2023 XFL Championship DraftKings Showdown


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2023 XFL Championship DraftKings Showdown

After 11 incredible weeks of football, the XFL season is coming to an end. Thankfully, we still have one DFS slate left before we can no longer gamble on this glorious spring league. And with $20k to first place in the big DraftKings GPP, we still have plenty of reasons to grind out edges in XFL DFS. This article will highlight those edges for the championship game.

When making showdown teams, be sure to be maximizing the correlations between the players in your lineups, while also trying to target players who should be on the lower end of ownership. Basically, get creative! And don’t worry, I’ll highlight the best ways to get contrarian below.

There won’t be a TL;DR this week, so if you need players listed in order of value, check out our projections.

The recommendations in this article are specific to the main ($20) XFL GPP. With that in mind, let’s get into the XFL plays.


Jordan Ta’amu ($10,800) is a lock to be the slate’s highest-owned captain and flex player. He’s posted an 85.1 PFF passing grade since Week 7 (3rd among QBs), and has averaged an absurd 26.6 DraftKings FPG over his last five games – falling under 29.9 DraftKings points just twice over that stretch.

Ta’amu is playing his best ball of the season. And this matchup should call for him to throw as much as any game this year, at least if the previous matchup was any indication…

Ta’amu is clearly the best overall play of the slate if you believe that DC leans into the passing game this week. And even if DC decides to revert to their previous run-heavy tendencies, Ta’amu still profiles as a top-3 play on the slate. He’s a core piece in almost all builds.

Luis Perez ($10,000) will also draw significant ownership and should be one of the top-3 most popular plays of the slate. And I’m pretty excited to play him in this matchup.

The DC defense is allowing a 68% pass rate (most), 279.9 passing YPG (most), and 3.6 YPC (toughest). In other words, this is by far the biggest pass funnel in the XFL.

When these teams last played, Perez threw for 335 yards (season-high) and 22.9 DraftKings points, while Arlington threw the ball at a 62% rate. Some of that production could be attributed to negative gamescript, but the matchup and Perez’s recent play (85.3 PFF passing grade since joining Arlington) suggest that the Renegades going pass-heavy is the most likely outcome here.

It’s easy to see Perez failing. He’s had plenty of bad spring football outings for fantasy purposes, and he can’t score fantasy points with his legs. But this looks like a great setup, and I know the field will be more willing to play Jordan Ta’amu than Perez.

I’d consider Perez one of my favorite captain options, and a core flex piece of builds that anticipate solid offensive production on both sides of the ball.

D’Eriq King ($7,000) and Kelly Bryant ($7,000) both warrant mention, but don’t get too excited about either guy.

Bryant has just one carry on 12 snaps since Week 9, so he’s unplayable – granted I wouldn’t be shocked if he managed a rushing TD in a ceiling scenario. But that still wouldn’t be enough to win you a tournament unless it’s basically the game's only score.

King is a bit more interesting but still quite thin. He’s exceeded double-digit fantasy points just once (Week 2), and he is capped at ~20 snaps without a Jordan Ta’amu injury. That said, he has averaged 18.3 snaps per game over the last three weeks, compared to 12.5 snaps per game in his prior 8 games. Because most of that run comes in the red zone, you could certainly argue he has multi-TD upside, which would keep him in play at sub-3% ownership. Again, it’s super thin, but it is viable in the largest GPP for those making 20 or more lineups.

Arlington Running Backs

De’Veon Smith ($8,400) has been the most consistent RB in the XFL in terms of usage, averaging a league-high 13.4 weighted opportunity points per game during the regular season, while never falling below 10.8 weighted opportunity points in an individual outing.

Smith’s superpower is a monopoly over goal-line work, earning 89% of inside the five carries in his 10 healthy games. And that number would be 100% if we exclude Keith Ford (who was cut ahead of Week 3) and Week 9 (Smith was injured and missed two quarters). There isn’t another player in this game with similarly-awesome TD equity.

That said, I wouldn’t expect either Arlington RB to rack up rushing yardage. DC is a clear pass funnel (league-high 68% pass rate allowed), and they’ve allowed a league-low 3.6 YPC.

But these RBs could have some juice in the receiving game. We expect Arlington to come out pass-heavy in this spot, and when these teams last met in Week 9, Luis Perez posted his lowest aDOT of the season (5.7) – leading to 8 targets for these RBs. With how much DC blitzes, Perez will likely be forced to target RBs more often than usual.

