Landry Jones — Dallas Renegades
One of the more recognizable names set to star in the rebooted XFL, Landry Jones should be an early favorite to claim MVP honors. Before serving as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup for five seasons in Pittsburgh, Landry starred at Oklahoma. A four-year starter, Jones threw for over 16,000 yards and connected on 123 touchdown passes. Reunited with Bob Stoops — his college coach — Landry should enjoy a big year…assuming his balky left knee doesn’t keep him on the shelf too long.
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Scooby Wright — D.C. Defenders
A former collegiate star, Scooby Wright was unable to find his footing in the NFL. As a sophomore at the University of Arizona, Wright notched 164 tackles (31 for a loss) and 15 sacks. As a result, he won the Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Lombardi Award. Unfortunately for Wright, injuries ended his collegiate career the following season after just three games. Initially drafted by the Browns, Wright caught on with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. Over the course of two seasons, the former star recorded a paltry seven tackles. If Wright can find his game once again, the Defenders will have a great linebacker on their squad.
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Sammie Coates — Houston Roughnecks
Between his sophomore and junior seasons at Auburn, Sammie Coates hauled in 76 passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. His production and talent was enough to convince the Pittsburgh Steelers to select him with the 87th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. And after a solid second year in which Coates hauled in 21 passes for 435 yards, it appeared as if Coates was destined for a decent career. Instead, the former Tiger caught just seven passes over the next two years. Now with the Roughnecks, Coates will look to prove he can still make a difference.
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Will Sutton — Seattle Dragons
Will Sutton was an animal at Arizona State. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Sutton was named a consensus All-American in 2012, First-Team All-American in 2013 and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year back-to-back years. Sutton was drafted by the Chicago Bears 82nd overall in 2014, and proceeded to start 18 games for the franchise. An ankle injury ended Sutton’s time in Chicago and severely hampered his NFL career. Just 28, Sutton hopes he can resuscitate his career with the Seattle Dragons.
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Cardale Jones — D.C. Defenders
Cardale Jones entered his sophomore season at Ohio State as the third-string quarterback. Then, in one of the more shocking moments in recent years, Jones was forced to make his first start in the Big Ten Championship Game. Jones promptly led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 demolition of Wisconsin, an upset victory over No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and topped the Oregon Ducks two weeks later to win the National Championship. Unfortunately, Jones’ time in the NFL was not as fun. Between 2016-19, the Buckeye legend completed 6-of-11 passes for 96 yards and one interception.
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Nick Novak — Los Angeles Wildcats
An 11-year NFL veteran, Nick Novak last appeared in an NFL game in 2017. For his career, Novak converted 82-percent of his field goal attempts (182-of-222). Novak’s solid play earned him a spot on the Chargers’ All-Decade Team (2010-19), but a back injury in ’17 all but ended his NFL career. The kicker found himself in the short-lived AAF in ’18 — earning Special Teams Player of the Week following a 4-for-4 performance in his debut. Now with the Los Angeles Wildcats, Novak has a chance to be a difference-maker for the new club.
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Marquette King — St. Louis BattleHawks
When Marquette King debuted with the Raiders in 2013, the Georgia native appeared to have a chance to be one of the best punters in the NFL. King led the league in yards per punt that year and then led the NFL in punting yards in ’14. The Raiders believed in King and rewarded him with a five-year, $16.50 million contract in ’16. Just two years later, however, Oakland cut the promising punter and the Broncos swiftly signed King to a three-year deal. Alas, it was not meant to be. King appeared in four games for Denver before being released due to injury. Can the talented punter rediscover his ability with the BattleHawks?
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Matt McGloin — New York Guardians
A decent senior season at Penn State in which he threw for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns wasn’t good enough for any of the NFL teams to select Matt McGloin in the 2013 Draft. So, it was not a shock to see McGloin struggle with the Raiders as a rookie. A Terrelle Pryor injury and lackluster play by Matt Flynn resulted in McGloin getting the starting gig. In six starts, the rookie went 1-5 — tossing eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Nittany Lion made one more start (three years later) and hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since. Will the Guardians pull the best out of McGloin?
