GM Ryan Poles needs every advantage he can get to retool the Chicago Bears roster. That may even involve scouting other professional football leagues. For many years that only mean the CFL up north. However, other leagues have tried to start up in the past few years. The AAF made a run but fell apart due to financial difficulties. Then the XFL returned for a second stint before the pandemic hit. Now it appears the USFL, long considered dead after going bankrupt in the 1980s, is set to return.
The league plans to start in March with eight teams and are conducting their inaugural draft. This has led to several notable names that otherwise may have landed on NFL practice squads taking their chances with the new league. An opportunity to play as well as an opportunity to elevate their stock. While the Bears prepare for free agency in March, here are some players they should keep an eye on over in the new league.
Chicago Bears do have some USFL names worth watching
Jordan Ta’amu (QB, Tampa Bay Bandits)
Ta’amu first flashed his promise as a quarterback at Ole Miss, where he threw for 3,918 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also rushed for over 300 yards and six more touchdowns. This didn’t get him drafted though. After a year in Houston, he decided to try his luck in the upstart XFL. As a starter for the St. Louis Battlehawks, he was one of the top QBs in the league with 1,050 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions across five games. He also ran for 217 yards. That gave him an opportunity to sign in Kansas City. Now it seems he’s ready to gamble on himself again.
Taywan Taylor (WR, New Orleans Breakers)
Taylor was a start at Western Kentucky, scoring 34 touchdowns during his final two college years. This is why Tennessee drafted him in the 3rd round in 2017. Things appeared to be trending in a positive direction his second season, going for 466 yards and a touchdown on 56 targets. After that, he disappeared. Taylor was invisible for two years in Cleveland and failed to make the team last season. It is hard to know if he was the issue or teams just didn’t understand his strengths. New Orleans head coach Larry Fedora should be perfect for him.
Taywan Taylor proving he’s more than just a “gimmick” player. #TitanUp pic.twitter.com/Y5DyzJnE45
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 17, 2017
Vadal Alexander (OG, Pittsburgh Maulers)
Talent was never an issue with Alexander. His mixture of size and power stood out constantly at LSU. When he wanted to, he could dominate people in the run game. There were two issues with him. Maturity questions given his lackluster work ethic and a general lack of athleticism. This is why everybody saw him as a pure guard. He spent two years with the Oakland Raiders in 2016 and 2017, starting nine games. While he did flash his potential at times, his passivity and unwillingness to work on improving finally got him benched. Then he failed to report for training camp in 2018, and that was it. Has he finally grown up? Accepting this USFL opportunity says he might’ve.
Chidi Okeke (OT, Pittsburgh Maulers)
A classic example of somebody that would’ve benefitted the most from a developmental league. The Nigerian native didn’t even start playing football until he was 17. So he was pretty raw by the time he graduated from Tennessee State. Teams gave him a chance given his excellent mix of size and athleticism, but his lousy footwork and hand technique made it difficult to justify keeping him. Now he’ll get to learn in the USFL under a longtime former NFL veteran coach in Kirby Wilson. The Chicago Bears would do well to monitor the 25-year old closely.
Daylon Mack (DT, Tampa Bay Bandits)
The day he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens was a happy one. In truth, he probably ended up in a defense that was never a good fit for him. A 3-4 system is often unkind to shorter defensive linemen like the 6’1 Mack. He always seemed like a better fit in a classic 4-3, which allowed him to concentrate on one gap and rush up the field. This is why he had 5.5 sacks as a senior for Texas A&M. Getting some actual game experience after so many missed chances in NFL camps can be good for him. While not a true three-technique interior pass rusher, he may have the makings of a one-technique nose tackle.
Daylon Mack’s first step is something else. This guy knows how to time a snap count and fly off the line, whew. pic.twitter.com/4ZjPUUaY0j
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 14, 2019
Te’Von Coney (LB, Philadelphia Stars)
Linebacker is a position that instantly gained importance once Matt Eberflus became the new Chicago Bears head coach. They require options on the outside of Roquan Smith. Coney was a constant enforcer for Notre Dame in 2017 and 2018, racking up 239 tackles and seven sacks. The issue teams took with him was his average speed. He wasn’t a threat in coverage and wouldn’t catch faster ball carriers. That said, his intelligence and toughness stood out. He might be worth a look with some fine-tuning of his discipline and improving his effort.
Adonis Alexander (CB, New Orleans Breakers)
When it came to talent, Alexander was always intriguing. A guy that is 6’3 and can move with such athleticism could have a bright future in football. This is why he was one of the rare players to actually get selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft. In the end, things didn’t go as planned. Despite his apparent physical potential, he suffered from technical issues that never seemed to get cleaned up. It will be interesting to see if he can hone his craft with actual game experience in the USFL. At 25-years old, he still has plenty of time to rescue his career.
Obi Melifonwu (S, Tampa Bay Bandits)
Like Alexander, sheer athletic upside drew interest in Melifonwu coming out of UConn. A 6’4 safety shouldn’t be able to move with 4.40 speed. He’d be dangerous if he could learn to play the position with proper eyes and discipline. Sadly, his career was derailed by injuries. He did help the Patriots win the Super Bowl in 2018, but he’s known mainly for unrealized potential. Maybe this second chance in another league might give him the necessary runway to regain some confidence in his obvious abilities.
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