Show Navigation
Show Menu

FF Tips

XFL: D.C. Defenders Fantasy Football Preview

By Matt Schauf 2:01pm EST 1/29/20


I ran through a little intro to the XFL on whole (including some key rule variations) in the Dallas Renegades article that led this series.

This time, no messing around. Let’s jump right into the D.C. Defenders ...


Coaching History

The D.C. staff doesn’t provide nearly so lengthy a record of play-calling as OC Hal Mumme brought to the Renegades. But the short record for OC Tanner Engstrand looks pretty intriguing.

He spent 5 years running the University of San Diego offense before moving on to Michigan as an “offensive analyst” under HC Jim Harbaugh. Three of those 5 Toreros offenses averaged more than 35 points per game. Four of them averaged more than 410 total yards per game. All 5 averaged at least 5.3 yards per play, including 3 that averaged 6.1 or more.

Engstrand gained all those yards and points despite spending most of that time running more than he passed. Only his 2013 offense (1st season as San Diego OC) averaged more pass attempts than rushes per game -- and even that one threw 36.4 passes per contest vs. 33.7 runs. Overall, his 5 San Diego offenses averaged 31.6 pass attempts per game and 37.7 rushing attempts. He assisted even more run-heavy offenses at Michigan before this Defenders gig.

HC Pep Hamilton spent 3 years as Colts OC in the NFL, and had his Andrew Luck-piloted offenses lean much more on the pass. Those 3 teams finished 15th, 1st and 9th in the league in pass attempts; 23rd, 17th and 21st in rushes, respectively. And the 2016 Browns -- for whom he served as assistant HC and QBs coach -- went similar.

But Hamilton also spent 2 years as Stanford’s OC before his NFL stint and 2 years as Michigan’s assistant OC/passing-game coordinator. Every one of those offenses averaged at least 7.7 more rushes per game than pass attempts. Collectively, the 4 averaged 28.5 passes and 40.5 rushes per contest.


Skill-Position Draft

1. WR Rashard Davis (not on roster)
2. WR Tre McBride (not on roster)
3. RB Jhurell Pressley
4. WR DeAndre Thompkins
5. TE Khari Lee
6. TE Orson Charles (not on roster)
7. RB Donnel Pumphrey
8. WR Max McCaffrey (not on roster)
9. QB Tyree Jackson
10. TE Adrien Robinson (not on roster)

In spite of the run-heavy history, the Defenders opened their skill-position draft with a pair of pass-catchers. Neither made it to the regular-season roster, though. Davis left to sign with the Tennessee Titans, and D.C. traded McBride to the L.A. Wildcats for WR Rashad Ross.


Players of Note

QB Cardale Jones

I won’t lie and say that I watched much of the Tanner Engstrand Toreros offense. But I did read that those groups became “known for stretching defenses vertically and horizontally.” The horizontal part, apparently, comes from varying formations and using lots of motion. Vertical? We all know what that means. And Jones has plenty of arm to exploit that aspect.

A 4th-round pick of the Bills in 2016, Jones hasn’t done much in the NFL. But he racked up 8.6 yards per pass attempt in a limited Ohio State career that also included 617 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. This roster appears well built to complement the ground work with deep shots. Four of Engstrand's 5 San Diego teams included at least 1 WR with more than 16 yards per catch on 40+ receptions. Five total players in that span ranked among the team's top 2 in receptions while topping 16 yards per catch -- including a pair of #2 receivers who topped 18 yards per catch.


WRs DeAndre Thompkins, Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross

This corps will likely have to take shape a bit after the games begin. Ross carries intrigue because of his speed (4.41-second 40) and recent strong performance in the short-lived AAF: 36 catches, 583 yards, 7 TDs in 8 games. L.A. drafted him with the 9th overall pick of the skill-position draft before trading him. It seems like that might have been more of a personality clash than performance related, though.

Thompkins presents a similar athletic profile: He stands 1 inch shorter and 7 pounds heavier than Ross, and runs even faster (4.39). Thompkins caught 80 passes over his final 3 years at Penn State.

Rogers would be chasing both teammates in a race, but he ranks among the XFL’s most accomplished NFL players. Rogers caught 78 balls for 822 yards and 4 TDs over 3 seasons with the Steelers after arriving as an undrafted free agent. Rogers finished each of his 4 seasons at Louisville in the 41-45 reception range and averaged 11.5 yards per catch for his career.


