Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 virus spreading throughout our nation, the XFL made the obvious decision to cancel their opening season after 5 games. There is hope that the new league will be back again for the 2021 season, but that remains to be seen.
On the positive side, however, there are players that were able to use their short time in the XFL to make the jump to the NFL. Most notably are quarterbacks PJ Walker from the Houston Roughnecks and Jordan Ta’amu from the St. Louis Battlehawks. Walker led the Roughnecks to an undefeated record and was seen as the mid season front-runner for MVP, and Ta’amu was responsible for keeping the Battlehawks in the playoff hunt with his ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs.
I am sure that as the NFL makes its way through the free agency period and the draft that more players will make the jump, but as of now let’s focus on the players that have already made the jump.
PJ Walker – Carolina Panthers
It makes sense that Walker was the first player from the XFL to find a home in the NFL. When the season was interrupted after 5 games, Walker led the league in both passing yards and touchdowns. Walker will join his former Temple head coach Matt Rhule in Carolina, where he will be competing with Will Grier to be the backup to new starter Teddy Bridgewater who was just signed to a 3-year, $63 million contract with $30 million guaranteed, after previous back up Kyle Allen was traded to the Washington Redskins recently.
Walker played under Rhule in 2013-16, where he became Temple’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, and completions. He then spent 2017-19 on the practice squad with the Indianapolis Colts, before getting the opportunity with the Houston Roughnecks.
He took full advantage of this opportunity, throwing for 1,338 yards on 64.6% completions, with 15 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. The Roughnecks were undefeated after 5 games, including an impressive comeback in the final game against the Seattle Dragons, when they were down 23-14 in the third quarter, and a victory over the other quarterback on this list, Jordan Ta’amu and the St. Louis Battlehawks.
Jordan Ta’amu – Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of Ta’amu, he just signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, in theory to compete with veteran quarterback Chad Henne who was just signed and Kyle Shurmur for back up duties to former NFL league MVP Patrick Mahomes.
This will be Jordan’s second stint in the NFL, previously playing for the Houston Texans last year, throwing for 50 yards passing on 7 of 12 passing and an interception in the preseason before he was released prior to the regular season.
The 6’3″ 214 quarterback went undrafted in 2019 coming out of Ole Miss, where he threw for 5,600 yards in 2 seasons there, and led the Rebels to a 30-12 record in that time.
Ta’amu was right behind Walker in most statistics this season, throwing for 1,050 yards on 72% completion, while throwing 12 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. He also added 217 yards rushing, making him a true dual-threat quarterback. Learning behind Mahomes will be great for Ta’amu as he grows as a quarterback.
Deatrick Nichols – New Orleans Saints
The first non-quarterback making the jump to the NFL was Deatick Nichols, the defensive back from the Houston Roughnecks who was leading the XFL in interceptions when the league season ended, with 3 picks in 5 games.
Nichols was undrafted in 2018 after spending 4 years at South Florida, where he finished his college career with 11 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 24 pass break-ups. He also had 174 total tackles, 15 of them for a loss and 1 sack. Nichols then spent the 2018 season on the Arizona Cardinals, both on the practice squad and the active roster.
Deatrick Nichols should have ample opportunity to get playing time in the Saints secondary, and will have an opportunity to go against former Roughneck teammate PJ Walker twice a year when they go against the Carolina Panthers.
Other players who might move to the NFL
These are the first 3 players to be signed to the NFL, and although there is no guarantee these players will make their respective teams, their time with the XFL has at least given them the opportunity for NFL teams to be able to have more tape on them going forward.
Cam Phillips, PJ Walker’s favorite target for the Roughnecks will no doubt be added to an NFL team soon, as he had 9 receiving touchdowns, while nobody else in the XFL had more than 4.
One of those players with 4 touchdowns was Dallas Renegades tight end Donald Parham. The 6’8″ 240 pound Parham was actually third in the league with 307 receiving yards along with the 4 touchdowns, and that was without starting quarterback Landry Jones for 2 games.
Josh Johnson is another player that should draw interest in the NFL, especially since he was already getting calls before the season began. The Detroit Lions were blocked in November when they tried to sign him after Matthew Stafford was injured. He only played in 4 games, and was still second in passing yards behind Walker. He will no doubt get another shot on an NFL roster.
Cavon Walker, the Defensive end for the New York Guardians will see opportunities as well, after leading the XFL in sacks with 4.5 in their 5 games.
There may be other players as well, depending on teams needs, especially after free agency and the NFL draft takes place. Some players will stay, but there will be some that don’t make the team and end up back on an XFL team next year, if the leagues decides to play a second year.
Most importantly, future players with NFL aspirations will begin to see the XFL as a viable option in order to make the league, which should help the XFL grow.
What do you think? Do you think any of the players moving to the NFL will be on a roster coming week 1? Did you get to watch any of these players during the brief season of the XFL? Let me know in the comments below!