So far through just two weeks of NFL Preseason games, many of the 51 USFL Players signed have stood out. With two players in particular making for near locks on the active roster. Who are they and how good are their chances?
Coaches Giving USFL Praise
Many coaches in the NFL have stepped up to say there are several reasons why USFL players are getting signed. Whether it’s the thought that they are in game shape, the ability to develop with in game reps, or the fact that a lot of these guys already had NFL ties, the fact is the NFL took notice.
This is huge for a league looking to compete for the best players not currently in the NFL, with the XFL and CFL. Heading into the 2023 season, as Michigan Panthers Offensive Coordinator Eric Marty said in our recent interview “the people in power for the USFL are looking at compensation and accommodations to stay competitive” meaning 2023 will mark the beginning of Spring Football Wars.
We have already seen USFL coaches jump to the XFL in the form of New Jersey Generals defensive coordinator Cris Dishman. The speculation is that many players who didn’t sign the ammended USFL deals, could look to follow his lead. The USFL obviously will do everything in their power to try and prevent these moves from becoming commonplace. Their goal is not to develop players for the XFL, but the NFL alone.
Top Performers Helping League
Kavontae Turpin has arguably been the most dynamic player to come out of the USFL. In week two he gave us another taste of why he won an MVP trophy in the 2022 USFL season when he returned both a kick and punt for touchdowns. Dallas brought Turpin in to add explosive plays on special teams and he is already delivering.
The thing is, they haven’t even begun to tap his offensive potential as of yet. Which will likely not remain that way for long. Dallas won’t be able to keep him off the field if he continues to make plays like he has. After showcasing versatility in the USFL, aiding the run game, passing game, and return game; I expect more of the same in Dallas for Turpin.
At 26 years old, the veteran of many alternative football leagues has been working hard for a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the NFL. During college the TCU alum was kicked out of school due to a domestic violence incident that ruined any chance he had of being drafted in 2019. He would go on to play in the European League of Football, and the Fan Controlled Football League prior to his 2022 stint with the USFL. This opportunity has been a long time coming for Turpin, now he is showing spring football can produced stars too.
Defensive Counterpart Making a Name
Chris Odom has done his absolute best to make sure this time he sticks in the NFL. Odom has bounced around the NFL prior to his one season stint with the USFL. However he never really latched on anywhere.
Now after one season with the USFL in which he logged 12.5 sacks in 10 games. During his limited preseason action, the pass rush maven, has collected 3 tackles, 1 for a loss, and 1 sack. Odom at 6’4 262 lbs is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. He has enough size, and strength to stand up to larger tackles on an every play basis. It will be interesting to see how Odom slots in on this defense.
Right now the Browns have 3 players that are near locks to make the roster ahead of Odom, and another they spent draft capitol on. Myles Garrett, and Jadeveon Clowney are the starters, with 3rd round pick rookie Alex Wright, as well as 7th round pick Isaiah Thomas. He has to prove to be enough of an asset to either beat out Thomas, or be kept as a 5th defensive end. It could be perceived that Thomas would be easier to sneak onto the practice squad.
As if that wasn’t enough Chase Winovich came over via trade from the Patriots after being a mid round pick a couple seasons ago. Either path to a roster spot is far from an easy one. Odom certainly has his work cut out for him, but his reputation following his stellar season is at it’s peak currently. This could be his best chance yet to play a significant role on a defense in the NFL.
Cream of the Crop
While these maybe two of the higher profile players from the USFL in 2022, they are also two of the shining examples of what this league can do for players. They give them the in game reps, these guys otherwise cannot get in the NFL. With more and more strict standards for practice time, and an increasingly difficult path to a starting job for players not drafted to be in the long term plan, the USFL has a place in football. The main question will be whether or not their impact wanes with the XFL returning in February.