DraftKings Week 1 UFL Intro and DFS Tournament Plays


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DraftKings Week 1 UFL Intro and DFS Tournament Plays

A lack of football is a terrible thing. The NFL season is months away, but we can still gamble on professional football thanks to the UFL – the combined version of the USFL and XFL. There’s $50k up for grabs on DraftKings, and this article will contain all the information you need to win in Week 1 DFS.

New League, New Rules:
  • The new league will use NFL rules with a few notable exceptions. For fantasy purposes, the only change that really matters is that there are no extra-point kicks. After a TD, teams can attempt an offensive play from the 2-yard line for 1 point, the 5-yard line for 2 points, or the 10-yard line for 3 points. Similar to 2-point conversions in the NFL, these conversions will count for fantasy points.
DraftKings Scoring and Roster Requirements:

DraftKings’ fantasy scoring is the exact same as the NFL's with a minor exception: 3-point conversions (after a TD) count as 3.0 fantasy points for a successful pass, rush, or reception into the end zone. 1-point conversions (after a TD) will also count for 1 point for a successful pass, rush, or reception into the end zone. Roster requirements, however, are significantly different from what we’ve grown accustomed to in the NFL. UFL roster requirements are as follows:

  • 1 QB

  • 1 RB

  • 2 WR/TE

  • 2 Flex

  • 1 D/ST

Spring football has had a shortage of true bell cows – but no real shortage of star WRs, so you can consider this format pretty friendly to overall roster construction. The RB1 of the 2023 XFL (Abram Smith) averaged just 14.1 FPG, while three different XFL WRs (Hakeem Butler, Jahcour Pearson, and Cody Latimer) all managed at least 14.8 FPG.

Eliminating the TE position is a true luxury – only three TEs (Jace Sternberger, Sage Surratt, and Sal Cannella) averaged more than 6.7 FPG in both the 2023 USFL and XFL. Spring football TEs who score fantasy points are rare, but the new UFL does offer the best depth (for fantasy purposes) we’ve ever seen in modern spring football history.

Use code UFL2024 at Checkout to receive 10% off a Fantasy Points All-In or Spring Football Package — the two packages that include our UFL content!

Final notes on roster construction:
  • I wouldn’t go crazy with stacks – especially game stacks – in Week 1. Rotations are largely speculative, which makes double-stacking (or, the standard double-stack plus bring-back) a bit too aggressive. There are still spots you can stack aggressively (cough… St. Louis… cough cough), but the name of the game in Week 1 is primarily just playing the best plays and avoiding zeroes.

  • LATE SWAP. Staggered game kickoffs throughout the weekend give us plenty of time to make optimal swaps. If you are playing from behind, get aggressive. And if you appear to be the favorite to win a contest, play the best values. I GUARANTEE YOU that this is the most underrated and under-utilized edge in spring football DFS.

  • Playing opposing defenses against your single-stacks is perfectly fine. For Week 1, my general rule is no more than two offensive players against an opposing D/ST.

  • As I noted above, rotations are largely speculative. This is the best week all season to set randomness higher than normal in your optimizer of choice, as the difference between a team’s WR3 and WR5 might only be a few projected points but an ocean of ownership. There will be some big rotation surprises this weekend, and DFS players can take advantage by embracing that variance.


In the TL:DR, I’ll list out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. 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 (granted, that’s not as important in Week 1), and making sure you include at least a few players on each tournament team who should be on the lower end of ownership. Get creative!

Plays ranked in order, with tier 1 in bold:

QB: Chase Garbers, AJ McCarron, Jordan Ta’amu, EJ Perry, Matt Corral, Luis Perez, Jarrett Guarantano

RB: Cam’Ron Harris, Wayne Gallman, Darius Victor, CJ Marable, Ricky Person, De’Veon Smith, Tiyon Evans, TJ Pledger, Matthew Colburn, Wes Hills

WR: Darrius Shepherd, Devin Gray, Hakeem Butler, Trey Quinn, Marcell Ateman, Brandon Smith, Justin Hall, Justin Smith, Keke Chism, Vinny Papale, Jordan Suell

TE: Jace Sternberger, Sal Cannella, Cody Lattimer, Sage Surratt

With that out of the way, let’s get into the details of these games and some tournament DFS plays.

Implied team totals are in parentheses. Games are listed in order of kickoff time.

Birmingham Stallions (22.75) @ Arlington Renegades (19.25)


Birmingham is undoubtedly the most consistent team in modern spring football history. Over the last two USFL seasons, Birmingham has played 24 games, winning 21 of them (88%), alongside back-to-back USFL championships.

Spring football has been marred by coaching and player turnover, but that hasn’t been a notable problem for Birmingham. HC (and co-OC) Skip Holtz enters his third season next to a staff with 260 seasons of combined coaching experience, including 43 seasons at the NFL level. It’s safe to say Birmingham will be one of the best-coached teams in the UFL, with (crucially) coach Holtz calling the offense for the third year in a row.

The QB situation for Week 1 is quite vague. A starter has not been officially named, and Holtz noted that we may see a 2-QB system at times this year; that’s how tight things are. That said, recent reports indicate Matt Corral ($9,800) will start, with Adrian Martinez ($6,000) backing him up.

And it isn’t tough to see Corral being successful here if he can fight off the other QBs. Birmingham runs an RPO-heavy offense (especially for spring football), and Fantasy Points' own Brett Whitefield noted Corral “needs an RPO-heavy scheme to be successful.” Birmingham has also shown an affinity toward QBs who can run, and while Corral wouldn’t be considered an amazing rushing threat, he is a solid athlete. While things appear vague – it’s still fine to play Corral on the four-game slate, and certainly on the two-game Saturday-only slate.