That’s good news for Smith and backup Leddie Brown ($6,600) – who is clearly overpriced. Brown’s poor projection will keep ownership minimal, but I question the ceiling of a player with a near-0% chance of seeing a goal-line carry. Sure, his snap share (47%) and overall usage (8.7 weighted opportunity points per game) in his games with a healthy De’Veon Smith are semi-compelling, but his ceiling sure isn’t (season-high 6.8 DraftKings points in his best game with a healthy De’Veon Smith).

I’m largely out on Brown as a play, but I’ll be overweight De’Veon Smith in the captain spot (alongside decent flex exposure), thanks to his legendary TD upside and solid usage floor.

Arlington Wide Receivers

On the surface, this appears like a matchup to target. DC allows a league-leading 279.9 passing YPG, and QB Luis Perez threw for a season-high 335 yards the last time these teams played. But, a season-low 48% WR target rate in that last game against DC suggests Perez may not have the time needed to get the ball to his WRs. After all, he did post a season-low 5.7 aDOT on a season-high 17 pressures faced. Time to throw could be a problem for these Arlington WRs.

That said, the recent condensing on Arlington’s route and target trees enables us to target these WRs more confidently than weeks previous. Just be aware that volume could be an issue, even if the team leans pass-heavy.

It looks like we finally have a lead WR in Arlington. JaVonta Payton ($6,000) just logged the highest route share (87%) of any Arlington WR this season. Route shares had been a huge issue during the regular season, as individual Arlington WRs almost never crossed the 50% threshold. So, Payton (likely) being locked into a full-time role is great news for his future fantasy production. The targets Payton sees are certainly valuable, as 58% of his 12 targets since Week 8 have been in the red zone or deep down the field.

But there is a risk that the field is too excited to chase his recent usage after a blowup game in the semifinals (34.1 DraftKings points). Remember, Payton hasn’t exceeded 8.0 DraftKings points or 3 targets in any game this season if we exclude the playoffs.

I still want to play Payton, if only because he’s the lone Arlington WR who we can assume has a full-time role. But I imagine I’ll end up underweight relative to the field as I’m not as willing to chase blowup games.

Caleb Vander Esch ($3,000) is the clear WR2 after a 7-target outing on a 67% route share in the semifinals. His $3,000 price tag is certainly appealing, given he’s seen consistent usage all season, and his aDOT (10.5) is low enough among the Arlington WR options that he could still get peppered with targets in the likely event Luis Perez doesn’t have ample time to throw. He’s one of the top values of the slate, but expect ownership to match.

Tyler Vaughns ($6,400) has recently seen the most consistent volume among Arlington WRs, exceeding a 17% target share in each of his last four games, and earning 7 more targets (23 total) than the next-closest Renegade over that stretch. He doesn’t see many high-value targets (only 17% of his targets over the last four weeks have been in the red zone or deep) but is earning the best volume on the team. Vaughns feels like a player who the field may disregard in favor of Payton or Vander Esch, but he shouldn’t be. I’m a big fan of Vaughns in the flex on teams that need a lower-owned Arlington WR, and he can be utilized as a sneaky captain for those making 10 or more teams.

LuJuan Winningham ($3,800) isn’t a player I’d entertain as a captain option, but I think he has plenty of merit as a flex. His playing time is limited (no more than a 57% route share in a game this season), but he’s earned at least two targets in every game since Week 4, and averages 3.5 targets per game over his last four games – presenting a decent floor. Winningham’s athleticism and ability after the catch have really stood out from watching the games. I’d consider him a sneaky flex play, and one that makes sense to work into Perez captain lineups if you want to get away from some of the higher-owned options at WR.

Due to playing time concerns, I’m not particularly interested in Brandon Arconado ($5,200) or Victor Bolden ($1,000). Arconado is far too expensive, and his route share has fallen in four consecutive weeks to a season-low 30% in Arlington’s last game. Bolden is finally practicing in full again, and is expected to be active for the first time since Week 4. Bolden could push for a ~40% route share and a handful of targets in the most bullish scenario. He’s a great talent, so that’s certainly possible. But it’s also entirely speculative. I’m entirely out on Arconado, but I’d consider playing Bolden if I was desperate for a ~2% owned, min-priced play.

Arlington Tight Ends

This is a position group where I think matchups could play a notable role. In Luis Perez’s three starts against non-DC opponents, Arlington TEs have averaged just 2.7 targets per game. But in Arlington’s lone game against DC (in Week 9), Arlington TEs earned a season-high 13 targets.

