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One player worth watching from each of the 10 skill rounds in the new XFL Draft

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The XFL is back. And so is ... Cardale Jones?

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Alliance of American Football came and went, giving a handful of our favorite college stars and fringe NFL roster candidates the chance to establish their pro football bonafides. Now the XFL has returned to call them all to ride once more.

Vince McMahon’s upstart league gets its long-awaited (by members of the McMahon family) reboot in 2020. But to get to next spring, it’s got to add players this fall. And that’s where the XFL Draft comes in.

Names for this year’s XFL offering have trickled in over the course of five groups. The full list, some 975 players long, is a veritable rundown of players ranging from very good, borderline FBS stars to Division II and III standouts recognizable to only the most hardcore football fans.

The XFL Draft kicked off Monday night by assigning one quarterback to each of the eight teams in the league. Then, on Tuesday morning, a simple and sorta-depressing snake draft divvied up 80 skill players — running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends — among those teams pick by pick.

Four more mini-drafts followed to fill out the other positions on the roster. So, given the early turnout of offensive standouts, who’s worth watching? Here are my top selections, broken down by the most exciting or interesting player from each of the draft’s first 10 rounds.

Let’s start with the guys behind center:

XFL Draft, QB dispersal round

TEAM PLAYER COLLEGE
TEAM PLAYER COLLEGE
Dallas Renegades Landry Jones Oklahoma
DC Defenders Cardale Jones Ohio State
Houston Roughnecks Phillip Walker Temple
LA Wildcats Luis Perez Texas A&M-Commerce
New York Guardians Matt McGloin Penn State
St. Louis BattleHawks Jordan Ta'amu Ole Miss
Seattle Dragons Brandon Silvers Troy
Tampa Bay Vipers Aaron Murray Georgia

QB round: Cardale Jones, DC Defenders

Jones has the most promise of anyone on this list of backup also-rans. The former Buckeye only has 11 regular season NFL passes under his belt, but was once thought of as a high-ceiling QB project with the Bills and Chargers. He’s 27 years old and could show enough to earn a spot as a backup in the NFL the following fall.

XFL Draft Round 1

Round 1 TEAM PLAYER POSITION COLLEGE
Round 1 TEAM PLAYER POSITION COLLEGE
1 Defenders Rashard Davis WR James Madison
2 Roughnecks Connor Cook QB Michigan State
3 Guardians DeAngelo Yancey WR Purdue
4 Renegades Jeff Badet WR Oklahoma
5 Vipers Nick Truesdell TE Grand Rapids JC
6 BattleHawks Christine Michael RB Texas A&M
7 Dragons Trey Williams RB Texas A&M
8 Wildcats Elijah Hood RB North Carolina

Round 1: DeAngelo Yancey, WR, New York Guardians

Yancey is big (6’2), fast deep threat who averaged 19.4 yards per catch as a senior at Purdue. He was selected by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft but didn’t see the field as a practice squad rookie. He’d later be squeezed out of a roster spot by the team’s three-wideout draft the following offseason, fail to catch on with the Jets and Titans, and is now a Guardian. He’ll pair up with Penn State alum Matt McGloin to get New York a very Big Ten pitch-and-catch combination.

XFL Draft round 2

Round 2 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
Round 2 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Wildcats Rashad Ross WR Arizona State
2 Dragons Kenneth Farrow RB Houston
3 BattleHawks Brogan Roback QB Eastern Michigan
4 Vipers Seantavius Jones WR Valdosta State
5 Renegades TommyLee Lewis WR Northern Illinois
6 Guardians Mekale McKay WR Cincinnati
7 Roughnecks Kahlil Lewis WR Cincinnati
8 Defenders Tre McBride WR William & Mary

Round 2: Brogan Roback, QB, St. Louis BattleHawks

The Hard Knocks star landed on his feet in Missouri, where he’ll have to outplay Jordan Ta’amu for starting reps in his XFL debut. Roback threw 33 interceptions in his last three seasons at Eastern Michigan and averaged nearly three fewer yards per pass than his newly minted BattleHawk teammate Ta’amu in college. He also only completed 50 percent of his passes in his star-making 2018 preseason with the Browns. While Roback might not be the better quarterback in St. Louis, he’s definitely got a personality that will play well if the league’s looking to build new stars.

XFL Draft round 3

Round 3 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
Round 3 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Defenders Jhurell Pressley RB New Mexico
2 Roughnecks Sammie Coates WR Auburn
3 Guardians Tanner Gentry WR Wyoming
4 Renegades Cameron Artis-Payne RB Auburn
5 Vipers De'Veon Smith RB Michigan
6 BattleHawks De'Mornay Pierson-El WR Nebraska
7 Dragons Fred Ross WR Mississippi State
8 Wildcats Nelson Spruce WR Colorado

Round 3: Sammie Coates, WR, Houston Roughnecks

Coates was picked in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft to give the Steelers a viable third option behind Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Instead, he got outplayed by Eli Rogers and lasted two years in Pittsburgh. Now he’s back in Houston, where he had his last NFL regular season action; he had one catch in 12 games with the Texans in 2018.

XFL Draft round 4

Round 4 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
Round 4 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Wildcats Brandon Barnes TE Alabama State
2 Dragons Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech
3 BattleHawks L'Damian Washington WR Missouri
4 Vipers Jalen Tolliver WR Arkansas-Monticello
5 Renegades Stacy Coley WR Miami
6 Guardians Tim Cook RB Oregon State
7 Roughnecks Kyle Hicks RB Texas Christian
8 Defenders DeAndre Thompkins WR Penn State

Round 4: Jace Amaro, TE, Seattle Dragons

Amaro was a monster at Texas Tech, catching 106 passes for 1,352 yards as a junior — most ever in a single season by an FBS tight end. That made him a second-round pick in 2014, but since he was a highly drafted skill player on the Jets roster, he immediately flamed out. Injuries and ineffectiveness limited him to just 404 receiving yards in three seasons with New York.

