The best USFL players who could get looks from NFL teams in 2022 | Launderer’s report

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0 out of 7

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The USFL is back! Well, sort of. The new version of the USFL has little connection to the 1980s product outside of image and branding. It’s spring football, however, that gives football fans something to watch during the NFL’s offseason.

    It will also give players the opportunity to continue honing their skills while putting additional reps on tape. That’s huge because the NFL doesn’t have a developmental league outside of the college.

    NFL Europe used to help players bridge the gap between college and professional games – and it delivered future stars like James Harrison, Adam Vinatieri, Jake Delhomme and Kurt Warner – but the league folded in 2007.

    The National Football League appears to be interested in the USFL as a possible developmental league, as NFL Films is partnering with the USFL and Fox Sports on a documentary series that covers the league’s inaugural season.

    Yes, that means NFL Films will be documenting plenty of players this spring.

    We’ll take a look at seven of those players who could get a glimpse of NFL teams this fall, if they perform on the field, of course. They have the physical tools, positive value, and positional value to earn an opportunity in the NFL (or another, in many cases) and become spring league stars.

    The players are listed in alphabetical order.

1 of 7

    Mekhi Brown (left)

    Mekhi Brown (left)Sportswire/Getty Images icon

    NFL teams are always looking for rushing help, and they’ll likely be keeping tabs on Tampa Bay Bandits defenseman Mekhi Brown.

    Brown played for Alabama for three years before a sideline incident in the 2017 national title game thrust him into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. After being called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Brown got into a physical altercation with an Alabama staffer.

    “It was a critical moment in the game and I screwed up,” he said the following spring, according to Mike Organ of the tennessian. “After it was over, I knew if I was going to do all this, all this craziness, I would have to make up for it. That’s what I’m doing.”

    Brown had decided to transfer to Tennessee State before the title game, and he had four sacks in nine games in his first season. He didn’t record a sack in 2019 but made 12 solo saves in five games. He will have the opportunity to continue building his resume under the guidance of seasoned NFL coach Todd Haley.

    Additionally, Brown will be able to hone his skills under former NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl-winning assistant coach Pepper Johnson, the Bandits’ defensive coordinator. If Brown flashes this spring, an NFL team will give him a chance.

2 out of 7

    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Outlaw running back BJ Emmons has had a few looks in the NFL, spending time on the practice squads of the Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. He might deserve another look because running back depth and special teams contributors are valuable.

    Emmons took a winding path to the NFL, where he was an undrafted free agent last season. He started his college career at Alabama and appeared in seven games for the Crimson Tide, rushing for 173 yards on 4.9 yards per carry with a touchdown.

    After suffering a foot injury, Emmons transferred to Hutchinson Community College and later to Florida Atlantic. Although little used by the Owls in 2019 or 2020, he found the end zone seven times on 88 carries.

    The 6’0″, 220-pound fullback has the physical tools to be an NFL contributor, which is why he’s had multiple training opportunities. If he can prove himself for the Bandits under Haley, he’ll will likely see an NFL opportunity again.

    Haley spent three seasons (2009-2011) as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, and his final NFL job came as offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2018.

3 out of 7

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    John Franklin III is one of many former college quarterbacks who have attempted a positional change in the NFL. Primarily a backup and gadget player in college, Franklin had stints at Florida State, East Mississippi Community College, Auburn, and Florida Atlantic.

    Where Franklin shone was as a runner. At Auburn, he’s averaging 9.3 yards per carry. At Florida Atlantic, he averaged 14.3 yards per carry. That earned Franklin a look with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2018, despite never appearing in a regular season game.

    Franklin saw the field with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, once rushing for 11 yards. He was also on the active roster in 2020, when he didn’t play but still became a Super Bowl champion.

    While a free agent last season, Franklin was handed a three-game suspension for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status. The pending suspension could play a role in an NFL team’s willingness to sign him, but so will his play with the Bandits.

    If Franklin can prove his worth as a runner and receiver, he could have an opportunity with a team looking for its own version of Cordarrelle Patterson in 2022. Offensive coordinator Bob Saunders — who was assistant receivers coach for the Browns in 2018 — will help further Franklin’s development as a professional.