Schematically, this makes sense. DC blitzes at the league’s highest rate, forcing QBs to get the ball out quickly. The Defenders also allow the league’s highest pass rate (68%) and the most passing YPG (279.9). Logically, we’d expect Arlington to pass the ball more, and to be forced to get the ball out quicker, leading to more TE targets.

I don’t think the field will do a good job accounting for this. That makes Sal Cannella ($7,400) an underrated captain and flex play if we assume these teams hold the tendencies they showed in Week 9. I’ll be overweight Cannella in both spots.

You could also use these matchups to argue for Nate Becker ($1,000) as a flex play. It’s justifiable in the largest GPPs of the slate, but Becker hasn’t scored more than 4.2 DraftKings points since Week 2 and hasn’t caught more than 2 passes in a game this season. You’ll need a TD for him to pay off his salary, and I think there are better places to look for salary relief in the flex.

D.C. Running Backs

Abram Smith ($10,600) is a lock to be one of the slate’s most popular players, and it certainly makes sense on the surface. Smith has averaged 14.3 weighted opportunity points per game, an 89% snap share, and 20.8 DraftKings FPG in his three games without Ryquell Armstead – numbers that all rank 1st at his position over the full season.

But Smith’s numbers look much worse if we eliminate his Week 5 outing against St. Louis (the league’s worst run defense) from that sample. Over his last two games without Armstead, Smith averages just 9.5 DraftKings FPG on an 89% snap share.

The reason? DC RBs average just 2.3 targets per game (league-worst), and Smith has routinely lost touches at the goal line to the Defenders’ QBs. So, Smith’s floor is dramatically lower than the projections industry-wide suggest. His only real fantasy value comes from rushing yards and rushing TDs.

Don’t get me wrong, a monster rushing performance is absolutely in the cards for the league’s most productive RB, especially when he’s locked into a ~90% snap share.

But that could be a big problem against an Arlington defense that is PFF’s highest-graded against the run (84.2 run defense grade). After all, DC abandoned their normal run-heavy game plan the last time these teams played, posting their highest pass rate of the season (60%) and a season-low 51 rushing yards.

So, you can justify fading Abram Smith, especially at captain. I imagine I’ll come close to matching the field in flex exposure while being grossly underweight in captain exposure.

Cam’Ron Harris ($1,000) earned 6 snaps and 5 carries (all of which were in the red zone) in the Defenders’ blowout victory over Seattle in the North Division championship game. He looked pretty good on those reps, and the two extra weeks of practice could certainly help him further integrate into this offense, as he joined the team ahead of Week 10. He’s a super contrarian piece in lineups that anticipate DC blowouts. He may end up on ~5% of my lineups.

Pooka Williams ($1,000) also warrants mention. He gets no run on offense (1 carry this season), but he does really pop as a kick and punt returner. If you want a stack that’s nearly guaranteed to be 0% owned, you can pair him with the DC defense and hope for a return touchdown. It’s too thin for me, but it could work out in certain scripts.

D.C. Wide Receivers

This is a plus matchup for the DC passing offense, if only because Arlington’s run defense is so strong. The Renegades are PFF’s highest-graded run defense (84.2), and we saw DC heavily target this team through the air the last time they met (despite leading the entire game), posting their highest pass rate of the season…

Lucky Jackson ($9,600) offers name recognition and plenty of regular season success, scoring five TDs and at least 16.0 DraftKings points in his final five regular season games. He should be right there as the state's most popular pass catcher at captain, and one of the most popular flex plays overall, but I’m not sure that’s correct. The field still believes Jackson to be the Defenders’ lead WR, but the gap has significantly narrowed in the 2nd-half of the season.

It could certainly be argued that Chris Blair ($8,200) is actually the top dog among DC pass catchers. Since Week 7, Blair has led the Defenders' pass catchers in targets per game (6.6), YPG (88.0), air yards (369), red zone targets (4, tie), and FPG (14.8). Over the full season, 14.8 FPG would’ve tied with Cody Latimer for 3rd-best among pass catchers. If Blair isn’t the Defenders’ WR1, he’s, at worst, the 1B to Jackson’s 1A. Blair is my favorite captain play among DC pass catchers and one of my favorite plays overall relative to price and expected ownership.

