- Cardale Jones, Landry Jones figure to be among top XFL MVP candidates
- PJ Walker a potential sleeper after beating out Connor Cook for Houston’s QB1 job
- Rashad Ross, Christine Michael among top non-QB MVP candidates
If you were one of the few that watched the XFL during its first go-round nearly 20 years ago, you probably remember Tommy Maddox. Frankly, Maddox is one of the few memorable players from the first iteration of the league, along with Rod “He Hate Me” Smart.
Maddox was QB1 for the Los Angeles Xtreme, who won the championship in the XFL’s inaugural season. Maddox threw for a league-high 2,186 yards while completing just over 57 percent of his throws with a league-leading 18 touchdowns. He was actually able to parlay that work into a stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he stuck around as a backup for a few years.
In case you somehow hadn’t heard, the XFL is back again. Vince McMahon is rebooting his old football league with the hope that it’ll last longer than one season this time around. The WWE founder is reportedly set to put $500 million behind the XFL in order to make sure it doesn’t flop for a second time. The fact that the league has TV deals with the likes of Fox, ESPN and ABC certainly won’t hurt.
All 8 teams will be in action this weekend, with 2 games on Saturday and another pair on Sunday. Ratings figure to be decent for opening weekend, but the league’s viability will be tested as the season progresses. It will be difficult for the league to retain the attention of the masses without recognizable names. You’ve heard of some of the “marquee” players, but the vast majority of the talent you’ll see on the field this weekend is relatively unknown as of now.
If you want to spruce up your XFL viewing experience, you can always bet on the games. The same football betting sites you use for your NFL and college football action now have up-to-date odds on the XFL. The sites currently don’t have odds on which player will win Most Valuable Player, but we want to take this opportunity to highlight a few names that could emerge as viable options once those odds to pop up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see MVP odds listed as early as next week, once the first set of games is in the books.
The following are 5 legitimate threats to win XFL MVP this season.
Landry Jones (QB, Dallas Renegades)
For better or worse, Landry Jones is the face of the XFL’s relaunch. The former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback is arguably the most-recognizable name on any of the league’s 8 rosters. Somewhat ironically, he’s another guy that has previously served as a backup for the Steelers, just like Tommy Maddox. Jones never got a great shot in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger entrenched as the starter, but he’ll try to rejuvenate his career in the XFL.
He’ll have the rare benefit of playing for a coach he knows well. The Renegades will be led by Bob Stoops, who coached Jones during their time together in Norman. Jones was one of the most prolific passers in Oklahoma history under Stoops’ tutelage, so I like his chances of enjoying a solid debut campaign at the XFL level given his familiarity with Stoops’ offense.
It also doesn’t hurt that Dallas is tied with 2 other teams for the best odds to win the XFL championship. Jones and the Renegades are at +350 at BetOnline to win it all, which ties them with Tampa Bay and DC at the top of the list. It’s safe to assume the XFL MVP will come from the eventual champion, which makes Jones a very obvious candidate.
PJ Walker (QB, Houston Roughnecks)
Connor Cook, the former Michigan State quarterback, was the No. 2 overall pick in the XFL draft. He’s been tabbed as one of the faces of the league in the XFL’s ad campaign. Earlier this week, Cook lost the starting quarterback competition for the Houston Roughnecks at the hands of ex-Temple QB PJ Walker. Oops!
Walker is just 5’11”, but head coach June Jones clearly likes the versatility the athletic quarterback brings to the offense. Walker was the QB1 for Matt Ruhle, now the head coach for the Carolina Panthers, during their time together at Temple in 2015 and 2016. Walker is Temple’s all-time leader in just about every offensive statistic, including passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
June Jones ran a high-octane pass-happy offense during his heyday with the University of Hawaii, and we can safely expect him to bring a similar offensive philosophy to the XFL. I think Houston has a good shot at challenging Dallas for the top spot in the Western Conference, and Walker will be right in the thick of things. I expect Walker to make a name for himself in the Roughnecks’ opener at home on Saturday night against the LA Wildcats.
Cardale Jones (QB, DC Defenders)
Cardale Jones is likely right there with Landry Jones as the most-recognizable name in the XFL. Jones led Ohio State to a national championship just a few years ago, but his early NFL career didn’t go as planned. So, he’ll try to show his ability at the XFL level.
As mentioned, Jones and the Defenders are one of the teams with lofty expectations this season. Jones will have a game-breaking speedster in Rashad Ross at his disposal. DC figures to have one of the fastest offenses in the league with Ross flanked in the passing game by another former NFLer in Eli Rogers. Jones has always had no shortage of arm talent, and now he’ll finally be given the opportunity to show it off.
As mentioned, playing for what should be one of the league’s better teams won’t hurt his chances. I’d definitely take a stab at Cardale Jones to win the award once the odds surface.
Rashad Ross (WR, DC Defenders)
Expectations are high in DC, due in no small part to the presence of Rashad Ross. Ross primarily served as a return man during his brief stint in the NFL, during which he bounced around to several teams. Ross is legitimately dangerous with the ball in the open field, so I’d expect him to be a focal point of DC’s offense under Pep Hamilton.
Ross led the Alliance of American Football in both receiving touchdowns and yards per catch. If a non-quarterback is to win MVP, it’s hard not to like Ross’ chances. If the Defenders’ offense plays up to its potential, Ross is primed to have a monster statistical campaign.
Josh Johnson (QB, Los Angeles Wildcats)
Let’s face it. The MVP of the XFL will almost surely be a quarterback. Josh Johnson is the most-experienced QB in the league. The 33-year-old spent years in the NFL, with most of that time coming as a backup. He’s more of a passer than a runner, but having a quarterback with a wealth of NFL experience is a luxury most teams in the XFL won’t have. Johnson gives the Wildcats some rare stability at the position.
The problem with Johnson’s case in that I’m not sold on the rest of the Wildcats’ roster. LA is taking a defense-first approach, and I wouldn’t be all that shocked if the team opted for a ground-and-pound style of offensive attack. That would obviously benefit the team’s running backs, DuJuan Harris and Elijah Hood.
That said, if Johnson is able to help the Wildcats exceed expectations, he’ll garner some legitimate MVP buzz.
Trying to peg which player will win XFL MVP in the league’s first season is a difficult task at this point. Considering we haven’t seen any of the 8 teams in action, it’s tough to say who will stand out. However, trying to choose between the quarterbacks is a pretty smart starting point.
I think Landry Jones and PJ Walker would be my top options if I had to pick a couple of players that I think will stand out from the jump. Jones’ advantage of playing for his college coach is no small thing, while Walker is a two-way talent that figures to thrive in June Jones’ offensive system. The fact that I think both Texas teams will be among the XFL’s best doesn’t hurt their cases, either.
Cardale Jones, Rashad Ross and Josh Johnson make for some potential sleeper candidates, as well. Be sure to tune into the XFL’s opening weekend and check the best football betting sites early next week for a look at a fresh batch of MVP odds.