2020 XFL Betting Preview: Will the Seattle Dragons roast the competition?

    Continuing our foray into the 2020 XFL season, PFN previews the Seattle Dragons. Will their coaching staff be able to maximize the talent of their roster? Or do they deserve to be such long shots for the championship?

    Now that the 2019-2020 NFL season is officially over, we take a look at what will hopefully be the first successful spring league in history. The return of the XFL promises us football and gambling fans at least another ten weeks of action. Leading up to the first kickoff, Pro Football Network has been breaking down the rosters, championship odds, and betting previews for each of the eight XFL teams. We have now arrived at the team with the lowest expectations and the worst championship odds, the Seattle Dragons.

    Championship Odds: +1000
    Season-long win total: O/U 3.5 
    Head Coach: Jim Zorn
    Quarterbacks: Brandon Silvers, B.J. Daniels

    Make sure to read all of our team previews so far here: New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks. If you do not yet know the difference between the XFL vs. the NFL, make sure to read our comprehensive breakdown of all the new rules.

    Do the Dragons lack young, innovative coaching talent?

    It is hard to argue against the years of experience that head coach and general manager Jim Zorn has. Zorn has some of the most NFL coaching experience in the XFL, having been the quarterback coach for the Seattle Seahawks from 2001-2007. He was brought on with Seattle back in 2001 because of his long history with the team. He played as their starting quarterback for their first eight years of existence. Zorn was a no brainer for the Dragons position considering most of his playing career and coaching career took place in the Emerald City.

    When he was done with Seattle, he was hired as the head coach of the Washington Redskins. He later moved to Baltimore as a QB coach and then Kansas City in the same role. His greatest accomplishment as a coach would likely be the success he had with Matt Hasselbeck. Zorn tutored Hasselbeck, who set a Seattle franchise record with 3,841 passing yards. He became the franchise’s most-efficient passer (85.1 rating) and was the only Seahawks quarterback to pass for 3,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons with Zorn. In 2007, Hasselbeck threw for a career-high 28 touchdowns. As a head coach, Zorn has an overall record of 12-20.

    One of the biggest concerns with the coaching staff Zorn has put together is a lack of young minds. Zorn is 66 years old, their offensive coordinator Mike Riley is also 66 years old, and their wide receiver coach Larry Kirksey started his coaching career in 1974. With the XFL introducing a number of new and unique ways to play the game, bookmakers and fans are worried the team’s offense might be a bit too stale. 

    As a fan of the now-defunct AAF, Seattle faithful shouldn’t worry too much. Riley may be up there in age, but he was successful in leading his AAF franchise. He is the only coach in the XFL that has led a team in the AAF. The rule differences between the AAF and XFL are notable, but the speed of the game is similar. At the time of the league folding, Riley’s Commanders were atop the Western Conference.

    “Experience coaching in the CFL and AAF is an enormous asset heading into the first season of the XFL,” said Zorn.

    Who will find success in this offense?

    Seattle’s quarterback Brandon Silvers also comes to the XFL with AAF experience. Silvers took over as the Memphis Express’ starting quarterback before signing a short-term contract with the New York Jets. The former Troy standout finished with 777 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in three starts for the AAF. In his four years with Troy, Silvers passed for 10,677 yards with a 64.4% completion rating. He did not earn a roster spot with the Jets, but a starting gig with the Dragons offers the 25-year-old another opportunity to impress NFL scouts.

    The Dragons also have a trio of running backs whose names we might recognize – Kenneth Farrow, Trey Williams, and Ja’Quan Gardner. With Zorn likely running a West Coast offense, they decided to grab Farrow with the second pick of the second round. Farrow was the feature back at his college program in Houston’s high-octane offense from 2012-15. He posted 3,526 yards from scrimmage and 37 total touchdowns. As an undrafted free agent, he was in the NFL from 2016-18, appearing in 13 games with two starts for the Chargers in ’16.

    In the AAF, Farrow was much more successful. He ranked third in the AAF in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while finishing second in carries. Having already been paired with the team’s offensive coordinator in San Antonio, Farrow will be important if Seattle expects to win more than 3.5 games. Don’t be surprised if Zorn tries to come up with multiple ways to utilize Farrow.

    Behind Farrow on the depth chart is former Texas A&M RB Trey Williams. Over his first three seasons in the NFL, Williams bounced around with six different NFL teams, mostly as a member of their practice squads. He wound up in the AAF on the Commanders and was the backup for Farrow. In limited action, Williams averaged 5.1 yards per carry with a touchdown. The duo has now been reunited in the XFL and will look to build off their AAF chemistry.

    The most notable skill player on the team is Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds will be an interesting player because he can be used in so many ways. In college with Navy, he was a quarterback. He is actually the all-time NCAA Division I touchdown leader with 88. But now, he will be a receiver. If this offense can be creative (which is a big if), then hopefully, they find fun ways to use Reynolds.

    Will the Dragons slay or be slain in the inaugural XFL season? 

    As much as I like the personnel the Dragons have put together, I do have concerns with the coaching staff. They are well removed from football and lack any track record of offensive success. 

    To make matters worse for the Dragons, they start the year with a tough stretch of games. Two of the XFL’s top teams – the DC Defenders and Tampa Bay Vipers were projected to finish as playoff teams according to oddsmakers – will let us know early on if this Seattle team will be able to compete. 

    On the positive side, Seattle has sold the most tickets compared to any of the other XFL teams, by far. That mean’s the city is fully behind them and could provide them with one of the strongest home-field advantages. With only a ten-game season, getting to their win total of 3.5 could be tricky. But, their home field could be good for at least one or two wins. That means they would only need two more to get over 3.5. I will likely split a unit on them to win the championship at +1000 and over 3.5. 

    Having +1000 in my pocket could provide some interesting hedging opportunities in the long run, and with this being the first year, anything could happen. With this roster, the team could surprise us.

    Official plays:  0.5 unit Seattle Champions +1000
                            0.5 unit on over 3.5 wins

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