If the XFL achieves what it intends to do and does manage to disrupt the NFL then it’s going to need to gain traction – and quickly too. One way of doing that is by pulling some big names into the league. It’s fair to say, they’ve managed to do that. The question is, who are the biggest names in the XFL? The answer is here.
Number 5. Kony Ealy
Defensive End Ealy made a decent impression as he came through college with the Missouri Tigers registering 93 tackles and 14 sacks across a three year spell before opting out of his senior year to enter the NFL draft. He ultimately joined the Carolina Panthers as a round two pick. After four reasonable years in the NFL, Ealy lost his way as he failed to make an impression with the Dallas Cowboys or the Oakland Raiders.
He has since cited off-field issues – the loss of his father and caring for his ill sister – as the reason for going off the boil. Now, a move to the XFL where he represents the Houston Roughnecks gives him a chance to get back on track.
Number 4. Will Sutton
Sutton was somewhat of a big hitter in college with his defensive prowess earning him All-American honours and the PAC-10 defensive player of the year award in back to back seasons in 2012 and 2013. He joined the Chicago Bears as pick 82 in the 2014 draft penning a four-year deal. He quickly made his first strides into the big time as injuries in the Bears’ ranks opened the door but never truly established himself in the side.
His NFL stay was effectively over when he suffered an injury early on in the 2016 season, but it wasn’t until 2018 – after failed try outs with the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers – that Sutton took another route. A short spell in the AAF followed with Sutton posting decent numbers and then he moved to the Seattle Dragons. His decision to move to the XFL looks like a good one with him being one of the leagues better performers to date.
Number 3. Connor Cook
Cook is a funny one. He was the star man at Michigan State where he was awarded the Griese-Brees quarterback of the year and Johnny Unitas golden arm awards for his contributions, which included featuring in more Spartans wins than any other player in the school’s history. When it came to the 2016 draft though, he wasn’t called until the fourth round. He joined the Oakland Raiders but played second, well third, fiddle behind Derek Carr and Matt McGloin.
Injuries presented Cook with a chance as he made his first – and only – NFL start in the play-offs but his career never kickstarted. Three NFL teams all had a look before passing on him and eventually, Cook signed for Houston Roughnecks as the number two draft pick. He has had to play backup to PJ Walker but after an impressive run of form the Carolina Panthers have taken Walker to the NFL meaning the floor will be Cook’s when the covid-19 pandemic passes.
Number 2. Antonio Callaway
For the first couple of years, Callaway was making all the right noises at the University of Florida with performances that saw him named in the 2015 CBS first team All-America. His last year though was somewhat of a non-event as he failed to make an appearance for the Gators with controversy over his conduct seeing him suspended whilst under investigation. He was found to have committed no wrongdoing. By that time, he’d decided it was time to move for a place in the NFL. The 2018 draft saw the Cleveland Browns opt for Callaway as their fourth-round pick.
After initially finding himself someway down the pecking order of wide receivers, he quickly worked his way to a starting berth with a combination of strong displays in limited game time and roster changes giving him his opportunity. His inaugural campaign saw him recorded 43 receptions for 586 yards and five touchdowns but then came more grey clouds.
This time the question marks were over breaches to the NFL substance abuse policy. He managed to get over that hurdle and then wasted his clean start by failing to attend team meetings. The Tampa Bay Vipers took a gamble on Callaway and although injury has struck, if they can get him on the field and focussed then they could have a star on their hands.
Number 1. Landry Jones
Drum roll…at number one in our list is Landry Jones. Jones was a round four pick at number 115 in the 2013 draft where he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers. He remained in the NFL for six seasons, five of which were with the Steelers, but he’ll be quick to tell you that he never really got a fair crack of the whip.
It’s true, he only played in three seasons with a campaign high of eight appearances and just two starts, which came in 2016. Despite his limited time on the grass, his NFL career saw him throw a total of 1,310 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s not necessarily his NFL stats that show Jones’ full potential though.
Oh no, the job of Dallas Renegades head coach, Bob Stoops, is to rekindle Jones’ college magic. He played for the Oklahoma Sooners for four years and produced over 4,000 yards in three of them with his freshman year the exception where he only managed 3,198.
He’s got a wonderful throwing arm and a total college haul of 16,646 yards plus 123 throwing touchdowns – and three rushing ones – are testament to what he is capable of. If Jones can get a run of games under his belt then he is capable of posting numbers like that in the XFL as proven with his game average of near on 200 yards since moving to Dallas. Do that and the odds are that the NFL will come calling with a second chance.
There you have it, the five names who could help propel the XFL to a place where it might actually start to concern the NFL.
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