The Week 4 XFL DFS slate turned popular opinion on its head as wide receiver Cam Phillips tanked more than half the field in DraftKings’ largest tournament by scoring 1.9 fantasy points against an $11,700 salary. Meanwhile, Tre McBride looked like the best wide receiver in the XFL on Saturday, turning in another massive performance that made Wildcats fans forget all about Nelson Spruce (knee).
I touch on both players in this piece and also try to make sense of running back Jhurell Pressley‘s Week 4 disappearing act. Can we write it off, or has there been a changing of the guard in the DC backfield? There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dig in.
Be sure to check out our Week 5 XFL fantasy projections, which will be updated based on injury reports and depth chart news as we head into the weekend.
Houston Roughnecks WR Cam Phillips
Both the most expensive ($11,700) and most-owned (55.6%) receiver in DraftKings’ $200,000 Saturday Special tournament, Phillips torpedoed many DFS teams this past weekend with his 1.9 fantasy points. In a game that saw quarterback P.J. Walker set a season-high in pass attempts (41), Phillips garnered only three targets on a 7% target share, underperforming his previous season-low by a whopping 16 percentage points.
So what led to Phillips’ poor production? After the game, Walker acknowledged that the Renegades made a concerted effort to take away Phillips while praising wide receivers Nick Holley and Ryheem Malone for stepping up in his place.
Roughnecks QB PJ walker talks about the adjustments made on offense to combat the Renegades over the top help on WR Cam Phillips. #BigSargeSportz #hsmsports @pjwalker_5 @XFLRoughnecks @xfl2020 @bmcsportslaw @XFLNewsroom @XFLPlus @CoachBellXFL pic.twitter.com/nlFRysOgkG
— SPORTZ TALK WITH BIG SARGE (@BigSargeSportz) March 3, 2020
While Malone (20% Week 4 snap share after playing 4% in Week 3) and wide receiver Sam Mobley (over 50% snap share for the second consecutive week) have been elevated to larger roles in the Roughnecks offense, their newfound playing time has not come at Phillips’ expense. In fact, in Week 4 Phillips was on the field for every snap, marking the second time this season he has played 100% of snaps. Wide receiver Sammie Coates has been hurt the most by Malone and Mobley, falling from a 71% snap share in Week 1 all the way down to 44% this past weekend.
The main question for Phillips is whether other XFL teams will follow the Renegades’ blueprint by sending extra help towards Phillips and forcing Walker to win with his secondary receivers. Although the Roughnecks were able to pull off the road victory, their 27 points on Sunday were a season low. There is at least a possibility that teams view Dallas’ defensive game plan as a success. For what it’s worth, the Roughnecks in Week 5 will host the Dragons, whose defense has ranks second-to-last with a 52.9 coverage grade (per Pro Football Focus).
Los Angeles Wildcats WR Tre McBride
McBride may have been the most difficult player to project entering Week 4. Although he posted a terrific 5-109-2 receiving line in his Week 3 debut, McBride played only 16-of-59 snaps. After missing the first two weeks of the season, it certainly made sense for McBride to be eased in initially, but how much of a workload could we anticipate moving forward on an offense that was suddenly missing its top receiver in Spruce?
Any concerns about McBride’s usage moving forward went out the window after he played 97% of snaps on Saturday, 17 percentage points higher than Spruce’s season-high of 80%. Further, McBride’s 28% target share through two games now eclipses Spruce’s 26% target share through the first three games of the season. In Week 4, McBride essentially inherited wide receiver Adonis Jennings‘ full-time perimeter role, as Jennings split reps in the slot with wide receiver Kermit Whitfield.
While McBride’s target share has been roughly comparable to Spruce’s, the types of targets McBride has seen are different. On 28 overall targets, Spruce was targeted 20-plus yards downfield only four times (14%), while McBride has been targeted 20-plus yards on 6-of-18 targets (33%), reeling in four for long receptions. As McBride (90th percentile speed score) is both bigger and faster than Spruce (23rd percentile speed score), it makes sense for McBride’s downfield utilization to continue even in the unlikely event that Spruce returns to action in the near future.
DC Defenders RB Jhurell Pressley
One of the biggest surprises in Week 4 had to be the Defenders’ decision to phase out Pressley. He led their backfield in snap share through the first two weeks before suffering a shoulder injury in Week 3. Pressley didn’t receive a single touch on his three snaps against the Tampa Bay Vipers last week.
While Pressley was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, he was able to get in a full session on Friday and was designated as “probable” to play. It’s somewhat rare for a player to get in a full Friday practice session and then be limited in a game. That said, every injury is different, and it’s possible that DC limited Pressley as a precaution.
Another possible contributing factor to Pressley’s usage was game script, as the Defenders trailed from the outset against the Vipers, eventually losing 25-0. While pass-catching back Donnel Pumphrey did set a season-high in snap rate, his 56% snap share was still only nine percentage points higher than his season average. Instead, it was running back Nick Brossette who picked up most of Pressley’s snaps, finishing with six carries for 12 yards. That Brossette replaced Pressley isn’t a good sign: Brossette is not a pass-catching back. The LSU alum has not recorded a reception in the XFL, and he had only 15 catches in 31 games in college.
It’s difficult to speculate on Pressley’s Week 5 usage, but we should have a clearer picture after this weekend’s matchup with the BattleHawks. If Pressley is able to practice in full this week and is again behind Brossette on Sunday, it will be a clear indication that the team has shaken up its depth chart at the position. For now, both Pressley and Brossette are speculative plays at best.