USFL Quarterback Prospects: Which pro gunslingers will be under center?

The United States Football League will kick off its “new” season on April 16.

The USFL, which hasn’t played since 1985 is gearing up for a return, announcing its head coaches for the inaugural season and its upcoming draft.

One question that looms is around the player talent available for the new league, specifically around the game’s most important player, the quarterback. As fans and coaches know, football has become a passing game. Therefore, a key to any new league is solid quarterbacking play. It has to be good enough to convince NFL die-hards to watch the games.

Finding notable passers on the free-agent market could be tough.. That being said, there are some NFL quarterbacks that come to mind that could be interested in a chance to reignite their career:

Matt Barkley

One gunslinger who might find himself in the USFL is 31 year old Matt Barkely. The former Heisman candidate has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 2,699 yards during his nine-year NFL career. This past season, Barkley spent time on the practice squad with three different NFL teams and was not active for a game.

Jordan Ta’amu

It may be spring football nostalgia but former St. Louis Battlehawks passer Ta’amu was one of the most exciting players in the XFL. The Ole Miss product threw for 1,050 yards and five touchdowns while adding another 217 yards and one score on the ground in the XFL’s five games. Since his time in the XFL, the 24-year-old has bounced around on the practice squads of the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Football Team, Carolina Panthers, and Detroit Lions.

Cody Kessler

Another USC product who could be suiting up in the USFL is 28-year old Cody Kessler. Kessler played for the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Philadelphia Eagles since being drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He started eight games as a rookie for the Browns throwing for six touchdowns and only two interceptions. Since then, he’s mostly been a backup playing in spots for the Browns and Jaguars. Kessler was released by the Patriots in April 2020 and hasn’t signed with an NFL team since.

Chris Streveler

Streveler, 27, is no rookie to alternative pro football spending two seasons with the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The South Dakota product is an exciting dual threat passer who ran for 22 touchdowns during his time in Canada, leading the Blue Bombers to a their 2019 Grey Cup Championship. Most recently Strever spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, playing in seven games.

Kelly Bryant

Bryant is a former Clemson and Missouri quarterback might be considered for the upstart league. The 25-year old was benched for future number one NFL draft pick Trevor Lawrence in college. He then went on the play at Missouri. Since his college days Bryant has signed the CFL and played Arena Football.

Jeff Driskel

Driskel, 28,  played for Birmingham Stallions coach Skip Holtz at Louisiana Tech. Since then Driskel has carved out a six year career in the NFL throwing for 2,120 yards and 13 touchdowns, getting most of his playing time starting five games for the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals. This past season Driskel played for the Houston Texans and converted from quarterback to tight end, playing the position for the first time in his career.

Landry Jones 

While Tampa Bay Bandits head coach Tod Hailey appeared to be unsuccessful in recruiting Antonio Brown to his team, he may be able to bring in another former Steeler in quarterback Landry Jones. The 32 year-old was last played for the XFL’s Dallas Renegades where he struggled to stay healthy. Prior to joining the XFL Jones played six seasons in the NFL after a stellar career at Oklahoma.

Ryan Mallett

Mallett, 33 most recently suited up in The Spring League in the summer of 2021. The six year NFL veteran still had the cannon arm that made him a third round draft pick back in 2011. The 6’6″ Arkansas Razorbacks product threw for 1,835 and nine touchdowns over the course of his NFL career.

Ryan Willis

Another Ryan on this list is coming off of a MVP season in the The Spring League. Willis, 25 was the league’s leading passer guiding the Lineman to the Mega Bowl championship under air raid inventor Hal Mumme and offensive guru Stan Bedwell. The Virginia Tech product spent the second half of the NFL season as a member of the Chicago Bears practice squad and eventually active roster.

DJ Uiagalelei

With the lack of big name quarterbacks available, the USFL could well take a risk and select a big name quarterback from the college ranks. For instance, current Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. The former top high school recruit may be looking for a change of scenery after a less than stellar year in 2021. Uiagalelei didn’t quite meet expectations in his second season,  throwing for only nine touchdowns and with a 55% completion percentage.

Deandre Johnson

Johnson is a former Florida State quarterback who left starred on Netflix’s “Last Chance U” after his dismal from the Seminoles team following a battery charge. Since starring on the Netflix show Johnson has played at Florida Atlantic, Texas Southern, and in the Spring League. The dual threat passer has reportedly already signed a contract with the league entering the USFL draft pool according to @usflanalyst.

Chad Kelly

Kelly has USFL connections already as his uncle and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly started his pro football career in the up start league. Jim’s nephew was released by the Indianapolis Colts in September and may be looking to get on the field and earn another chance at the NFL. The former Ole Miss quarterback would be a great addition for the league tapping into its 1980’s nostalgia.

Johny Manziel

While Manziel seems to be done with pro football, the former Heisman winner did play his best football for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. Sumlin could lure Manziel back to the gridiron as he’s the new head coach of the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. Manziel last played in the Fan Controlled Football League last spring. “Money”  Manziel’s fame would certainly draw eyeballs to the new league.

The USFL’s first draft of player selection meeting is scheduled for February 22. Fans eagerly wait to find out what names will be called as the eight teams begin to form. League officials, coaches, and all stake holders hope that quarterback play won’t hold back a league looking to make a splash in its return.

Read more about the USFL Draft

Read more about the USFL’s head coaches:

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and