Thankfully, these other position groups are pretty clear. CJ Marable ($7,900) will lead the backfield after finishing the 2023 USFL season ranked 5th in weighted opportunity (13.3), 3rd in carries (118), and 4th in rushing yards (524). Marable is a lock for the plurality (and maybe the majority) of team carries, especially in the red zone. Marable recorded 83% of the Stallions’ backfield red zone carries (25) in 2023, and his current backfield competition suggests Birmingham wants to keep it that way in 2024.

Ricky Person ($4,500) is a bit interesting as a value on smaller slates after averaging 8.0 touches per game in the Stallions’ final three games last year – but he still only managed 6.0 FPG over that stretch. He’s really just the spell back for Marable (which isn’t worth much in this offense), but he could still help you win a showdown slate if he can fight off Larry Rountree ($5,000) for that role. I feel somewhat confident calling Rountree the RB3 here – he was spotted taking reps with what appeared to be the 3rd-team offense in Birmingham’s March 9th scrimmage, while Person was getting 1st-team reps in and working ahead of Rountree in drills.

Update: My speculation was correct. Rountree will be inactive, and Person will serve as the Stallions’ RB2 in Week 1.

None of these Birmingham WRs will project as amazing values this week, but this is a clear-cut position group. Marlon Williams ($7,200) is coming off an Achilles tear he suffered in Week 1 of the 2023 USFL season, but I remain optimistic he will be right there as Birmingham's WR1 in the new UFL. Sources close to the team indicated Williams was the star of 2023 training camp, and coach Holtz said, “he never looks like he was injured” after the first few days of 2024 camp. He’s still young (24) and was spotted with the first-team offense in Birmingam’s March 9th scrimmage. I’m always weary of skill guys coming off the dreaded Achilles, but some hype for Williams is warranted this year based on the off-season news and notes I’ve gathered.

Deon Cain ($5,900) and Amari Rodgers ($7,800) round out the expected starting WRs. Rodgers profiles as the low-aDOT, high(ish) volume slot threat – but it’s safe to call him a bit overpriced (for the main slate) this week. Cain absolutely balled out in the final five weeks of the 2023 USFL season, averaging 16.1 FPG and securing the MVP of the 2023 championship game on the back of a 3 TD performance. Cain and Williams are the best overall values of the projected starting trio, but all three have real upside.

Jace Sternberger ($6,100) is expected to almost never leave the field for Birmingham at TE. He was a Round 3 NFL pick in 2019 and led the 2023 USFL in receiving TDs (7), ranking behind only Johnnie Dixon and Corey Coleman in receiving FPG (12.7). He carries the best TD equity and receiving floor on the team and is right there as the best value on the Birmingham side of this game.

Rotations should stay pretty tight between the pass catchers highlighted above. But, for my showdown and two-game slate sickos, I have a pair of pass catchers to consider.

Gary Jennings ($3,900) should get some reps on the outside and was spotted running deep routes with the first team in Birmingham’s March 9th scrimmage and again on Thursday. If Marlon Williams isn’t actually as healthy as he and the team have let on, I see room here for a larger role than industry projections suggest.

Update: Jennings was listed on the official team depth chart as a starter, while Williams was listed behind Amari Rodgers. This doesn’t concern me much for two reasons: Spring football depth charts rarely mean much, and Williams is the only WR on the team who I believe is trusted to play multiple WR positions (slot and outside). But – if you believe Jennings is in a full-time role, he’s a fantastic value – granted, one that does still have some floor concerns.

Jordan Thomas ($2,800) is an absolute unit (6’5”, 280 pounds) and should be primarily used around the goal line – we saw as much during a recent 1st-team rep in yesterday’s practice.


HC Bob Stoops returns for his second season with the Renegades, and Chuck Long (last season’s co-OC) will handle play-calling duties. This offense was brutal to watch in the 2023 regular season, averaging 14.6 PPG (last among all 16 USFL and XFL teams in 2023).

However, there was a notable shift in offensive efficiency and scoring output once the team traded for QB Luis Perez, who has already been named their starter for the inaugural UFL season. The injection of Perez into the offense increased scoring by 71%, passing YPG by 56%, and took the team’s passing YPA from a rather pathetic 6.0 to 7.9 (2nd in the XFL over the full season). His impressive passing down the stretch won this team the 2023 XFL championship.

According to Stoops, backup quarterback Lindsay Scott ($6,000) will be used as a rushing threat “in various packages.” It’s relatively safe to expect Perez to throw 95% or more of pass attempts, but those looking to get weird in single-game contests could target Scott on the off-chance the team gives him a goal-line carry.

The backfield is one of the easier to decipher in spring football. De’Veon Smith ($8,200) is your workhorse, as he led the 2023 XFL in weighted opportunity (13.4 WO/G) on the back of 12.9 carries per game during his eight healthy games during the 2023 regular season. Smith was brutally inefficient (3.2 YPC) and doesn’t really catch passes (2.7 targets per game), so he will need to score to win you a tournament. He makes for a strong pairing with the Arlington D/ST – especially on the two-game, Saturday-only slate.

Leddie Brown ($5,900) and Dae Dae Hunter ($4,000) are fighting for RB2 and 3rd-down duties, and that’s a battle we project Brown to win. Hunter is new to the team this season, but Brown earned an 11% target share and 36% route share in his games with QB Luis Perez. I don’t see much fantasy upside for this role, but Brown likely gets the RB2 nod based on his previous experience with Arlington – and I feel safe with that assessment given the massive effort the Renegades have put into team (especially offensive) continuity.

Update: Our intuition here was correct. Brown will be the RB2, and Hunter will be inactive on gameday.

