The start of XFL 2020 literally days away. Chances are, as you have started to dive into the current rosters, you’re feeling a little lost. If you don’t make college football your religion, you are staring at some largely unfamiliar names.
Allow us to help in that department as we introduce you to nine players to put on your draft board entering the XFL’s inaugural season. Keep in mind that some of these players may end up on different rosters, or none at all, but should they continue to suit up this season, you will have a leg up on those folks who have not done their homework. While everyone else is chasing after names they recognize from the NFL, you can have confidence knowing you’ll be grabbing solid names they have never heard.
RASHAD ROSS, WR – DC Defenders
Ok, so this one might not be as under the radar as most, but still a name you need to keep an eye on as you are putting together your draft sheet. He very well could end up in the top three receivers in the XFL with a strong shot of winding up number.
Ross played two seasons with Arizona St. where he had a solid Senior year tallying 37 receptions for 610 yards and six touchdowns. He bounced around on several NFL practice rosters until finally getting a shot to see substantial live game action with the Washington Redskins in 2014. All told that season, Ross had 9 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown. The speedster also served as a kick returner accounting for over 800 yards and a touchdown in that regards.
After a few more stops along the map in the NFL, Ross was allocated the Arizona Hotshots of the short-lived Alliance of American Football in the Spring of 2018. There, his talents were put on display in one of the more explosive offenses in the Alliance. In Arizona, Ross totaled 37 receptions for 583 yards and 7 touchdowns placing him second all time in receiving yardage and number on in touchdown receptions.
He has speed and great route running skills. It would not be crazy to go after him with the first pick in your draft, wherever that falls.
MEKALE MCKAY, WR – NY Guardians
McKay is another of a long list of talented, former members of the AAF looking for redemption in yet another Spring league.
Big Play McKay as he is affectionately known, spent his first year of college in the SEC as a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks where he ended the season with 317 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 21 grabs. He spent the next three college seasons in Cincinnati turning in a combined 1,717 yards and 17 touchdowns with the Bearcats.
After three seasons of being signed and released from several NFL squads, McKay was picked up by the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF. Big play was one of the darlings of the Alliance and lived up to his nickname. He dazzled on opening night of the debut of the Alliance snaring five passes for 80 yards in a 15-6 win over the San Diego Fleet. McKay went on to collect 375 yards and 4 touchdowns in his time in the Alamodome and was a go to wideout for Commanders signal caller Logan Woodside.
Big play will figure to play a large role in what is now arguably the most stacked wide out corps in the league. While he can be explosive, you can afford to wait a couple of rounds before snatching him off the board.
RICHARD MULLANEY, WR – DC Defenders
It is highly likely that Mullaney may not move the needle for a lot of people; that’s great for you as he fits well as a late round flier with tremendous upside. Mullaney played three seasons at Oregon St before spending his final college season at Alabama where he won a National Championship with the Crimson Tide in 2015. He had one catch for 29 yards in that game. He finished his college career with over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately, unlike several of his college counterparts who went on to stick with NFL rosters, Mullaney failed to make the final cuts over the next two seasons.
Luckily, he went on to suit up for the Hotshots and played alongside Rashad Ross in that potent aerial attack in Arizona. Mullaney was a late season bloomer as he impressed down the stretch recording two out of his last three games with at least 5 catches and 60 yards. Sadly, the Alliance could not finish out the year and we never got to see the full extent of Mullaney’s explosive potential in what was surely a playoff caliber roster.
We as fantasy players can hope that he can pick up in the XFL where he was trending in the dying days of the AAF. If he does, there is no reason he can’t make a serious stab as a #1 for the Defenders.
DONNELL PUMPHREY, RB – DC Defenders
Yes, he’s that Donnell Pumphrey. His name is not unfamiliar, and you feel like he should have more professional street cred than he does, what with being the career rushing yards leader in NCAA Division I history. Pumphrey had the best college career as a running back of all time as a member of the San Diego Aztecs. His career total bested the Wisconsin Badgers powerhouse Ron Dayne, although, not without some controversy. Sadly, he could never gain a foothold with the Philadelphia Eagles who spent a fourth-round draft pick to add him to their stable of backs. A pre-season hamstring injury kept him off the field for the entire length of the 2017 season and his shot at lacing up in the Super Bowl, which his teammates ultimately won that season.
Pumphrey is looking to rekindle some of his former glory with the Defenders this March. He’s proven to be a formidable running back. One simply does not out-gain Ron Dayne with out some major skill at the position. The XFL might just be the chance he is looking for to show off his record-breaking talent. Don’t be afraid to grab him in the third of fourth rounds of your draft if not to start, then for reliable depth.
JHURELL PRESSLEY, RB – DC Defenders
I hear you asking me, “Why are there so many former AAF players on this list?” The simple answer is that there was so much talent left out in the cold when the Alliance folded that we should be excited to see them get another crack at it this Spring. Thus, the case for Jhurell Presley.
Pressley played college ball at the University of New Mexico where he enjoyed at least one 1,000-yard season out of his four years there. What was more impressive was his propensity for finding the end zone, a feat he accomplished 35 times as a Lobo.
