The AAF kicks off their inaugural season on February 9th and with it comes some familiar names and some newer names. Football fans will have something to cling too as the long NFL offseason starts. Therefore, fans should know who could be key players heading into the first season. These players include college standouts and even some that had extended stints in the NFL. Here are a few names that fans should be looking for heading into Week 1.

Trent Richardson, HB, Birmingham Iron

Everybody knows Trent Richardson. The former third overall pick by the Browns looked like a star in his rookie season. With over 1300 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns, it looked like the Alabama product was set to explode. However, after struggling for the first two games of the 2013 season, he was traded to the Colts for a first-round pick. Since then, he has become a joke as one of the worst running backs in recent memory. Yet, two teams used a first-round pick to get him.

Richardson hasn’t stepped on an NFL field since the 2014 season and only recently played football again. He played four games with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL in 2017 and has now found his way to the AAF. Richardson’s story is full of ups and downs, but he will be a good story to watch this season. Can the former Alabama product return to form in Birmingham? We will see this season.

Josh Huff, WR, Arizona Hotshots

Huff had a historic season in his senior season at Oregon with Marcus Mariota throwing him the football. He put up over 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final year in Eugene. Then, he was drafted by the Eagles in the third round. He was with the Eagles for parts of three seasons with his best year coming in 2015. He had over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, since that year he has not produced at all. He found his way on to a roster this year with the Saints, but never took a snap.

Huff struggled with off the field issues in his short time in the NFL. This season with the AAF will most likely be his last chance to get back to playing high level football. Huff will be catching passes from Trevor Knight, a former Arizona Cardinal and Oklahoma Sooner. It will be interesting to see if Huff can get back to the production he had in his senior year at Oregon and have some chemistry with Knight like he did with Mariota in 2013.

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Christian Hackenberg, QB, Memphis Express

Hackenberg is the one player on this list who never played in an NFL game. He was picked in the second round, but never even stepped on the field for a regular season game. Hackenberg had so much hype around him coming out of high school and after his freshman year. He was the top quarterback recruit in the country and was being coached by quarterback guru Bill O’Brien at Penn State. Hackenberg was even named Big Ten freshman of the year after his first season as a Nittany Lion. However, it was all downhill from there.

Hackenberg never quite got back to his freshman form and despite being picked in the second round, never amounted to anything in the NFL. He has the arm and the stature of a great quarterback, but just couldn’t put it all together. He will be on the same roster as fellow big-arm disappointment Zach Mettenberger. They have the similarity of having never won an NFL game. However, Mettenberger started 10 in his brief NFL career. If Hackenberg is able to get significant playing time, he could revive his career, but it isn’t likely. His decision-making and accuracy will have to improve, but I’m sure the big arm is still there.

Matt Asiata, HB, Salt Lake Stallions

Asiata is a big, powerful running back who had limited success in the NFL. He was Adrian Peterson’s backup for most of his career in Minnesota. When Peterson was suspended for the 2014 season, Asiata took over as the lead back for Minnesota. He had close to 900 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns.

His stature at 5’11” 230 lbs. is solid to be a great short-yardage back for the Stallions this season. He had over 100 carries just two years ago with the Vikings and there still could be tread on his tires at 32. Asiata should get a good amount of touches in this season as it could be his last solid season. Asiata will definitely be getting goal-line carries and could be a nice touchdown vulture, maybe leading the AAF in touchdowns.

Chris Givens, WR, Memphis Express

One of Hackenberg’s top targets with the Express will be Givens. The 30-year old out of Wake Forest had two solid years right out of college with the then, St. Louis Rams. He put up over 1200 yards in his first two seasons, almost 75% of his total career yardage. Givens obviously has the ability to succeed at the highest level of the sport, but hasn’t broken 30 receptions since he was 24.

He will most likely have lots of opportunities this year with Hackenberg and Mettenberger leading the offense. Givens was a solid deep-threat receiver throughout his career and with the big arms of his quarterbacks, he will see his chances. He ran a 4.41 at the combine, but is now 30, it will be interesting to see if he still has the elite speed he once had. If he does, he could make some big plays for Memphis in this inaugural AAF season.

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