“FOR THE LOVE OF FOOTBALL”
That’s the mantra the XFL has chosen to convey their intentions in a post NFL world. Lost in the shuffle of new rules, referee transparency, sideline interviews and flashy uniforms is the actual fire the players are bringing to the league each weekend.
In a sports world currently void of spectacular plays from the likes of Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey and DeAndre Hopkins to name a few, football fans can gravitate to some unfamiliar names and a couple of former pros that are now demanding attention in the XFL.
After two weeks of play in the XFL 2020 regular season the cream has begun to rise to the top. These guys have showed out offensively in their last two games and have separated themselves from other positional players in the XFL.
5 potential NFL stars in the making
- PJ Walker: QB Houston Roughnecks – Houston got themselves a quarterback who can do both. The former Indianapolis Colts practice squad player has taken the XFL by storm in the first 2-weeks of play. Walker showed out in Week 1 firing off 23-for-39 for 298 total yards (272 passing) and four touchdowns in the home opener versus the LA Wildcats. He has shown the ability to create with his legs all while having the poise to take shots downfield while being forced from the pocket. Walker was named the first ever XFL Star of the Week and has led the Roughnecks to a 2-0 start. At halftime of Week 2 versus the St. Louis Battlehawks Walker was 13/21 passing for 122 yards and 2 TDs. He boasts a league high 108.5 QB Rating and has drawn comparisons to another stand-out Houston QB in Deshaun Watson.
- Cam Phillips: WR Houston Roughnecks – Cam Phillips is another emerging star in Houston that will draw some interest in the NFL. Phillips was named XFL Star of the Week after an amazing 3 touchdown performance versus the St. Louis Battlehawks in week 2. He finished with 63 yards on catches to go along with his hat-trick and was the second consecutive Roughneck player to earn the Star of the Week honor. His week 2 performance was good enough for 32.30 fantasy points and the top spot on DraftKings. Phillips has shown tremendous chemistry with QB PJ Walker and can beat the secondary in numerous ways. He adjusts well to the ball once it is in the air and he possesses enough speed to streak by defenders. After 2 weeks Phillips has amassed an impressive 130 yards and 4 TDs on 12 catches.
- Cardale Jones: QB DC Defenders – In a league that has been somewhat criticized for weak quarterback play, Jones has commanded coach Pep Hamilton’s offense by completing a league high 67% of deep (20 yds+) throws. He is a big body at the position at 6 ft. 5 in. and 253 lbs, and does well to escape the pocket and extend plays when needed. His large frame makes him difficult to bring down and helps to pad his rushing stats. The Defenders hold the mark for the league’s highest usage of play-action through 2-weeks. Keep an eye on the former Nation Championship winning quarterback, as he seems destined to make a run for the XFL Championship in it’s inaugural season. Jones had 276 passing yards and 2 TDs in a 27-0 shutout victory that moved his Defenders to 2-0 on the season.
- Donald Parham: TE Dallas Renegades – Parham graded out as the highest offensive player in the XFL in Week 2 by PFF. He had 76 yards on 5 catches and a score. He’s a huge target and has gotten the big piece of the pie in Dallas as he is the team’s target leader after 2 weeks. Parham has 48 yards after the catch and has seen 3 targets 20+ yards downfield on 17 targets thus far. In a league where the tight end position may be even worse than the barren landscape of the NFL, Parham has put up decent numbers after 2 games. 1 touchdown and 116 yards on 9 catches is solid in this league and Parham has the making of a player that could transcend to the next level. Almost Darren Waller-esque in play, you can see it just a bit when Parham high-points a ball and snatches it out of the air.
- Nelson Spruce: WR LA Wildcats – Through 2 weeks Spruce has compiled 17 catches for 192 yards and a pair of scores and he leads the league in receiving yards. In Week 1 Spruce went off for 11 catches and 103 yards against a good Houston Roughneck defense. If Donald Parham is the XFL counterpart of Darren Waller, then you can look at Nelson Spruce and see how he is used like Michael Thomas on the field. Spruce, along with the previously listed Phillips and Parham, are a part of only 8 players who have seen 6 or more targets through the 2 weeks of the XFL season. Spruce leads all LA Wildcats in targets with 24 thus far and has a league-high 31% target share on an outstanding 40.5 pass routes run per game. He’s showing out and looks like he could get another crack at playing receiver in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: receiver Rashad Ross, running back Cameron Artis-Payne and tight end Nick Trusedell
- Miles Peacock is a content writer covering the NFL’s Houston Texans and XFL’s Houston Roughnecks for the Rumboyz.net and Timeskewed.com fantasy sports websites. Follow Miles on Twitter @FF_Peacock.