Former NFL second-round pick Christine Michael was the first RB selected in the XFL draft
The XFL draft is over. The two-day event for the rebooted league which will debut in 2020 took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning with the assignment of eight quarterbacks to its member franchises. The draft was broken up into five phases with each representing a position group or a collection of positions. The skill position phase consisted of 10 rounds during which the eight teams selected quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Teams made their selections choosing from the draft pool of 1,000 players that were vetted and approved by the XFL. This draft pool was made up of players with a variety of collegiate and professional backgrounds, including those who had played in the NFL or Canadian Football League or were part of the short-lived Alliance of American Football (AAF).
In the initial skill position phase, 20 running backs were taken in the 10 rounds, three in the first round alone. So which running backs can you expect to see in the XFL next year? Here are 10 that you may recognize.
Note: Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Cameron Artis-Payne, Dallas Renegades
Artis-Payne is best remembered for his two seasons (2013-14) at Auburn when he ran for 2,218 yards and 19 touchdowns after transferring from a junior college. He was a core member of the 2013 SEC championship-winning team, and he helped guide the Tigers to the final BCS National Championship Game against Florida State that same season. The Carolina Panthers made him the 174th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and Artis-Payne posted 491 yards and five touchdowns on 118 carries before the team released him this August after four seasons. It wouldn't surprise me if Renegades head coach Bob Stoops made Artis-Payne his bell cow.
Tim Cook, New York Guardians
Cook was taken in the fourth round of the skill position phase (30th overall) despite a significant lack of experience. He posted just 137 rushing yards (4.6 ypc) in his lone season at Oregon State (2016), and he didn't get an NFL opportunity. But as the backup to fellow draft pick Jhurrel Pressley with the AAF's Arizona Hotshots, Cook ran for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps the XFL will be his chance to finally shine.
Kenneth Farrow, Seattle Dragons
Seattle head coach Jim Zorn worked under both Dennis Erickson and Bobby Ross, thus making him a proponent of the storied West Coast offense. And with this philosophy in mind, the Dragons made Farrow the second pick of the second round. The feature back in Houston's high-octane offense from 2012-15, Farrow posted 3,526 yards from scrimmage and 37 total touchdowns before embarking on a professional career. An undrafted free agent, he was in the NFL from 2016-18, appearing in 13 games (two starts) for the Chargers in '16.
Farrow's biggest exposure, however, would come when he played for the San Antonio Commanders in the AAF. He ranked third in the AAF in both rushing yards (372) and rushing touchdowns (4), while finishing second in carries (106). Don't be surprised if Zorn tries to come up with multiple ways to utilize Farrow.
Quinton Flowers, Tampa Bay Vipers
A three-year starting quarterback for South Florida, Flowers finished his career (2014-17) as the American Athletic Conference's all-time leader in total offense with 11,796 total yards and 112 total touchdowns in 43 games. Unable to convince NFL teams to give him a shot at quarterback, the Cincinnati Bengals signed Flowers as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and converted him into a running back. Flowers was a member of the Bengals' practice squad last season, although he was added to the active roster for Week 17. Flowers was released by Cincinnati during final roster cuts prior to the start of this season and was unable to latch on with the Colts.
Now in the XFL, this represents a homecoming of sorts for the Miami native. It will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay head coach Marc Trestman, who's been a head coach in both the NFL and CFL and served as offensive coordinator for multiple NFL teams, will install a Wildcat package for Flowers.
Kyle Hicks, Houston Roughnecks
Hicks and Andre Williams (9th round, 66th overall) could end up forming quite the backfield tandem for the Roughnecks. Hicks' speed and versatility could be a nice complement to Williams' hard-running style. Hicks' skill set was a big reason why he was the eighth running back taken (4th round, 31st overall). Despite accumulating 3,037 all-purpose yards with 23 touchdowns at TCU from 2014-17, Hicks never got a shot at the NFL. Now he has a chance to show teams what they passed on.
Elijah Hood, Los Angeles Wildcats
Hood averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his three seasons at North Carolina and was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2015 after finishing third in the conference with 1,463 rushing yards and second with 17 touchdowns. He declared early for the NFL and was taken in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by Oakland. He appeared in one game for the Raiders on special teams in 2017 and then spent the entire '18 season on injured reserve after getting hurt in a preseason game while trying to make the Panthers roster. After getting waived by Jacksonville this preseason, Hood has found a new home in Los Angeles. The team's first player taken in the skill position draft (8th overall), Hood could be a focal point of Wildcats head coach Winston Moss' offense.
Christine Michael, St. Louis BattleHawks
The first running back taken (sixth overall in skill position phase) in the XFL draft, Michael enjoyed a productive four-year career at Texas A&M during which he ran for nearly 2,800 yards with 34 rushing touchdowns and was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2009. A second-round pick (62nd overall) in the 2013 NFL draft by Seattle, Michael did two separate stints with the Seahawks and was a part of the teams that won Super Bowl XLVIII and appeared in Super Bowl XLIX.
Besides Seattle, Michael also played for Dallas and Green Bay and appeared in one game for Indianapolis in a career that spanned six seasons. A backup most of his time, Michael did get a chance to start for the Seahawks and was the team's leading rusher for most of the 2016 season before he was released. In 38 career games, Michael averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushing performances. Out of football since being released by the Colts in late September 2018, St. Louis obviously thinks the 28-year-old has plenty left in the tank.
Jhurell Pressley, DC Defenders
The former New Mexico standout recorded 2,945 yards from scrimmage with 36 touchdowns for the Lobos from 2012-15. Pressley was not selected in the 2016 NFL draft and bounced around the practice squads of the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Giants until '18. He never saw an NFL regular-season snap.
That changed when he got his shot with the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF. He led the AAF in rushing yards (431) while averaging 4.5 yards per carry over the nine games he played. Between Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey, the FBS' all-time leading rusher (6,405 yards) who was a fourth-round NFL draft pick in 2017, DC head coach Pep Hamilton already has one of the league's more intriguing backfields.
De'Veon Smith, Tampa Bay Vipers
This Michigan alum will be a solid power back to complement the speed of Quinton Flowers. Smith was the first Wolverines running back of the Jim Harbaugh era, and during his final two years in Ann Arbor (2015-16), Smith ran for 1,599 yards and 22 touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. After unsuccessful training camps with the Miami Dolphins (2017) and the Washington Redskins (2018), Smith found a temporary home with the AAF's Orlando Apollos. When the AAF closed its doors, Smith finished in the top 10 in rushing yards (345), touchdowns (6), yards per carry (4.6), and attempts (75).
Trey Williams, Seattle Dragons
A Houston native, Williams averaged 6.6 yards per carry (204 total attempts in 36 games) across three seasons for Texas A&M. He declared a year early for the NFL but went undrafted in 2015. Over the next three seasons, he bounced around with six different NFL teams, mostly as a member of their practice squads, although he did appear in two games for Indianapolis in 2015. He wound up in the AAF on the San Antonio Commanders and was the backup for Kenneth Farrow. In limited action, Williams averaged 5.1 yards per carry with a touchdown. The duo has now been reunited in the XFL with Seattle taking Williams in the first round (7th overall) and Farrow three picks later.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.