Another victim on the sign and waive, Pressley saw looks from teams like the Packers and Vikings among others. He eventually found himself as the leader in rushing yards (431) in the AAF. Pressley spearheaded a three-headed Arizona Hotshots backfield that housed Tim Cook and Justin Stockton who are once again teammates on the New York Guardians.
He’s strong and a grinder but given the chance, he can break a long one. He’s certainly has top ten potential and will make for a good pick in the later rounds given he is once again in a crowded backfield.
JALEN SAUNDERS, WR – Houston Roughnecks
You look at a guy like Jalen Saunders and you wonder how he has not been able to make the best of an NFL opportunity. His college numbers rival those posted by many on a current professional roster and his size and speed match them as well. He enjoyed his best season as a sophomore at Fresno St., where he amassed 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns on 50 receptions. After parting ways with the Bulldogs that summer, he joined Oklahoma for his final two collegiate seasons. As a Sooner, Saunders had back to back 60 catch seasons racking up 1,558 yards and 11 more touchdowns. To put it into perspective, his 729-yard output his senior year led the team which included a wide receiver named Sterling Sheppard. What’s more, he finished third in total receiving yards. At the top of that list, one Kenny Stills.
The Jets drafted him out of college, and he has spent the last few seasons on and off NFL rosters. It wasn’t until 2017 when he moved north of the border did we start to see his full arsenal on display. As a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football league, Saunders put his size and strength to use on the wide field. In his first year as a Ticat, he posted 121 catches for 1,170 yards and 4 touchdowns. That season, Hamilton started 0-8 over the first half of the season until a head coaching changed sparked an 8-game winning streak to end the year at 8-8. The coach that turned it all around; June Jones. Saunders was on his way to another stellar season in 2018 until he was sidelined by injury.
The fact that Saunders is being reunited with Coach Jones should have every fantasy owner salivating. He is in the top five of receivers for certain and some could argue the top three given his talent and situation. Strongly suggest a second-round pick for Saunders and will be a lock in a week one daily roster.
NELSON SPRUCE, WR – LA Wildcats
Spruce rounds out the top five all time receiving yards in the AAF. This came as no surprise to those who follow him throughout his time as a Colorado Buffalo. His name is alongside several receiving records at the school and he finished his last two seasons with over 1,000 yards in each. He was picked up by the Rams as an unsigned free agent and enjoyed a promising preseason game against the Cowboys, that is, until he was injured on the game-winning play. Sadly, he was unable to turn his early success into an NFL career.
Thankfully, Spruce was able to land in the AAF. As a member of the San Diego Fleet, he remained a rock steady target for both Mike Bercovici and Philip Nelson. In his best effort with the Fleet, he exploded for 148 yards on 12 receptions in a losing effort to the Arizona Hotshots. He was a fan favorite in the city that had just lost Keenan Allen and he made the best of his opportunity.
You can feel confident with your pick should he fall to you in the mid rounds of your draft and depending on your roster construction, could very well be a week to week starter.
L’DAMIAN WASHINGTON, WR – ST. Louis BattleHawks
There are big, touch receivers, and then there is L’Damian Washington. Standing 6’4” and listed at 216, Washington is a punishing who just feels like he hasn’t had a real chance to show what he can do. His numbers from the University of Missouri do not jump off the page, but as we all know, sometimes numbers do not tell the whole story. His size is deceptive in that defensive backs don’t expect his speed which he used several times in Mizzo to get wide open behind them.
After a brief look in the CFL as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Washington found himself with Luis Perez on the Birmingham Iron of the AAF. While he managed to finish in the top 15 in receiving yards, his fans were left frustrated by the lack of proper usage that was a combination of lack-luster quarterback play, and the vacuum-like ability of Trent Richardson to suck in any touch inside the 20-yard line.
He’s a veteran presence on a young roster and will look to use this opportunity to finally break out and make a professional name for himself. He shares a roster spot with Terrance Williams which will most likely be the name most will flock to on draft day leaving you open to take a chance on plenty of upside in Washington.
DE’VEON SMITH, RB – Tampa Bay Vipers
In much of the same fashion as we scratch our heads about Washington, Smith’s absence on an NFL roster leaves us with the same feeling. In Michigan, Smith lead the Wolverines in rushing each of his last three season and it wasn’t even close between him and second place. That effort produced a chance with the Dolphins that did not pan out and a look with the Redskins that met the same fate.
Smith’s stint with the Vipers is not his first experience with football in Florida as he spent time with the Orlando Apollos under the tutelage of the Ol’ Ball Coach himself. Smith rushed alongside D’Ernest Johnson on the self-proclaimed champions of the Alliance for a one two punch that made for a formidable rushing attack. He finished just outside of the top five in rushing yards over the eight-game season joining his teammate inside the top ten. Smith was a fantasy darling to some and a thorn in the side of Johnson owners all season long.
He has stand alone power and the ability to put up serious fantast numbers as evident by his 40-yard, three touchdown performance in week 7 of the AAF season. In fact, in seven games, he produced double digit fantasy games in five of them. His will certainly be an off the radar name so grabbing him towards the end of your draft should be a lock.