The Arlington WRs are right there as the hardest position group to assess. In the 2023 XFL regular season, there were only six instances of an Arlington WR earning a route share of over 70%, four of which occurred in the first three weeks of the season. From a playing time and target share perspective, things should be pretty flat among these WRs.

That said, Deontay Burnett ($7,600) is our projected WR1. He averaged 11.2 FPG (10th-best among 2023 XFL WRs), earned an 18% target share with the Houston Roughnecks last year, and is likely the most talented perimeter WR on the roster. We also expect JaVonta Payton ($4,500) and Tyler Vaughns ($5,100) to work in with the starters on the outside.

Vaughns averaged 9.7 FPG (15th-best among WRs over the full season) and a team-leading 18% target share in his regular season games with Luis Perez last year. Payton went nuclear in the XFL semi-finals (121 yards and a score on 5 catches), and has incredible speed for a spring WR. While I’d consider Payton the best big-play threat, he’s a tough click on the main slate when we only have him projected for ~15 routes. To be fair, Vaughns and Burnett have similar issues with projected playing time.

LuJuan Winningham ($4,400) and Isaiah Winstead ($3,800) round out the outside WRs on this roster. Winningham appears to have dealt with an undisclosed injury during camp, and his 2023 catch rate was a brutal 46% – so he’s the easiest outside WR to ignore if they all end up active on gameday. Winstead has drawn notable praise from Stoops, so he’s the guy to gamble on if you are feeling risky on a two-game or showdown slate, but it’s still thin, given the rotations we’ve seen in Arlington.

Update: Winningham will be inactive in Week 1.

Caleb Vander Esch ($4,000) and Juwan Manigo ($3,000) are the Renegades’ slot WRs. Vander Esch is the projected starter, and maybe he will push for something resembling a full-time route share out of the slot now that Brandon Arconado (who worked into the slot last year) is no longer on the team. Still, it’s tough to see much main-slate tournament upside for a WR with potential issues with playing time, who averaged a mediocre 7.6 FPG during his final three regular season games.

Manigo could push to make this a timeshare in the slot, but he’s also a 27-year-old who last played in the LFA (Mexican professional football), so my expectations aren’t exactly high. I’d consider Vander Esch a viable Saturday-only play, and I suppose every WR mentioned here is in play for their respective showdown slate (yuck).

Thankfully, there is one pass catcher we can count on for a full-time role: TE Sal Cannella ($5,500). Cannella exceeded an 80% route share in seven of his 10 regular season games, easily pacing the team in target share (21%), receiving YPG (44.5), and receiving FPG (9.0) in the 2023 regular season. Cannella was a top-16 fantasy receiver in the 2023 XFL, and with little to no change projected in his 2024 role, he’s an easy value in Week 1, priced as the WR24.

St. Louis Battlehawks (24.75) @ Michigan Panthers (17.75)


St. Louis is led by Anthony Becht (HC) and former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (OC), who rank among the sharpest coaches in the new league. Among the eight surviving spring football teams, the Battlehawks posted the highest pass rate when trailing (71%), 3rd-most yards per play (5.9), and the highest overall pass rate (64%). Even if those stats don’t sway you, the way St. Louis put up points (53, to be exact) in a must-win Week 10 game (with some convoluted tie-breaking incentives) should inspire confidence that this offense has real juice. Beyond coaching, it’s obvious where that juice comes from: St. Louis has – by far – the league’s best quarterback in AJ McCarron.

McCarron was the 2023 XFL MVP, pacing the XFL in passing TDs (23), completion percentage (69%), and passer rating (108.5), while ranking top-3 in every other passing efficiency stat that could possibly matter (Big Time Throw rate, adjusted completion percentage, YPA, etc.). It shouldn’t be a surprise he’s our highest-projected QB by a good margin this week.

McCarron is really good – great by spring football standards – and his pass catchers might be even better. Hakeem Butler, Jahcour Pearson (on IR currently, but expected to return mid-season), Blake Jackson, Darrius Shepherd, and Marcell Ateman mark what I can safely call the best spring football receiving room in modern history.

Butler ($8,600) is a true alpha WR. He led 2023 XFL pass catchers in FPG (15.9), receiving TDs (8), and red zone targets (15). Across both 2023 spring leagues, Butler forced the 3rd-most missed tackles (11), and had the 2nd-best passer rating when targeted (138.9). It doesn’t matter what metric you use – Butler is right there as the most talented WR in the league, and he’s an even better fantasy asset than his raw talent implies because of how good the overall offense is. He’s also massively underpriced for Week 1. Last year, Butler was $10,700 (24% more expensive) in Week 10 DFS contests.

Blake Jackson ($7,400) will soak up the slot role until Jahcour Pearson returns from IR. The St. Louis slot role wasn’t worth much (5.9 FPG) for Austin Proehl last season, but Jackson is a significantly better player (12th-highest target share in the 2023 XFL). Given the team's clear investment into the slot by drafting Jackson and Pearson in the UFL dispersal draft, we expect this role to be notably more productive than it was in 2023.

Darrius Shepherd ($6,500) and Marcell Ateman ($5,600) round out this team's main group of receiving talent. Shepherd is both really good and an amazing value in Week 1. Last year, he recorded the 6th-most FPG (13.6) among pass catchers in both spring leagues, and he finished the 2023 season priced at $9,700 (!) – nearly 50% more than his current salary.

Ateman is our projected WR4 here – but we still can’t count him out for fantasy purposes. In the final three weeks of the 2023 regular season, Ateman (18 targets, 80% route share) was right behind Shepherd (19) and Butler (21) in the Battlehawks’ receiving hierarchy. Something resembling a full-time role is expected, but there are some realistic volume concerns now that the team has serious talent in the slot. Still, Ateman is one of the more talented receiving talents in the league, so I’ll still be playing him on some main-slate teams.

