Please join us as XFLBoard correspondents Mike Mitchell, Greg Parks and Jackson Conner review some of the players they feel should get a shot with the XFL.
Not good enough for the NFL. Get ready for that term to be used when people describe any talent associated with the XFL. The players that end up playing in the league may not be players on NFL rosters, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be of NFL quality. The key with the XFL is finding players that are capable of being NFL players. A good portion of the XFL rosters will also have players that have already been NFL players. Some may call it a collection of the best of what’s left. Others will see the XFL as a second chance, or last chance league for players who still want to play pro football.
Below, we have listed players who are not necessarily locked into a job in the XFL, or even likely to get a job in the XFL, but they are people that we think would be a very good fit.
DL Shawn Oakman – Mike Mitchell
There was a time not long ago when Shawn Oakman was projected to be a surefire first-round pick in the NFL. Some even projected him to be the first overall pick. Oakman became a viral sensation at Baylor because of his freakish size. He was straight out of central casting at 6’9 and nearly 300 pounds. No one has ever looked more the part than him. As a junior in college. He dominated with 25.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks. He decided not to turn pro. Things went downhill from there. His senior season did not live up to expectations which saw his draft stock drop as a result. It only got worse for Oakman. Just two weeks before the 2016 NFL draft, Shawn Oakman was arrested on a sexual assault charge. NFL teams completely took Oakman off of their draft boards, leaving him undrafted, and then unsigned. Then, after Oakman was indicted on charges of second-degree felony sexual assault, the door completely shut on Oakman’s chances of ever playing pro football.
Nearly three years later, Shawn Oakman’s trial began on February 26, 2019. On February 28, after the jury deliberated for 45 minutes, Oakman was found not guilty of sexual assault. The jury cited evidence for consensual sex and the lack of incriminating evidence for their decision. In the years since Oakman finished his college career he has been playing indoor football. He recently played in The Spring League in Austin back in April, where coincidentally, the XFL was on hand scouting and testing game rules. Oakman dominated the playing field. Admittedly, this is a tricky area for the XFL to walk on. The league is trying to develop a strong reputation for being family-friendly and responsible. Despite being exonerated, Oakman carries some baggage. From a PR standpoint, drafting Oakman into the league could be questioned. From a talent standpoint. There’s no question that his ability warrants a chance to prove himself as a pro.
WR/QB Braxton Miller – Mike Mitchell
It’s hard picking just two players when there are so many worthy of consideration. The truth is anyone can fill these spots. Miller is being singled out here to highlight the type of player that the league should look to target… the college football star who can’t seem to find his niche or his home in the pros. The truth with Braxton Miller is that his football identity started to change long before he even left college. In 2013, as a junior Quarterback at Ohio State, Miller was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the year and 9th in the Heisman voting. Braxton was an all-purpose superstar, completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,000 yards passing ,with 24 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 12 TDs on the ground. In 12 games he scored 36 touchdowns.
It all went downhill for Miller in 2014. He missed the entire season with a shoulder injury he sustained in practice, and Miller ended up with a medical redshirt for the season. His injury opened the door for J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones to take over at the QB position for the eventual National Champions. When Miller was healthy to return, his job was gone. Couple that with his shoulder injury and Miller decided to play WR for the team. He joined a receiving group that included Michael Thomas, Curtis Samuel and Jalin Marshall, three future NFL receivers. Miller was 4th in the pecking order, but thanks to his athletic background he was able to become a useful gadget player. A far cry from the megastar he was two years prior, but his progress earned him a potential NFL future. Braxton then showcased his skills at the NFL combine and was a top-three performer in the 3 cone, 20 and 60-yard shuttles. This got him drafted in the 3rd round by the Houston Texans in 2016. In hindsight, Miller was over-drafted. He was a novice when it came to the receiver position and was extremely raw. He ended up on the injured reserve in his rookie season after injuring his shoulder. His development was setback, and in 2017 he barely contributed for Houston. The Texans cut him last summer at final cuts. Miller spent a year on the Eagles practice squad before recently being cut to make room for Josh McCown. Miller hasn’t had the time to develop as a receiver and is far removed from being a quarterback. The XFL might be the kind of avenue for Miller to reinvent himself and find his football identity again.
QB Brad Kaaya – Greg Parks
There are two positions in the XFL that will make-or-break quality of play and in turn, determine the level of success of the league. One of those positions is the quarterback. There are some talented free-agent quarterbacks available, but many are on the downside of their careers. Kaaya is just 23 years old, a 2017 6th round Draft Pick of the Detroit Lions. He is somewhat a victim of many NFL teams now keeping just two QBs on their active roster, and therefore bringing fewer to camp. Kaaya started at the University of Miami as a true freshman and exited the program having thrown 69 TDs and just 24 interceptions. At his age, he can be a long-term piece in the league, an identifiable star the league and local markets can build around.
OT Isaiah Battle – Greg Parks
The second position that will make or break the quality of play is the offensive line. O-Lines in the NFL lack depth as it is, so any talented linemen will be a boon to the XFL. Battle is one of those players. It’s not a sexy position to talk or write about, but someone has to keep the star QBs upright. Battle, 25 years old, was a 5th round Supplemental Draft pick out of Clemson in 2015, so he has played at the highest level collegiately. Being a part of the Supplemental Draft put him behind the eight-ball to make the team out of training camp with the Rams. The XFL needs to scour all leagues, especially the CFL, to find gems at this position in particular. This isn’t so much about Battle as it is about the need for quality offensive protectors.
RB Dri Archer – Jackson Conner
While we do not necessarily know Archer’s attitude towards playing professional football again, we know that he has a lot of speed. Coming out of high school, Archer was more desired as a track runner than a football player. Nevertheless, Archer chose football and earned all-American awards playing RB for Kent State. Archer then went on to set the NFL world on fire with a 4.26 40 yard dash at the combine and got drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers 97th overall. However, Archer’s NFL career was not as storied as the journey that got him there. His longest play from scrimmage in his NFL career was 15 yards and he ended with 63 total yards for his career. After that, Archer had brief stints with both the Jets and the Panthers. Now it is unclear whether or not Archer still wants to play football, but he is a name that garners a lot of buzz and has the possibility to be an exciting gadget player in the XFL. My next name is very similar to Archer but we know he still wants to play.
RB Corey Grant – Jackson Conner
The Auburn product has a 5.6 career YPC but has not stuck anywhere after his rookie contract has expired. Just because Grant hasn’t stuck does not mean he can’t play, Grant ran a 4.33 40 yard dash and was scored as a 96th percentile athlete by playerprofiler.com. Grant has been efficient in limited usage as well, averaging 8.3 ypc on 30 carries for the Jaguars in 2017 as well as scoring 2 TDs in the return game. Grant was signed to the Green Bay Packers in what looked like a good signing because of his relationship with former Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett but was cut shortly after. I have no doubt, though, that Corey Grant can play a very important role for an XFL offense as a rotational back and as a start kick returner. Grant is a perfect player to excel in the XFL.
- DL Malik McDowell
- QB Johnny Manziel (already discussed here)
- QB Colin Kaepernick & Tim Tebow (Talked about extensively)