XFL Draft: By the Numbers

In crunching some of the numbers after the XFL Draft, here are interesting tidbits to note:

0: The number of players with college eligibility remaining drafted by the XFL. 

Only Kenny Robinson fit this profile for the XFL in 2019. Then, the league was more open to recruiting players who had not yet been through the NFL Draft process. This version of the league seems to be more cautious when it comes to that aspect of player acquisition. I asked XFL Director of Player Personnel Doug Whaley at the Bradenton Showcase in June about this subject. “We want to really analyze it and see how it fits with us in this first year,” Whaley told me. “I think it’s going to be a case-by-case basis. But it’s one of those things we’ll keep an open mind to…”

If the XFL proves successful in year one, this may be an avenue that opens up more in year two, with college players stuck in the transfer portal choosing to ply their trade in the XFL instead of moving to another school. This may be a place where the XFL doesn’t have the competition with the USFL, given that the XFL’s league year is more accomodating for players to play a few games of pro ball as a showcase, then get drafted into the NFL in April, as Robinson did in 2020.

5: Players drafted into the XFL who have since been signed by NFL teams.

As of Wednesday, those players are DT Prince Emili (Brahmas) and DE Niko Lalos (Sea Dragons) to the New Orleans Saints; OT Julien Davenport (Sea Dragons) to the Arizona Cardinals; CB D’Angelo Ross (Battlehawks) to the Houston Texans; and WR J’Marcus Bradley (Battlehawks) to the Cleveland Browns. If these players get released at any time before the XFL season, they will revert back to their drafted XFL squad. Expect this list to fluctuate between now and the supplemental draft, where teams will be able to patch the holes on their rosters created by these NFL signings.

5.65: The average number of drafted XFL players who attended NFL rookie minicamps in 2022, per NFL team.

NFL rookie minicamps usually take place the weekend or two after the NFL Draft. They feature drafted players, undrafted free-agent signees, first-year players (those who are under contract but have not accrued a full year of service) and rookie tryout players seeking a contract. Teams don’t always publish their minicamp rosters, while some hand out rosters to beat writers covering the camp. This forces people like me to rely on squinting at pictures of crumpled pieces of paper taken on these writers’ phones and posted to Twitter to get such information. But I digress.

I was only able to find 20 of the 32 NFL teams’ minicamp rosters online for this year, which is why I’m presenting this number as an average and not a total number. The number of players on NFL minicamp rosters can vary wildly from team-to-team: The Detroit Lions, for example, invited fewer than 30 players to rookie minicamp, while the New York Giants had nearly 70. It all depends on how many tryout players a team wants to evaluate. The Lions were the only team of the 20 to have no future XFL draftees at its rookie minicamp; the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints both had 11 each to lead the way.

23: Players drafted who were a part of the USFL in 2022. 

That includes players drafted by the league who may not have played a game. Most of the USFL-to-XFL pipeline came via players who were let out of their USFL contracts to pursue NFL opportunities following the first season of the resurrected league. Fifty-five USFL players have been a part of NFL squads since July; of those 55, 18, or 33%, have jumped to the XFL via the draft. Take out the USFL players currently on active NFL rosters or practice squads (since they would not be eligible to be part of the XFL draft), and that number increases to around 50%. More are expected to cross over once USFL contracts expire on December 31st and the XFL holds its supplemental draft in January.

25: Players drafted from HBCU schools. 

One area in which XFL leadership really wanted to focus its attention was on players from HBCU schools. They held a showcase on the campus of Jackson State, an invite-only event with a large percentage of the players trying out having attended HBCU schools. “There’s a different kind of hunger and grit that you find with HBCU players,” Dwayne Johnson told WAPT-TV out of Jackson, Mississsippi.

“This is a relationship that is a long-term relationship that will be here year after year after year,” said Dany Garcia. While it’s great that the league is giving a platform to schools and players that have the reputation for being overlooked by the NFL (Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders in particular has been vocal about this), the extra attention affored HBCU schools didn’t result in a significant draft bump for its players: Just over 5% of players drafted were from HBCU schools.

35: Players drafted who were personally scouted by XFL personnel at college pro days this spring. 