One of Jerome Kapp ($3,000), Jeff Thomas ($3,000), or Ja’Marcus Bradley ($3,000) will probably occupy last year’s ‘Steven Mitchell role’ – which is effectively worth a ~30% route share and a good amount of cardio (go routes). That’s really only relevant for showdown, but my best guess is one of Kapp or Thomas is inactive on gameday, and the remaining player will occupy something resembling that role.

Update: Thomas will be inactive in Week 1.

TE is thin in this offense. Last season, there was only one game where the team’s cumulative TE route share was over 60%. They barely use the position, in part because Butler partially functions as a TE within this offense. But for showdown — and maybe the two-game Saturday slate — Jake Sutherland ($2,900) and Kemari Averett ($2,500) are worth discussing.

Sutherland is the consensus starter, but that doesn’t mean much to me after he averaged a 3% route share and 26% route share in this offense last year.

Averett has some genuinely intriguing upside, but that might be more relevant as we move through the season than it is for Week 1 (at least according to our projections). Averett played against small school competition in the FCS, but Scott Barrett noted just how insane his 2021 FCS stats were…

In 2021, Averett turned 97 targets into 51 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns (in 11 games). He averaged 79.9 YPG (6th-best since 2014) and 0.91 touchdowns per game (9th-best since 2014). His 2.93 YPRR ranks 6th-best of 547 qualifiers since at least 2014. And if touchdown-adjusting that number, he improves to 3.60 (4th-best), behind only seasons from Kyle Pitts in 2020 (4.28), Brock Bowers in 2021 (3.90), and Isaiah Likely in 2021 (3.78).

We can’t project Averett for much of a role in Week 1, but there’s a chance he’s just really good. And if he is really good, he’s a player you will want to keep an eye on as the season matures. Throughout the history of these spring leagues, I’ve noticed talent turns into playing time and usage notably faster than it seems to in the NFL.

Finally, we have a backfield led by NFL veteran Wayne Gallman ($8,500). We expect Gallman to occupy Brian Hill’s bell cow role from last year. Hill recorded 72% of the Battlehawks' weighted opportunity and a 74% snap share in his healthy games, so Gallman is looking at one of the more secure backfield roles in the UFL. But while playing time and usage shares aren’t of much concern for Gallman, the way St. Louis runs this offense is.

This was the 12th-most valuable fantasy backfield (by weighted opportunity) across both the 2023 USFL and XFL. And that’s largely because St. Louis had a 69% red zone pass rate last year – the highest mark (by +6%) of any team in modern spring football history. St. Louis trusts McCarron to make plays with the ball near the goal line, limiting Gallman’s median and ceiling outcomes as we project him for Week 1. Still, a near guarantee of a 70% (or higher) snap share is valuable in the UFL, even if the overall backfield isn’t.

Mataeo Durant ($5,300) and Jacob Saylors ($4,000) are fighting for RB2 duties, and we tentatively think Durant has the inside track to win the job – largely because he’s the only RB on the current roster who was with the team last year. You aren’t clicking these guys outside of showdown, but I do think it’s worth noting that last season’s backup RBs (Durant and Kareem Walker) actually earned 43% of the team’s red zone carries in Hill’s healthy games, despite a cumulative 28% snap share in those six contests. These backups have a bit better TD equity than raw usage numbers would lead you to believe.

Update: Durant will be inactive in Week 1. Expect Saylors to work behind Gallman as the Battlehawks’ RB2.


The Panthers are ushering in some major offensive changes this year, which started with hiring Marcel Bellefeuille to coordinate the offense. Bellefeuille comes over from the Philadelphia Stars, where he served as their WRs coach and passing game coordinator. For those unfamiliar with the now-defunct Stars, they were the only air raid team in the old USFL – meaning Bellefeuille is almost certainly bringing that offense with him to Michigan – further evidenced by Michigan selecting four former Stars WRs and a former Stars RB in the UFL dispersal draft.

QB EJ Perry ($8,800) is shaping up as one of the best QB values on the slate, but he does have limited experience at this level. Perry only started two games last year, but I am rather optimistic about his long-term fantasy prospects after he threw for 370 yards, 9.7 YPA, and 2 TDs in the semifinals against a very tough Pittsburgh Maulers’ defense. In that contest, he demonstrated excellent execution of quick-game concepts (crucial in an air raid offense) alongside what I can only call above-average ability for a spring QB. I think Perry can be one of the better fantasy QBs in this league, but his lack of experience does make the range of outcomes quite large.

Note: I feel fairly confident that Perry will start and play the entire game. But because Michigan hasn’t officially named a starting QB, there is a chance Danny Etling ($7,800) ends up as the starter. The chances of Etling starting and playing 100% of snaps are rather low – but the analysis is largely the same as Etling offers a comparable skillset to Perry. If you are making a ton of lineups for the main slate, you could argue for an Etling lineup on the off chance he starts and nobody plays him.

The backfield is looking like some version of a committee, granted to what degree remains uncertain.

Wes Hills ($8,900) is the greatest bell cow RB in modern spring football history. The 22.2 WO/G he averaged in 2023 (with the now-defunct New Orleans Breakers) is 31% better than the next-closest modern spring RB. His 21.5 FPG from that season ranks behind only Mark Thompson (21.6) as the best regular season mark by a spring RB in my lifetime. And his individual game marks were just as extreme; Hills logged three of the top-six workloads (by weighted opportunity) across both spring leagues last year, and he scored at least 34.9 DraftKings points three times.

