Handicapping the XFL Western Division quarterback battles heading into minicamp

Part two of my look at camp QB battles across the league, this time focusing on the Western Division. A look at the Eastern Division teams can be found here.

 

Dallas Renegades: Landry Jones, Philip Nelson

Dallas Renegades: Landry Jones, Philip Nelson

Landry Jones was the first player signed to an XFL contract and is arguably the most accomplished quarterback in the league. He reunites with his college coach at Oklahoma, Bob Stoops, in a match seemingly made in heaven. If there’s any player you’d imagine being QB1 the day he walks in the door at minicamp, it would be Jones.

Philip Nelson was taken as insurance during the skill position phase of the initial XFL draft. In a league like this, where quarterback play will be at a premium and you don’t really know what the game will look like quite yet, it’s important to have a competent backup.

Nelson began his collegiate career at Minnesota, a three-star high-school recruit out of that state. He finished his career at East Carolina and impressed in front of NFL scouts at the 2017 NFLPA Bowl. It wasn’t enough to get a bite from NFL teams, however, and this past year he plied his trade in the AAF.

With only two QBs in camp, unless Dallas adds a third, Nelson should get his share of reps as Stoops will want to keep Jones fresh. Nelson could be a serviceable backup, but make no mistake, the success of the Renegades this season will rise or fall on the arm of Jones.

Odds to start: Jones 95%, Nelson 5%

 

Houston Roughnecks: Phillip Walker, Connor Cook

Houston Roughnecks: Phillip Walker, Connor Cook

There’s a distinct size difference between the assigned Walker, who stands 5’11”, and the early-round skill position phase draft pick Cook, who is 6’4”. Whoever the QB is will have to handle a sizeable workload with head coach June Jones bringing his pass-heavy run-and-shoot offense to the Lone Star State.

The player who makes the fewest mistakes may end up being the player who takes the reigns for the Roughnecks’ first game. Walker is one of the more professionally inexperienced of the allocated QBs, so it should come as no surprise that Cook was drafted early to provide competition.

Both Walker and Cook were players XFL fans had eyed for the league prior to the draft. Walker, out of Temple, went undrafted in 2017 but spent some time with Indianapolis over the last two years.

In January of 2017, Cook, who began the season as a third-stringer for Oakland after being drafted in the 4th round, became the first player to make his first start in a playoff game. He bounced around the league thereafter, on and off practice squads.

Cook’s success in college and NFL game experience should theoretically give him a leg up on Walker, but it’s really going to come down to who fits best in Jones’s unique offense. And right now, that seems to be close to a toss-up. The other question to consider is whether or not Houston will add another QB to the room before training camp in January.

Odds to start: Walker 55%, Cook 45%

 

Los Angeles Wildcats: Luis Perez, Josh Johnson, Taryn Christion, Jalan McClendon

Los Angeles Wildcats: Luis Perez, Josh Johnson, Taryn Christion, Jalan McClendon

Unless Joe Callahan is released from the Detroit Lions practice squad this week, LA will be the only team taking four quarterbacks to mini-camp. There seems to be a clear line of demarcation between the top two QBs (Perez and Johnson) and the next tier (Christion and McClendon).

Perez has been one of the QBs most visible in his team’s community since being assigned to the Wildcats. He won a Division II national title with Texas A&M-Commerce in 2017 while completing 70% of his passes and throwing 46 touchdowns. He started seven games for Birmingham in the AAF but didn’t put up impressive numbers.

After the league folded, he was a camp arm with Detroit and Philadelphia. Johnson’s reputation as a journeyman is widely known. He has spent time with 13 NFL teams since entering the league as a 5th round draft pick in 2008. As recently as last season, he started three games for Washington. Even now, he’s still drawing interest from NFL teams, most recently with Detroit sniffing around in an attempt to bring him back (his XFL contract blocked such a move).

Christion and McClendon were both open phase selections by the Wildcats. Christion had some NFL draft buzz this April, but he went undrafted and signed with Seattle. Christion’s strengths include his arm and his ability to move in and out of the pocket.

McClendon, at 6’5” and 219 pounds, is an interesting prospect. He played at North Carolina State before finishing his career in 2018 at Baylor, where he started just one game. It was enough to earn him an NFLPA Bowl invite and a spot on Washington’s training camp roster. Is a position switch in his future? Or could LA be hoarding quarterbacks hoping for an injury somewhere around the league in order to work a trade?

Odds to start: Johnson 50%, Perez 40%, Christion 9%, McClendon 1%

 

Seattle Dragons: Brandon Silvers, Chase Litton, Joe Callahan, BJ Daniels

Seattle Dragons: Brandon Silvers, Chase Litton, Joe Callahan, BJ Daniels

In an odd twist, the player with the most NFL experience in Seattle’s camp may be the one least likely to begin the season as their starting QB, that being BJ Daniels. With Joe Callahan on Detroit’s practice squad, he may be placed on some sort of exempt list to start minicamp. If he finishes the NFL season in Detroit, he may have a decision to make in terms of signing a futures contract with the Lions (if offered one) or declining it to come to training camp with Seattle.

Brandon Silvers and Chase Litton were both allocated to Seattle, with Callahan and Daniels being open phase selections. Silvers played at Troy University and was off the radar enough that he didn’t even attend an NFL training camp in 2018, failing to parlay a rookie minicamp invite with New Orleans into a contract.
Silvers impressed with the AAF, however, and was briefly with the New York Jets in the spring of this year. Litton was not available during the XFL draft as he was on the practice squad of Jacksonville. He was released in late October and assigned to the Dragons prior to the Supplemental Draft.

Litton declared for the NFL Draft in 2017 after his junior season at Marshall, only to go undrafted. He spent time in Kansas City before hooking up with the Jaguars. It appears that whomever wins Seattle’s QB job will have very little pro experience.

Unless that person is Daniels. Like other teams in the league, it appears Seattle has opted for a slash-type player. Daniels was a 7th round draft choice of San Francisco in 2013 after a successful career at South Florida. Throughout his NFL career, he has been tried at wide receiver and running back in addition to QB. He could give the Dragons a wildcat wrinkle in their offense under Jim Zorn.

Ultimately, it seems at this point to be a two-man race for the QB job between Silvers and Litton, and even that may be generous. If Silvers can continue the momentum he established in the AAF, it could be his job to lose.

Odds to start: Silvers 60%, Litton 30%, Daniels 10%, Callahan N/A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.