XFL DraftKings DFS Primer: Week 1 (2023)
The XFL’s latest edition begins on Saturday. The opening weekend will answer questions about playing time. Sadly, gamers must play a bit of a guessing game until the games count. Correctly picking the players who will receive the most playing time is an edge in Week 1. Still, reading the tea leaves and keeping tabs on social media helped narrow the forthcoming suggested player pool.
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Having a dual-threat quarterback is like a cheat code in DFS. Fortunately, Ben DiNucci and Jordan Ta'amu fit the bill as quarterbacks capable of piling up points as runners and passers. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), DiNucci completed 70.7% of his passes for 3,433 yards, 29 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 720 yards, 7.1 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in 16 games in his final collegiate season at James Madison in 2019.
DiNucci's fantasy outlook is also significantly enhanced by playing for offensive coordinator June Jones. The veteran offensive guru is a proponent of airing it out. Jones was the head coach for the Houston Roughnecks in the 2020 incarnation of the XFL, and they aired it out a ton, as Establish The Run's Cody Main noted on Twitter.
June Jones is bringing his Run & Shoot offense back to XFL in Seattle this season with an eight-man WR corps headlined by Josh Gordon and NO tight ends.
Jones' XFL Roughnecks posted a 66.4% pass rate in 2020. Inject it. pic.twitter.com/G3nwkKFfyi
— Cody Main (@cmain7) February 13, 2023
Ta'amu is opposing DiNucci and Seattle's potentially high-flying offense. DC's starting quarterback is a savvy veteran of spring football. Ta'amu was sharp in the 2020 XFL season, completing 72.4% of his passes and passing for 1,050 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Further, he rushed for 217 yards, 5.3 yards per carry and one touchdown on 27 attempts. Ta'amu also led the USFL in passing yards per game (201.4) and passing touchdowns (14) and added 36.5 rushing yards per game and one touchdown. Unfortunately, he was also turnover-prone, tossing a dozen interceptions. Nevertheless, Ta'amu's rushing and passing ability give him a high ceiling, making him one of the most attractive options at quarterback in the opening week of the XFL season.
Abram Smith was the first player selected in the skill-position portion of the XFL draft. Paired with Ta'amu, DC is likely to lean into their rushing attack. Ta'amu could threaten Smith's touchdown upside in the red zone, but the quarterback's running threat could enhance Smith's efficiency as a runner, too. Smith had a breakout campaign in his final season at Baylor in 2021. Per PFF, he rumbled for 1,598 yards, 6.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns and had 47 missed tackles forced as a runner.
T.J. Hammonds is listed as a running back on DraftKings and Seattle's roster page. However, he's listed as a backup wide receiver on Seattle's depth chart. Could he be a jack of all trades for the Sea Dragons, getting work on the ground and through the air? Maybe. Since DK has full-point point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, it might be worth taking a playing time risk on Hammonds in GPPs to chase his ceiling.
AJ Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Roughnecks in 2020 when they were undefeated and led the XFL in scoring. He's a disciple of the Air Raid and Run-and-Shoot offenses. So, Max Borghi and Nick Holley could be active as pass-catching weapons. In addition, Holley was used as a receiver by the Roughnecks in 2020, hauling in 21 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, if the Roughnecks push the pace, Jah-Maine Martin could benefit as the starting running back for the Guardians. Martin was the first running back Orlando selected. Martin is a big back. PFF listed him as 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds. He played at North Carolina A&T in college. Unfortunately, he was inefficient in his final season, rushing for only 3.9 yards per carry in 2021. However, Martin was a monster in 2019, rumbling for 1,459 yards, 7.8 yards per carry and 23 rushing touchdowns. Can he recapture his pre-pandemic form? Orlando's investment in him in the draft is a positive indicator they believe in him.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Instead of discussing all the listed players, taking a macro view and adding notes for a few players will suffice. The Sea Dragons and Roughnecks are well-represented on the table in probable pass-happy offenses. Josh Gordon is the most notable wideout/tight end from either of those clubs. He can thrive in spring football if he has anything left in the gas tank. The same is true for Martavis Bryant, who was also a big-play wideout in the NFL.
However, Marcell Ateman was the first wide receiver picked in the skill-position portion of the XFL draft. Ateman is a big-bodied wideout, standing 6-foot-4. He's an inviting target for veteran pocket-passer A.J. McCarron. Further, the duo probably has some rapport already after spending time together on the Raiders' practice squad. Ateman concluded his college career at Oklahoma State in 2017 by reeling in 60 receptions for 1,160 yards, 19.3 yards per reception and eight touchdowns.
Charleston Rambo was also an early selection in the draft. In fact, he was the second wideout selected, and the fourth skill-position player picked. Rambo played three seasons for Oklahoma and finished his college career at Miami, recording 79 receptions for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns on 119 targets in 2021.
Arlington is another team well-represented on the table. Bob Stoops is the club's head coach, and his passing rate when coaching in the XFL in 2020 was insane.
With Landry Jones under center, Bob Stoops + Hal Mumme led XFL in pass rate (70.6%) in 2020, feeding PSM king Donald Parham a team-high 20.0% target share.
Stoops is back in 2023 with NFL preseason HOFer Kyle Sloter at QB, reunited with top USFL target earner TE Sal Cannella
— Cody Main (@cmain7) January 30, 2023
Jordan Smallwood and Sal Cannella have experience in spring football. Per PFF, Smallwood had 18 receptions, 236 receiving yards and one touchdown on 26 targets in the 2020 XFL. He was also highlighted in Josh Lewin's XFL South Division Preview in Arlington's section. Meanwhile, Cannella had 3.4 receptions per game, 36.8 receiving yards per game and two receiving touchdowns in the USFL last season.
Jequez Ezzard was included in Josh Lewin's XFL North Division Preview, where he said Ezzard could be "a breakout star in the slot and the return game." Thus, Ezzard is an exciting stacking option with Ta'amu or a bring-back pick for a Sea Dragons stack.
Finally, circling back to the Roughnecks and the Sea Dragons, all the players on the table are listed as starters on their respective team's depth charts. Thankfully, the Twitter account for The Markcast created an easy-to-reference thread for the depth charts.
Here are all 8 @XFL2023 week 1 depth charts. 🧵#XFL #XFL2023
— The Markcast® (@the_markcast) February 16, 2023
Defense and Special Teams
The Sea Dragons and Rednecks have defensive-minded, experienced head coaches. Jim Haslett is Seattle's head coach, and Wade Phillips is Houston's head coach. Their experience can pay dividends in Week 1. Moreover, if their offensive coordinators, Jones and Smith, enjoy the same success in the XFL this year as in 2020, the defenses could be staked to leads and pin their ears back to get after the opposing quarterbacks.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant - which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections - to our Waiver Wire Assistant - that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much - we've got you covered this fantasy football season.
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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.