The USFL is returning for the 2023 season. We’ve scoured every team’s roster, the most recent draft, preseason reports, and other insights to assemble the following list of the top USFL players — 50 in all. If you like offensive linemen and cornerbacks mixed in with wideouts and quarterbacks, then we’ve got you covered.
Top USFL Players in 2023
In our weekly USFL player rankings, performances from game to game will be taken into account in addition to each player’s pedigree and overall career résumé. For now, we’re going off of what we know, which admittedly is part evidence-based and part conjecture, because depth charts remain heavily in flux.
1) QB J’Mar Smith, Birmingham Stallions
A 12th-round pick in last year’s USFL draft, J’Mar Smith helped lead his team to the USFL title. It was quite a story for the former Louisiana Tech star. While his numbers were somewhat muted, consider that he completed less than 55% of his pass attempts — one of the worst marks of any QB who started last season.
I’m betting on improved passing from Smith that, combined with proficiency in the running game, could turn him into an impressive dual-threat quarterback on a great team. It adds up to the No. 1 spot on this list . . . at least for now.
2) QB Case Cookus, Philadelphia Stars
Probably a more popular No. 1 option, Case Cookus is primed for a huge statistical campaign, at least by USFL standards. I’ve got three Philadelphia WRs in the top 14 at that position. The talent of these receivers is a big reason why. But we can’t ignore the strong probability that Cookus will elevate them, too.
3) RB Reggie Corbin, Michigan Panthers
Reggie Corbin earned membership to the 2022 USFL All-Offense team, thanks in part to the most efficient running (5.5 yards per carry) of any starting RB. Keep an eye on his receiving work. He caught only six passes last year but showed some promise in this area as a junior at Illinois. If Corbin can become the most complete RB in the league, he could easily finish with back-to-back All-Offense honors.
4) WR Jonathan Adams, New Orleans Breakers
Jonathan Adams is my No. 1 WR on the assumption he’s still getting better at barely 24 years old. A former Fred Biletnikoff Award finalist while playing at Arkansas State, Adams broke out in 2022 with a 31-406-3 receiving line. That actually placed him near the top of all three categories.
With other standouts like Lance Lenoir and Sal Cannella joining the XFL, and KaVontae Turpin on the Cowboys, Adams enters 2023 as a seemingly clear-cut elite receiving option.
5) QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, New Orleans Breakers
McLeod Bethel-Thompson possesses meaningful professional experience, which should serve him well in his USFL debut season. He spent the last six years with the Canadian Football League, helping lead the Toronto Argonauts to the Grey Cup (championship) last year. The 34-year-old can still sling it.
6) RB Matt Colburn II, Philadelphia Stars
How good will the Stars’ offense be? These rankings assume “very good,” or perhaps “great.” Matt Colburn is one of the keys. The 25-year-old bounced around the NFL, CFL, and XFL before landing in the USFL last year, where he racked up 600+ all-purpose yards while playing a complementary role for much of the season.
Colburn’s two lost fumbles are concerning. Some folks might drop him in the rankings because of it. But I think his upside outweighs his downside, and his three-down-back abilities should keep him in elite company as long as he can hold onto the ball.
7) RB Alex Collins, Memphis Showboats
Yes, this is the same Alex Collins of NFL fame. Does he still have what it takes at 28 years old? We’re about the find out.
The good news for Collins is that he seems to have the Showboats’ backfield all to himself — or at least, mostly to himself. He ran well enough for the Seattle Seahawks in 2021 to suggest he can make a sizable impact in the USFL.
8) RB Anthony Jones, New Orleans Breakers
Admittedly, this might come back to bite me. I believe in the Breakers’ offense, and I also believe Anthony Jones will prove better than backfield teammates Ezra Gray and Wes Hills. Jones ran decently in a limited role last year. Assuming he can be no worse than the 1A back, he should garner 120+ touches, which should make him a top-five running back.
9) QB Ryan Willis, Memphis Showboats
Does Ryan Willis have grit? Not sure. Never met him. But after transferring from Kansas to Virginia Tech with no guarantees of ever taking another snap, he was forced into an emergency road start against 22nd-ranked Duke and proceeded to throw for 332 yards and three scores. At his best, Willis can be a star in the USFL.
10) WR Derrick Dillon, Memphis Showboats
Derrick Dillon was once clocked with 4.29 speed in the 40-yard dash. Assuming Willis is the real deal, the Memphis offense could run largely through Dillon and Collins. And assuming their offensive line is as good as it appears to be, Willis should have plenty of time to find Dillon downfield.
11) WR Marlon Williams, Birmingham Stallions
Marlon Williams was tied for second in the league last year with four receiving scores, and was third in receiving yards (474) and yards per reception (14.8). I like betting on young, ascending talent. Williams is 23 years old and primed for an even bigger year.
