Analyzing The Memphis Showboats Protected Players & UFL Draft Picks

Analyzing The Memphis Showboats Protected Players & UFL Draft Picks

The Memphis Showboats enter 2024 with a new league and a new head coach to guide them. John DeFilippo joins the Showboats for the 2024 season coming over from the New Orleans Breakers after former head coach Todd Haley, who had served at the position for both the Bandits and Showboats season in 2022 and 2023 respectively, was suddenly relieved of his duties on October 23rd this past year.

The change in the coaching personnel is one that not only keeps a talented offensive mind in the UFL ecosystem but also is one that could spark a quick start and consistent level of play that Haley never could seem to nail down. 2023 was a year of extremes for the Yacht Club faithful seeing the season run only in streak back and forth. Weeks 1-3 would see crushing losses with two of them being one possession games that could have changed the trajectory of 2023. The Showboats would find their identity of gritty defense to guide them to five straight wins that would place then in arms length of postseason contention heading into Week 9.

Alas, crushing defeats against New Orleans at home in stormy weather and to the Birmingham Stallions in Week 10 demolished any hopes created from their mid-season run, and in particular highlighted Memphis’s missing identity in offensive production. Luckily, new head coach John DeFilippo has been addressing that problem right away in the first phase of the draft cycle.

USFL Dispersal Draft Picks

QB Case Cookus | Philadelphia Stars

The man behind center for the past two seasons for the Philadelphia Star was arguably the most sought after player in any of the Phase 1 dispersal draft charts and for good reason. The former Northern Arizona Lumberjack Quarterback stepped in for relief duty of then starting QB Bryan Scott in 2022 leading the Stars to the 2022 USFL Championship game.

He would leave that championship bout with a broken leg, but would return for the 2023 USFL season picking up right where he left off and starting all 10 contests for the Stars while finishing second in the USFL in passing yards (2,294). Cookus is arguably in a better position to succeed than in the past two season if he can be protected by his new all-usfl talented offensive line as he has been the most sacked quarterback over the past two years of the USFL combined (40).The added protection will also help him excel in what should be a pass-heavy attack for John DeFilippo’s crew.

RB Kennedy Brooks | Philadelphia Stars

Brooks was originally signed onto the Philadelphia Stars on November 7th before the Dispersal Draft was announced. The former Oklahoma Sooner was a three-time 1,000-yard rusher in college, and fills a need for the Showboats running back room that could use more depth and variety.

RB Darius Victor | New Jersey Generals

Thick thighs save lives and are about to bring this Showboats running back room to another level for 2024. Victor has been a spring football mainstay for some time now, but found his stride in the USFL nodding 2022 All-USFL honors and the 2022 Offensive Player of the Year nod in the process.

Victor is quite versatile in both passing and running aspects of his game and has an aggressive running style that is excellent for breaking tackles in the first and second levels or for short yardage situations. He likely won’t be tasked with bell cow duties, but expect him to handle the majority of the load for John DeFilippo’s system.

WR Jonathan Adams | New Orleans Breakers

Adams comes over as one of several receiving pick ups from the Dispersal Draft that Head Coach John DeFilippo brought with him to the Showboats and for good reason.

Adams does a time have a tendency to go on streaks without targets, but given the Breakers competitive receiving room over the last two USFL seasons and that his highs in production last year (41 rec., 511 yards) it was a no-brainer for the former New Orleans Breaker to be picked up as someone Case Cookus can throw the 50-50 ball to with confidence.

WR Dee Anderson | New Orleans Breakers

Anderson comes into 2024 after a season that saw him try to establish his footing in the USFL in Coach DeFilippo’s system. This is technically Anderson’s second season, but he was signed to the Tampa Bay Bandits late in 2022 league year (June 1st) and was in then Todd Haley’s system.

The former Alabama A&M receiver is a lengthy target that when given opportunities can take advantages of secondaries being spread thin with the Showboats having so many receiving threats now on roster.

WR Diondre Overton | Pittsburgh Maulers

Formerly a Philadelphia Star the last two years in the USFL, Overton signed with the Pittsburgh Maulers on Ocotber 4th and is coming off his best statistical season yet ( 30 rec. 333 yards).

The two-time CFP National Champion formerly from Clemson has proven to be a versatile receiver that can line up wide or in the slot in various formations. Overton also provides additional value to the Showboats receiving corp. thanks in part to the chemistry and tendencies that he should have down working with Case Cookus as his quarterback the past two years.

