XFL DFS 2020 Season Preview: Team-by-Team Overview & Betting Odds
With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, grinders can stay involved in football via online sports betting and a variety of XFL DFS contests on both DraftKings and FanDuel. In this article, we’ll briefly touch on some of the basics of the league, the teams as currently constructed, their XFL Championship futures odds and the changes we’ll see in our daily fantasy sports strategy.
The first week of the XFL kicks off on Saturday, February 8th. While the daily fantasy scoring looks very similar to that of the NFL, XFL contests feature a few distinct changes.
— Additional scoring for points after touchdowns (see below).
— Additional potential for scoring in overtime (see below).
— Rosters on DraftKings consist of a quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, two flexes, and one D/ST.
— Rosters on FanDuel consist of a quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers/tight ends, and two flexes.
RotoGrinders is excited to cover the XFL as part of our Core Premium Product – we’ll have projections/LineupHQ, articles, media, and more!
For more information on the upcoming XFL product, be sure to check out this primer podcast. Now, let’s get started by breaking down the basic rule changes and previewing each team briefly.
The following is the cliff notes version of the most DFS impactful rule changes in the XFL.
Extra Points: The league will not have extra points. Instead, teams have the option to run a play from the 2-yard line (worth 1-point), from the 5-yard line (worth 2-points), or from the 10-yard line (worth 3-points). For DFS, this means more opportunity for skill players to score.
Pace of Play: The XFL has a 25-second play clock, running game clock, and a specially timed 2 minute “comeback period” at the end of each half. The net effect is expected to be a similar plays per game volume with a faster game speed. For DFS, It increases the volatility in plays per game projections. Games in which the comeback period and timing rules are fully optimized could see a significant increase in play volume & scoring as compared to other XFL games. It will usually be passing when optimized, which is also more efficient.
Double Forward Pass: A team can throw two passes on one play as long as the first receiver remains behind the line of scrimmage. A few teams roster hybrid quarterbacks similar to Taysom Hill, so the potential for massive stat lines exists. For DFS, we’ll have to account for players with multiple skillsets accordingly.
1 Foot Catch: Unlike the NFL, wide receivers in the XFL need only one foot in bounds to complete a catch. For DFS, it should have a positive impact on reception rate.
Overtime: Overtime somewhat mimics shootouts in the NHL. Overtime consists of five rounds of play for each team. During each “round” a team runs a play from the 5-yard line. The rounds alternate between teams and whoever finishes with the most points wins. If a team is mathematically eliminated before the rounds conclude, the game ends. Each of these overtime scores equals 2-points in real life and for DFS purposes. For DFS, this creates a huge opportunity for point swings if a game reaches the overtime period. As many as 40 DFS points could be awarded in the first 5 rounds.
Kickoffs and Punts: These plays have been altered to include a strict penalty for touchbacks, and make it more likely for returns to occur. For DFS, it could mean more opportunity for return TDs and more short fields for offenses when mistakes are made.
Check out the XFL’s official site to learn more about the XFL’s 5 Gameplay Innovations, 5 Timing Changes, and 5 Common Sense Rules.
XFL Team Previews and Betting Odds
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head Coach: Marc Trestman
XFL Championship Odds: +450
Marc Trestman’s Vipers come in as the third-most likely to win the XFL. Known as a pass-happy coach from his time in Chicago, Baltimore, and the CFL, this looks like a potential team to target for DFS. Aaron Murray remains the favorite to start at quarterback for the Vipers. After a cup of coffee in the NFL, Murray led the AAF with a 64.8 Completion Percentage. Adding 96 yards with his legs, Murray should ascend to relevance in Trestman’s pass-first offense. Known also for implementing running backs in the passing game, the Vipers have De’Veon Smith, Jacques Patrick, Quinton Flowers, and Mack Brown on the roster. Out of the four, Jacques Patrick caught the most passes at the college level at Florida State, while Flowers played quarterback in college. Mack Brown most recently played with the Oakland Raiders, while Smith played a pivotal early-down role for the Orlando Apollos. This remains a dicey situation for Week 1, but Smith looks like the favorite.
As for receivers, Tampa Bay comes in loaded with former NFL talent including Tanner McEvoy, Stacey Coley, and Dontae Dye. The roster also contains former AAF stars Seantavius Jones and Reece Horn. Unfortunately, the team already lost NFL player Antonio Callaway to a non-contact injury. Tanner McEvoy recently played as a rotational player for the Seattle Seahawks and should carve out a role. Nick Truesdell looks like one of the few tight ends worth mentioning after the Vipers spent a first-round pick on pass-catching tight end.
