Wide receivers. They go hand and hand with quarterbacks, especially when it comes to how an offense works. The wide receiver position is the oil to the quarterback engine; give a talented QB a mediocre WR corps and the results aren’t typically positive. On the other hand, give a mediocre quarterback a talented and explosive WR corps and the results can impress – even win championships. Most professional football leagues has proven this concept on multiple occasions. The XFL has pushed the QB play narrative by placing the success of the league on that narrative. The biggest factor that most people aren’t talking about is in order for the XFL to achieve that success, the QBs need help, and tons of it, from their respective WR corps. Here on my current WR team rankings for the XFL!
Note: Just like I did for the running backs, the wide receivers were looked at collectively and I used my limited knowledge of each team to complete my projected depth charts.
1. D.C. Defenders
The most complete and well-rounded group of wide receivers, the Defenders boosted their already talented roster when they traded disgruntled WR Tre McBride to the LA Wildcats for Rashad Ross. Ross is arguably the most dynamic and best WR in the league and his addition to the Defenders adds another element that they had been lacking. His explosiveness and ability to take the top of defenses will open up holes in the offense for D.C.’s bigger receivers. And that’s something the Defenders don’t lack – size. Malachi Dupre and late additions Jalen Rowell and Simmie Cobbs, Jr. are all 6’3″ and taller. The Defenders also have experience and veteran leadership on the roster, as well. Eli Rogers spent several seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and even started several games for them. Rogers, who will likely start in the slot, will add much needed route running skills that some of the other receivers might not be as refined. DeAndre Thompkins and unknown Gannon product Tyler Palka could see time inside, as well. Overall, the late additions of Rowell and Cobbs to the roster boost the bottom half of these corps with size and strength. Pairing this receiving corps with Cardale Jones could be a dangerous combination for not only the Eastern Conference, but the entire XFL.
2. New York Guardians
One of the most baffling teams in roster construction, the Guardians boosted one of the worst running back corps in the XFL. That might be by design as they possess one of the top wide receiving groups in the XFL. Kevin Gilbride has helped Matt McGloin significantly with this group. The group is lead by AAF star Mekale McKay, McKay showed the ability to be a true WR1 at this level after spending the season last year with the San Antonio Commanders. McKay boosts the size of the roster greatly being their biggest and toughest WR on the roster. What the Guardians lack in size, they make up for in quickness with the rest of the receivers. Colby Pearson, Teo Redding, Austin Duke and Justice Liggins don’t boost the name recognition that we’re accustomed to hearing, but they provide enough quickness, route running ability and sure hands to be able to give McGloin the security blanket he’ll need. They made a late trade for Joe Horn, Jr., a name that most people will recognize, from the Houston Roughnecks. The overall WR roster is made up more like an NFL roster than the other teams and with Gilbride’s experience be the most impressive group in the XFL. The way this roster is comprised makes me believe we’ll see this offense play into McGloin’s strength, with a lot of short passes, screens and plays designed to get those shifty and quick receivers into space.
3. Dallas Renegades
The team that everyone predicts to win the West, and rightfully so, the Renegades are at an advantage of having a dynamic quarterback and head coach with experience playing together; an advantage that no other team in the XFL currently boosts. Landry Jones and Bob Stoops set the Renegades apart, but in order to keep that separation, most of that hinges on the wide receiving corps surrounding Landry Jones. A group led by Freddie Martino, an AAF darling with the Arizona Hotshots, and former OU wide receiver Jeff Badet, the Renegades are going to try and beat defenses with speed. They have a great balance of speed and size, though, with the addition of Jazz Ferguson. Ferguson, a true rookie, has given the Renegades a surprise element that most people weren’t expecting. There’s a big buzz coming out of the Dallas camp surrounding him, that Ferguson could end up surprising a lot of fans and becoming a household name by the season’s end. After the top three WRs, though, things get a little suspect as the rest of the WR roster is filled with guys who are question marks. Joshua Crockett, possess good size but played at small school Central Oklahoma, which means the question of competition comes into play. Flynn Nagel and Jerrod Heard played at bigger schools but never quite carved out any significant role at the professional level. Overall, the top half of the depth chart looks to be amongst the best but the bottom half is filled with possible liabilities and unknowns, if the Renegades can get surprise production from one of those guys at the bottom half, it’ll be hard to imagine a better WR group in the West, possibly the entire XFL.
