The new year begins with a brand-new league for spring football fans to get excited about. With the merger of the XFL and USFL complete, the next step in the process is to look at the dispersal drafts that will allocate players from the 8 teams that didn’t make the cut.
Today we will look at the 4 teams that made the cut for the XFL division, their needs, and some potential additions that can be made in the dispersal draft process. It’s important to note that since the league are starting with separate drafts, for this exercise I can only pick players from their league so St. Louis can’t get Corey Coleman and Birmingham can’t get Vic Beasley.
While tomorrow's announcement isn't likely to hold much else other than the new league name & official merger acknowledgement, here's a couple of things I've heard, per sources:
Arlington got hot at the right moment last year, handily beating Houston in the southern division championship and the DC Defenders for the XFL Championship despite a 4-6 regular season record. Since Arlington is a team built from vets, they only lost 2 players who are currently in the NFL (backup QB Drew Plitt and DL Bruce Hector). They also added some notable players this offseason with Sea Dragons sack leader Tuzar Skipper and 2023 All-USFL Center Jake Lacina. They are certainly one of the harder teams in the UFL to find needs for.
The run game was an issue for the Renegades all of last year. Their main back was long time spring football player De’veon Smith who had a solid year with the 4th most rushing yards and 7 TDs but didn’t come close to getting 4 YPC with only 3.2 over the season. The only other RB on the team with significant carries is Leddie Brown who had similar issues to Smith.
Devin Darrington, Orlando Guardians
To add some big play ability, I’m adding Devin Darrington to the Renegades who will be the perfect lighting to a backfield that has a bit too much thunder. Darrington missed 3 games last season and still had the 8th most rushing yards and the 6th most rushes of over 10 yards by running backs. Adding juice to the backfield could add dimensions to this offensive attack.
The tight end spot was one that Arlington valued in 2023 with their first pick in the XFL skill positions draft being Sal Cannella, Cannella would pay dividends with being 2nd in catches and receiving yards by a tight end in the XFL last year. Cannella would get an NFL opportunity in Seattle, but it would only last 6 days and Cannella remains a free agent currently which leaves no clear pass catching tight end on the roster.
Cody Latimer, Orlando Guardians
How to replace the 2nd best tight end in the XFL? Maybe try the best tight end in the XFL. Cody Latimer was special with his transition from wide receiver to tight end and became a true bright spot on a struggling Guardians team. Latimer is a true receiving threat for whatever team gets him and in Arlington, he’d be an instant impact player.
This is an interesting need as the Renegades secondary played well last year and is bringing back everyone. This is a need not because of past play, but for future play. 3 of the starting 5 DBs are 30+ years old which means that they aren’t going to be around forever. Getting some new blood that can compete for starting spots could be a huge boost to the current and future Renegades.
Antonie Brooks, Seattle Sea Dragons
Getting Antonie Brooks would be huge for Arlington. First off, Brooks is a safety that can play some strong and some free safety at a high level which Arlington like to do and he’s only 25 which means he can compete and potentially take over for the 29 year old Joe Powell and the 33 year old Will Hill.
The DC Defenders didn’t end their 2023 campaign where they wanted to with a championship, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t a great team in 2023. Having the Offensive Player of The Year in Jordan Ta’amu, The Coach of the Year in Reggie Barlow, and a league best 9-1 record meant there were a lot of positives. This offseason they have 3 players still in the NFL with receivers Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair and punter Daniel Whelan all on NFL teams for the moment. They also were able to get some huge addition with former Dolphins WR Preston Williams and former 1st round pick Gareon Conley joining the team among others.
The quarterback position was a strong spot for the Defenders last season. Their starter Jordan Ta’amu was electric and they also had a backup in D’Eriq King that could come in to help put games away when the game called for a run first approach. This offseason Ta’amu is a free agent after a short stint with the Vikings and even if he eventually joins, D’Eriq King has become the SMU QB coach which makes his return unlikely.
Jalan McClendon, Vegas Vipers
McClendon started last season as the 3rd string QB for the Vipers and ended the season as the unquestioned starter. He’s a mobile quarterback which is something that DC values and he showed some promise through the air with 873 yards and 5 TDs to 1 int in the 4 starts he had in Vegas last season. Whether Ta’amu and King are back this season or not, McClendon adds to a room and could compete for some playing time.
The DC Defender receiver room was a surprise bright spot last season with 2 receivers in the top 5 receiving yards for the XFL last season. Those 2 receivers were Lucky Jackson (an 11th round pick) and Chris Blair (a training camp pick up) but they are both in the NFL now thanks to their efforts. This offseason the defenders drafted and signed 2 WR with CJ Johnson and Ty Scott and signed two NFL vets in Preston Williams and Kelvin Harmon but they could still use a proven deep threat to complete this room.
Jahcour Pearson, Seattle Sea Dragons
To add that deep threat, I’m giving DC the best receiver from the XFL in 2023, Jahcour Pearson. Pearson was electric for the Sea Dragons in 2023 with the most catches and yards in the league and true home run ability that DC had in Chris Blair last season. With true 4.2 speed, it’s hard to find players as electric as Pearson in spring football.
One of the true strengths of the Defenders offense in 2023 was a dominate offensive line. They have the luck of bringing back all of their starters from last season except for one, guard Liam Ryan who retired this offseason. The Defenders have added 3 guards this offseason so the position isn’t going untouched but a proven addition to this room could guarantee a top of the UFL line in 2024.
