After a two-year waiting period, the XFL's 2020 version finally comes to fruition this Saturday afternoon when the Dragons and Defenders kick off in the Nation's Capital at 2pm ET. In all, four games will be played each and every week during the league's 10-week regular season, and DraftKings will be offering a full array of cash games and GPP contests based on the league's games.
Needless to say, Week 1 of a brand-new league brings no shortage of uncertainty, and there naturally aren't any XFL-specific metrics to evaluate matchups with as of yet. However, there are plenty of skill-position players with decorated college careers and/or stints in other professional leagues that give us a window into their potential talent, so I'll rely heavily on those for our first wave of selections.
As a reminder, check out our XFL DFS 101 series for a full breakdown of the basics of playing XFL contests on DraftKings, as well as a look at how some of the ways the XFL differs from the NFL can affect DFS strategy.
Aaron Murray, TB at NY ($9,000)
Murray makes for a nice pivot off likely more popular and expensive choices Josh Johnson (if he plays, as he's currently dealing with an undisclosed injury) and Cardale Jones. Murray offered a spark at times last season after taking over under center for the AAF's Atlanta Legends, finishing his stint with 1,048 passing yards and a 64.8 completion percentage. Despite the fact he lost projected No. 1 receiver Antonio Callaway to a lower-leg injury recently, Murray will still be working with a talented group of wideouts (Seantavius Jones, Donteea Dye, Reece Horn) and a wide receiver masquerading as a tight end (Nick Truesdell). He also has the advantage of working with a strong offensive mind in head coach Marc Trestman, who's done a good job cultivating strong quarterback play at various levels of the college and pro ranks during his career.
PJ Walker, HOU vs. LA ($7,800)
Walker is considered the favorite to start Saturday's game, and any quarterback that has chance to helm June Jones' and Chris Miller's offense this season will be poised to rack up fantasy production in their Run and Shoot attack. Walker had some trouble with accuracy during his four-year starting run at Temple (56.9 percent career college completion percentage), but he racked up 83 total touchdowns (74 passing, nine rushing) and 10,668 passing yards, the latter a school record. The athletic signal-caller appears to be a very good fit for the pass-happy system, and he could well offer you a strong return based on sheer passing volume alone in Week 1.
Kenneth Farrow, SEA at DC ($7,200)
There are a number of promising candidates above and below Farrow's price point, including Christine Michael ($8,400), Jhurell Pressley ($7,900) and Cameron Artis-Payne ($6,800). However, my affinity for the power-running veteran lies in his expected red-zone role, which should be similar to what he enjoyed with the AAF's San Antonio Commanders last season. Farrow has the size (220 points) to excel in close quarters, and he's also capable of contributing as a pass catcher (74 catches in four-year college career at Houston). With a solid mid-tier price and what should be a secure role in Week 1, I like him as a pivot off more expensive options despite a matchup versus what appears to be a talented Defenders defense.
Donnel Pumphrey, DC vs. SEA ($5,100)
Pumphrey has speed to burn and put up eye-popping numbers at San Diego State during his college days, racking up 6,405 rushing yards (6.0 yard per carry) and 67 total touchdowns over 54 games. He never was able to carve out a role with the Eagles in the NFL after being selected in the fourth round back in 2017, but he should get plenty of opportunities in DC. Pressley is expected to serve as the lead back, but at $2,800 more expensive that Pumphrey – who can also serve as an effective and dangerous receiving option (99 career college catches) – it's the latter who I think stands a stronger chance of delivering a better per-dollar return on investment.
Sammie Coates, HOU vs. LA ($9,300)
As alluded to earlier in Walker's entry, the Roughnecks' offense should have plenty of fruitful fantasy opportunities for its skill-position players. Coates doesn't come cheap, but as a seasoned, talented wideout that's poised to serve as the No. 1 option, he's certainly worthy of consideration. The 2015 third-round pick is still plenty young enough to find his way back to the NFL if he puts together a strong XFL season, so the motivation will undoubtedly be there. Coates could conceivably be one of the league leaders in targets in Week 1, and with a 6-foot-1 frame, he should be capable of making an impact all over the field.
De'Mornay Pierson-El, STL at DAL ($6,200)
Pierson-El put some pro football skins on the wall with the Salt Lake City Stallions of the AAF last year, finishing with a 36-414-1 line. Both the receptions and receiving yards ranked the Nebraska product in the top 10 in the league, and his 77.0 percent catch rate also ranked as such. Pierson-El followed it up with a strong preseason stint with the Raiders last summer (nine receptions, 70 yards), so he has some seasoning at multiple levels of the professional game. While he's opening the season as the slot wideout, that plays right into Pierson-El's hands (and legs), as he's demonstrated a knack for finding soft spots in the secondary in past stops. Additionally, he's also set to serve as the primary punt returner, and given how the XFL's rules should afford more opportunities in this regard, that role also adds to Pierson-El's upside.
Reece Horn, TB at NY ($3,400)
Horn is set to serve as the No. 2 receiver for the Vipers to open the season, and his bargain price belies the amount of upside he offers. Horn finished last year's truncated AAF campaign third in the league in targets (67), fourth in receiving yards (429) and sixth in receptions (28). Horn is a shifty route runner who closed out his college career at Indianapolis with back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and who racked up 27 total touchdowns over three seasons. With a capable signal-caller in fellow AAF alum Murray throwing him the ball, look for Horn to potentially pay off his bargain price nicely in the opener.
Nick Truesdell, TB at NY ($6,900)
There's been plenty of noise about Truesdell thus far this camp/preseason, and with good reason – the athletic tight end seems to thrive any time he gets an opportunity. A veteran of multiple indoor football leagues in addition to the AAF, Truesdell combines a 6-foot-7 frame with an ability to get up the seam with above-average speed. Truesdell's stint with the Salt Lake City Stallions in the Alliance last season was a success (24-269-3), and he also posted that league's highest catch rate. He could well outpace several receivers more expensive than him on the Week 1 slate, given his upside.
Donald Parham, DAL vs. STL ($2,600)
Speaking of athletic freaks, it may be difficult to top Parham, who stands 6-foot-8 and put together a jaw-dropping 85-1,319-13 line at Stetson in his final college season. Parham wasn't exactly overlooked at the NFL level, but he wasn't given much of a chance, either. He spent time with the Lions as an undrafted free agent and then eventually put in a brief stint on the Redskins' practice squad, so he remains an unknown quantity at the professional level. However, his price carries absolutely no risk, and although Sean Price technically slots in ahead of him on the Week 1 depth chart, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Parham immediately play a big role in the red zone for both scrimmage plays and point-after tries.
DC Defenders vs. SEA ($4,200)
Despite my high hopes for Farrow as described earlier, I still like the overall prospects of the Defenders defense versus Seattle. To begin with, they'll be at home, which frequently seems to help a defense's outlook. Then, Brandon Silvers, the Dragons' starting quarterback, was serviceable in his stint in the AAF last season, but he's not necessarily opening the season as an upper-echelon option at the position. Additionally, one of the few dependable criteria we have as delve into making Week 1 lineup decisions for this brand-new league is the amount of former NFL talent each squad has. In that regard, the Defenders' defense is in fine shape, considering they boast the likes of vets like Shamarko Thomas (2013 fourth-round pick of the Steelers, 66 games of NFL experience) and Matt Elam (2013 first-round pick of the Ravens, 41 games of NFL experience). LB Scooby Wright, who didn't parlay a spectacular college career into NFL success just yet, brings plenty of playmaking talent as well (38 tackles for loss, 14 sacks in three college seasons), making this defense a high-upside crew that could force plenty of turnovers.