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Passing Game Outlook

A familiar face in NFL circles, Jim Haslett was named the Sea Dragons’ head coach for the 2023 season after serving as the Tennessee Titans’ inside linebackers coach in 2021. Boasting NFL experience as a HC and DC, Haslett will bring in June Jones to orchestrate Seattle’s offense. Using the run-and-shoot offense at a variety of stops, including as the Houston Roughnecks’ HC in 2020, Jones brings with him a pass-first offense that dropped back at the league’s second-highest rate (66.4%) in 2020 and a 58.3% clip with the TSL Conquerors in 2021. As we head toward Week 1 of the 2023 season, we should once again expect a pass-first approach from Jones that leans heavily on 3- and 4-WR sets to accomplish its goals. Assigned Ben DiNucci and Steven Montez ahead of November’s draft, I’m expecting DiNucci to serve as the team’s QB1 until further notice. In his final two collegiate seasons at James Madison, DiNucci completed 69.7% of his passes for 5,716 yards and a 45:18 TD:INT ratio. Selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft, DiNucci boasts seven games of NFL preseason experience, where he completed 54.8% of his passes. In the June Jones system, DiNucci is capable of supporting multiple Sea Dragons pass catchers.

Using seven of their 11 offensive skill-position selections on wide receivers, Seattle emphasized filling out their pass-catching corps, starting with Round 1 pick Kevin Shaa. Capable of playing both in the slot and on the perimeter, the 5-foot-10, 166-pound Shaa is an ideal fit in Jones’ offense that prioritizes flexibility. Juwan Green and Jahcour Pearson were drafted in Rounds 3-4, likely to mix into the Sea Dragons’ WR rotation. Of the drafted WRs, Damion Willis fits the profile of a receiver likely to fill the role occupied by Cam Phillips in Jones’ first XFL stint. OG XFL DFS players will remember Phillips as the WR who led the league in receptions (31), yards (455), and TDs (9) operating as the primary WR1 on the outside in the Roughnecks’ offense. Willis is a 6-foot-3, 204-pound player who ran 93.3% of his routes out wide during his senior season at Troy, posting a 28.5% TPRR rate. Another candidate to play in the slot, USFL veteran Rashard Davis was drafted in Round 7 and should provide competition for playing time to earlier selections. Josh Gordon and Jordan Veasy were two players added post-draft that fit the archetype capable of operating in Jones’ valuable WR1 role. Now 31 years old, the 6-foot-3, 224-pound Gordon should still have a physical advantage over virtually everyone playing against him at this level. However, Gordon hasn’t been competitive since 2019 when he posted a 20/287/1 receiving line in six games with New England. Slightly more active in NFL preseason action, Veasy boasts a 6-foot-3, 221-pound frame and has compiled a 15/154/1 receiving line over 12 preseason appearances dating back to 2018. Though it may be a difficult situation to predict heading into Week 1, it’s likely a WR or two emerges from this unit as a viable fantasy asset moving forward. Seattle did make just one TE selection during the offensive skill portion of the draft, grabbing Joshua Perkins as their presumptive TE1. A capable pass catcher in his own right, Perkins ran 62.2% of his routes from the slot during his final season at Washington, earning a modest 17.6% TPRR rate. 


Running Game Outlook

We know Jones’ offense isn’t going to yield voluminous rushing production, as James Butler led the team with just 46 attempts in five games during the OC’s stint as Houston’s HC in 2020. However, there are clear paths to fantasy upside for RBs with pass-catching ability. Selected in Round 2, T.J. Hammonds becomes the early frontrunner to lead this backfield in total opportunities. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Arkansas product played sparingly during his time with the Razorbacks due to academic issues but was a consensus four-star high school recruit with plenty of speed and pass-catching chops to make him a threat in Jones’ offense. Brendon Knox was the second RB selected for the Sea Dragons and profiles as more of a between-the-tackles runner at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds. In three collegiate seasons at Marshall, Knox accumulated 550/2852/24 on the ground. Scottie Phillips rounds out the Day 1 RB draft picks, selected in Round 10. Phillips has the most professional experience of the drafted running backs, appearing in three NFL preseason games for the Houston Texans, turning 25 rushing attempts into 155 yards.