New York Guardians
Head Coach: Kevin Gilbride
XFL Championship Odds: +400
The New York Guardians come in with the second-best odds to take home the championship (+400). Coach Kevin Gilbride is known for implementing a balanced offensive attack after spending time with Tom Coughlin in New York. Former Penn State alum Matt McGloin looks like the starter for New York. McGloin never made it past backup status with the Oakland Raiders, but comes in as an interesting prospect. New York also has dual-threat Marquise Williams on the team. The former UNC quarterback could see a Taysom Hill type roll in the XFL. At running back, former Arizona Hotshots Tim Cook and Justin Stockton look likely to handle a majority of the work. Stockton remains a smaller scat-back, while Cook comes in at almost 250 pounds. Both should see a fair amount of work. Matthew Colburn also remains a name to monitor at the running back position after a number of productive seasons at Wake Forest. For wide receivers, the Guardians already lost DeAngelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry, but Mecale McKay played an alpha role in the AAF. Behind McKay, Joe Horn, Colby Pearson, and Teo Redding look most likely to produce.
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
XFL Championship Odds: +325
The favorites to win the XFL at +325, the Dallas Renegades will play with Bob Stoops and Hal Mumme calling the shots. Offensive coordinator, Mumme, is known for employing a fantasy-friendly air-raid style offense. Quarterback Landry Jones expects to miss Week 1 after undergoing knee surgery in January. Behind him, Phillip Nelson looks like the starter after Eric Dungey suffered a hamstring injury of his own. Struggling throughout his time in the AAF, Nelson will rely on forward-thinking offensive concepts for fantasy success. At the running back position, former NFL-er Cameron Artis-Payne looks like the favorite for early-down work. However, the Renegades have a few other interesting candidates at the running back position including pre-season hero Austin Walter, NFL change of pace back Lance Dunbar, and Marquis Young. The lesser-known Massachusetts product behind Andy Isabella in 2019, Young also showed some burst in the preseason with the Colts. At wide receiver, Jazz Ferguson looks intriguing, with Freddie Martino, Jeff Badet, and Flynn Nagel rounding out the position. Ferguson remains a size/speed specimen, who performed well with Seattle this preseason. Martino also played briefly for the Buccaneers, while Badet and Nagel profile as smaller slot specialists. Badet, in particular, looks interesting after a first-round selection in the XFL Draft. He ran a 4.34 coming out of college. Jarrod Heard has also received some hype as a gadget player, who actually played a bit of quarterback in college at Texas.
Head Coach: June Jones
XFL Championship Odds: +800
With +800 odds, the Roughnecks project to finish sixth in the XFL inaugural season. June Jones is another favorable coach for the passing game. Jones formerly coached at Hawaii and SMU, running the “run and shoot” offense. Early quarterback favorite Connor Cook couldn’t get his footing in the NFL, but he started three consecutive seasons at Michigan State in college. However, Cook reportedly lost a camp battle to former Temple signal-caller PJ Walker. An interesting prospect, Walker went undrafted in the NFL, but rushed for 771 yards during his time at Temple. At running back, former Denver Bronco DeAngelo Henderson looks likely to receive the first crack for the starting job. Behind him, former New York Giant Andre Williams comes in as a size/speed specimen. Unfortunately, he is most known for slamming into the backs of his offensive lineman at the NFL level. At wide receiver, Sammie Coates looks like a potential alpha in this league after he averaged over 18 yards per reception in the NFL. Coates also recorded a 99th-percentile SPARQ score coming out of college. Behind him, Kahlil Lewis played productive football at Cincinnati, while Cam Phillips and Ray Bolden round out the receiver corps. This team doesn’t have a tight end on the roster, so expect plenty of three and four-wide sets.
Head Coach: Pep Hamilton
XFL Championship Odds: +600
Currently sitting with +600 odds, the DC Defenders project to finish fifth this season. Coached by Pep Hamilton, Hamilton is most-known for his time spent with Andrew Luck. Hamilton’s offenses come with varying levels of success after he disappointed in Michigan’s run-heavy scheme under Jim Harbaugh. At quarterback, Cardale Jones looks likely to start Week 1. Jones brings some dual-threat ability, but never saw significant time in the NFL. Behind him, Tyree Jackson remains interesting as the former Buffalo quarterback, who showed major upside as a rusher in the preseason. At running back, the Defenders have a crowded room featuring Jhurell Pressley, Donnel Pumphrey, and Nick Brossette. Pressley dominated the AAF as a do-it-all back. Pumphrey profiles as a change-of-pace/receiving back after he flamed out as Darren Sproles replacement in Philadelphia. A small back, Pumphrey remains one of San Diego State’s most productive backs in school history. Nick Brossette played college ball at LSU and played an early-down role for New England this past preseason. At wide receiver, this team looks questionable at best. Rashad Ross showed deep threat ability in the AAF, but he came to DC after an off-season trade. He is reportedly still learning the offense. DeAndre Thompkins ran a 4.33 40 at Penn State’s pro day, but never translated that athleticism to on-field production at Penn State. Malachi Dupre and Eli Rogers round out this receiving corps. Rogers played a number of productive seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but profiles as a slot specialist here.