4. Tampa Bay Vipers
The Vipers possess one of the largest group of wide receivers in the league, they currently roster eight wide receivers, tied for most in the XFL with the LA Wildcats. They have a good balance of experience and productivity with Donteea Dye, who started several games and spent time with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Memphis Express’, of the AAF, leading receiver in Reece Horn. Dye flamed out after getting a chance to start several games for them, but now as a chance to resurface in the TB area with the XFL. Horn produced with a mediocre QB play and a rather dreadful offensive scheme in the AAF, his strongest ability is the middle of the field and his ability to get open. Joining Dye and Horn, Seantavius Jones, another AAF product, has experience and size. Similar to Reece Horn, Jones played for an offensively dreadful Atlanta Legends team, so he was never really capable of showing his true talent. Jones will reunite with Legends’ QB Aaron Murray, who was very pedestrian to put it mildly. The Vipers are going to try and beat teams with size: Jalen Tolliver, Tanner McEvoy, and Daniel Williams join Jones and Horn in the 6’3″ or taller club. Donteea Dye will have some competition for slot duties, as former University of Miami receiver Stacy Coley and Auburn product Ryan Davis round out the roster. The Vipers are going to help Murray as much as possible by providing him with big bodied targets and quick inside receivers. Overall, the Vipers need production from those big receivers but more importantly, they need the slot receivers to be able to take the pressure of Murray if they want to be successful and compete with the rest of the top teams in the XFL.
5. St. Louis BattleHawks
The BattleHawks, overall, are the most seasoned roster in the XFL. They boast the most experienced backfield of the eight teams. On the flip side, they have the biggest challenge being the only team with a legit rookie quarterback to start the season. In order to combat that, rookie head coach Jonathan Hayes has put together a receiving corps that looks to help ease Jordan Ta’amu’s transition to the pros. The group is led by former AAF Birmingham Iron team member, L’Damien Washington. Washington was the leading receiver for the Iron despite an offense that averaged a lackluster yard per play average. Throughout camp Washington has shown good chemistry with Ta’amu and could be an excellent QB-WR combo to watch. Also on the roster is another AAF alum in De’Mornay Pierson-El, who also spent time with some NFL teams this past fall and Keith Mumphrey, another former AAF alum. Pierson-El will likely handle return duties, while Mumphrey will look to compliment Washington on the outside. The rest of the roster are wild cards, and with the lack of dynamic ability at the top, have a legitimate chance to carve out an important role in the St. Louis offense. Alonzo Russell, Carlton Agudosi, Marcus Lucas and Brandon Reilly could become major factors as the season rolls along for this offense and will be names to watch. Overall, the BattleHawks failed to give Ta’amu a legit safety valve but elected to take the risk that he builds good chemistry with the top half of the depth chart.
