The USFL wrapped up its regular season over the weekend, and with just three playoff games left on the schedule, the league’s players will be looking for their next gigs. As Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson recently reported, any USFL player on a team that didn’t qualify for the postseason is immediately eligible to field and pursue NFL opportunities.
Once the USFL playoffs are over, players in the four-team tournament should be able to target NFL contracts as well. With that in mind, here are 10 USFL players we think deserve a shot in the NFL.
10 top USFL players that could land NFL contracts
The talent level in the USFL is a few rungs below the NFL, but the cream rises to the top. These players have shown enough to earn deals with NFL teams.
Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Tampa Bay Bandits
Asked to throw more than any quarterback in the league, Jordan Ta’amu led the USFL in attempts (302), passing yards (2,014), and passing touchdowns (14). But perhaps more impressive was his usage on the ground, where he accumulated 365 yards and a score at a 6.19 yards-per-carry clip. He’s a viable rushing threat, and that’s a skill that could be used at the NFL level.
The second overall pick in the USFL draft, Ta’amu has NFL practice squad/offseason roster experience with the Chiefs, Lions, Commanders, and Panthers. He’s got NFL size at 6’3″, 214 pounds. Still only 24 years old, Ta’amu could make sense as a developmental QB for a number of NFL clubs.
Reggie Corbin, RB, Michigan Panthers
Reggie Corbin wasn’t a starter when the USFL season got underway. He wasn’t even a clear-cut No. 2. Yet, he ascended to become the Panthers’ best running back and was named to the All-USFL team.
Corbin’s 5.5 yards per carry were the best (by far) of any player with at least 100 rushing attempts, and he also offers kick-return experience. After amassing 375 attempts over four seasons at the University of Illinois, Corbin could now land a spot on the back end of an NFL roster.
Victor Bolden Jr., WR, Birmingham Stallions
Listed at just 5’8″, 178 pounds, Victor Bolden Jr. may not have the size to be an NFL receiver. However, that didn’t stop him from becoming the USFL’s fourth-leading receiver with 415 yards. Still, his shot in the NFL would likely come on special teams.
In four seasons at Oregon State, Bolden returned 108 kickoffs and punts, totaling four touchdowns in the process. He was the most heavily-utilized return man in the USFL, and he could also be used as a rushing threat in the NFL after handling 95 attempts in college. Bolden has accrued NFL playing time with the 49ers but was suspended for PEDs in 2018.
Marlon Williams, WR, Birmingham Stallions
Bolden’s Stallions teammate Marlon Williams should also be on NFL radars. At 5’11”, 204 pounds, he has more size than Bolden. Plus, he’s still only 22 years old, so he has youth on his side.
Among players with at least 40 targets in the USFL, Williams led the way with 14.8 yards per reception. He showed improvement in every season while at UCF from 2017-20. In his COVID-shortened senior season, Williams managed 71 catches, 1,039 yards, and 10 touchdowns in just eight games.
Sal Cannella, TE, New Orleans Breakers
Sal Cannella was a wide receiver for Auburn from 2017-19, but he never topped 12 receptions or 200 yards in a single season. He exceeded both those marks in the USFL this season, posting 34 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns as the league’s best tight end.
Canella was one of only two TEs among the USFL’s top 10 receiving yardage leaders. Given that he’s only 228 pounds at 6’5″, Canella would likely need to bulk up to play tight end in the NFL.
Chris Odom, EDGE, Houston Gamblers
If there’s a USFL alum virtually guaranteed to attract NFL interest, it’s pass rusher Chris Odom. Arguably the best player in the league, Odom led the USFL with 12 1/2 sacks. NFL teams are always looking for rotational edge rushers, and the 6’4″, 257-pound Odom deserves another shot.
After an excellent senior season at Arkansas State in 2017, Odom went undrafted and signed with the Falcons. He appeared in seven games with the Packers in 2017 and posted two sacks in four games with Washington in 2019. It will be a surprise if Odom is not in an NFL camp this summer.
Davin Bellamy, EDGE, New Orleans Breakers
After starting the year off right with three sacks in the season opener, Davin Bellamy cooled down over the rest of the season and finished with only 5 1/2 total sacks. Still, like Odom, he’s a solid edge rusher with NFL experience who should garner some interest.
Bellamy put up 13 sacks over four years at Georgia before going undrafted in 2018. He’s been on offseason/practice rosters with the Texans, Bengals, Titans, 49ers, and Chargers, but he’s yet to play an NFL snap. That could change in 2022 if he gets the chance to latch on with a team in training camp.
Donald Payne, LB, Houston Gamblers
Donald Payne is the only player on this list who’s actually started a game in the NFL. Payne appeared in 30 games for the Jaguars from 2017-19, primarily serving as a special teamer. He started five contests for Jacksonville in 2019 before spending time with Washington, Miami, and San Francisco over the next two years.
Tackles aren’t everything, but Payne seems to have a nose for the ball. He led the USFL with 117 tackles, while the second-place finisher had only 75. That’s the same gap between No. 2 and No. 18 on the USFL tackle leaderboards.
Channing Stribling, CB, Philadelphia Stars
Channing Stribling may have more experience in professional football leagues than any player in the country. After playing at Michigan, Stribling bounced around the NFL with the Browns, Colts, 49ers, and Chargers. He’s played in the AAF, XFL, CFL, and USFL, and he was drafted into The Spring League. If nothing else, Stribling probably has a great jersey collection.
Stribling was excellent for the Stars this season, leading the USFL with seven interceptions. Already 27 years old, Stribling will need to capitalize on his next NFL chance, which he should receive after his ball-hawking campaign.
Cole Murphy, K, Michigan Panthers
We’ve seen kickers like Younghoe Koo and Nick Folk use spring league success as a springboard to an NFL opportunity, and Cole Murphy could be next on that list. Murphy only appeared in six games, but he was the USFL’s most accurate kicker with a 92% field goal conversion rate.
In addition to being accurate, Murphy also easily nailed a 60-yard field goal, proving he’s got more than enough leg for the NFL. He even took over punting duties for one game, so he’s versatile too.