It began with a whimper and zero marketing dollars behind it. But over the last two months, The Spring League (TSL) has gained enough traction in the football community that FOX Sports has partnered to help relaunch the USFL next year. A developmental football league has been needed since the day the NFL decided to pull the plug on the World League. Meanwhile, TSL will continue to be a feeder system to professional American football leagues.
Here’s a look at the top five prospects from team Aviators (head coach: Terry Shea):
1. Erick Browne, OL, 6-3, 302, Merrimack, Age 24
Eventually, the NFL is going to recognize that Browne can play at a very high level. He has experience at every position along the offensive line, but his newfound center spot could be the best home for him in the pros. Browne carries a chip on his shoulder and impressed HUB Football offensive line coach Eugene Chung at a recent HUB Football workout. His reps in TSL have allowed him to improve his mechanics, along with his versatility. Look for Browne to be getting a look-see soon.
2. Dylan Stapleton, TE, 6-5, 242, James Madison, Age 22
The size and athleticism of Stapleton immediately stands out. A converted wideout, there were multiple games in college where he literally carried JMU on his back, making spectacular catches and racking up highlight-reel touchdown receptions. His new tight-end position has seemed to fit him well in TSL, as a dangerous mismatch threat in the red zone. Stapleton endured a shoulder injury during training camp while with the Houston Texans last season. If healthy, he would be viewed as an NFL practice squad-type prospect.
3. Kyahva Tezino, LB, 6-0, 236, San Diego State, Age 23
A true firecracker, Tezino is the definition of, "plays with his hair on fire." Hovering from sideline-to-sideline, he can cover a tremendous amount of ground, in addition to demonstrating adequate coverage skills when dropping back against the pass. Tezino appears to have bulked up a bit and will need to earn his keep on special teams at the NFL level. He has had stints with the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, flashing enough to potentially be an immediate impact player in the CFL.
4. EJ Ejiya, LB, 6-1, 236, North Texas, Age 25
It has been two years since we last saw Ejiya in the NFL when he had a short stint with the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, he has continued to refine his overall game; he was viewed as a multifaceted piece to begin with. During his time with the Mean Green, Ejiya earned a reputation for blowing up the opponents' backfield and finished his collegiate career with back-to-back seasons of 100-plus tackles. Ejiya is versatile enough to fit in any scheme and could play either inside or outside, depending on need.
5. Woody Brandom, TE, 6-4, 255, Sam Houston State, Age 24
An old-school, blocking tight end, Brandom brings his hard hat every day he checks into work. He possesses prototype size, adequate agility and reliable hands. His pass-catching ability has never been fully utilized, but he will make an occasional big play and he demonstrated that during TSL. Brandom is a poor man’s Kevin Boss.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Jones, WR, 6-4, 208, American (basketball), Age 26