The NFL season may be over but NFL fans are excited for more football. The XFL, led by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, has many football fans tuning in with former stars such as Josh Gordon, Vic Beasley, Paxton Lynch, and AJ McCarron.
What makes the XFL so fun to watch is there's more passion and heart. There's so much more on the line for these guys compared to the NFL. These are guys who are looking for their first shot in the NFL, or a second chance. The XFL is probably the perfect minor league for the NFL because it has brought the best out of players such as P.J. Walker, Taylor Heinicke, Journeyman Josh Johnson, and Matt Jones and has given several players second shots in the NFL. Here are five guys to watch after XFL Week One.
1. Kalen Ballage RB
This name might sound familiar as Kalen Ballage was drafted out of Arizona State by the Dolphins in the fourth round of 2018. As a Sun Devil, he rushed for a career line of 1,984 yards, 684 receiving yards, 27 rushing touchdowns, and a 4.4 yards per carry average.
The biggest problem for Ballage was he wasn't given an opportunity. In four seasons with the Dolphins, Jets, and Chargers, and recently in 2021 with the Steelers, he put up a career total of 665 yards and seven touchdowns. His best season came in 2020 with 303 yards on 91 carries with three touchdowns, but every other season he had less than 80 carries.
In his debut with the San Antonio Brahmas, he put up a league-leading 84 yards on 24 carries. Some may say something along the lines of, "well of course he's going to have a high amount of yards with that many carries." But when you watch the highlights from the game you would've thought he was a former All-Pro.
With each carry, he ran with precision, speed, and anger. He was hard to take down and showed off solid receiving skills and some shiftiness. I really liked his downhill running and his IQ when reading the holes. He's going to be a guy many teams are going to keep an eye on.
2. Brian Hill RB
Brian Hill is a player many might remember from his time with the Falcons. He was a very serviceable backup for the Falcons, putting up a career total of 982 yards, three touchdowns and 4.4 yards per carry over 209 carries.
His best season came in 2020 with the Falcons where he ran for 465 yards, one touchdown, and 4.7 yards per carry on 100 rushes. He also added 199 yards and 25 catches. He signed with San Francisco in 2021 but saw no playing time.
In his debut with the St. Louis BattleHawks, he ran for 55 yards on only six carries, only second to Ballage. He also nabbed three catches for 26 yards and averaged over 9.2 yards per carry. Now like Ballage, Hill runs hard and shows great run awareness.
He seems to understand how to hit holes well but also is very versatile in the passing game. He showed off solid blocking skills and made a key play on a screen in crunch time. On this play, he threw a nasty stiff arm to pick up some YAC and was able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. This would play a major role in his team making a 12-point comeback in less than two minutes.
3. Michael Joseph CB
Michael Joseph is more of a wild card compared to the two players discussed above as he played college ball at Division III Dubuque University. In his four years there, he was an absolute animal racking up fifteen interceptions, 168 tackles, and one sack. His play got him an opportunity on the practice squad of the Bears for four seasons where he'd play in only one game.
Joseph was all over the field for the D.C. Defenders in week one. He had two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six, and four tackles. Joseph flew around the field making plays with multiple pass-breakups and stopping the run well.
His play is similar to that of Tyrann Mathieu. He can cover well while also laying the wood in the run game. Many teams are looking for versatile and aggressive cover corners and I think he perfectly fits that mold.
4. Brandon Silvers QB
Brandon Silvers was an absolute stud in college. The 6'3" 219-pound gunslinger threw for 10,677 yards over his four-year career with Troy. In his junior and senior years, he combined for a total of 6,470 yards, 63.8 completion percentage, 40 touchdowns, and 7.2 yards per pass.
Sadly those stats didn't give him an opportunity in the NFL, as he was on the Jets' practice squad for a while. He did get a chance to show off his skills in AAF, where he held a 52% completion percentage and threw for 539 yards and six touchdowns over 102 passes before the league suspended operations.
He got a second chance with the Houston Roughnecks and didn't disappoint. His first start consisted of a stat line of 272 yards, 61.9 completion percentage, two touchdowns, and 6.5 yards per attempt. However, he did throw two interceptions.
His first half was absolutely phenomenal as he was completing passes of every type: comebacks, over-the-shoulder, out routes, etc. His best throw came on his second touchdown pass where he threw an absolute dime over two defenders into a leaping over-the-shoulder grab. In the second half, he struggled to get through his reads however, and made two poor decisions that ended up being interceptions.
I believe with more t he'll only get better. He has great accuracy and with a little more work, he could garner some interest from teams looking for quarterback depth.
5. Trent Harris DL
Trent Harris played his college ball at the University of Miami (FL) before going undrafted and signing with the Miami Dolphins in 2019. With the Hurricanes, he racked up 15 sacks, 126 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, three pass deflections, and one forced fumble.
He had a solid rookie year with the Dolphins, where he had 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss. In his debut with the Roughnecks, he was a nightmare for offensive linemen as he racked up four sacks. He exhibited speed and power off the edge.