When news broke that the XFL would be making a comeback, there were a ton of mixed reactions from football fans. When it comes to American football, there really isn't any comparison to the NFL. The league has the best and brightest talent, and more reach and influence than any other football organization in the world. I'd argue that the majority of pigskin fans in the world wouldn't even be able to tell you the name of another league, let alone the biggest names of people who play in them.
But that doesn't mean that the XFL can't bring in new fans thanks to some impressive players with NFL backgrounds. Here's a few of the biggest names that have been brought into the league.
Who are the biggest players in the XFL right now?
There's no shortage of entertaining players taking part in the XFL. One big name is Jay Bromley, who was a 2014 third round draft pick for the NFL's New York Giants. He's currently hitched to the DC Defenders in the XFL as a defensive lineman.
29-year-old Christine Michael was the NFL's running back with 256 career carries over four years and was always on the brink of becoming a breakout star, but it never happened for him. We'll see if he can have a career revival in the new league on the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Dallas Renegades have Derron Smith, a former sixth-round pick for the Bengals, who then transitioned to the AAF and is now in the XFL as a defensive back.
The 6'4, 275 lb. defensive end, Kony Ealy was a second-round NFL pick with the Carolina Panthers. He played a bit on the Patriots but never made a splash on the field. At 28-years-old, however, he's got plenty of time to do great work with the Houston Roughnecks.
The Seattle Dragons' defensive lineman Will Sutton was drafted by the Bears in 2014 and played 36 games before hurting his ankle two years later and was ultimately cut. Like Derron, he played in the AAF as well.
Cardale Jones could be the biggest breakout star the XFL has. A fourth-round pick from Ohio State, the QB never really got to show off his skills on the field. He's only 27-years-old, hasn't taken any really bad hits over the years, is ridiculously healthy, and has a lot of potential to make a big name for himself in the XFL with former NFL coach Pep Hamilton on the DC Defenders. It also helps that he has wide receiver Rashad Ross, who formerly played for the Carolina Panthers.
Antonio Callaway is another great wide receiver who was a fourth-round pick for the Cleveland Browns and still managed to rack up some impressive stats despite being kept off the field for his involvement in criminal activities, like credit card scams, a citation for marijuana, and a sexual assault allegation. The 23-year-old is currently healing from a leg injury before he starts playing for the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL.
The Houston Roughnecks' Connor Cook was a 2016 fourth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders and despite not playing much, managed to put up some decent numbers: he completed 14 of 21 passes in his only NFL game, which includes one touchdown and one interception.
Perhaps the biggest draw in the XFL is Landry Jones, quarterback for the Dallas Renegades who was penned to be Big Ben Roethlisberger's replacement on the Steelers.
After getting cut by the Steelers, Jones could've easily signed on to another NFL team, but instead chose to join the Dallas Renegades and sling some footballs for them.
Can the XFL really become another top football league?
Although the NFL is of course the biggest football league, that doesn't mean that the XFL can't carve out a nice little niche for itself to start, especially when the NFL's season is over, to give die-hard football fanatics something to watch while their favorite squads are in the off-season, getting their training in.
Other sports have managed to accomplish this feat. For instance, with combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts and boxing, folks have no problem watching a variety of different promotions or leagues.
When it comes to MMA, the UFC is pretty much the gold standard fight promotion that everyone knows and discusses. So much so that the league is synonymous with the practice of mixed martial arts itself. "Do you train UFC bro?" is an oft-repeated inside joke from MMA fans that highlights just how omnipresent Dana White's fight league is.
But there are some other MMA organizations that have been able to sustain themselves fairly well.
Bellator, ONE, and Rizin have managed to stay afloat in spite of the UFC's dominance and have even managed to draw some top fighters who are thriving under their banners. In fact, Bellator has managed to get more and more pugilists from the UFC thanks to its different pay structure and allowance of other fight night sponsors. Lots of MMA fighters actually prefer to have their match-ups in Bellator because they ultimately make more money as a result.
But can the same happen with the XFL? Is professional football the same type of animal that can sustain viewers over a long period of time? If they deliver entertaining games then they certainly can and a lot of that hinges on the performance of the players drafted into the league.
The first game for the XFL will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8th. You can check out the league's entire schedule here.