12) OL Corbin Kaufusi, Memphis Showboats
Perhaps this is too high to place an offensive lineman. And how confident are we that Corbin Kaufusi will have a bigger impact than any other USFL offensive lineman? Of course, there’s no way to know at this stage.
MORE: USFL Playoff Format 2023
But here’s what we do know. Kaufusi is a 6’10”, 320-pound mismatch for any USFL defense. A former defensive lineman himself at BYU, Kaufusi seems to be a better fit at the professional level at offensive tackle. One could make the case that no other o-lineman will give defenses more fits than Kaufusi.
13) DT Reggie Howard Jr., New Orleans Breakers
A member of the USFL All-Defense team last year, Reggie Howard Jr. is primed for another big campaign while helping to anchor the Breakers’ defense. He’s already one of the league’s best pass rushers. If he can take another step forward, he could be the top defensive player in the USFL.
14) RB Mark Thompson, Houston Gamblers
Mark Thompson anchored Houston’s backfield in 2022, racking up a respectable 463 yards on 114 carries. He also enjoyed four TDs — two on the ground and two through the air. If he remains an offensive centerpiece for the Gamblers, then Thompson will remain one of the most productive running backs.
15) LB Jerod Fernandez, New Orleans Breakers
Another USFL All-Defense honoree, Jerod Fernandez was among the league leaders last year with 84 tackles, including 47 solo. He also netted 1.5 sacks. This is on par with what we saw from him at NC State. As a veteran linebacker, Fernandez brings a high floor and high ceiling.
16) QB Josh Love, Michigan Panthers
At this stage of the preseason, we could just as easily insert Tanner Morgan or Carson Strong. I’m not sure anyone can definitively say which Michigan QB will earn more snaps this year. But for now, Josh Love seems like the safer pick. He was decent enough last season to earn another look. Candidly, I’m putting whoever starts Week 1 in this spot.
17) LB Kyahva Tezino, Pittsburgh Maulers
There’s a lot to like about Kyahva Tezino’s game. He garnered 2.5 sacks and an interception last year while compiling 85 tackles. Pittsburgh is expected to be competitive, and Tezino could be a difference-maker as an elite stopper.
18) DE Adam Rodriguez, Philadelphia Stars
Adam Rodriguez compiled an incredible nine sacks last season for the Stars, and now (presumably) he’s hungry for more. The former Weber State standout looks comfortable in the USFL. On a team with legitimate title hopes, Rodriguez could be their defensive anchor.
19) OL Jarrett Horst, Michigan Panthers
Jarrett Horst was the first pick in this year’s USFL draft. The Michigan State product will carry the burden — and opportunity — that comes with high expectations.
My belief in Josh Love hinges partly on the Panthers’ decision to beef up their o-line, including selecting Tezino in the fourth round. Horst will play a key role for a Michigan squad seeking a bigger offensive spark.
20) S Bryce Torneden, Pittsburgh Maulers
Statistically, Bryce Torneden doesn’t look too flashy. He accrued one sack and one pick last year, along with 42 solo tackles. All solid. But positionally, perhaps no safety is more valuable to his team.
Torneden earned a USFL All-Defense selection in 2022 and is well-positioned to get another on a Maulers team that should improve from an abysmal 1-9 record.
Top Remaining XFL Players in 2023
21) RB Darius Victor, New Jersey Generals
22) WR Jordan Suell, Philadelphia Stars
23) DT Ethan Westbrooks, Michigan Panthers
24) RB Trey Williams, New Jersey Generals
25) QB De’Andre Johnson, New Jersey Generals
26) OL Jarron Jones, Memphis Showboats
27) DE Malik Hamm, Pittsburgh Maulers
28) WR Alonzo Moore, New Jersey Generals
29) S Shalom Luani, New Jersey Generals
30) WR Bailey Gaither, Pittsburgh Maulers
31) QB Kenji Bahar, Houston Gamblers
32) WR Joe Walker, Michigan Panthers
33) OL Brandon Hitner, Houston Gamblers
34) LB Vontae Diggs, New Orleans Breakers
35) QB Lindsey Scott Jr., Pittsburgh Maulers
36) RB Darnell Holland, Philadelphia Stars
37) RB CJ Marable, Birmingham Stallions
38) DL Toby Johnson, New Jersey Generals
39) CB Justin Ford, Houston Gamblers
40) WR Teo Redding, Houston Gamblers
41) LB Jordan Moore, Philadelphia Stars
42) TE Jace Sternberger, Birmingham Stallions
43) CB Isaiah Bolden, Memphis Showboats
44) OL Darius Harper, Birmingham Stallions
45) TE Bug Howard, Philadelphia Stars
46) WR Rashard Davis, Memphis Showboats
47) LB Noah Taylor, New Orleans Breakers
48) OL Mason Brooks, Memphis Showboats
49) WR Deontez Alexander, Houston Gamblers
50) RB Madre London, Pittsburgh Maulers