After 36 years away, the USFL returned in 2022, and in April, games will kick off again. But before the season can begin, the 2023 USFL Draft will take place on Tuesday, February 21, with the Michigan Panthers holding the top pick. While the USFL held an initial draft to form the 38-player rosters last year, this season’s selection process will focus on the incoming pool of talent from players who have wrapped up their college careers.
It’s an interesting set-up, considering the NFL has yet to conduct their 2023 NFL Draft either. This means, technically, players who are expected to be selected No. 1 overall, such as Alabama’s Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr., or Georgia’s Jalen Carter could be scooped up by a USFL team.
Yet, even if a USFL team decided to take a player who’s surely destined to play on NFL Sundays, it wouldn’t mean anything. Each individual athlete has the choice of signing a contract with any team that drafts them. Should a USFL team try and gain some publicity by selecting a high-profile athlete, all it means is that USFL franchise would secure the player’s rights, it doesn’t mean they’re forced to sign and play in the USFL instead of the NFL.
What this selection process will be all about is for those players who aren’t hearing positive insight about their potential draft stock. If an athlete already feels their chances to land on an NFL roster are slim, they may instead opt to put more film on tape with the USFL, with the hopes that an NFL front office will eventually notice their skills.
Even though the USFL is set to kick off on April 15, and the NFL Draft is not being conducted until April 27-29, any player who signs a contract in the USFL cannot leave the league until the Championship Game (July 2) is over. This means players will be taking a large risk by joining the USFL, delaying their opportunity to join an NFL team, yet the chance to earn early playing time could be too good to pass up.
Plus, there will still be enough time after the USFL season is over for players to latch onto NFL rosters, much like we saw with KaVontae Turpin joining the Dallas Cowboys last season.