In case you missed it, another startup spring football league held its draft on Tuesday. I know what you’re thinking: Why should I pay attention, when the last one (sort of) pulled me in only to spectacularly explode months before its inaugural championship game?
My answer, after getting a front-row seat to the first collapse: Because the idea for spring football isn’t going anywhere and I think this one will stick. The XFL has better funding than the Alliance of American Football—they are backed by a deep-pocketed owner who is motivated to see this succeed, and not a series of shadowy or regretful investors. Also, a good deal of these players end up being roster backfill during training camps, while a small percentage actually stick on 53 man rosters.
Also, also, there is money to be made off of spring football. People inside the Alliance of American football called it being a “petri dish” for the NFL, where experimenting and developing technologies that could one day become a bedrock of future versions of the game.
Also, also, also, there are some pretty solid offensive coaches in this league, including Hal Mumme, June Jones and Pep Hamilton. Some coaches will use the platform to showcase their ingenuity and kick up some interesting looks to the NFL. Others will see it as a last chance to rip it up before retiring. It will stack up from an aesthetic standpoint with midseason hockey and non-tournament college basketball.
The draft itself was pretty interesting, taking place in a few phases. Before the actual picking of players started, “tier one” quarterbacks were assigned to teams pre-draft, so each franchise had a chance to hand in a list of who they wanted, and the XFL doled them out accordingly. Then players were picked in this order: skill position players, followed by offensive line, defensive front seven and defensive backs before an “open” portion afterward. Will a league designed with ultimate parity in mind actually achieve it?
Anyway, here’s who you need to know:
• Among the quarterbacks assigned to teams, there are some names you’ll recognize. Former Raiders backup and spot starter Matt McGloin will start for the New York franchise, coached by longtime Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Landry Jones, the former Oklahoma standout and Steelers backup, will play with Bob Stoops and Mumme in Dallas. Ohio State QB Cardale Jones, also of the Bills and Chargers, will play for Hamilton with the D.C. franchise. Aaron Murray, the Georgia QB who made several stops in the NFL, landed in his hometown of Tampa with Marc Trestman.
• Rashard Davis, an undrafted free agent receiver out of James Madison (2017), formerly of the Chiefs, Raiders and Eagles, went No. 1 overall in the draft.
• Connor Cook, the one-time object of Jon Gruden’s affection, was drafted by Houston with June Jones but will have to compete with their tier one QB, Phillip Walker, for the starting job.
• Former NFL running backs Trey Williams, Elijah Hood, Kenneth Farrow, and Cameron Artis-Payne all went in the first two rounds as did one time Hard Knocks star, quarterback Brogan Roback. Wide receiver Sammie Coates, the former third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, went in the second round and tight end Jace Amaro, the one-time second-round pick of the Jets, went in the fourth round.
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