It’s time to rate our top-10 USFL players coming into the 2023 season. With plenty of new faces in addition to some familiar ones the 2023 season for the USFL is set up to bring in some of the most exciting play for Alt-Football. With many players having another year to develop in a system for the 2nd consecutive years, look for some for the returning players to expand upon their 2022 production. Like with our USFL QB Rankings expect this list to change prior to the end of the season.
10. Rueben Foster Pittsburgh Maulers Linebacker
Originally, I didn’t want to put any new players on this list, but disregarding a former 1st round pick and CFP National Champion didn’t seem like a good idea. Foster starts our top-ten list due to playmaking ability from his time in college and early days in the NFL. With a new appreciation for the opportunity the USFL is giving him, I expect Foster to battle with Scooby Wright, Frank Ginda, and Jerrod Fernandez for the league’s Top LB honors and maybe even a DPOY award.
9. Jarron Jones Memphis Showboats Offensive Line
Jarron may have been one of the few bright spots on the Bandits/Showboats Offensive line after the season ending injury to C Bruno Reagan. One of only two USFL All-League linemen to return, Jones is primed to assist Showboats Quarterbacks Cole Kelley, Ryan Willis, or Brady White lead a revamped Memphis Offense, that returns key pieces like Derrick Dillon, and Rashard Davis. Regardless, for whoever is at Quarterback, Jones who was regarded as one of the league’s better big men, should have no problem defending his title as an All-League player at Tackle.
8. Jerrod Fernandez New Orleans Breakers Linebacker
Fernandez was the heart and soul of the Breakers defense and may have been extremely underrated due to the exceptional play of Shareef Miller, and Davin Bellamy. The All-USFL LB was one of the USFL’s top Tacklers (86), helping lead the Breakers to the playoffs. With Bellamy and Miller playing in the XFL, Fernandez should emerge as the USFL’s top tacklers, going into 2023 and could garner NFL interest, looking for an athletic LB who can be an asset on Special Teams.
7. Ahmad Gooden New Orleans Breakers Defensive Line
Ahamd Gooden was a part of a dynamic Gamblers Defense that included Chris Odom, Reggie Northrup, Micah Abernathey, Will Likely, and Donald Payne in 2022. With Gooden staying in the Alabama hub to be closer to family, him along with Jerrod Fernandez will have the opportunity to be become household players in the USFL for 2023. Gooden boasts an NFL Caliber body type, and with the motivation of playing in front of family, should be able to fight for a defensive player of the year honors held by his Gamblers teammate Chris Odom.
6. Scooby Wright Birmingham Stallions Linebacker
One of the USFL’s most unique personalities, Scooby Wright returns to the USFL, as the face of Birmingham’s Defense. With his former teammate DeMarquis Gates now in the NFL, Wright will now be in position to build upon his 2022 season. Wright who is a veteran of the AAF, XFL and NFL, is one of the leagues more experienced players, and will continue to make plays on the field along with building the league through fan/media interaction as well.
5. J’Mar Smith Birmingham Stallions Quarterback
Smith now has another season under his belt coming back for his 2nd professional with his college coach. After earning the starting job due to an injury to Alex McGough, Smith seized the opportunity to become the starter and became one of the USFL’s top quarterbacks. With Birmingham returning a plethora of starters from their championship team, Smith has a majority of weapons at his disposal and is primed to compete with Case Cookus and McLeod Bethel-Thompson as the leagues’ top Quarterback.
4. Case Cookus Philadelphia Stars Quarterback
Cookus was a my top QB coming into 2023 and is now given full reigns of the Philadelphia Offense. After taking over for Bryan Scott in Week 3, Cookus led the Stars to the Championship game, throwing over 1300 yards and 12 Touchdowns before injuring his leg/ankle in the final game of the season. Cookus returns several of his 2022 weapons in addition to now having former 1st round pick Corey Coleman in his arsenal now.
