After a 19-year hiatus, the XFL is back! And for its triumphant return, we’ll be providing daily fantasy content all season long.
For Week 1, you should be sure to check out the following pieces.
- XFL DraftKings & FanDuel fantasy projections: These are free, and we’ll be updating them into the weekend based on injury reports and depth chart news.
- Value plays: Here are the six players with the largest discrepancies in their DraftKings & FanDuel salaries.
- XFL rules you need to know: There are several DFS implications based on the XFL rules that you should be aware of when building your lineups.
For XFL, there are a few notable differences between DraftKings and FanDuel.
- DraftKings: QB, RB, WR, WR, Flex (RB/WR), Flex (RB/WR), DST
- Salary cap: $50,000
- Tight ends are listed as wide receivers
- Full point-per-reception scoring
- FanDuel: QB, RB, WR/TE, WR/TE, Flex (RB/WR/TE), Flex (RB/WR/TE)
- Salary cap: $100 total player salary limit
- No defense/special teams
- Half point-per-reception scoring
Here are the four games this weekend.
- Seattle @ DC: Sat., Feb. 8 – 2 pm ET (ABC)
- LA @ Houston: Sat., Feb. 8 – 5 pm ET (FOX)
- Tampa Bay @ NY: Sun., Feb. 9 – 2 pm ET (FOX)
- St. Louis @ Dallas: Sun., Feb. 9 – 5 pm ET (ESPN)
Before we dive in, it’s important to understand that since this is Week 1 of a new league and format, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding play calling tendencies, player usage and performance and DFS strategy. We’re all making educated guesses at this point.
You can bet on the XFL at FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Cardale Jones – DC Defenders ($10,200 DK; $20 FD): Jones is one of the bigger names in the XFL this season and immediately jumps into a favorable matchup against the Seattle Dragons, who are expected to struggle on both sides of the ball. Their defense lacks any real playmakers, and Jones should be able to do what he wants both through the air and on the ground. He’s one of the most expensive options at the position but also one of the safest, and that’s important given how much uncertainty there is in Week 1.
P.J. Walker – Houston Roughnecks ($7,800 DK; $18 FD): Walker was named the starter earlier this week, beating out former Raiders QB Connor Cook, probably because he’s the more explosive player. Walker finds himself in a pass-heavy offensive scheme under head coach June Jones and offensive coordinator Chris Miller, and he’s likely to be in a high-scoring game against the LA Wildcats. Since he was named starter after salaries were released, he’s discounted relative to his projected usage. Priced like a backup quarterback, especially on DraftKings, he offers a lot of salary flexibility and will allow you to pay up at other positions.
XFL Running Backs
Elijah Hood – L.A. Wildcats ($7,500 DK; $20 FD): Hood is a big, strong downfield runner who should occupy his team’s bell-cow role this season. He was a top running back prospect out of high school and had two strong seasons at North Carolina, including a 1,534-yard, 17-touchdown sophomore year, and in his final college season he had a respectable 25 receptions. At 230 pounds, he’s a lock to see work in early down and goal-line situations. In what should be a high-tempo game against the run-and-shoot Houston Roughnecks, Hood should see plenty of usage and might be one of the few game script-independent backs in the league.
Jhurell Pressley – DC Defenders: ($7,900 DK; $18 FD): Pressley impressed mightily last season in the AAF, posting the highest offensive grade and second-highest rush grade among all backs (per Pro Football Focus). In Week 1, he has an advantageous matchup against a Seattle defense that looks like it will struggle. I expect him to garner the bulk of the carries and goal-line work, and he’s a capable receiver, although the Defenders are unlikely to need to use him much in the passing game this week. Currently a 7.5-point home favorite, Pressley could get a lot of carries in the second half as the Defenders look to control the game.
De’Veon Smith – TB Vipers ($6,300 DK; $16 FD): Another AAF producer, Smith is likely to pick up where he left off last year. Smith finished just behind Pressley in PFF’s total offensive grade for running backs (No. 2) and rushing grade (No. 3), and he trailed only Trent Richardson with his six rushing touchdowns (No. 2). Although HC Mark Trestman is likely to have a pass-heavy offense, he has a strong tendency to get his backs the ball in the air. Smith isn’t an exceptional receiver, but in his two final seasons at Michigan, he combined for 35 receptions in 25 games, so he’s not hopeless as a pass catcher. Houston’s defense is no joke, but the opportunities will be there for Smith. On FanDuel especially, he’s a bargain compared to some of the other big names on this list.
XFL Wide Receivers
Sammy Coates – Houston Roughnecks, ($9,300; $20 FD): Coates is going to be involved early and often for the Roughnecks. Jones’ run-and-shoot offense is designed to put receivers in motion to find mismatches, and Coates is one of the league’s most talented receivers. During the 2016 season with the Steelers, Coates emerged as a legitimate big play threat for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, averaging 20.7 yards per reception, and I expect him to produce in the XFL as well. He’s expensive, but as the No. 1 receiver on a fast-paced, pass-heavy team that seems likely to be in a shootout, he seems likelier than most high-priced options to return value.
