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Benefitting from plenty of offensive continuity, St. Louis returns their HC Anthony Becht, OC Bruce Gradkowski, and QB A.J. McCarron, a triumvirate that led them to a 7-3 record in the XFL last season. They also made some key offseason additions to further bolster their roster.

We got our first glimpse of Gradkowski as a professional play-caller with the Battlehawks last season, where he would drop back at a 65.4% situation-neutral clip, posting the league’s second-highest overall pass rate (69.5%) behind only June Jones’ Air Raid offense (70.7%) in Seattle. Gradkowski remained pass-happy in the red zone, posting a 70.7% pass rate in scoring position, including a blistering 84.6% pass rate inside the 10-yard line and even a 67.7% pass rate inside the 5-yard line. Given the combination of 2023 success and 2024 continuity, I expect Gradkowski’s play-calling approach to look very similar this season.

One of, if not the best QB in spring football last year, McCarron returns to the team after completing a league-high 68.9% of his passes for 7.3 YPA and a 3:1 TD:INT ratio, throwing for a league-high 24 touchdowns. McCarron’s high completion rate and low aDOT (8.2) are ideal for PPR-friendly sites like DraftKings where his pass catchers can quickly rack up fantasy points. Simplifying things even more for fantasy players, McCarron targeted WRs on 80.6% of his 2023 attempts, rarely involving TEs or RBs in the passing game.

In keeping with the theme of offensive continuity, St. Louis returns three of their top four 2023 target earners this season, headlined by matchup nightmare Hakeem Butler, who led all Battlehawks receivers in target share (21.6%) and YPRR (1.84), turning 69 total targets into a 51/605/8 receiving line. Butler played the ‘big slot’ role in Gradkowski’s offense as the 6-foot-5, 225-pound wideout ran 73.0% of his routes from the slot. While that may very well remain the case this season, St. Louis made offseason additions in Jahcour Pearson — who subsequently landed on the six-week minimum Injured Reserve — and Blake Jackson, both of whom dominated slot opportunities in the 4-WR-heavy Sea Dragons offense. Jackson earned a healthy 16.6% target share on an 8.9-yard aDOT while running 95.9% of his routes inside while Pearson proved to be one of the league’s best slot receivers, running 99.8% of his routes from that position, earning a 22.9% target share. St. Louis already used a healthy amount of 4-WR sets, deploying TEs for just a combined 36.1% route share, so it’s likely that Jackson and Butler will handle a majority of the team’s slot responsibilities while sharing the field.

On the perimeter, St. Louis returns spring football veteran Darrius Shepherd, who was second on the team in 2023 target share (20.4%), running 77.3% of his routes on the perimeter. We saw Shepherd in 2022 with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, where he posted the team’s second-highest target share (16.0%) and Air Yards share (25.4%), again as a perimeter receiver. I suspect a similar level of offensive involvement this season, though target competition will be fierce.

Marcell Ateman rounds out the trio of returning production, as he appeared in seven games last season, where he managed a 16.1% target share on an 11.5-yard aDOT, operating further downfield than his teammates. Like Shepherd, Ateman ran a majority of his routes on the perimeter (78.8%) and figures to be in contention for one of the starting jobs on the outside again this year.

Ja’Marcus Bradley was signed in December and made it through the first round of cuts on March 10, figuring to provide some competition to Shepherd and Ateman outside. Bradley spent three seasons with the Cleveland Browns after signing as a 2020 UDFA, where he appeared in a total of five preseason games, posting 10/134/0.

St. Louis will turn to longtime NFL backup Wayne Gallman to replace 2023 starter Brian Hill in the backfield. After a successful collegiate career at Clemson, Gallman was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, where he’d go on to see legitimate NFL playing time, tallying 366/1,548/9 on the ground during his five-year career. Now in St. Louis, he has a good opportunity to be featured. In the seven games Hill was healthy last season, Gradkowski gave Hill the lion’s share of the RB touches, as he played on 68.6% of snaps, handled 61.5% of the team’s designed carries, ran a route on 54.4% of dropbacks, and added a healthy 12.8% target share. If Gallman wins the starting job ahead of Jacob Saylors and Mataeo Durant, it’s possible he sees similar RB1 treatment in 2024.