6. Seattle Dragons
Quarterback Brandon Silvers will head into the season with a WR corps that rivals the Memphis Express WR corps of the AAF – a lot of question marks. The good news for Silvers? He’s joined by former AAF teammate Dontez Byrd. Byrd became one of the most reliable targets for the Express as the season came to a close. It would appear that Byrd would have the inside track on the slot receiver position but he also has the ability to take the top off a defense and create some explosive plays for the Dragons. Their projected top two WRs, Keenan Reynolds and Kasen Williams, have had varying degrees of success at two different levels. Reynolds, a former QB for Navy, is one of the more prolific and dynamic players to ever play at the college level; setting records in two different categories along all of the NCAA. Kasen Williams, on the other hand, was the preseason NFL MVP a couple years ago with the Seattle Seahawks. He dominated the preseason and was a surprise cut on a team with a thin roster. Williams moved to the Cleveland Browns, where he spent a few weeks with team before flaming out completely and not being heard from again. Williams gets a second chance in the city that might recognize his name from this preseason success. Austin Proehl, yes – that Proehl, is the son of former NFL WR Ricky Proehl, rounds a solid top half of the depth chart with name recognition. The problem? Name recognition doesn’t win games. Reynolds, probably better suited to be a RB, is still an unknown WR commodity. Williams, had a slot of success at this type of competitive level, but flamed out when given a real chance. Proehl, hasn’t duplicated his Father’s success and Byrd isn’t a true or prototypical WR1. You pair the questions with the top half, with the unknowns and even more questions of the bottom half of the depth chart and you’re left unimpressed. Sergio Bailey, Alonzo Moore, and John Santiago round out the rest of the roster. Unless one of those bottom three impress and make a huge impact, the Dragons could end up disappointed with their WR production.
7. Houston Roughnecks
Air raid offensive systems run through the quarterback’s ability to make the first read and determine if it’s there or not. Rarely does the system ask the QB to read through their progressions. June Jones has had success with the air raid system all throughout college. The problem is when the air raid system comes to the professional level, it doesn’t achieve the same kinds of success. The XFL rules in place, could benefit Jones and his offensive system, as it mirrors more of the college style of gameplay. The wide receivers are just as important. The roster construction for the WRs tell a story: June Jones believes in his system. Sammie Coates, the most recognizable name on this roster, can stretch the field but his lack of reliable hands is a problem; Coates has struggled with drops throughout his career. If Coates is able to improve this issue, this kind of system could see magic happen. After Coates, it gets muddled and murky. Kahlil Lewis, the Cincinnati Bearcat product, is capable of using his speed to blow through secondaries, but has very little body of work outside of his college days. The depth falls even further behind Lewis, as Raymond Bolden, Blake Jackson, Ryheem Malone, Sam Mobley and Cam Philips polishes off this highly unrecognizable group. Overall, the Roughnecks have had a strong and close QB battle throughout camp and the penciled in starter, PJ Walker, is on a short leash. If this WR corps can’t showcase good chemistry with the system and QB, we could see Houston and June Jones attempting several different starting combinations to try and spark a fire for this offense.
8. Los Angeles Wildcats
Where to begin with the Wildcats? LA drafted Rashad Ross, but ended up trading him to D.C. – after the trade it was revealed that Ross didn’t feel welcomed or wanted and it appears the Wildcats knew it. Head coach Winston Moss made the decision and in return received big bodied WR Tre McBride. An NFL sleeper due to his talent and potential, McBride failed to make an kind of memorable impact on the NFL. The interesting thing about the trade featuring Ross and McBride is that McBride was getting ready to quit the XFL and the Defenders knew it. Instead of letting him walk, the Defenders decided to be classy and trade him to give him another chance to catch on and it appears to have worked as McBride has steadily been climbing the depth chart since the trade. McBride, a projected starter for the Wildcats, could potentially enjoy success with Josh Johnson under center. When reading the names of the receivers behind McBride, I noticed myself going: “who is this guy?” and “where did he play?” Needless to say, I’ve had to do more research on this WR group than any other group in the league. Nelson Spruce is probably the most recognizable name behind McBride due to his days with the AAF. Spruce is sure-handed but lacks the speed and quickness to separate at the line and instead relies on technique. Kermit Whitfield is a big receiver who had some success with the Florida State Seminoles at the college level, but similar to Spruce, speed isn’t his biggest asset or skill. He uses his size more than anything to box out defenders. Saeed Blacknell, Jalen Greene, De’Quan Hampton, Adonis Jennings, and Jordan Smallwood finishes off the roster. Overall, this roster construction is that of a mad genius or of someone that is just mad. If there’s going to be any wide receiving group that surprises fans the most, it’s going to be this one because it’s virtually comprised of receivers that nobody has heard anything about.
Facebook: Michael Washington
Host of AFN Live and analyst for XFL Now on the Alternative Football News Network