The inaugural XFL draft is nearly upon us, so it’s time to study up on former college stars and fringe professional veterans in the draft pool bound by a simple common thread: They are not among the 2,016 players currently on NFL rosters or practice squads. The XFL draft pool has some intriguing and recognizable names among the approximately 1,000 entrants, but it’s fair to judge its collective quality by the first player commitment it chose to announce: Quarterback Landry Jones, who spent six seasons as an NFL backup and has been out of the league for a year.
Indeed, the XFL has promoted itself not as a star-driven enterprise but one whose rule innovations will produce a faster-paced and more interesting games. Its eight teams will stock their rosters according to a matrix designed to maximize parity, first by assigning one quarterback to each team and then proceeding with a two-day five-phase snake-style draft divided roughly by position groups — skill positions, offensive line, defensive front seven, defensive backs and a final “open” group involving all positions — over October 15-16.
What follows are some highlights of the draft pool, comprised of players who accepted invitations from commissioner Oliver Luck and then passed background checks. They’ll be free to sign with NFL teams up until XFL minicamps open in December. Training camp is scheduled for January, and the season will begin Feb. 8, 2020. Names are listed alphabetically.
Former NFL QBs to know
Joe Callahan, Wesley
Although undrafted in 2016, Callahan generated plenty of interest from NFL teams. He spent two seasons with the Green Bay Packers and has been on the rosters of five other franchises at some point. He was among the Baltimore Ravens‘ final roster cuts this summer.
Connor Cook, Michigan State
B.J. Daniels, South Florida
Daniels spent parts of two seasons on the Seattle Seahawks‘ practice squad, appearing in a 2015 game, and has also played in the CFL and AAF.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Jones, who spent six seasons as an NFL backup, is expected to be one of the quarterbacks assigned to a team prior to the draft. A likely destination is the Dallas Renegades to play for coach Bob Stoops, who coached Jones at Oklahoma.
Matt McGloin, Penn State
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
After spending three years as Tom Brady‘s backup for the New England Patriots, Mallett held the Texans’ starting job for parts of 2014 and 2015. He had nine career touchdowns over 21 games and has been out of the league since the end of the 2017 season.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
A sixth-round NFL draft pick in 2014, Mettenberger started 14 games over two seasons for the Tennessee Titans and is a veteran of alternative football leagues. He has played both in The Spring League and the AAF (Memphis Express) in an attempt to revive his career. His NFL career included a 12-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio over 14 games.
Other top former NFL players
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson
Ford, 32, had a strong rookie season for the Raiders in 2010 and last appeared in an NFL game during the 2013 season. He spent parts of three seasons in the CFL.
Jonas Gray, RB, Notre Dame
A brief sensation for the Patriots in 2014, Gray still holds the single-game record for most rushing touchdowns (four) in franchise history.
Matt Jones, RB, Florida
A bruising runner for the Washington Redskins from 2015-16, Jones totaled 964 rushing yards in his career.
Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
Believed to be the oldest non-specialist in the draft at 35, Meachem was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2007. He has been out of the league for five years but worked out for XFL officials in June. In his NFL career, he posted 2,914 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns.
Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
A second-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2011, Moore’s NFL career largely ended after moving to the Texans in 2015. He most recently played this spring in the AAF (Arizona Hotshots).
Sterling Moore, CB, SMU
Moore started 12 games for the Saints as recently as 2016, has six career NFL interceptions and played with the AAF’s Hotshots, as well.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The No. 3 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft has played in the CFL (Saskatchewan Roughriders, 2017) and the AAF (Birmingham Iron, 2019) in an attempt to keep his career going. He scored a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns during the AAF’s shortened season, and had 17 during his NFL time. Amazingly, he is still only 29 years old!
Sealver Siliga, DT, Utah
Silga is a big run-stopper who last played in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017. He returned to the field this year in the AAF (Salt Lake Stallions).