4 out of 7

    Sportswire/Getty Images Icon

    The Bears signed running back CJ Marable as an undrafted free agent last year, but waived him at the end of training camp. Now with the Birmingham Stallions, the former Coastal Carolina star will have a chance to prove that Chicago – and the 31 clubs that didn’t pick him – made a mistake.

    Marable is undersized at 5’7″ and 196 pounds, but he’s dangerous in space and capable of catching passes.

    “He has the right tools for a rushing zone attack, and his ability to hit pieces of passes out of the backfield could bring more life to his draft profile,” wrote Lance Zierlein, draft analyst for NFL Media. , about Marable in 2021.

    With the Chanticleers in 2020, Marable had 887 rushing yards, 228 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

    Marable will have the chance to prove himself on a professional playing field under running backs coach Larry Kirksey, who has NFL experience coaching the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.

    If Marable shows his height isn’t a limiting factor, the 25-year-old will be given a new NFL look.

5 out of 7

    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    While kick return doesn’t have the same importance in the NFL due to rule changes, it’s still a notable phase of the game. Teams with a proficient return specialist have an advantage. Those who don’t have one are trying to find one.

    Houston Gamblers wideout Anthony Ratliff-Williams could be a valuable return and has seen some opportunities in the NFL. Although he never played in a game, he did spend time with the Las Vegas Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.

    In North Carolina, Ratliff-Williams was a dynamic all-rounder, and that’s likely how Houston will use him. In 2018, he caught 42 passes for 689 yards, rushed 11 times for 83 yards, and returned 28 kickoffs for 598 yards.

    He was even more prolific as a returner in 2017, with 34 kickoffs for 895 yards and two touchdowns.

    With the Gamblers, Ratliff-Williams will work under former New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Greg McMahon. If he shows he can still be an explosive threat to special teams, NFL teams without established kicking returns will come calling.

6 out of 7

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    NFL teams need quarterback depth, and most USFL quarterbacks are likely to be considered in the fall. That includes flaggers like Kyle Lauletta, Shea Patterson and 2016 No. 1 pick Paxton Lynch.

    We’ll spotlight former Mississippi star Jordan Ta’amu, who is just 24 and looks set to stay with an NFL team. He spent time on the Chiefs, Lions, Washington Commanders and Carolina Panthers practice squads last season.

    An undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2019, Ta’amu has been on and off the NFL training grounds ever since. He was a dangerous dual threat at Mississippi, finishing his 2018 campaign with 3,918 passing yards, 342 rushing yards, 25 combined touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    He also shone with the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks in their pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

    If Ta’amu can continue to develop as a professional passer, he will have a chance to carve out an NFL career. It’s an opportunity he can get from the Bandits and the USFL.

    “Some players, depending on their college, need more time to develop,” Ta’amu’s agent Kenny Zuckerman told Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. “…We like those kinds of leagues, and it just gives guys the opportunity to play more football and get more movies, which gives some [a] best chance of getting the golden ticket and playing in the NFL.”

    Under the guidance of Haley and Saunders, Ta’amu could become one of the USFL’s brightest stars – and it will come as a surprise if he’s not at least back on a practice squad in the league. NFL in the fall.

7 out of 7

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Talent has traditionally found its way to the NFL, even if character issues get in the way. Former Miami wide receiver Jeff Thomas was let go from the team in 2018 but only returned to be suspended two games for violating team rules.

    Still, Thomas had an opportunity with the New England Patriots in 2020 because he is undoubtedly talented.

    “Thomas’ impressive athleticism and talent was marred by substandard quarterbacking and self-sabotage,” Zierlein wrote of Thomas ahead of the 2020 draft. pieces as a vertical threat, on cross roads and with wide receiver screens and jet sweeps. He relies on athletic gifts rather than road acumen, but that can be fixed.”

    In 2019, Thomas appeared in 10 games and caught 31 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns.

    Now with the Pittsburgh Maulers, Thomas will be looking to show he’s still an explosive playmaker. He will be guided by seasoned NFL veteran Kirby Wilson, head coach of the Maulers, who coached the Patriots, Commanders, Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and the Browns.

    At just 23 years old, Thomas can still have a long career in the NFL. If he behaves like a pro and produces on the pitch, he will have another opportunity at the highest level.

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