Known As: Wide receiver for recent Super Bowl champs Baltimore Ravens
Pros and Cons: NFL stars have tallied three prior DWTS wins (including two of the last four seasons) and three additional runner-up finishes — an imposing bit of historical precedent. More importantly, Jones came out dancing during GMA‘s cast announcement — pulling off some cute synchronized moves with partner Smirnoff (a winner in Season 13 herself) — and showed off a charming sense of humor that should make him a vote magnet.
Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough
Known As:American Idol Season 5 finalist and country star
Pros and Cons: Pickler’s goofy-gal personality won over plenty of voters during her not-always-stellar Idol run, but it’s been her generally excellent post-show musical output that’s kept her in the spotlight. The fact that she’s paired with three-time champ and stellar choreographer Hough makes her an immediate threat for the whole enchilada.
Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas
Known As: Member of the Gold-medal winning 2012 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team (and individual Gold-medal winner in floor exercise)
Pros and Cons: Olympic champions have won three prior seasons of DWTS, and Raisman’s popularity is still sky-high considering her golden run came just last summer. Similarities between gymnastics and dancing (plus her youth, her fitness, and a partnership with two-time champ Ballas) won’t hurt, but she didn’t show a ton of personality during GMA‘s cast announcement telecast.
Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold
Known As: Former WBC Welterweight Champion
Pros and Cons: While Laila Ali is the only boxer to have made the DWTS finals, Ortiz’s hardscrabble, rags-to-riches backstory will likely appeal to voters as much as his rockin’ bod and megawatt smile. And while Ortiz’s partner Arnold is a DWTS newcomer, she brings a fanbase from her sizzling work as a member of the So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 Top 10.
Zendaya Coleman and Val Chmerkovskiy
Known As: Star of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up!
Pros and Cons: The worst finish by a so-called “Disney Channel star” on DTWS was Roshon Fegan’s sixth-place run in Season 14 — so don’t count out Coleman, even if you’re not familiar with her work. Plus, her prior dance experience can’t hurt, even if it’s in the hip-hop arena.
Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson
Known As:General Hospital star
Pros and Cons: Aside from Kelly Monaco (oops — and JR Martinez), soap actors have generally struggled to make it into the final weeks of DWTS. Rademacher’s 16-year run on ABC’s GH, however, can’t be discounted. Nor can Johnson’s credentials as a two-time DWTS champ (and two-time runner-up).
Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus
Known As: Olympic gold-medalis in ladies’ figure-skating
Pros and Cons: Gold-medal winners generally have an instant inroad with DWTS voters, and Hamill’s specialty in figure skating means she’ll have an inherent sense of rhythm, too. Plus, with Maks’ exit, Hamill’s partner MacManus (who guided Nancy Grace all the way to a fifth-place finish) seems best-poised to take over the role as the show’s resident sex symbol. Still, Hamill’s Olympic glory came way back in 1976 — before some of her competitors were even born. Will she be able to keep up with the young’uns? And will voters still pull for her nearly 40 years after the peak of her fame?
Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani
Known As: Five-time Grammy-winning country star
Pros and Cons: At almost 50, Judd won’t be as fleet-footed as some of her youthful opponents, but her joke about doing DWTS to get back to her birth weight of 8 lbs, 15 oz was the funniest moment of GMA‘s cast announcement. Could last longer than expected if she seizes two types of story arcs popular with voters: self-deprecating woman of a certain age/inspirational gal trying to lose some weight through dance. Dovolani, fresh of his first win with Melissa Rycroft during the show’s All-Star, will be hungry for a repeat.
D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke
Known As: Comedian/Actor (The Hughleys, The Original Kings of Comedy)
Pros and Cons: Former star of The Hughleys is better known than many of his rivals, and a pairing with two-time champ Cheryl Burke won’t hurt. On the flip side, though, Burke’s last victory came way back in Season 3, and at almost 50, Hughley doesn’t fit the profile of male contestants who typically excel on DWTS (i.e. pro athletes and/or younger dudes).
Lisa Vanderpump and Gleb Savchenko
Known As: Reality Star (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules)
Pros and Cons: Vanderpump came across a little stiff and humorless during the GMA cast announcement, and the Real Housewives franchise — while popular — isn’t necessarily beloved. Paired with a neophyte pro like Savchenko, she seems like a good bet for an early exit.
Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess
Known As: Actor (Newsradio, Less Than Perfect)/Comedian
Pros and Cons: Dick comically fell to the floor while making his entrance during the GMA announcement ceremony, cementing the idea that his main goal is “comic” relief. His road will be even tougher thanks to a pairing with a first-time pro who won’t bring a big built-in fanbase of her own.