Anytime a new league forms with brand new teams full of players with varying levels of NFL experience, some trepidation and question towards what the on-field product will be is warranted. What we saw this weekend was anything but a questionable product as all games were full of fast-paced, exciting, and generally, technically sound football utilizing innovating rules that should have die-hard NFL fans paying attention. While we are not trying to say the XFL is a replacement for the NFL, it could very well serve as a great hold over in these typically dark times between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft. Even better for us in the fantasy world is we have 12 more weeks of over-analyzing and stressing over the smallest of plays in hopes for another trophy to go on the shelf. As the league grows in popularity, so will the availability of sites where you can play other season-long formats and the official XFL partner, DraftKings, for DFS. Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy standouts from Day 1 in the XFL.
P.J. Walker – QB, Houston Roughnecks
It only seems right to start this off with the highest scoring player of the day. Walker did it all in his debut for the Roughnecks, going 23 of 39 for 272 yards and throwing for 4 touchdowns with 1 interception. He also was able to take what the defense gave him to move the chains on a few plays, rushing 4 times for 26 yards. Not Lamar Jackson rushing numbers, but it was what they needed to extend the drives.
Arguably, the most intriguing part of the XFL’s new rules is the change in the point after attempt as coaches have multiple options. For us in fantasy, this is fantastic as players can earn those same number of points that they score for their teams, quarterbacks included. Walker benefited from this new wrinkle by throwing to WR Kahlil Lewis for a two-point conversion as well as rushing for another two-point conversion on his own, earning him an additional four fantasy points.
Working inside of head coach June Jones’s Air Raid style playbook, Walker got off to a hot start early in the first quarter with a 50-yard deep touchdown to WR Cam Phillips.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) February 8, 2020
Walker, who played collegiately at Temple, wasn’t selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and only had a few practice-squad opportunities with the Indianapolis Colts from 2017 to 2019 before getting a chance with the XFL. After beating out former Michigan State QB Connor Cook for the starting job, Walker finally got to play his first organized game since the 2016 Military Bowl. Walker had an impressive collegiate career with the Owls, setting school records with 10,668 passing yards and 74 passing touchdowns. He spent his four years playing under Matt Rhule, who was hired this offseason to coach the Carolina Panthers.
“I was just out there having fun,” Walker said after the game, per Suzanne Halliburton of the Statesman. “I was out there having fun embracing the moment. I was just flying around. These guys were out there flying around making plays. It was amazing just to have the opportunity to go out there and play a football game.”
Moving forward, Walker will firmly be in the top-3 quarterbacks for weekly rankings given this offense’s desire to push the ball down the field and his big arm and standout play in his first game. However, I am positive he will also be priced like one next week on DraftKings.
Austin Proehl – WR, Seattle Dragons
After going largely undrafted in season-long leagues, Proehl’s standout Week 1 performance will surely make him the number one waiver-wire claim heading into next week. Catching 5 of his 10 targets for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns, Proehl ended the day as the WR1 over both games played on Saturday. While 57 of his yards came on one play, the consistent targeting is what we love to see from a fantasy aspect in PPR formats. Opportunity breeds production. He will also be the answer to trivia questions years from now as he was the first player to score a touchdown in the XFL after catching a 14-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Silvers.
— XFL on FOX (@XFLonFOX) February 8, 2020
While the Dragons did not come away with the victory against the DC Defenders, it forced them to stick to a more pass-happy approach in their comeback attempt, which could be a trend for the season. Seattle had the worst betting odds of winning the championship at +1000 before Saturday’s game. Given the lack of knowledge teams have over their depth charts, Proehl likely just moved up to the WR1 for them and will be considered that for fantasy as well in Week 2. Week 1 is very much a feeling out week. We, just as well as teams, are evaluating new talent and seeing them for the first time. Jump on these standout players and get them on your rosters now.
Nelson Spruce – WR, Los Angeles Wildcats
One of the fantasy darlings that came from the AAF, Nelson Spruce brought that hype into the XFL and delivered with an impressive Week 1 stat line. Spruce caught 11 of his 15 targets for 103 yards and was the only player, other than quarterbacks, to have over 100 combined yards on the day across the league.
Spruce and fellow XFL wide receiver Rashad Ross of the DC Defenders, were two of the favorites to land a job in the NFL after the AAF folded. In the AAF, Spruce was fourth amongst targets (52) and was fifth in receiving yards (426). He worked out for the New England Patriots in September but was never offered a contract. With Josh Johnson out at quarterback due to injury, Chad Kanoff seemed to be solely looking for Spruce all game. Spruce’s 15 targets gave him a 37.5% target share for the Wildcats, highest for the XFL.
While we do need to see the chemistry between him and Johnson under center next week, it is hard to see him stop producing given his fantastic Week 1 performance. Spruce has the makings of a PPR dream and should be locked in all rosters from here on out.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.