From my article in April, the XFL hasn’t always been open and transparent about a lot of its goings-on, but we did get almost daily updates during the spring on where XFL personnel were at pro days across the country. I tried to break down as best I could what players worked out at each; schools often released the names of players who worked out, but not all did. So this number could be a bit higher. And of those 35 drafted, two were spotlight players from my article.

45: Players drafted into the XFL who were NFL draft picks.

About 10% of the 464 players now on XFL rosters were also drafted by NFL teams. That includes two former first-round NFL picks, LB Vic Beasley (Vipers) and S Matt Elam (Guardians). Four were drafted in the second round of NFL drafts, while five were drafted in the third round. The rest came from rounds 5-7.

69: Players from XFL 2020 who were drafted in 2022. 

This is per the XFL press release sent after the draft. We don’t know how many XFL 2020 players took advantage of the automatic opt-in offered by the new XFL management, but the 69 players selected represents about 14.9% of the players drafted this month.

70: Players drafted who were released in final cuts at the end of NFL training camps this August.

Dwayne Johnson has heavily promoted the Player 54 mentality of the league, that the XFL is the place for those who just missed out on being a part of an NFL team’s 53-man roster. Doug Whaley was even more specific in an interview with Tyler Dunne, about what players from NFL training camp rosters they’d be looking at. So…did the draft bear this out?

Of those drafted by the XFL last week, 23 were a part of the first wave of training camp cuts, from 90 to 85. Those are the players, in theory, the XFL wouldn’t be interested in given Whaley’s comments. Then for the second round of cuts, from 85 to 80, 29 drafted players came from that group. As for final cuts, that number was 70. Keep in mind, there’s a bigger pool of players in that one because instead of releasing five players like the first two waves, teams had to pare down by 27 here.

But that’s also misleading because many of those players who were a part of those final set of cuts were claimed by other teams or signed to practice squads. Others were not released at all, but stashed on a team’s injured reserve list. So how many of those 864 players were actually available to the XFL? According to my research, as of Wednesday, November 23, 262 players trimmed from rosters at final cuts are still looking for NFL work. The 70 players the XFL drafted out of that group represents about 27% of those released at final cuts who are not currently a part of NFL rosters.

86: Players drafted who attended seven of the XFL Showcases this summer.

While only names from the Specialists Showcase were released by the league publicly, I was able to obtain rosters for all of the others except the supplemental showcase held in San Diego. So taking into account that showcase, the number could be slightly higher than this. But using this number, 18.5% of those drafted were on showcase rosters – it doesn’t mean they attended, just that they had signed up or were invited by the league. There were some no-shows from the rosters given to coaches at these events.

Almost 1,300 players were listed for these seven showcase events. That makes only 6.6% of the drafted population having attended a showcase. The XFL has marketed itself as a place where players can make their dreams come true and that anyone who impresses will get a shot. This does lead to a question, however, if having open showcases were worth it given the small number of draftees who were discovered there.

Digging deeper, half of the 86 showcase players drafted were invited to the showcase by the league, meaning they were arleady on the XFL’s radar (the percentage is higher when taking out the 11 specialists drafted who count as attending the showcases – there was no designation on that roster as to who was invited and who was not). For those who were drafted and paid their way into the showcase, they would absolutely say having these showcases was worth it.

123: Players drafted who have played in NFL regular season games. 

That represents 26.5% of the drafted population.

273: Players drafted who came from the past three NFL draft classes. 

This is another stat from the XFL’s own press release. Broken down, that’s 69 from the 2020 draft, 31 from the 2021 draft, and 171 from the 2022 draft. A key to keep in mind: Beginning in 2021, players were afforded an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That made the draft class in 2021 quite thin, as many players who could’ve been a part of that draft class opted to stay an extra year. That could explain in part why so few players were taken from that class, and so many from 2022.

464: The total number of drafted XFL players last week, including quarterbacks assigned. 

Going with the oft-repeated number of approximately 1,700 in the draft pool, that means only 27% of those in the pool were drafted. Those 73% left should not fret, however: They will be part of the supplemental draft pool in January, where another 70-plus players are expected to be chosen. Once training camp and the season begins, teams will also choose from that list when looking to replace players for performance or injury reasons. The XFL promotes itself as a league of opportunity, and that door of opportunity has not closed, even for those not drafted.

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