Nelson Spruce – L.A. Wildcats ($8,500 DK; $14 FD): Spruce could have a big day out of the slot for the Wildcats in what should be a high-scoring game against the Roughnecks. He was one of the better wide receivers last season in the AAF, sporting a 73.1 PFF receiver grade, good for No.6 in the league. He should garner a ton of targets and provide a high fantasy floor. He’s especially cheap on FanDuel.
Kahlil Lewis – Houston Roughnecks ($4,100 DK; $16 FD): Given how aggressive I think the Roughnecks will be through the air, more than one of the wide receivers offers value. With Jalen Saunders on injured reserve, Lewis looks like the No. 2 wide receiver in Houston, and he has already shown he can make big plays in this league, scoring a 55-yard touchdown in the team’s last scrimmage. He was a touchdown magnet in college, scoring 21 times on only 168 targets, and since the Roughnecks don’t have a tight end on the roster, both Coates and Lewis seem likely to get an above-average share of targets in Week 1. Lewis is notably underpriced on DraftKings.
XFL Tight End
Nick Truesdell – TB Vipers ($6,900 DK; $14 FD): Because tight ends are flexed into the wide receiver position on both DraftKings and FanDuel, you don’t need to roster one in XFL DFS, but if you want one, Truesdell is the guy. Blessed with elite size (6-foot-6) and speed (4.47-second 40-yard dash), Truesdell was easily the best tight end in the AAF last year with 24 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns, and in the Arena Football League in 2015, he balled out with 977 yards and 23 touchdowns on 80 receptions. With his talent, he might be the top receiver for quarterback Aaron Murray, especially since the Vipers drafted him with their first-round pick. In a few weeks, he might be priced up with the top wide receivers.
XFL Defense/Special Teams
DC Defenders ($4,200 DK) – The Defenders have the luxury of opening their XFL season against arguably the worst offense in the league. Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers might be a bottom-three starter, and he lacks established pass-catching options. As 7.5-point home favorites, the Defenders could have lots of opportunities to get sacks and create turnovers if they get up with a big lead.
Cash Game Strategy
My Week 1 mantra for XFL cash games is simple: Go with what you know. There’s no reason to gamble on players who lack defined roles or haven’t had any professional success. There will undoubtedly be surprises once the games begin, but for now let’s focus on the most bankable fantasy assets.
For me, that means building around Cardale Jones ($10,200; $20 FD) and P.J. Walker ($7,800 DK; $18 FD) at quarterback and then going with two high-end running backs. I prefer Elijah Hood ($7,500 DK; $20 FD) and Jhurell Pressley ($7,900 DK; $18 FD), but Cameron Artis-Payne ($6,800 DK; $19 FD) is also a solid option. If you decide to go with Jones, then Hood & CAP will likely lead to a more consistent overall build, especially on DraftKings.
Spending up for Sammie Coates ($9,300 DK; $20 FD) is desirable if you can afford it. He should be the top option for Walker in a projected shootout. Nelson Spruce ($8,500 DK; $14 FD) is pricey on DraftKings, but he provides the kind of safe floor we’re looking for in cash games and is at a discount on FanDuel. If you decide to go with a tight end, Nick Truesdell ($6,900 DK; $14 FD) is the option. He’s easily the top tight end on the slate.
Given the uncertainty in Week 1, you’re going to see many DFS players flock to familiar names. On a four-game slate, it’s going to be hard to ignore those guys completely, but we want to take the opportunity to fade where we can.
One fade candidate is Rashad Ross ($10,400 DK; $15 FD), especially on DraftKings, where he’s the most expensive receiver on the board. There have been reports out of the DC camp that he’s having trouble adjusting to the new offense, and that’s enough to make me want to go underweight on him. He should eventually emerge as the No. 1 receiver in his offense, but in Week 1, I’m fine staying away.
For tourneys, there are a few lower-priced options I want exposure to. De’Angelo Henderson ($4,500 DK; $13 FD) is an excellent pass-catching back for the Renegades, who might have a shootout this weekend. If that happens, Henderson — and not Andre Williams — could see the bulk of the snaps. I’m also very high on Kahlil Lewis ($4,100 DK; $16 FD), who can stretch the field and should play as the No. 2 wide receiver for the Renegades with Jalen Saunders on IR. Cam Phillips ($5,100 DK; $13 FD) is also a good contrarian option to stack with Walker if you’re trying to avoid the Sammie Coates chalk. Phillips earned a starting spot this week and was a proven playmaker for Virginia Tech in 2014-17: In his career-best junior season, he had a 76-983-5 receiving and 30-140-0 rushing campaign. Pairing Walker with both Lewis and Phillips could be the way to go in large-field guaranteed prize pools this week.
Houston Renegades: P.J. Walker (QB)-Sammy Coates (WR)-Khalil Lewis (WR) – Cash or GPP. The Renegades-Wildcats game could have the highest score of the week.
Tampa Bay Vipers: Aaron Murray (QB)-Nick Truesdell (TE) – GPP. The Vipers are the shortest favorites on the slate, and they’re on the road. Even with his talent, Truesdell could have low ownership because of a general desire to stay away from tight ends.
DC Defenders: Cardale Jones (QB)-Rashad Ross (WR) – Cash. Add Juhrell Pressley (RB) as a differentiator in tournaments and to soak up the bulk of offensive output.
Pictured: Cardale Jones
Credit: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images