Nick Novak, K, Maryland
Novak, 38, kicked for five teams over a 13-season span, most recently for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. He made all six attempts during a June XFL tryout, including a long of 60 yards. His NFL career field-goal make percentage is 82.0%.
Brad Wing, P, LSU
A native of Australia, Wing spent four seasons as an NFL punter with the Steelers and New York Giants from 2014-17 before moving to the AAF (Memphis Express).
Top former college stars
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
Brown was an All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 at Kansas State, where he transferred after two years at Miami. He went on to be a second-round pick of the Ravens.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
When he left Oklahoma in 2012, Broyles owned the Big 10 record in career receptions (349), yards receiving (4,586) and receiving touchdowns (45). He was a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions, but injuries limited his career.
Matt Elam, S, Florida
Elam was an All-American playmaker at Florida after intercepting four passes in 2012 and was a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2013. His NFL career essentially ended after a biceps injury caused him to miss the 2015 season.
Vontae Jackson, RB, West Georgia
A finalist for the Hill Trophy as the 2017 Division II Player of the Year, the 5-foot-8 Jackson totaled 3,779 yards and 31 touchdowns in his college career. He spent 2019 training camp with Broncos.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Sutton was a consensus All-American and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after a 13-sack season. He was a third-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2013.
Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon
Thomas accounted for 74 touchdowns in two seasons as Oregon’s starter from 2010-11. The Ducks advanced to the national championship game after the 2010 season and won the Rose Bowl after 2011.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Williams led the nation in rushing in 2013 with 2,177 yards. He went on to a four-year NFL career, highlighted by a 721-yard, seven-touchdown rookie season with the Giants.
Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
A three-time All-American at Florida State, Aguayo flopped in the NFL after the Buccaneers made him a second-round draft pick in 2016.
Nate Boyer, LS, Texas
A veteran of the U.S. Army Green Berets, Boyer walked on at the University of Texas despite never playing football and went on to play in a 2015 preseason game with the Seahawks. He later advised then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to take a knee, rather than sit, during the national anthem.
Josh Gable, K
Gable was a professional soccer player who decided to teach himself to be a football place-kicker. He posted an insane series of trick shot videos on YouTube, has kicked in the Indoor Football League and The Spring League and has worked out for the Patriots at least twice.
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
Jackson proved to be an impressive physical specimen after signing with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. He is 6-foot-7, has a rifle arm and needs the kind of developmental time that the XFL is better suited to provide.
Matt Linehan, QB, Idaho
The son of longtime NFL coach Scott Linehan, he was a four-year starter at Idaho and got some playing time in the AAF with the Salt Lake Stallions.
Max McCaffrey, WR, Duke
The older brother of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and Michigan quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, Max has spent time with five NFL franchises, including two stints with the Packers.
Ronald Ollie, DT, Nicholls State
One of the stars of the Netflix “Last Chance U” documentary, Ollie was released by the Raiders in training camp.
Vinny Papale, WR, Delaware
Papale is the son of Vince Papale, who was the subject of the movie “Invincible.” Vince Papale signed with the Eagles as a receiver at age 30 in 1976 without any college experience.
Luis Perez, Texas A&M-Commerce
A former professional bowler, Perez’s work with the AAF’s Birmingham Iron drew the interest of several NFL teams. He signed briefly with the Lions in August.
Kenny Robinson, S, West Virginia
Robinson is the trailblazer of this draft. He announced his intentions to transfer from West Virginia in June, but ultimately decided to jump to the XFL rather than play another season of (unpaid) college football. He is the only such player in the draft pool.
Brandon Silvers, Troy, QB
Silvers signed with the New York Jets in April but was released before training camp began. He threw four touchdowns in four games for the Memphis Express in the AAF.
Vincent Testaverde Jr., QB
The son of 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and longtime NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde, Vincent played at three schools and spent parts of training camp with the Buccaneers.
ESPN’s Anthony Olivieri contributed to this story.