The XFL, the football league you probably forgot about and never really needed in the first place, still exists and is holding its inaugural draft next week. The league announced the draft rules on Monday, and they’re ... different.
XFL draft basics
The basics are normal enough. It’s a two day draft which will take place Oct. 15-16, and the results will be announced as they happen on the XFL’s website and various social media channels. Each of the eight teams will choose from a pool of approximately 1,000 players to populate their 71-man rosters.
Then things get weird.
Before a single player is chosen, each team will be assigned one quarterback. In its press release, the XFL didn’t reveal who the eight quarterbacks will be, how they will be chosen out of the XFL’s large pool of draft-eligible players, or how they’ll be assigned to each team. There’s likely a wide range of talent in the QB pool, and depending on how the XFL is rating those players, these QB assignments could doom a team before it has a chance to pick a player it actually wants.
Five-phase snake draft
The actual draft will be separated into five different phases, with each phase dedicated to a different subset of skill players. Here’s how the draft will be divided, from the press release:
1. Skill Players (QB, RB, WR, TE)
2. Offensive Line (OT, OG, OC)
3. Defensive Front Seven (DL, LB)
4. Defensive Backfield (CB, NB, SS, FS)
5. Open Draft (all remaining players after positional drafts, in addition to P/K/LS)
Each team will pick 10 players per phase through phase 4, and then in phase 5 they’ll each pick another 31 players to complete their 71-man rosters.
The draft order was determined by blind lottery, and instead of using a linear format like the NFL does, the XFL is going with a snake draft. That means that the draft order reverses every round, so the teams that pick early in one round will pick late in the next one. In addition to that, the teams picking in the middle of the order will get a chance to pick first (and also last) in rounds 3, 4 and 5.
The point of all of these rules is fairness. Commissioner Oliver Luck told ESPN that this particular structure will "maximize parity and equity between the teams," which makes a certain amount of sense. This is a brand new league, so structuring it like the NFL draft isn’t practical — you can’t order these teams by results, and the snake format makes sure that even the teams with the unlucky 7th and 8th picks get to pick early in the next round.
The rules do seem arbitrarily weird and a tad excessive, but it is a new football league — why would they want to do things exactly like the NFL?
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