He’s only 27, so a big prove-it year in Seattle could show teams he’s healthy and ready to contribute in an NFL that adopts a little bit more of Texas Tech’s offensive DNA every year.

XFL Draft round 5

Round 5 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
Round 5 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Defenders Khari Lee TE Bowie State
2 Roughnecks Deontez Alexander WR Franklin College
3 Guardians Demarcus Ayers WR Houston
4 Renegades Sean Price TE South Florida
5 Vipers Quinton Flowers RB South Florida
6 BattleHawks Wes Saxton TE South Alabama
7 Dragons Keenan Reynolds WR Navy
8 Wildcats Larry Rose RB New Mexico State

Round 5: Keenan Reynolds, RB/WR/QB, Seattle Dragons

Reynolds was the best player to wear the Navy Blue and Gold since Roger Staubach, rushing for 88 touchdowns and throwing for 31 more en route to 36 wins in four seasons at the Academy. But 5’10 option quarterbacks rarely make it in the NFL unless they’ve got a cannon arm, and Reynolds threw just 462 passes as a Midshipman (Kyler Murray, by comparison, threw 377 passes in 2018 alone).

Reynolds bounced between practice squad and active roster stints with the Ravens, Washington, and Seahawks while trying to make the switch from run-first quarterback to NFL tailback. That didn’t pan out, but the extra reps he’ll get in the XFL could be instrumental in placing him on a big-league roster next summer.

XFL Draft rounds 6-10

Round 6 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
Round 6 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Wildcats KD Cannon WR Baylor
2 Dragons Evan Rodriguez TE Temple
3 BattleHawks Marcus Lucas WR Missouri
4 Vipers Cole Wick TE Incarnate Word
5 Renegades Kelvin McKnight WR Samford
6 Guardians EJ Bibbs TE Iowa State
7 Roughnecks Cam Phillips WR Virginia Tech
8 Defenders Orson Charles TE Georgia
Round 7 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Defenders Donnel Pumphrey RB San Diego State
2 Roughnecks Jalen Saunders WR Oklahoma
3 Guardians Keith Towbridge TE Louisville
4 Renegades Philip Nelson QB East Carolina
5 Vipers Rannell Hall WR Central Florida
6 BattleHawks Matt Jones RB Florida
7 Dragons Kasen Williams WR Washington
8 Wildcats Martez Carter RB Grambling State
Round 8 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Wildcats Keyarris Garrett WR Tulsa
2 Dragons John Santiago WR North Dakota
3 BattleHawks Ishmael Hyman WR James Madison
4 Vipers Reece Horn WR Indianapolis
5 Renegades Lance Dunbar RB North Texas
6 Guardians Justin Stockton RB Texas Tech
7 Roughnecks Devin Gray WR Cincinnati
8 Defenders Max McCaffrey WR Duke
Round 9 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Defenders Tyree Jackson QB Buffalo
2 Roughnecks Andre Williams RB Boston College
3 Guardians Darius Victor RB Towson
4 Renegades Donald Parham TE Stetson
5 Vipers Taylor Cornelius QB Oklahoma State
6 BattleHawks Alonzo Russell WR Toledo
7 Dragons Cam Clear TE Texas A&M
8 Wildcats Scott Orndoff TE Pittsburgh
Round 10 TEAM PLAYER NAME POSITION COLLEGE/NFL
1 Wildcats Donteea Dye WR Heidelberg
2 Dragons Malachi Jones WR Appalachian State
3 BattleHawks Jordan Lasley WR UCLA
4 Vipers Alonzo Moore WR Nebraska
5 Renegades Dimitri Flowers RB Oklahoma
6 Guardians Marquise Williams QB North Carolina
7 Roughnecks Nick Holley RB Kent State
8 Defenders Adrien Robinson TE Cincinnati

Rounds 6-10 speed round!

I’m not going to lie. Things get a bit grim among the later rounds of the inaugural skill player draft. Here are the guys who could either dot highlight reels next spring — or, barring that, will at least be guys you’ve heard of before.

Renegades draftee Kelvin McKnight had 100+ receiving yards in all but one game as a senior at Samford last fall. New Defenders running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for more than 6,400 yards at San Diego State, but the 5’9 rusher couldn’t live up to the Darren Sproles comparisons that followed him to the NFL — he never played a down in the league after being a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2017. Roughnecks wideout Jalen Saunders racked up more than 1,900 receiving yards in two seasons with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats before returning stateside in 2018.

Wildcat WR Keyarris Garrett had nearly 1,600 receiving yards as a senior at Tulsa, and at 6’4 will probably be a favorite red zone target of Luis Perez. Defenders eighth-round pick Max McCaffrey was the other McCaffrey brother operating in North Carolina. The former Duke wide receiver had 117 catches in college but has just one in the pros after bouncing from training camps to practice squads the past four years.

He’ll have the chance to catch passes from University at Buffalo alum Tyree Jackson in DC. Jackson is 6’7, has an anti-aircraft gun for an arm, and was once rated as a better NFL passer than Giants rookie Daniel Jones by the braintrust at EA’s Madden franchise. Now he’s backing up Cardale Jones. Former Giants tailback Andre Williams, now a Roughneck, may be remembered for his seven starts and two 100-yard performances in 2014, or the zero that following in his final three seasons in the NFL.