WR Vinny Papale | New Orleans Breakers

It feels strange to even have Vinny Papale in these draft results given that he was the showboats leading receiver in 2023 (33 rec., 345 yards), but he did sign with the New Orleans Breakers on October 25th before the draft which is why he is in these results.

Yacht Club faithful need no introduction to him as he, along with Derrick Dillion, where the go-to options for Cole Kelley in Showboats air attack. He has versatility as in the open field and a knack to look for extra yards.

TE Wes Saxton Jr | New Jersey Generals

The former South Alabama tight end is no stranger to the spring football seen as this will be his fifth season of spring action from combined stays in various leagues (AAF 2019, XFL 2020, USFL 2022-present).

Saxton isn’t going to be a flashy opinion in the passing game, but he brings tremendous value to what the Showboats will look to do on the ground and in pass protection for assisting in chip blocks Darius Victor and Case Cookus will be glad to have him.

TE Sage Surratt | New Orleans Breakers

Surratt is a no-brainer for Coach DeFilippo to have drafted, and the numbers speak for themselves from a breakout 2023 campaign that saw the former Wake Forest alum lead the Breakers AND all USFL tight ends in receptions (50) and yards (552)

Surratt is the prototypical receiving tight end with a bulkier lengthy frame to go point point tough endzone lobs or to find open space and run past defenders for splash plays deep down field. He will be giving opposing defensive coordinators and linebackers fits come the start of the 2024 season.

G Kirk Kelley | New Orleans Breakers

Coach DeFilippo wants a balanced attack on offense, and Kelley is the type of guard to fit the bill to move bodies in the run game. Along with helping lead All-USFL running back Wes Hills to a rushing title in 2023, the former Troy Trojan also received the highest Pro Football Focus grade in the USFL in pass blocking ability.

T Terry Poole | New Jersey Generals

If you are going to help Case Cookus avoid being hit as much as he has been over the past two USFL season, then drafting Terry Poole is one of the best under the radar choices that can elevate the Showboats offensively.

Poole has seen his fair share of quality work at the spring level in the XFL (2020) and USFL earning an All-USFL nod with the New Jersey Generals in 2022. Surprisingly, he was cut from the Generals just two weeks into the 2023 season by New Jersey, but would immediately sign with the Pittsburgh Maulers and contribute right away on the team journey to a 2023 USFL North Division Championship.

T Sidney Wells | New Orleans Breakers

Wells comes in as a newcomer to the spring scene after finishing his collegiate carrer with UAB. The former Blazer garnered two First Team All-Conference USA nods, and has a ton of potential to provide quality depth up front.

DL Connor Christian | New Orleans Breakers

Christian served as an effective rotational piece for the Breakers defensive front as he saw action in 9 games in 2023 while recording 16 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks.

DE Tyshun Render | New Jersey Generals

Render had his season cut short due to injury, but i 6 games action he was a menace with the Generals recording 15 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks. Memphis already had an extremely formidable front seven on defense, and Render will fit in nicely to potentially start or as an effective rotational player.

DE Jordan Brailford | New Orleans Breakers

The former Oklahoma State Cowboy saw action in 8 game last season and put in quality work for the Breakers recording 20 combined tackles and 2 sacks along the way. He will provide more depth to an already deep group of edge rushers.

DE Kolin Hill | New Jersey Generals

Hill is one of many former Generals that Coach DeFilippo targeted in this draft and for good reason. The former Red Raider had a breakout year in 2023 in his second season with the Generals as he racked up 39 combined tackles and 4.5 sacks.

This is a sneaky good pick given he will be joining up with an edge rush unit that saw great success last year, and he was under the radar thanks to so many talented stars on the Generals defense.

LB Vontae Diggs | New Orleans Breakers

When talking about the New Orleans Breakers since the USFL returned in 2022, you can’t discuss the defense without at least mentioning Vontae Diggs or his partner in crime Jerod Fernandez. Coach Filippo couldn’t get both (you can blame Mike Nolan for that), but considering how much talent already existed in the defensive front seven for the Showboats, landing one of these dynamic linebackers was gonna be a win in either case.

Diggs has a knack for finding the ball (66 combined tackles in 2023) and is one of the most aggressive enforcers in the second level that you will find in the UFL. Being 6’2’’ also has made him one of the best in pass defense at the linebacker position as he tied for 2nd in the USFL in interceptions (3) in 2023.

LB Shaheed Salmon | New Orleans Breakers

The former Samford linebacker has been active at every level of football in North America over the last 10 years, and he was a reliable rotational piece for the Breakers in 2023 seeing action in 9 games with 3 games being starts.

