but I have serious doubts. The Orlando defense gave up just 10 points to Arlington the last time these teams played, despite allowing 34.0 PPG in their other 6 games this season. Brown also has close to no TD equity, as De’Veon Smith has earned 100% of inside the 10 carries these last two weeks (5 total). Maybe Luis Perez can turn the Arlington offense into a scoring machine (doubtful), or maybe Brown can break off a long TD run (unlikely). Barring one of those outcomes, Brown’s ceiling is severely capped – but I suppose he’s fine in a pinch if you absolutely need the salary savings at the position. I won’t be playing him if he gains any steam this week.
Cedric Byrd ($5,800): Byrd has been one of Houston’s most consistent producers in the passing game as of late, earning at least 5 catches in each of his last four games while averaging 10.6 DraftKings FPG (WR10 over the full season). His 24.6% target share since Week 4 in one of the league’s most prolific passing attacks means he’s going to look like a solid play in almost any set of projections, including our own.
In a vacuum, I don’t have a problem with Byrd. He’s a strong play given the volume he’s seen relative to his salary. But, we don’t play tournament DFS in a vacuum – we need to adjust for ownership in GPPs. And if Byrd is one of the most popular plays of the slate, I’m not sure I can get behind him. He hasn’t scored more than 12.6 DraftKings points in a game this season due to his team-low aDOT (5.8) and borderline nonexistent red zone role (1 red zone target). Michael Bandy carved out a 28% slot route share in his first active game for Houston, and given his NFL pedigree (three starts for the Chargers in 2022), I’d be surprised if he didn’t push for more routes. So, Byrd’s lack of a ceiling, alongside the risk his route share takes a hit with Bandy now in the fold, make him look like a decent fade in tournaments. I’ll still have some exposure, but I won’t be over 10-12%.
Bonus note: If you are making a ton of teams and plan on being underweight Byrd, then Michael Bandy ($4,200) is the galaxy-brain play to consider rostering on a few teams.
Cinque Sweeting ($5,300) and Matthew Sexton ($3,800): Jeff Badet has been ruled out and hasn’t practiced this week as he deals with a thigh injury. And in Week 7, we saw Mathew Sexton (77% route share, 13% target share) and Cinque Sweeting (71% route share, 10% target share) as the main beneficiaries. With Badet out, both Sweeting and Sexton should be full-time players in an offense that averages 236.6 passing YPG (3rd) and 7.7 YPA (1st). That would make both WRs top-7 values at their position, but I’d give a slight lean to Sweeting in tournaments, given the skill he’s flashed with the ball in his hands (10th among WRs in missed tackles forced).
Marcell Ateman ($4,100): Ateman earned a modest 55% route share and 14% target share in his first game back, but crucially, he led the team in inside the 10 targets (2) – meaning he’s still regarded as a premier end zone threat. Of course, if Ateman were priced in the $8k range or higher, he’d be one of the worst values of the slate. But at just $4,100, Ateman only needs a single TD to pay off value. Will he reclaim the 91% route share he had in Week 1? I lean no, given how well Darrius Shepherd is playing, but he’s still very live to push for a full-time role, especially after he recorded a 55% route in his first game since Week 3. He’s my favorite salary-saving option at WR in tournaments this week.
Brandon Silvers ($8,900) should be expected to start this week if he’s active – which looks decently likely now that he’s practicing in a limited capacity. Now that his salary is back in the $8k range, he’s a great GPP play (at what should be minuscule ownership) if he’s ruled in.
If Silvers can go, don’t forget about Justin Smith ($5,100) and Deontay Burnett ($9,900) in tournaments. Both players earned a 100% route share in Week 7, but neither managed a big game because passing volume fell off with Cole McDonald at QB. And I’ll always be willing to take shots on these WRs if we assume Houston goes back to their borderline league-high pass rate…
Houston Roughnecks pass rate Weeks 1-6: 65.2%— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) April 6, 2023
Houston Roughnecks pass rate Week 7: 56.1%
I imagine people will be eager to play Juwan Green ($4,500) given the 77% route share and 16% target share he’s averaged these last two weeks. And I don’t think that’s wrong – Green is a top value. That said, I prefer Jordan Veasy ($4,800) in tournaments at presumably lower ownership, given he ranks 2nd on the team in air yards (136.9) and 1st in red zone targets (5) these last two weeks.
Lucky Jackson ($7,500) has averaged 25.3 DraftKings FPG over his last two games while recording ownership around ~40% in the main $15 GPP. But in his prior five games, Jackson averaged 8.9 DraftKings FPG (14th among WRs) and 5.6 targets per game (16th among WRs). DC is attempting just 24.3 pass plays per game (last) and is throwing the ball at a 40% rate in the red zone (last). I think Jackson winds up among the top-5 most popular WRs of Week 8, and if that’s the case, he’s a clear fade at his price, given his underlying volume metrics.
TJ Vasher ($3,400) is a guy I like for tournaments if you can stomach rostering a San Antonio WR. He’s posted a 94% route share since Week 5 while leading the team in air yards (194.2) and red zone targets (2). He just missed on a 44-yard TD last week due to a pass interference penalty.