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Connor Cook — Houston Roughnecks
First of all, how great of a name is the Houston Roughnecks? Starting at quarterback for the Roughnecks — Connor Cook! A three-year starter at Michigan State in the mid-2010s, Cook threw 71 touchdown passes and tallied 9,194 passing yards for the Spartans. The 100th overall pick in 2016, Cook made his first NFL start in Oakland’s playoff matchup against the Texans. As one would expect, Cook was terrible. 18-of-45, 161 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions — he has not appeared in an NFL game since that day. So, here we are. Connor Cook — drafted in the first round of the 2020 XFL Draft by the Roughnecks, slated to be the backup QB Week 1.
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Will Hill — St. Louis BattleHawks
After a solid career at the University of Florida, Will Hill caught on with the New York Giants. Signed by the team after going undrafted, Hill started 10 games in 2013 for the G-Men. Hill intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles. He would then go on to play two years with the Ravens — notching two more interceptions in 26 games. Unfortunately for Hill, he was suspended by the NFL three times between 2012-14. In 2016, the Ravens cut the talented player after he failed a drug test which would have resulted in a ten-game suspension. Let’s hope Hill finds stability in the XFL.
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Nelson Spruce — Los Angeles Wildcats
An unheralded recruit out of Westlake Village, California, Nelson Spruce elected to spend his college days at Colorado. When his collegiate career came to an end, Spruce had amassed 294 catches for 3,347 yards. At the time of his departure, Spruce was the Pac-12’s all-time reception leader (currently 2nd) and held a share of 40+ school or conference records. Spruce quickly made a name for himself with the Rams via HBO’s hit show Hard Knocks. While he never made the active roster — due in part to injuries — Spruce proved he could play. While he isn’t the most talented player on the field, he will undoubtedly make a big impact for the Wildcats.
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Christine Michael — St. Louis BattleHawks
Running backs are known to have relatively short careers. Christine Michael — a second-round pick in 2013 — is hoping to extend his playing days a bit longer. Having carried the ball only 256 times in 38 games, Michael should have plenty of gas left in the tank. Michael’s raw talent will be evident to those supporting the XFL. Only 29 years old, a successful season with the BattleHawks could lead Michael back to the NFL for one last opportunity.
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Cameron Artis-Payne — Dallas Renegades
As a senior at Auburn in 2014, Cameron Artis-Payne toted the rock 303 times for 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns. Even though his great year earned him First-Team All-SEC honors, Artis-Payne fell to the fifth-round of the 2015 Draft. A member of the Carolina Panthers from 2015-18, the former Tiger gained less than 500 yards on the ground and found the end zone five times. After being cut by the team the week before the 2019 season began, Artis-Payne shifted his attention to the XFL. Selected in the third-round by the Dallas Renegades, A-P has a shot at leading the league in rushing.
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Matt Jones — St. Louis BattleHawks
Although he didn’t have an overly productive career at the University of Florida, Matt Jones made enough of an impression to warrant the Washington Redskins to use a third-round pick on him. As a rookie in 2013, Jones appeared in 13 games and rushed the ball 144 times — 144 ineffective times. Jones began his second season as the starting running back in Washington and looked much improved. Unfortunately, a knee injury derailed his season and career. Soon-to-be 27, a healthy Jones could turn the BattleHawks into one of the XFL’s top contenders.
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Matt Elam — D.C. Defenders
Another Florida Gator that made it to the league, Matt Elam’s time in the NFL was over before it had time to start rolling. A First-Team All-American as a junior, Elam was made a first-round pick by the Ravens in 2013. His rookie year went well enough — 77 tackles and one interception in 15 starts — but after making 11 more starts his second year, Elam never started again. Between a torn bicep that caused him to miss an entire season and an arrest that resulted in the Ravens moving on, Elam’s time had run out in Baltimore. After a brief stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Elam turned to the XFL. This may be his last shot at playing football professionally.
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B.J. Daniels — Seattle Dragons
Daniels’ NFL career was rather uneventful. Drafted in the seventh-round out of South Florida by the 49ers, Daniels eventually made the Seahawks’ roster in 2013. As a result, he can call himself a Super Bowl champion. In total, Daniels hauled in two passes for 18 yards, and completed 1-of-2 passes for seven yards. In college, however, Daniels was explosive. A true dual-threat, Daniels passed for over 8,000 yards and rushed for over 2,000. His ability to throw, catch and run makes him one of the more exciting talents in the XFL.
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Elijah Hood — Los Angeles Wildcats
Norm Chow, an offensive guru, has shown time and time again what he can do with an explosive running back at his disposal. When it comes to Elijah Hood, the Wildcats are hoping that Chow can unlock his vast potential. Hood’s sophomore year at North Carolina was electric — 1,463 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns. Injuries have limited Hood’s opportunities thus far, making this season with the Wildcats doubly important. A big season from Hood could result in a plethora of opportunities.
