The Return of the XFL…….Take Two

The XFL has existed in many different forms, but during the first two iterations there was one constant, the owner of the league was Vincent K. McMahon in both the 2001 and 2020 versions of the league but now, there are new owners to run the league into what is hopefully a prosperous future for an alternative to the NFL, Dwayne Johnson, and Dany Garcia. Johnson, a former college football player, professional wrestler, and movie star, he’s been involved with the sports world for his entire life and jumped at the opportunity to breathe some life into a league that showed its potential as a league to give the fans more football to entertain themselves with.

The 2020 version of the XFL proved that it was a solid solution to getting players jobs in the NFL; examples of players such as current starting QB of the Washington Commanders Taylor Heinicke, Chargers offensive tackle Storm Norton, Panthers quarterback PJ Walker, and Chargers tight end Donald Parham Jr all ended up getting NFL jobs thanks to their play in the XFL. There were also special cases of players going from college to the XFL, then getting drafted into the NFL the next April, the prime example of this is former West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson III, who ended up being a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft after playing for the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL. The XFL has proven to be a launching pad into NFL careers for a select few players, and that will likely be improved with an owner who knows the game and wants to help these players in their endeavors.

This XFL season sees some returning franchises along with a few new teams thrown into the mix. The returning teams include the DC Defenders, St. Louis Battlehawks, and the team that ended the 2020 season undefeated in the Houston Roughnecks. A few returning teams got moved to a different location or got a slight rebrand for the 2023 season, those being the Orlando (previously New York) Guardians, Arlington (previously Dallas) Renegades, the Vegas (previously Tampa Bay) Vipers, and the Seattle Sea Dragons (previously just Dragons). Along with these comes the one new franchise, the San Antonio Brahmas.

Once all these teams were revealed, everyone following the league was anticipating the XFL player draft that took place from November fifteenth through the seventeenth. The first day of drafting would be the quarterback selections, the highlights of which were the former University of Alabama, Cincinnati Bengals, and Houston Texans quarterback AJ McCarron (drafted by St. Louis), former Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby (drafted by Houston), former James Madison University and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci (drafted by Seattle), and former Temple University and Michigan State University quarterback Anthony Russo. While only a few of these quarterbacks had NFL experience, the ones who don’t were at least marginally successful at the college level. AJ McCarron is one of the most storied signal callers in Alabama history, leading the Crimson Tide to two national championships in 2011 and 2012, and a Sugar Bowl appearance in his senior year, he then went on to play for seven years in the NFL with limited success. Kaleb Eleby led to two second-round draft picks at the wide receiver in Skyy Moore and D’Wayne Eskridge, and also led Western Michigan to a win in the Quick Lane Bowl over Nevada. Ben DiNucci won the 2017 FCS National Championship game, being one of two quarterbacks to dethrone North Dakota State this decade; he then went on to play three games for the Dallas Cowboys in the 2020-21 NFL season.

The second day of the draft was the start of the skill position player draft, which was headlined by the selections of former Baylor running back Abram Smith (drafted by DC), former Oklahoma and Miami deep threat Charleston Rambo (drafted by Orlando), former Clemson University and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (drafted by Vegas) and XFL returnee Austin Proehl (drafted by St. Louis).  Abram Smith was the catalyst of the Baylor offense in their 2021 Big 12 Championship run, he then went on to be signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent, but would be cut before the end of the preseason. Charleston Rambo played for multiple current and future NFL quarterbacks throughout his four-year college career, including Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma as well as Tyler Van Dyke at Miami, but similar to Smith, would also be waived before the end of the preseason. Martavis Bryant was mostly ineffective at Clemson until his breakout junior season where he tallied over eight hundred yards, which impressed the Steelers front office enough for them to pick him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft; with the Steelers, Bryant would go on to be a productive piece for the 2015 and 2017 seasons, but multiple drug suspensions and injuries derailed his NFL career.

The third day of the draft included all special team positions and included a few notable names; the most notable of which being former Raiders and Broncos punter Marquette King (drafted by Arlington), who was also in the XFL’s 2020 return, as well as former Florida International University and Miami University kicker Jose Borregales. King, who spent seven years in the NFL, earned a Pro Bowl selection in each of the seven, as well an All-Pro selection in the 2016 season. Borregales, who played most of his collegiate career at FIU, drastically boosted his field goal percentage in his senior season with the Hurricanes.

That third day wrapped up an exciting draft for players and fans, which has people pumped for the start of the 2023 season, which will kick off on February 18th, 2023. This will start off an exciting venture for players and fans alike.