But I do think Matt Colburn ($5,600) makes this a committee – despite Hills’ impressive credentials. Over the last three seasons of spring football, we haven’t seen an air raid (or Philadelphia Stars) RB earn more than ~65% of backfield-weighted opportunity. In games where both of the Stars’ primary RBs were healthy last year, the team’s RB1 (Colburn) only posted one game with a backfield share of weighted opportunity over 65% (Week 7). Crucially, Colburn also has two years under his belt in this air raid system, and he’s a better route runner than Hills (who is still a capable receiver).

Right now, we project a split that favors Hills in the running game (and near the goal line) but Colburn through the air. You could make a case that either player is the lead back, which arguably makes both more compelling tournament plays than their median projection suggests they should be.

The top end of the Michigan WR rotation looks pretty clear (keep in mind air raid teams effectively start 4 WRs, and TEs are used sparingly) – Trey Quinn ($6,900) and Devin Gray ($5,300) will start in the slot, while Jordan Suell ($5,700) should take up another starting role on the outside.

Quinn and Gray are the players I generally feel the most confident in. Quinn has been spotted with the first team during two separate scrimmages – and he ranked 6th in target share (22%) in the 2023 USFL. Gray was the clear WR2 on the 2023 Philadelphia Stars, so he offers both familiarity with the current offense and a similarly great 2023 target share (21%, 7th-best in the USFL) to Quinn.

Suell is tricky. His route share is secure, but I see him as a clear third option in the passing game after Quinn and Gray. Suell was hurt for most of 2023, but in 2022, he recorded the 7th-most targets (55) in the USFL – granted, his PFF receiving grade from that season (65.2) mirrored what my eyes told me – he just isn’t that good of a player. Even so, Suell is massive (6’6”) and carries pretty strong TD equity, thanks to his imposing size.

The remaining WR spot (mostly on the outside) will be a rotation between Devin Ross ($3,300), Marcus Simms ($3,100), and John Hightower ($3,000). My lean is that this is really just a battle between Simms and Ross, with Hightower likely listed as a gameday inactive – but realistically any of these three could emerge as the team’s WR4.

Cole Hikutini ($3,800) should start at TE, which isn’t worth much here – Stars’ TEs in 2023 combined for a meager 6% target share. Michigan (strangely) kept three TEs on their 50-man roster, which is a bit unusual for an air raid team. We could argue that’s because the team wants to use the position more than the 2023 Stars did, but I have a tough time figuring out how exactly that will look. It’s safe to project a limited role here, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw more TE usage from this offense than industry projections currently anticipate.

DC Defenders (25.0) @ San Antonio Brahmas (19.0)


The Defenders' offense stole the show in the 2023 version of the XFL. Led by OC Fred Kaiss, DC averaged 29.8 PPG – representing the best offensive output by a spring football team since the 2020 Houston Roughnecks (31.6). DC is the epitome of a run-first offense, posting a 45% pass rate in the 2023 XFL regular season – the lowest pass rate in modern spring football history. I expect DC to keep pounding the rock as we head into the inaugural UFL season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the team turned slightly more pass-heavy this year after the recent loss of RB Abram Smith (ACL), who accounted for 56% of the team’s rushing yards in 2023.

That said, I have little concern that DC can air the ball out if they need to. Jordan Ta’amu returns for his third consecutive season of spring football and second season as DC’s quarterback. Despite a historically low pass rate last season, DC still averaged more passing YPG (206.2) than 63% of the UFL did in 2023, thanks to elite efficiency from their QB. Ta’amu has been rather streaky throughout his spring football career – but despite some absolutely brutal games over the last three seasons – he finished 2023 strong, recording an 84.2 PFF passing grade in his final seven games.

Ta’amu is in a great spot for fantasy purposes – with one crucial exception: Jalan McClendon ($7,300) could take over the ‘D’Eriq King role’ from last year. This is a speculative assumption, but King did earn 17% of the team’s inside the 10 carries and threw 10% of the team’s pass attempts last season, despite never starting a game at QB. If that role belongs to McClendon, it will serve to limit Ta’amu’s upside. That said, King (now the QB coach at SMU) is a truly special athlete, while McClendon is merely a ‘good’ rushing threat at QB. The most likely scenario is McClendon steals a few goal-line carries throughout the year – but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up stealing ~5% (or more) of Ta’amu’s snaps this season.

Update: McClendon is inactive. Ta’amu joins Chase Garbers and AJ McCarron as the top QB plays of the slate.

RB for DC is easy – the team clearly loves Cam’Ron Harris ($7,500) and wants to feed him the rock after last year’s bell cow (Abram Smith) tore his ACL in camp. When asked about who would fill Smith’s shoes, HC Reggie Barlow said, “We believe Cam Harris has that ability. We believe that he can be the guy that do it.”

That role should result in around a 70% share of snaps and backfield opportunity, which is worth quite a bit in a great offense that runs the ball more than any team in spring football history. But Harris could face issues in games with negative scripts, or potentially at the goal line (Noted above: Jalan McClendon). These DC RBs didn’t catch passes last year (collectively averaging just 2.2 targets per game) and combined for just 33% of the total inside-the-10 carries. If we no longer need to worry about the ‘D’Eriq King’ role, you can make a case backfield TD equity will take a big jump this year – but target shares certainly won’t with a Konami code QB under center.

Darius Hagans ($5,500) will serve as the backup to Harris. Hagans could theoretically make this a tighter committee than what we have projected, but that seems unlikely, given the team briefly brought in Zaquandre White for a look at the RB2 role after Smith tore his ACL. That – to me – says the team doesn’t have much confidence in Hagans as the backup rusher, further suggesting a bell cow-like role for Harris. But the realistic upside here is probably something slightly better than the Ryquell Armstead role from 2023, which was worth 4.1 FPG.