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Quinton Flowers — Tampa Bay Vipers
If you follow college football closely, you likely remember the name Quinton Flowers. Starring for USF for three years, Flowers passed for over 8,000 yards and 71 touchdowns, while also rushing for 3,672 yards and 41 scores. The Cincinnati Bengals gave Flowers a shot at running back but ultimately cut the Bull before the 2018 season began. With the ability to play either QB or RB, Flowers will be the ultimate weapon for the Tampa Bay Vipers in 2020.
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Jazz Ferguson — Dallas Renegades
Blessed with a ton of talent, Jazz Ferguson earned a scholarship to LSU. However, the Louisiana native couldn’t stay on the field at LSU due to academic issues and a failed drug test. As a result, Ferguson transferred to Northwestern State for the 2018 season. He was dominant. In 11 games, Ferguson had 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns. In four preseason games with the Seahawks, Ferguson caught seven passes and scored one touchdown. Will Ferguson finally reach his potential with the Renegades?
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Kenneth Farrow — Seattle Dragons
It’s difficult enough to make an NFL roster. Now, imagine trying to crack a running back rotation that includes the likes of Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead. That is the situation Farrow was faced with in 2016. Still, he managed to appear in 13 games for the Chargers — two starts — and earned 60 carries. Farrow bounced from the Chargers to the Patriots to the Dolphins before opting for the XFL. Expect Farrow to pop off with the Seattle Dragons.
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Kony Ealy — Houston Roughnecks
A sought after recruit coming out of New Madrid County Central High School, Ealy opted to attend the University of Missouri — allowing him to stay close to home. Ealy became a force for the Tigers, notching 12.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss between his sophomore and junior campaigns. The Carolina Panthers made Ealy a second-round pick and they were immediately rewarded. In Ealy’s second season, the defensive end recorded three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately, Ealy lost his way and has been waived by four teams since leaving the Panthers. Can Ealy play his way back into the NFL?
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Josh Johnson — Los Angeles Wildcats
Josh Johnson has been around a long time. A fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Johnson spent four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In that time, Johnson made five starts. He lost all five and threw five touchdowns and ten interceptions. In the subsequent years, Johnson has been signed by upwards of 10 teams. Johnson would go seven years in between pass attempts — making three starts with the Redskins in 2018. After Johnson became a member of the Los Angeles Wildcats, the Detroit Lions attempted to re-sign the QB — the XFL said no.
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Aaron Murray — Tampa Bay Vipers
A four-year starter at the University of Georgia, Aaron Murray had his way with opposing defenses from the very start. To this day, Murray holds the SEC-record for career touchdown passes with 121. Unfortunately for this Bulldog, Murray’s NFL career fell completely flat. Drafted in 2014, Murray is yet to have thrown a pass in the NFL. After being cut by the Chiefs, the former Georgia star was signed by the Cardinals, Eagles and Rams — but never made it out of camp. The XFL has given Murray an opportunity to resurrect his flat-lining career.
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Donnel Pumphrey — D.C. Defenders
Donnel Pumphrey’s chance at NFL glory was severely hindered when he tore his hamstring in 2017. A rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pumphrey suffered the devastating injury in advance of the Super Bowl. Though he didn’t receive a single carry that year, the young runner received a ring. However, before Pumphrey’s career was derailed, he shined at San Diego State. 1,867 yards and 20 TDs as a sophomore, 1,653 yards and 17 TDs as a junior, and 2,133 yards and 17 TDs as a senior. At the conclusion of his collegiate career, Pumphrey was the all-time leading rusher in Division 1 FBS. Only 25 years of age, Pumphrey has a golden opportunity to show that he can still play.
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PFT Commenter — Free Agent
The man formally known as PFT Commenter rose to fame via his work with Barstool Sports. Co-host of Pardon My Take, PFT often talks about his love and knack for rugby. So, when the D.C. Defenders came calling, PFT answered the bell. Personally trained by kicking legend Morten Andersen, PFT was prepared to tryout for the Defenders. Sadly, PFT didn’t make the team despite a strong showing during workouts. Quite frankly, those in charge of the Defenders made a terrible mistake. Look at this guy…single bar facemask, legendary goggles, enough charisma to match Vince McMahon…PFT deserves a role in the XFL.
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