• RB Morgan Ellison runs wild in Week 3: He became the first XFL running back to top 100 rushing yards in a game this season, and he also forced seven missed tackles.
• WR Hakeem Butler providing a big target for St. Louis: He caught 9-of-11 targets in Week 3 for 105 yards and a score, including two contested catches.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Week 4 of the XFL is here, with the Houston Roughnecks and Orlando Guardians set to open the slate on Saturday. Here are PFF's highest-graded players through three weeks of action.
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- Offense: OG Mike Horton (75.7)
- Defense: DI T.J. Barnes (89.8)
It's a shake-up in the grade rankings for the Renegades, as Horton and Barnes debut at the top ahead of Week 4. Horton is the XFL's highest-graded offensive lineman through three weeks, mostly because of his run blocking. He has racked up the most positively graded run blocks (16) in the league en route to a 76.0 grade in that facet.
Barnes, meanwhile, is the XFL's highest-graded interior defender. The 32-year-old's Week 3 effort — two stops, one pressure and one batted pass on 23 snaps — earned him an 89.5 game grade. One of his best plays was a swim move late in the first quarter that resulted in a run stop.
T.J. Barnes lost nearly 70lbs since November to get in shape for the @XFL2023 season ???? pic.twitter.com/hm6eAUp5x7
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 18, 2023
- Offense: QB D'Eriq King (82.8)
- Defense: EDGE Davin Bellamy (83.7)
King, despite a limited workload, remains in the top offensive spot for the Defenders. He played only 17 snaps in Week 3 but made a significant impact on two third downs in the fourth quarter. He converted a third-and-1 with a four-yard designed run at quarterback and, on the same drive, tossed a four-yard touchdown on third-and-goal that proved to be the game-winning score.
Bellamy earned an elite 90.6 pass-rush grade for his dominant Week 3 performance, and that brings his overall season grade into the team lead on defense. The former NFL undrafted free agent recorded two sacks — one a strip-sack — and three stops. His eight pressures on the season are a top-four mark among edge defenders.
Pick your fave ⤵️#DefendDC | #XFL2023 pic.twitter.com/6oAKpeiLpY
— D.C. Defenders (@XFLDefenders) March 7, 2023
- Offense: RB Max Borghi (82.8)
- Defense: EDGE John Daka (91.5)
The undefeated Roughnecks' top-graded players remain the same from Week 2. No XFL running back has forced more missed tackles than Borghi's 16, and none have managed to match his two rushing scores, either. He forced a whopping eight missed tackles in Week 3 — more than all but three other rushers have accumulated across the entire season.
We touched on Daka's notable college resume in last week's highest-graded players article, and he continues to produce in the XFL. He added four more quarterback pressures in Week 3 to bring his season total to 12 on just 59 pass-rushing snaps. His 29.1% pass-rush win rate ranks first among all XFL defenders.
Big-time back-to-back plays by Max Borghi! #GoCougs #XFL @WSUCougarFB pic.twitter.com/roOuj9rxvL
— Jason Krump (@JasonKrump) March 6, 2023
Las Vegas Vipers
- Offense: C Kahlil McKenzie (68.9)
- Defense: S Adam Sparks (80.9)
McKenzie, a 2018 sixth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs who has bounced around the XFL and the NFL since being drafted, is settling in nicely with the Vipers through three weeks. While center play isn't exactly booming in the XFL due to the lack of teams, and therefore the lack of standout centers, McKenzie leads the position with a 69.3 run-blocking grade. He earned 70.0-plus grades as both a pass blocker (72.2) and a run blocker (71.5) in Week 3.
Sparks attempted to spark the Vipers with a third-quarter interception in Week 3 that set the offense up at its own 41-yard line, but it led to only a field goal that pushed their lead to 20-9 over the Sea Dragons. That deficit proved surmountable, with winless Vegas falling by a 30-26 scoreline. Still, Sparks is now the highest-graded safety in the XFL, boasting strong grades in run defense (81.0) and coverage (78.6).
ITS CALLED NO FLY ZONE FOR A DAMN REASON ⚠️@adamsparks18 pic.twitter.com/EjA0iqJTJl
— Vegas Vipers (@XFLVipers) March 5, 2023
- Offense: WR Cody Latimer (75.1)
- Defense: S Marcus Murphy (80.3)
For the third week running, Latimer holds onto his place at the top for the Guardians. He has caught five-plus passes in each game thus far and has yet to record a drop. Latimer also remains the league leader in contested catches, boosting his season total to six after snagging two such receptions in Week 3.
Murphy wasn't at his best in Week 3, earning a season-low 60.4 game grade, but he did enough through the first two weeks to maintain a solid 80.0-plus overall grade. The former Mississippi State Bulldog has allowed just 37 yards in coverage this season.
— Orlando Guardians (@XFLGuardians) March 7, 2023
San Antonio Brahmas
- Offense: QB Jack Coan (75.7)
- Defense: CB Luq Barcoo (90.6)
Coan is one of three XFL quarterbacks with five-plus big-time throws this year, and he pairs that with the lowest turnover-worthy play rate (0.9%) in the league. While his 8-for-20 effort in Week 3 certainly left something to be desired, he is now the Brahmas' highest-graded offensive player.
Barcoo earned the highest grade (88.7) of any XFL defensive back in Week 3 after allowing just two catches on five targets for 11 yards. He also intercepted one of Houston's two-point tries — a play that won't show up in the box score. The former Jacksonville Jaguar has now allowed only eight catches this season to go along with four pass breakups.
Touchdown for #DallasCowboys Legend TJ Vasher. @XFLBrahmas #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/o0xFeAOpCo
— Tony Catalina (@Tony_Catalina) March 6, 2023
Seattle Sea Dragons
- Offense: RB Morgan Ellison (83.6)
- Defense: LB Clarence Hicks (88.5)
The first XFL running back to top 100 rushing yards in a game this season, Ellison showed out in Week 3. He forced seven missed tackles and gained 83 of his yards after contact, placing himself in the league lead at the position for a number of categories.
Hicks doesn't rush the passer often, but when he does, pressure is bound to come. In Week 3, his first game of the year with a significant workload, he did so on eight of his 50 snaps and recorded three pressures. He also recorded three run stops, tied for the second most among defenders this past week.
Morgan Ellison would not be denied ????@XFL2023 | @XFLSeaDragons pic.twitter.com/dAPA9XW89S
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 5, 2023
St. Louis Battlehawks
- Offense: WR Hakeem Butler (79.3)
- Defense: LB Mike Rose (78.1)
Once a promising fourth-round draft pick, Butler never gained a foothold in the NFL and is now forging a career in the XFL with St. Louis. He caught 9-of-11 targets in Week 3 for 105 yards and a score, including two contested catches. Butler has quickly developed into quarterback A.J. McCarron's favorite target.
Rose was also a promising NFL rookie, entering the 2022 NFL Draft as PFF's No. 167 player in the class. He ended up going undrafted and was later cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, but Rose has revived his young career as the XFL's best linebacker in run defense (86.4 grade). He has missed only one tackle and earned 69.0-plus overall grades in each of his three outings.