Update: Hagans is inactive. Harris is the clear RB1 on this slate.

These DC receivers are one of the toughest position groups to project.

Keke Coutee ($8,500) appears to have the most secure role in the slot. With over 100 career NFL targets, it’s safe to call him one of the league’s most talented pass catchers. But I do doubt the overall value of this slot role. Josh Hammond (now retired) occupied that role last year, averaging a mediocre 4.9 targets per game and 7.3 FPG. Coutee is significantly better than Hammond (which should mean more targets and fantasy production) but this offense uses multiple TEs as often as any UFL team, potentially limiting Coutee’s route share if he’s truly limited to the slot. That said, if Coutee is really good, the team will find a way to get him some reps on the outside to maximize his playing time and usage. Regardless, his price tag is tough to swallow given the potential downside.

Brandon Smith ($4,900), Kelvin Harmon ($6,200), and Vyncint Smith ($4,200) are expected to command most of the playing time on the outside. Brandon Smith was with the team last season, loosely backing up WR Chris Blair (who averaged a respectable 10.1 FPG), and he did pop a bit on film, so my intuition suggests he has a good chance at a full-time role. Harmon and Vyncint Smith have NFL experience, so seeing them emerge here wouldn’t be shocking. It’s a true guessing game – which will probably serve to limit the ownership of DC stacks in GPPs, despite all of these WRs offering solid upside for tournaments.

One of Chris Rowland ($4,800) or Ty Scott ($3,100) will probably be inactive on game day. For showdown purposes, I’d rather play Rowland in the off chance he can steal some slot reps from Couttee – but Scott being active over either of the Smiths or Harmon would immediately make him a decent value (with a rock-bottom floor).

TE is just as difficult. Former Round 6 pick Kaden Smith ($4,000) joined the Defenders TE room, while Briley Moore-McKinney ($3,000) and Alex Ellis ($2,700) are holdovers from last season. Team depth charts should help a lot here, but I expect all three to play in a rotational capacity. Consulting our projections and adding extra randomness in your optimizer is your best bet here, as this is a position group you won’t want to totally ignore for showdown and maybe the two-game Sunday slate. Last season, DC TEs combined for 6 TDs (most by a TE group in the XFL) and all three rotational players averaged at least 4.0 FPG.


I am optimistic that this Brahmas offense can be better than the futures market implies, largely because of the coaching staff they brought over from the 2023 Houston Roughnecks.

HC Wade Phillips has a lifetime of NFL experience, and OC AJ Smith orchestrated a Roughnecks offense in 2023 that averaged an absurd 30.5 PPG and 340.0 YPG in Weeks 1-4 before poor QB play (mainly due to injury) derailed their offensive success.

If there is one thing I am sure about, it’s that Smith is right there as the most creative offensive mind in spring football history…

Smith has plenty of talent to work with on the offensive end. The team recently named Chase Garbers ($8,500) as the starter, and Smith favorably compared Garbers to 2020 XFL MVP PJ Walker.

That’s high praise for the California product, but Garbers's real fantasy value (beyond playing in an air raid scheme) will likely come from his rushing.

Coach Smith noted as much: "When you can be an athlete, it kind of makes the offense have a different dynamic.”

Keep in mind that last season, the Roughnecks utilized two different QBs – the largely immobile Brandon Silvers and the much more dynamic Cole McDonald. Despite starting just two games (and generally not being trusted to throw), McDonald still accounted for 20% of team rush attempts and 29% of the Roughnecks’ inside the 10 carries. In games Silvers started, the team still utilized McDonald (rather heavily) as a goal line and short-yardage rushing threat.

Needless to say, this offense knows how to use a rushing QB in an incredibly friendly way for fantasy. Garbers ability as a runner is what (in my opinion) won him the starting job over Quinten Dormady ($8,400).

So, here’s the best case for Garbers – he’s a comparable passer to Silvers (who averaged 19.5 passing FPG in his four healthy games) and sees a similar rushing workload to what McDonald saw in his two starts (8.3 rushing FPG). If things come together for Garbers and this offense, he’s the only QB I can see even having a chance to unseat AJ McCarron this season as the best fantasy QB in spring football.

The backfield is poised to be a committee, likely led by former Steelers’ RB Anthony McFarland ($8,000). Last season, we saw Max Borghi (now retired) take over that RB1 role, earning 67% of backfield-weighted opportunity (11.4 WO/G), 46% of inside the 10 carries (12), and 3.4 targets per game (3rd-best among XFL RBs). That amounted to 12.7 FPG, and the Roughnecks' willingness to run McDonald at the goal line (and some poor QB play in the 2nd half of the year) largely capped Borghi’s true ceiling. Regardless, McFarland could absolutely post a tournament-winning score he doesn’t cede much goal-line work to Garbers.

Brycen Alleyne ($5,800) and John Lovett ($5,200) are fighting for (primarily) 3rd-down and spell back duties, and I would imagine they either end up in an RB2-by-committee or Alleyne wins the job entirely. Alleyne was with the Roughnecks last year, recording a 27% snap share and 5.7 FPG. Alleyne’s TD equity is basically non-existent, as he weighs just 165 (!), so he’s a safe fade in all non-showdown formats.

Lovett has more season-long fantasy upside, but he averaged just 3.8 YPC for the Las Vegas Vipers in last year’s XFL, posting a pedestrian PFF rushing grade of 61.1. I can’t say I’m optimistic he wins the RB2 battle outright, but he certainly has a better chance of scoring than Alleyne, given he’s the heaviest back on the roster (215 pounds). I’d prefer Lovett in single-game contests (assuming comparable price tags) because of the massive discrepancy in projected TDs.

