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The XFL is back! Starting on Feb. 18, teams will take the field with some familiar names both playing and coaching — Martavis Bryant, Hines Ward, Wade Phillips, A.J. McCarron, Brian Hill, Josh Gordon, and more.

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Passing Game Outlook

Understanding that with unknown coaching commodities comes increased variance and a higher probability that our early-season expectations are wrong, I have some concerns that Orlando Guardians HC Terrell Buckley and OC Robert Ford will be able to field a fantasy-friendly offense. Buckley’s coaching career spans two decades, starting as a Safeties assistant with Florida State in 2007 but never rising above the positional ranks, last serving as cornerbacks coach for Ole Miss in 2021. As for Ford, the 71-year-old has been in coaching since serving as Saginaw High School’s WR coach in 1973. However, like Buckley, Ford never rose past the positional ranks, retiring in 2011 as Texas Southern’s WR coach. Based on their collective coaching experiences and lack of historical play-calling tendencies to lean on, we’re flying a bit blind here, but the selection of QB Deondre Francois could be an indication of a run-centric plan. If Francois is named the starter, Guardians pass catchers would be getting a QB who failed to complete more than 58.8% of his passes in a single season, dating back to his sophomore season at Florida State. A late addition to the team, Paxton Lynch could also factor into the QB discussion. In a limited sample as the USFL Panthers’ signal-caller last season, Lynch completed 65.1% of his passes with a 5:4 TD:INT ratio, showing some willingness to use his legs with a 20/74/2 rushing line.

Those looking for pass-game optimism can turn to the offensive skill-position draft, where Buckley and Co. used their first three selections on WRs, grabbing eight total in the first 11 rounds of the draft. Using their first overall pick on Charleston Rambo, Orlando got a 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver who showed an ability to earn targets during his final collegiate season at Miami. Running 89.4% of his routes from the perimeter, Rambo earned a team-high 119 targets in 2021, good for an impressive 25.9% TPRR. With their second selection, Buckley tapped into the Fan Controlled Football talent pool, reuniting Francois with Glacier Boyz teammate Andrew Jamiel. The 5-foot-9, 169-pound Jamiel profiles as a slot receiver in the XFL but should benefit from established rapport with the team’s presumed QB1. The team used their first and only TE selection of Phase 1 on Ryan Becker, who spent four seasons at SMU, catching just 15 passes in 49 career games. The 6-foot-5, 248-pound tight end does not profile as a significant part of Orlando’s aerial attack. With 13 total WRs on the team’s current roster, it’s possible a full-blown committee is deployed, further sapping the group of its collective viability.


Running Game Outlook

Though it’s unclear what the run-game environment may look like, Orlando’s current depth chart features just four RBs, making it easier to project backfield opportunities. Selected in Round 5, Jah-Maine Martin was the team’s first RB selection. Martin racked up 446/2,795/36 on the ground during his four-year collegiate career. With a 5-foot-10, 220-pound frame, Martin can tentatively be penciled in as the team’s base-down back. Darius Clark, Kelvin Taylor, and Devin Darrington should also mix in, though none of the four backs have ever displayed prolific pass-catching chops at previous stops.