If a month ago you told me I’d be invested in the XFL, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here I am, interested in this startup league, having witnessed a pretty strong first weekend showing, particularly in terms of the demand for DFS contests at DraftKings and FanDuel. 

The popularity of this upstart league is going to peter off as we barrel toward both MLB season and the NFL draft, and what percentage of the opening weekend interest it holds will ultimately determine whether it is a success or failure. For now, signs are promising, and it’s captured my attention as well as that of a decent-sized audience. 

But there’s very little out there in terms of available data. Earlier this week, I wrote my five big-picture takeaways from Week 1, and the most glaring was the lack of running back production. Because timing rules helped to make rush attempts scarce, we’ll need to keep a close eye on who is getting the high-value touches (HVT). Those of you who read Stealing Signals during the NFL season will remember my definition of HVT is all running back receptions and touches inside the 10-yard line, which I usually refer to as the green zone. 

The XFL’s point-after-touchdown rules — no kicking, and the chance to try for one, two or three points from different yardage markers — mean running backs can add additional potential scoring touches, and there is additional data in place about what teams prefer in the high-leverage area of the field. I’ve tracked and included Week 1 conversion tendencies as well. Big thanks to PFF and XFL.com for the other data. I didn’t have full air yards data to discuss, but Cody Main shared some WOPR notes on Twitter.

The last thing I want to mention is while I’m going to go in-depth on the Week 1 usage trends, we should certainly expect many of these to not carry over to Week 2. That’s just the nature of a startup league with unsettled depth charts. Some of this will prove not to be predictive at all, but understanding it will give us something to work off. 

Week 1

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