The Brahmas kept 7 WRs on their 50-man roster, but we have a decent idea of how rotations will shake out.

Jontre Kirklin ($8,300) and Cody Latimer ($7,000) are expected to soak up around ~50% of the team’s targets. It’s no mystery why – both players were top-4 in receiving YPG and FPG in their healthy games in the 2023 XFL. And per my eye test, PFF receiving grades, or any receiving efficiency metric you want to use, Kirklin and Latimer are ridiculously talented.

Things get trickier beyond those two, but it looks like Marquez Stevenson ($5,800) and Justin Smith ($3,200) will round out the starters. Stevenson could be a rather productive slot, as OC AJ Smith noted he’s “probably the fastest player in the league.” Brahmas coaches have mentioned Stevenson’s explosiveness throughout camp, so he’s our projected WR3, and can be expected to work ahead of Landon Akers ($6,800) – the Brahmas only other real slot WR.

While Justin Smith has the inside track on the final starting outside WR spot, I do find his skillset (go route cardio king) rather redundant to KD Cannon ($3,400) – so expect something resembling a timeshare for the WR4 spot. That competition for the final outside WR spot only gets worse if TJ Vasher ($3,100) and Matt Landers (not in the player pool) are all active on gameday. I’m optimistic gameday inactives will help us project a slightly tighter split between the quartet of players who all have a chance to be San Antonio’s WR4.

Update: Cannon and Landers are inactive. Justin Smith pops as a decent salary-relief play.

Alize Mack ($3,500) rounds out your pass catchers. He’s the direct backup to Latimer at TE, but it’s important to note these players are TEs in name only in this offense. Expect Latimer and Mack to play primarily in the slot, but playing time for Mack will be hard to come by without a Latimer injury. Mack is too thin of a play for any multi-game slate, but I suppose he’s fine for showdown if you think the Brahmas could use heavier personnel near the goal line.

Memphis Showboats (21.0) @ Houston Roughnecks (20.0)


The Showboats weren’t a compelling watch in 2023, but it’s easy to see that changing this year under the direction of HC John DeFilippo and OC Doug Martin, who joined Memphis after leading the New Orleans Breakers in 2023.

And the 2023 Breakers offense offers up plenty of optimism. Among all 16 USFL and XFL offenses in 2023, New Orleans ranked 5th in total YPG (333.5), 3rd in passing YPG (243.4), and 6th in PPG (23.7). That offense was led by QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (now in the CFL), and I think new Showboats’ QB Case Cookus is – at worst – a lateral move, and possibly an upgrade.

Cookus threw for the 2nd-most passing yards (2,259) and posted the 4th-best completion percentage (63%) in the 2023 USFL. None of his box score stats are particularly eye-popping, but my own eye test gives me confidence he can push to be a league-average QB, which is all you need to be a solid fantasy asset in this league. Cookus should be further aided by the Showboats' breakneck pace – among the 16 spring football teams that played in 2023, New Orleans ran the most plays per game (61.3) and the 4th-most passing plays per game (36.8).

This is a fantasy-friendly offense for QBs – and pretty much everyone else involved.

That obviously includes the backfield, and I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the UFL’s most productive fantasy RB room.

Last season, New Orleans Breakers RBs averaged 25.8 WO/G. That figure led all spring football backfields in 2023, and it’s 33% better than the next-closest UFL backfield (using 2023 numbers).

A good chunk of that backfield pie will be claimed by team captain Darius Victor ($8,400) – who has been one of the most physical runners in modern spring football history. Standing at just 5’8”, but weighing 210 pounds should give you a sense of how much of a bowling ball Victor is. Over his last two seasons with the New Jersey Generals, Victor has earned 57 red zone carries and scored 12 TDs (both top-3 marks). He’s a true phenom in goal line and short yardage situations, and that should only be emphasized in this Showboats offense – last year’s New Orleans Breakers set the modern spring football record with 64 backfield red zone carries – and we expect a large percentage of those to belong to Victor this season. The TD equity Victor has is simply great.

Trey Williams ($6,600) is the ‘lighting’ to Victor’s ‘thunder.’ We tentatively expect him to spell Victor on the ground and likely command the majority of passing down snaps – but there is some real downside risk. The Showboats kept both the OC and RB coach from last year’s New Orleans Breakers, and we haven’t seen a backfield lean into bell cows in spring football quite like last year’s Breakers. If we assume their previous usage tendencies hold – Victor could see (in the best case) ~90% of backfield opportunities, which would make Williams total dust for fantasy purposes.

That said, Williams is an objectively better route runner, so it would be surprising if the team treated Victor like they treated Wes Hills in 2023. The important thing to remember is that Victor has significantly more usage upside than his median projection, while Williams’ usage upside is rather limited (barring a massive surprise).

Titus Swen ($4,000) could also work in, but the best-case scenario is that he somehow beats out Williams for the RB2 role. I’m not sure that role is worth much in this offense, but even just the chance of working ahead of Williams keeps him in play for showdown contests.

The receiver room is tricky, but we have a pretty good idea that Jonathan Adams ($8,100) will lead the way on the outside. Last year – for this same coaching staff – Adams ranked 11th in the USFL in receiving FPG (10.4), 9th in targets (56), and 6th in receiving yards (512).

Lee Morris ($3,500) and Vinny Papale ($6,300) are fighting for slot duties – a role that was worth 13.7 receiving FPG (2nd-most in the USFL) for Johnnie Dixon last season. Varying degrees of a timeshare wouldn’t be shocking, but we do have a clear preference, which is embodied in our projections.

