Week 1 of the new XFL is now in the books, and it was wildly successful. Which trends led to tournament success in daily fantasy this past weekend? We know which strategies provide the most upside in NFL tournaments, but do those same concepts apply in the XFL?
To answer those questions, I’m taking a look at DraftKings’ Week 1 “Kickoff Special,” a $10 buy-in tournament with a $350,000 prize pool. It was the largest XFL guaranteed prize pool (GPP) in the industry for opening weekend.
Also, check out our Week 2 projected spread and totals.
You can bet on the XFL at DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Of the top 100 finishers in the Kickoff Special, 93% rostered Phillip “PJ” Walker at quarterback. Rounding out the top 100, Cardale Jones was rostered at 6%, while Brandon Silvers appeared in 1% of lineups. While it seems clear that the quarterback of the weekend’s highest-scoring offense was the common thread among successful DFS lineups, there are still some key takeaways here.
Most importantly, quarterback volume was not guaranteed this past weekend, as only five of the league’s eight Week 1 starting quarterbacks played 100% of their teams’ offensive and point-after-touchdown snaps. While paying down at quarterback has been a tried-and-true strategy in NFL DFS for years, this strategy is effective in NFL because workloads are guaranteed for the starting quarterbacks. That may not be the case in the XFL.
Let’s review Week 1 quarterback utilization around the league.
Tier 1: Every-Down Quarterbacks
- Phillip Walker
- Brandon Silvers: He left the game late due to injury but did not come off the field prior to that point.
- Matt McGloin
- Jordan Ta’amu
- Philip Nelson
Tier 2: Almost-Every-Down Quarterbacks
- Cardale Jones: Teammate Tyree Jackson was on the field for three of the Defenders’ four PAT tries and also replaced Jones on a quarterback rush in the first quarter. Jackson’s involvement may not seem like a big deal, but Jones lost four potential fantasy points (one two-point try, two one-point tries) due to Jackson’s PAT involvement. Additionally, because we now know the team values Jackson near the goal line, it would not be shocking to see him vulture Jones in the red zone in future weeks, perhaps similarly to the way Taysom Hill steals work from Drew Brees with the Saints.
Tier 3: Timeshare Quarterbacks
- Charles Kanoff: He gave way to Jalan McClendon at times even before leaving the game late due to injury.
- Aaron Murray: Teammate Quinton Flowers started the second half for the Vipers after Murray was largely ineffective in the first half. The two rotated in and out over the final two quarters.
The XFL is truly a week-to-week, year-to-year league. Player contracts are only valid through the season, meaning teams are not highly incentivized to develop their quarterbacks. If a coach feels that his backup is more capable of executing, there’s little friction preventing a substitution.
Finding quarterbacks who play 100% percent of the offensive and PAT snaps will be crucial for XFL GPP success.
All of the top 10 lineups in the Kickoff Special GPP rostered Walker and stacked him with at least one Roughnecks wide receiver while “bringing it back” with Wildcats wide receiver Nelson Spruce on the other side of the matchup. Six of the top 10 teams double-stacked Walker with wide receivers Cam Phillips and Kahlil Lewis.
In the Houston-LA game, the Roughnecks bucked convention by continuing to throw the ball even with a multi-score lead in the fourth quarter. It was only after Walker’s late fourth quarter interception that they began running the ball to close the game, starting at the 1:33 mark. Overall, Houston passed the ball 71% of the time, which was the week’s second-highest rate (Dallas had the highest rate at 78%).
A pass-heavy approach in the XFL is not as fantasy friendly as it is in the NFL, where the clock stops on incompletions, which increases the number of total plays. But it is fair to say that a pass-heavy approach in the XFL is still more likely to create big plays and force opponents in turn to play more aggressively on offense.
In the NFL, we know certain teams — like the Seahawks and Ravens — will rush the ball relentlessly when leading, but we are still learning about team tendencies in the XFL. After Week 1, we know that the Roughnecks are likely to pass regardless of score, and that — along with their offensive prowess — makes them the premier team to use in game stacks.
Pictured: P.J. Walker
Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images