Khalil McKenzie, Vegas Vipers
McKenzie was one of the top graded centers in the XFL in 2023. The sample size is small due to him missing the last 7 games of the season to due an injury but in the 3 games he had the 5th highest run blocking and 7th highest overall grade on the season. Although he played center, he has played guard in the past and could also give some flexibility although the Defenders have 3 quality centers at the moment.
San Antonio Brahmas
San Antonio’s 2023 campaign didn’t ever truly get off the ground with a 3-7 finish. This was mostly due to instability at offensive coordinator and quarterback, but things are different in 2024 with Hines Ward out as coach and former Houston Roughnecks coach Wade Phillips leading the charge. This offseason saw the Brahmas lose 3 players to the NFL with RB Jacques Patrick, DL Matthew Gotel, and CB Luq Barcoo getting onto NFL rosters but there are another 8 players that were cut by NFL teams but didn’t re-join the Brahmas. They added a ton of players including some USFL free agents like Former Panther RB Stevie Scott and Mauler DL Boogie Roberts that figures to be key players in this rebuild.
The quarterback position was one that the Brahmas struggled to have consistency with. They had 4 players see meaningful reps at that position with all of them struggling or getting hurt along the way. At the moment the room has the main starter from 2023, Jack Coan, former 1st round pick, Paxton Lynch, and 2 offseason additions in Matthew McKay and TJ Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start over in this room with possibly even Coan in a new place for 2024.
For the record I’m going to cheat on all of these going with Roughneck players. The first is a rookie QB in Lindsay Scott Jr. who the Roughnecks drafted this offseason and if a perfect fit for the Mike Leach offensive with returning Roughnecks OC AJ Smith. Brahmas fans hope Scott can be a second coming of PJ Walker who was of similar size and mobility and dominated at this level.
The RB room for San Antonio was headlined by bruising back Jacques Patrick who had the 2nd most rushing yards in the XFL in 2023 and is currently on the Jets practice squad. The Brahmas added a few names to the team to try to fill that void with additions like Stevie Scott and rookie Chris Smith but those were the old Brahmas staff which means they will look at guys that fit the Mike Leach offense a bit better.
Jaylen Samuels, Houston Roughnecks
Samuels was one of the more notable additions to join the XFL this offseason after 4 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers and Texans. Samuels was clearly an addition that the Roughnecks were happy about as they would cut their top back from the 2023 season in Max Borghi shortly after. He also can be flexible and play some fullback if it comes to that which adds to his value.
The Brahmas offensive line never was able to truly get it together whether from injuries or inconsistent play. They were in the bottom half of the XFL in both run and pass blocking in 2023. They looked to upgrade this spot already with most notably 2-year starter for the Generals Evan Heim. With a new offensive, some lineman that excel in pass blocking is an important addition.
Jack Snyder, Houston Roughnecks
Snyder is the obvious choice for a potential reunion in San Antonio. Snyder was one of the two elite interior offensive linemen for the Roughnecks in 2023. I chose Snyder over All-XFL Center Alex Mollette only because the Brahmas currently have a great center in Luke Juriga, but both are likely additions. Snyder can pick up right as they left off in Houston last year.
St. Louis Battlehawks
The Battlehawks 2023 season ended in heartbreak, missing the playoffs with a 7-3 record due to being in a tougher division. They followed that up with an offseason that lost 6 players to the NFL (QB AJ McCarron, T Jaryd Jones-Smith, DL LaCale London, S Luka Denis, S Nate Meadors, and LS Alex Matheson). They still had a solid offseason though, they added 2 great XFL players in RB Max Borghi and defensive player of the year edge rusher Pita Taumoepenu and finally added high draft picks from last season’s draft in WR Jamarcus Bradley and Emeke Egbule.
Quarterback is a spot that is awkward for the Battlehawks at the moment. Last year they were led by AJ McCarron who put up one of the best spring football seasons of all time, but he is currently the backup quarterback in Cincinnati for the Bengals which means despite him showing interest in returning, he still is under contract till the new league year in March unless he’s cut early. Either way, the Battlehawks still have Nick Tiano who was able to beat the Vipers in his only start last year.
Steven Montez, Seattle Sea Dragons
For St. Louis, getting Montez is having a quarterback that could be their starter in the event that McCarron isn’t around but at minimum, gives a potential developmental QB that gives the room someone to look forward to once McCarron calls it a career. Montez also could see some snaps as a running threat QB in the redzone which St. Louis doesn’t have the ability to do otherwise.
The Battlehawks had consistent tackle play in 2023 with Jaryd Jones-Smith and Juwann Bushell-Beatty getting the majority of the snaps with only Eric Magwood getting some playing time when minor injuries happened. With Jones-Smith getting on the Commanders practice squad, there is a clear hole left that needs to be filled.
Liam Jimmons, Seattle Sea Dragons
Jimmons was the original starting left tackle for the Sea Dragons before injuries kept him out for the 2nd half of the season. His grades were nothing stand out but adding another tackle in the mix that can compete for a starting job and has experience at this level is something the Battlehawks could use if only for a quality backup.
The defensive line was absolutely stacked in 2023 with 2 players getting NFL opportunities in Kevin Atkins and LaCale London. London was able to stick and has even got significant playing time for the Falcons this year which means they have over 400 snaps that have to be replaced.
Antwuann Jackson, Seattle Sea Dragons
Jackson was one of 3 Sea Dragons to get an NFL opportunity this season and is a very similar player to London which makes him a perfect replacement for the Battlehawks. Jackson started in 8 of the 10 regular season games for Seattle and can be a plus player in run defense.
What are your thoughts on these potential additions for these XFL teams? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!