Diondre Overton ($3,600), Dee Anderson ($4,100), and Daewood Davis ($4,600) will battle for the final outside WR spot, and it’s difficult to imagine any of these players winning that job outright. Overton and Anderson are holdovers from last year’s USFL – and neither player was particularly impressive. Overton, in particular, might just stink; his 0.90 YPRR in the 2023 USFL was the 10th-worst mark of 74 qualifiers across both spring leagues.

It’s certainly a guessing game, but both Anderson and Davis feel like better bets to me. Especially for tournaments, I’d rather lean into the uncertainty of Davis – who has drawn some praise from New Orleans’ defensive players in camp.

Update: Dee Anderson will be inactive on Sunday. It’s Daewood Davis season (in showdown and two game slates).

TE is easy here – Sage Surratt ($6,000) will rarely leave the field, and he joins Cody Latimer, Jace Sternberger, and Sal Cannella in the top tier of UFL TEs. Last year, Surratt earned the 11th-best PFF receiving grade (73.8), 4th-most targets (73), and 9th-most receiving yards (604) among pass catchers in both spring leagues. He’s very talented, should get fed, and is $2,800 cheaper (!) than he was in Week 10 of last year. Surratt is one of the stronger values on the slate.

Note: Surratt is dealing with a hamstring injury and isn’t believed to be 100%. He is still playable on the main slate, but not as strong of a value as my blurb makes him appear.


It’s important to note that this team is the Roughnecks in name and uniform only—otherwise, it is the continuation of the 2023 Houston Gamblers of the USFL.

HC Curtis Johnson and OC Eric Price returned from the 2023 Gamblers, and I’d argue this offense has some potential if the team can find a QB. They did manage 22.3 PPG (3rd in the 2023 USFL) and 308.9 YPG (3rd), largely on the back of an elite rushing attack (119.0 rushing YPG, 3rd-best among all 16 USFL and XFL teams in 2023) led by bruising RB Mark Thompson. No team in the 2023 USFL called more rushing plays per game than Houston (24.6), and I wouldn’t expect that to change much as we enter the 2024 season.

Jarrett Guarantano ($8,600) has been named the Roughnecks starting QB. I can’t say I’m very optimistic about his overall ability as a passer after he averaged fewer than 1.0 passing TDs per game in his 40 career starts at Tennessee and Washington State.

It’s tough to believe the team really believes in Guarantano, either. Just watch this clip of HC Curtis Johnson discussing the team’s intention to play their QB2 in Week 1…

Guarantano is the only quarterback I feel safe removing from my main slate pool. But if you want to make an upside case, he should get plenty of downfield passing opportunities…

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed multiple references to star RB Mark Thompson ($8,700). Thompson was PFF’s highest-graded rusher (90.6) across both spring leagues last year, scoring a record 14 rushing TDs and averaging 81.6 rushing YPG. Thompson’s NFL comparison is easy – he’s the Derrick Henry of spring football.

Update: Thompson is inactive this week.

If Thompson can’t go, we would project a backfield committee between TJ Pledger ($7,700) and Tiyon Evans ($5,100).

Pledger earned a bell cow role in the two games Thompson missed last season, logging 85% of backfield opportunities (19.0 touches per game) on an 86% snap share. We would normally project a similar role for Pledger in the event Thompson sits – but that feels nearly impossible with how highly HC Johnson has spoken of Evans.

During his March 20th media availability, Johnson said, “Tiyon Evans, he’s one guy that, man, I’m truly, truly impressed with.”

To what degree is it a committee, and who that committee favors (in the event Thompson sits) is anyone’s guess. Further complicating things, Johnson has praised Kirk Merritt ($4,700), who is listed as a WR, as a talented third-down back.

So, this could be really messy. If I had to gamble on one player for the main slate, it would be Tiyon Evans, but there may not be a right answer.

I don’t expect a ton of fantasy points from the Roughnecks pass catchers – but there are two players who could be awesome fantasy assets – Justin Hall ($7,700) and Isiah Hennie ($7,500).

Hall's talent really jumps off the screen. Last season, he logged the 4th-best PFF receiving grade (77.4), 9th-most targets (66), and 6th-highest YPRR (2.07) across both spring leagues. Hennie is comparably talented, leading all 2023 spring football players in target share (25%) for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Maulers. Both players are in a tier of their own relative to other Roughnecks’ pass catchers.

Thankfully, the second tier of Houston pass catchers is also fairly clear. Anthony Ratliff-Williams ($5,000) and Keke Chism ($3,300) will battle it out for reps on the outside, and I don’t have a strong take on either player this week. Chism (6’5”) was 2nd on the team in target share (15%) in the final three weeks of 2023, and also led the team in deep targets (4) over that stretch. But those usage numbers came without Ratliff-Williams in the lineup. When Ratliff-Williams played, he was nothing to write home about – earning a modest 12% target share and generally looking like a paper tiger version of an actually good WR.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Cyril Grayson ($5,200) is also on the roster, but I can’t quite figure out where he fits in. Grayson’s size (5’9”) suggests he’s more of a slot player – but that role will be dominated by Hall and Hennie. Grayson does have elite speed – even at 30 years old – so a deep reception is probably the most you can hope for, which keeps him in play for showdown, but not much else.

TE for Houston is the ultimate guessing game. Last year, Josh Pederson (now with the Jaguars) averaged a mediocre 5.7 receiving FPG.

Clint Sigg ($2,700), Braedon Bowman ($3,400), and Woody Brandom ($2,600) all have a chance to win that modest role – but I’m willing to let team depth charts be the guide here, as I really have no idea who the favorite is.

Update: Woody Brandom is inactive. Feel free to flip a coin to decide between the other two TEs, but the depth chart notes Bowman as the starter.

Jake Tribbey is the 2022 FSWA Football Writer of the Year and the leading Spring Football expert in the fantasy industry. He is a lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.