Josh Hammond ($7,600) is the clear 3rd option among DC WRs, but he’s shown much more juice for fantasy in the 2nd-half of the year, averaging 5.8 targets per game and 10.3 FPG since Week 6 – going over 11.5 fantasy points in 66% of those games. Hammond profiles as a rather exciting contrarian captain (I’d anticipate ~2% captain ownership) and as a solid flex pivot off the more popular Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair. I don’t think he offers the same game-breaking upside as Jackson or Blair, so most of my Hammond usage will come in lineups that need discounted ownership.

Brandon Smith ($5,000) will be almost entirely forgotten about at this price tag, which could offer some potential leverage. Smith doesn’t play much (41% route share since Week 8), and he’s no target hog (2.5 targets per game since Week 8), but his targets often come in high-leverage spots. Over the last 4 games, 40% of his targets have been either in the red zone or 20 or more yards downfield. Watching the games, I’ve noticed the plurality of Smith’s routes and snaps come in the red zone, as the team appears to love him in heavier, single WR sets. Smith has far better tournament upside than our projection (or ownership) will give him credit for, which makes him an easy piece to work into Ta’amu captain lineups to stay unique. I’ll certainly have some flex exposure here.

D.C. Tight Ends

This is the hardest position group to analyze on the slate, but all three DC TEs are notable as salary relief plays in the flex.

Things have been remarkably equal over the last four games (9 targets for each TE), but it’s somewhat easy to argue the Defenders' first playoff game gives us the most accurate baseline for what to expect from these TEs.

The North division championship saw Ethan Wolf (19% route share) take a back seat to both Briley Moore-McKinney (39%) and Alex Ellis (47%). Remember that route shares for these TEs have been all over the map as of late. So, while last week’s route share is a trend worth paying attention to, any of these three could post a route share as low as 20%, or as high as 50%.

But what is much more telling (to me) is the recent red zone work. Alex Ellis ($2,800) leads the team with 4 red zone targets since Week 8, meaning 44% of his targets over the last four weeks have come in the red zone. Neither Briley Moore-McKinney ($2,400) nor Ethan Wolf ($2,200) can hold a light to Ellis, as they have just 1 red zone target each over that same stretch.

I lean Ellis as my favorite of the trio. And recent route shares suggest Moore-McKinney is preferable to Ethan Wolf. But I don’t want to take a big stand on any of these guys, especially because I imagine ownership will (probably) reflect my rankings of these players.

I’d consider the optimal strategy (for those making multiple teams in large-field GPPs) as just mixing and matching these TEs based on what your individual lineup needs. Alex Ellis is the play for those who want the highest-projected DC TE and are willing to eat more ownership. Wolf is better for those who need leverage and are willing to risk him earning a meager 20% route share. And Moore-Mckinney falls in the middle in terms of both projection and ownership. It’s a tough spot, but I still think there are some edges here if you can properly leverage these TEs into the right lineups.


I won’t be playing either Matt McCrane ($1,000) or Taylor Russolino ($1,000) in the captain spot, but both kickers are compelling flex plays, given how tight pricing is on this slate.

Below $5,000, we have the DC TEs, both defenses, a few ancillary Arlington WRs, Arlington backup TE Nate Becker, and DC Backup RB Cam’Ron Harris as the only reasonable options. If we simply ascribe both kickers the same projection as their season-long FPG, both McCrane and Russolino would be the top values of the slate. It isn’t hard to argue both kickers are strong flex plays from a median outcome perspective.

I’m in line with that argument. But I do think both kickers will be among the highest-owned flex plays of the slate, given how they project as awesome values on a slate with remarkably tight pricing. I don’t see a problem with either kicker if you want to eat that ownership. But these kickers have combined to exceed double-digit DraftKings points just twice this season. So, it’s easy to argue that some of the other cheap flex plays are superior in tournaments just based on upside.

I plan on working kickers into about 20% of my builds, which should mean I’ll be underweight relative to the field.


Both defenses profile as decent plays. The DC Defense will carry more ownership, which is probably correct if we assume the current Vegas line is accurate.

I’ll leverage both defenses as pieces in lineups that anticipate specific outcomes (e.g. Arlington shuts down the DC offense in a low-scoring, slow game).

For more information on the nuances of XFL defenses within showdown (and general showdown strategy), you can watch our Week 6 XFL Breakdown with Justin Freeman (timestamped conversation can be found here). It’s a great discussion.

Jake Tribbey is a recent college graduate and lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from NFL DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.