RBs Jhurell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey

No skill-position player remains on the Defenders roster that the team drafted higher than Pressley. That followed him leading the AAF in rushing yards after a nice career at New Mexico. Pressley never handled feature-level work (topping out at 147 carries as a senior), but he averaged 6.9 yards per rush for his career and scored 36 total TDs. Pressley only caught 18 balls for his career, but averaged 12.2 yards per reception.

Pumphrey, meanwhile, finished college as the NCAA’s all-time leader in both rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage. Despite his small stature (5’8, 178), Pumphrey racked up 276+ carries in each of his final 3 seasons at San Diego State, while averaging 6.0 yards per rush for his career. He added 99 receptions at 10.5 yards per catch. Pumphrey landed in Philly as a 4th-round selection but has yet to garner a regular-season touch.

So who wins now that these guys share a backfield? Quite possibly both, if things follow the coaching history of OC Tanner Engstrand. Keep both in mind for at least setting Week 1 DFS lineups.

Related Fantasy Football

Week 13 IDP Hits: The Book on Budda

Week 13 IDP Hits: The Book on Budda

8:25pm EST 12/4/21

If you're wondering why Budda Baker hasn't been delivering in fantasy football, we might just have your answer ...

Read More »
Podcast: Week 13 Preview 12-2-21

Podcast: Week 13 Preview 12-2-21

2:30pm EST 12/2/21

Injuries and matchups make for some interesting decisions at RB this week. And proximity to the fantasy football playoffs add pressure to every move ...

Read More »
Podcast: Deep End FFPC Playoff Preview 11-30-21

Podcast: Deep End FFPC Playoff Preview 11-30-21

12:25pm EST 12/1/21

There's no way you were watching Seattle's defense as closely as Mike and Adam were Sunday night ...

Read More »
Week 12 IDP Hits: Mending the Minnesota Pass Rush

Week 12 IDP Hits: Mending the Minnesota Pass Rush

10:25am EST 11/27/21

The loss of Everson Griffen presents yet another challenge to the Vikings defense. Does the replacement plan extend beyond the D-line? Let's dig into that, as well as team-by-team notes from around the league.

Read More »
Podcast: Deep End with Billy Muzio 11-23-21

Podcast: Deep End with Billy Muzio 11-23-21

3:20pm EST 11/24/21

The high-stakes regular season is coming to a close, so the guys invited Billy Muzio on to figure out how to attack the final week (and beyond?).

Read More »
Podcast: Week 12 Preview 11-24-21

Podcast: Week 12 Preview 11-24-21

3:15pm EST 11/24/21

Lamar Jackson is feeling better. But what about Russell Wilson, Sterling Shepard and those of us who need to decide whether to start them?

Read More »
Week 11 IDP Hits: Micah Parsons and the Cowboys Defense

Week 11 IDP Hits: Micah Parsons and the Cowboys Defense

10:35am EST 11/20/21

Micah Parsons is crushing it lately, and the Cowboys won't let DE injuries get in his way.

Read More »

Dominate your Fantasy League with

the Ultimate Tool Stack

In the heat of a draft, you want as much intel as possible. The key is integrating that into one simple, powerful tool.

Dominate your Fantasy League with

the Ultimate Tool Stack

In the heat of a draft, you want as much intel as possible. The key is integrating that into one simple, powerful tool.
3D Projections

3D Projections

3D Projections: True Dimension of Every Player’s Potential

Based on our award-winning projections, an axis of data points give insights far deeper than a ranking

View Our Accuracy Awards View Our Accuracy Awards »

Advice Draft Strategy

Advice That’s Actionable on Draft Day

Round-by-Round Draft Strategy Guides, Sleepers, Undervalued Players, Busts and Handcuffs

3D Projections

Draft War Room

Draft War Room: Intel Turned Into Killer Picks

Command your entire draft with a dynamic tool synced to your league. Updating and adapting in real time.

3D Projections

Keep Dominating Throughout The Season

Quickly find the free-agent gems, pull the trigger on the perfect trade & make the right start/sit decisions.

Keep Dominating
Draft Sharks

$6/month thereafter, billed semi-annually, one-click cancel anytime.

Turn your phone into a draft weapon with our FREE APP

Download on the App Store Get It on Google Play