Los Angeles Wildcats
Head Coach: Winston Moss
XFL Championship Odds: +600
With Winston Moss at head coach, the LA Wildcats project to finish fourth in the XFL. While Winston Moss remains the head coach, Norm Chow will call the plays. Chow coached under Pete Carroll at USC, but also coached Steve McNair and Vince Young with the Titans. He inherits 33-year-old, dual-threat Josh Johnson here, so we could see some early success.
Johnson most recently played with the Washington Redskins and ran a 4.53 40-yard dash coming out of college. At running back, we have a relatively thin depth chart, with Elijah Hood potentially on top. Hood played college ball at North Carolina and tested relatively well entering the NFL (4.57 40-yard dash). He never latched on to an NFL team, but the Wildcats spent the eighth overall pick on Hood. Behind him, Larry Rose projects as a change of pace back after catching 133 passes at New Mexico State. DuJuan Harris and Martez Carter also remain on the roster, but neither projects to receive significant work out of the gate. At wide receiver, Tre McBride looks like the potential leader after the Wildcats traded Rashad Ross for McBride this offseason. McBride ran a 4.41 entering the NFL in 2015. Behind him, Nelson Spruce looks like a potential producer after a productive career at Colorado and showing out in the preseason for the Rams. Former AAF receiver Adonis Jennings also remains on the roster, with Jordan Smallwood and Saeed Blacknall also vying for playing time.
St. Louis Battlehawks
Head Coach: Jonathan Hayes
XFL Championship Odds: +1000
Projected to finish near the bottom of the league, the St. Louis Battlehawks currently sit with +900 odds to win the Championship, the second-worst mark in the league. Head coach Jonathan Hayes and offensive coordinator Chuck Long haven’t coached at a high level in almost ten years, but both have plenty of experience. Without much to draw from recently, this looks like an offensive scheme to monitor early in the year. St. Louis looks likely to roll out Jordan Ta’amu as their starter despite questionable play throughout his career. Ta’amu somehow underachieved with DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Dawson Knox at Ole Miss. However, he offers some dual-threat ability, which could enhance his fantasy value. At running back, the Battlehawks will roll out Christine Michael, Matt Jones, and Keith Ford. All three backs have NFL experience, with Michael and Jones leading the way. At wide receiver, L’Damian Washington and De’Mornay Pierson-El bring AAF experience. Behind them, Keith Mumphrey and Carlton Agudosi profile as big outside wide receivers. However, this might not matter with St. Louis reportedly wanting to be a downhill, running team.
Head Coach: Jim Zorn
XFL Championship Odds: +1100
Finally, the Seattle Dragon come in with a league-worst +1100 to win the XFL this season. Jim Zorn and offensive coordinator Mike Riley look likely to focus on the run in 2020. In the AAF, Riley’s Commanders finished with the fewest passing yards to end the season. Brandon Silvers reportedly beat out BJ Daniels for the starting quarterback job, but I’m not sure it matters. Silvers played relatively well in the AAF, but I’m not sure it will matter in this run-heavy scheme. Kenneth Farrow and Trey Williams both look likely to receive work after the Dragons spent their first-round selection on Williams and their second-round pick on Farrow. Farrow played under Riley last year in the AAF and finished third in rushing yards. Ja’Quan Gardner also could contribute after averaging 4.9 yards per carry in the AAF last year. The Dragons look likely to field one of the worst receiving corps in the XFL with Kasen Williams and Keenan Reynolds topping the depth chart. Williams is a big, slow receiver from Washington, while Reynolds played quarterback in Navy’s triple-option offense. Reynolds could see work as a gadget player in this offense. Dontez Byrd and Alonzo Moore both played sparingly in the AAF and round out this receiving corps. Another team with a potential productive tight end, Evan Rodriguez caught 69 balls at Temple.
Image Credit: Imagn