3. Channing Stribling Philadelphia Stars Cornerback
Probably the most dynamic defensive back in 2022, Stribling returned to the USFL after spending training camp with the Commanders, and being selected by the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL. Stribling comes back to the USFL with some unfinished business seeking a championship in 2023 with Bart Andrus’ Stars. After leading the USFL in interceptions with seven picks in only seven games, Stribling may be the USFL’s version of Revis island, and may see a reduction in interceptions due to opposing Quarterbacks avoiding his side of the field.
2. Darius Victor New Jersey Generals Running Back
The 2022 USFL Offensive Player of the Year is back and primed to put together another dominant season in 2023. Totaling 10 touchdowns in 2022, Victor will go into 2023 with plenty of opportunity as Mike Riley seemingly intends to have run first Quarterback De’Andre Johnson as his QB1. With a run first approach, look for Victor to continue to be the Generals work horse as New Jersey looks to be the focal point for Riley’s offense in 2023.
1. Reggie Corbin Michigan Panthers Running Back
Despite missing 3 plus games Corbin still managed to be a top 5 rusher in the USFL and totaling 866 All-Purpose Yards overall. One facet of Corbin’s game I expect for him to expand upon is his contribution to the passing game. Corbin only totaled 51 receiving yards in 2022, but with Cam Scarlett not with the team in 2023, it’s possible Corbin is asked to shoulder that load a bit more. The Panthers have also revamped their offensive line in 2023, which should continue to aid Corbin in his journey to defend his All-USFL selection.
With just over two weeks left until opening kickoff we will see if these predictions hold weight going into the season. Moving forward the staff at USFL News Hub would love to know what your thoughts and if missed some who was it. As always you can reach out to me via Twitter to let me know what I got right and what I got wrong.
March 31, 2023 at 9:14 am
Hi, I like the Jarrod Fernandez nod. Overlooked last year with the likes of Chris Odom, Donald Payne and Channing Stribling, but Jarrod Fernandez consistently makes hard tackles over and over. He helps make running backs want their teams to run the ball. I know their is an expiration date on guys that make a living hitting, but he is football. Not having a quarterback in the top 3 is interesting, but I think Case Cookus likes it that way. MBT nit being on the list is also interesting, but how would you know where to place him. Overall I like the list. definitely a strong list.
March 31, 2023 at 9:19 am
*The line….He makes running backs want their teams to run the ball, should be pass the ball. sorry about that.
Donald J Lyons
April 2, 2023 at 8:28 pm
As talented as all these guys are–and the USFL should be glad they’re coming back–just remember that none of them could even make a practice squad on an NFL team. If they could, they wouldn’t be here.
April 2, 2023 at 10:02 pm
Good list Pat!
April 3, 2023 at 4:07 pm
A good point to be made that most of these guys are not good enough to be on NFL practice squads, but as a GM do you cut a guy you just drafted even though he is not performing to the level you had hoped. I bet a couple of times a year a GM needs to cut a player and picks the wrong guy, simply because he drafted the other guy and how much difference is it really going to make anyway. How many years did the Jets bring back Chad Hansen and others just like him if for no other reason than to prove they could draft and many of those players are proving it by NOT starting in these alt leagues. I am not comparing the talent-level between leagues. It is not even a comparison. The NFL doesn’t even look at these guys due to size and speed and perceived character, but it doesn’t mean they can’t play. e.g. If I were starting an alt league football team and had to pick a QB, I would call Case Cookus before Josh Rosen. If Rosen wanted to actually play football, he would have been in the USFL this year. I feel his confidence is so shaken he would rather HOPE to get signed for another paycheck by an NFL scout team than actually deal with whether or not he could play. I noticed a couple of CFL linebackers in the NFL piling up tackles. It kind of almost seems NFL front offices are no longer ashamed to say they may have missed a few. If someone told you, you were going to get paid $650,000 for being on a practice squad or $60k getting your brains beat in, I guess where I would go, but to thoae that want to still put on the pads and go make plays awesome stuff. I rooted for Micah Abernathy last year, but won’t be able to this year as he is on an NFL practice squad. I also feel fortunate to watch Case Cookus this year instead of him sitting on a practice squad somewhere. So you are totally right, that most of these people will never make it in the NFL, but they are making a better hourly salary than most people I know and they are living their dream. Pretty good to me if you have the heart for it.