Any professional football player strives to play in the NFL, but sometimes you need to fall back to move forwards; this is certainly true of the talented players set to make a comeback to the NFL this season. Find out what XFL players you should look for in the coming NFL season.
Darrius Shepherd | St. Louis BattleHawks
Darrius Shepherd is no stranger to the NFL, having played as a punt and kick returner for six teams, including the Green Bay Packers. He has recently played with St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL, but according to the NFL betting odds, he will return to the NFL with the Detroit Lions.
After being named the XFL league’s special teams player of the year, the Detroit Lions have brought him on board for a trial. So far, recruitment for the Lions has been excellent, and they are in with a chance of reaching the playoffs in 2023.
Hakeem Butler | St. Louis Battlehawks
In the 2019 NFL draft, Hakeem Butler was a fourth-round pick from Iowa State for the Arizona Cardinals, but the season didn’t quite go to plan for him. Butler failed to appear in the regular season and didn’t get playing time with the Eagles in 2020 either; he dropped to the XFL.
At twenty-seven years old, Butler is far from finished with his career, and recent performances have put him in the frame for a return to the NFL, where he could face his BattleHawks teammate Darrius Shepherd. If he does return to the NFL, it will likely be for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Freedom Akinmoladun | St. Louis Battlehawks
Freedom Akinmoladun is another NFL professional who needed more game time during his spell between 2019-2021 and dropped to the XFL instead. But, with the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Cincinnati Bengals all hovering, a return to the NFL is close.
Akinmoladun has an explosive playing style and excellent athleticism, making him a handful for any team. Akinmoladun plays at the defensive end but pushes forward, putting pressure on the quarterback. His speed, agility, and strength will be an asset for any NFL team.
Luq Barcoo | San Antonio Brahmas
Having had only one start in the NFL in 2020 for Jacksonville Jaguars, Luq Barcoo spent some time in the XFL playing for San Antonio Brahmans, where he enjoyed more game time and some success — his time in the XFL seemed to pay off when he was invited for an NFL tryout.
Barcoo has some impressive physical attributes that caught the eye of the Cleveland Browns, among others. However, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who swooped in to sign him. Barcoo’s height and strength make him perfect for his preferred cornerback position. There is a good chance of seeing him impress in the 2023 NFL season.
Trent Harris | Houston Roughnecks
Trent Harris is another formidable XFL player set for a return to the NFL this season with the Denver Broncos. Harris played in the NFL between 2019-21 with the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants before dropping to the XFL for more game time to enhance his career.
Harris plays the linebacker and is known for his passing skills, agility, and pace when in possession of the ball. Additionally, Trent Harris is known for his work ethic and desire, attributes that have interested the Denver Broncos, who are looking for playoff success.
Jordan Thomas | Orlando Guardians
Jordan Thomas now plays for the Orlando Guardians in the XFL, but that was only sometimes the case. Across three seasons, Jordan Thomas played for four teams in the NFL before moving to the XFL for game time. He is again on the radar of NFL teams looking to utilize his attributes.
Jordan Thomas plays as a linebacker and sometimes a quarterback; he is known for his size and physicality, ball-handling skills and catching ability, and route running; he can make quick catches and finds space in tight places. Thomas is trying out with the Carolina Panthers.
Kevin Atkins | St. Louis Battlehawks
Kevin Atkins is another player from the Battlehawks trying out with an NFL team for the 2023 season. Having played in the NFL previously with the San Francisco 49rs, he has recently spent time in the XFL, building his career with the St. Louis Battlehawks until now.
Atkins, along with some other noteworthy XFL players, have been invited to the Bills, Falcons, and Steelers mini-camps before the start of the 2023 season. Based on recent Battlehawks performances, we’ll likely see Atkins in the NFL again before long.
XFL might be more flashy and lucrative than the NFL, but it’s the best place for out-of-favour players to compete and win a trial back to the big leagues. The players in the list above are currently trialing with NFL teams and are expected to feature again in the 2023 NFL season.
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