DB D.J. Daniel | New Jersey Generals

The Showboats secondary was a solid unite in 2023, but when you have the opportunity to pick up an All-USFL talent like D.J. Daniel it can’t hurt.

The 2023 All-USFL cornerback is a ball hawk and finished tied for second in interceptions (3) and added 6 pass breakups to go on to the season’s résumé. Considering that Coach DeFilippo added two of the players that finished tied for second in interceptions last year (Vontae Diggs was the other) the 24 year old former Georgia Bulldog fits in nicely.

DB Jarey Elder | New Orleans Breakers

Elder continues the trend of picks for Coach DeFilippo that are fron not only his former Breakers roster but also of guys that can go up and hunt down the ball in the secondary.

Elder not only is extremely effective at disrupting passes (2 INTs, 6 PBUs in 2023), but he also isn’t afraid to hit and scrap for the football adding 49 combined tackles in 2023.

Protected Players

QB Cole Kelley

Started for the Showboats from Week 3 onward in 2023 replacing QB Brady White following a Week 2 blowout loss to the Birmingham Stallions. He finished with a 5-2 record behind center.

QB Ryan Willis

The former TSL Mega Bowl MVP joined the Showboats in 2023 after originally signing and then being released from the St. Louis Battlehawks. Only saw action in Week 2 in relief of starting QB Brady White in a blowout loss against the Birmingham Stallions.

QB Guy Myers

Myers has bounced around on USFL rosters since the 2022 on the New Jersey Generals (2022) and Showboats before being released prior to the 2023 season. Myers was re-signed to the Showboats on December 24th.

RB Kerrith Whyte

In his first season in spring football, the former FAU running back led the Showboats in rushing yards (285) in 6 games averaging 3.7 yards per tote.

WR Derrick Dillon

The two-year USFL vet and former LSU Tiger had a breakout 2023 campaign chalked with countless highlights in the receiving and return game including a now legendary 109-yard miss field goal return in Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Maulers.

WR Rashard Davis

After coming off a promising frist season in the USFL which saw him accumulate 369 yards and 2 touchdowns with the then Tampa Bay Bandits, Davis started off the 2023 campaign in style recording the first score for the Showboats in 38 years with a 43-yard touchdown catch in Week 1.

Unfortunately, his season was cut short in Week 3 against the Gamblers due to an Achilles injury.

WR Ryan McDaniel

One of the primary contributors to the Memphis passing attack, McDaniel is best remembered for having arguably the best catch of the 2023 USFL season and what would become the USFL Play of the Year in the Showboats Week 3 contest with the Houston Gamblers

WR John Mitchell

A former FAU Owl, Mitchell acted as a WR/TE hybrid for the Showboats in last season’s campaign. Mitchell helped secure the go-ahead touchdown and 2-point conversion in the Showboats Week 5 victory over the New Orleans Breakers.

TE Michael Ezeike

A former UCLA Bruin, Ezeike was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2023 USFL Collegiate Draft. He would end up signing with the Los Angeles Chargers for the 2023 NFL preseason before joining the Showboats on October 10th.

TE Jay Jay Wilson

Though listed at TE, Wilson was a versatile asset for the Showboats in various rolls including on special teams and in the fullback position. The Auburn product could do it all and has a history of being a flexible athlete if asked to fill a roll.

T Jarron Jones

The 2-time All-USFL Tackle needs no introduction and has been a force to be reckoned with on the starting line. He’ll be looking to be recognized once again in his 3rd-straight spring football season.

T Clayton Bradley

The former USC Trojan was mainly on standby during the 2023 campaign.

G Terrone Prescod

Prescod has been a consistent starting guard in the USFL. The NC State product was originally drafted by the Gamblers in the inaugural 2022 USFL Draft and later signed with and started all 10 games for the Showboats in 2023.

G Lukayus McNeil

McNeil was released by the Birmingham Stallions after Week 3 of the 2023 USFL season where the Showboats would then claim him off waivers.

G Chance Lytle

The Showboats signed the former Duke and Colorado Guard on August 4th after he spent time being invited to a New York Giants rookie minicamp.

G Tyran Hunt

The 6-7, 313-pound Guard from Old Dominion logged 3 starts for the Showboats after being signed on to the roster on May 23rd.

C Jordan McCray

The former Birmingham Stallion anchored middle of the Showboats line starting in Week 2 of the 2023 season after being released from the then XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas on April 3rd.

DL John Atkins

The All-USFL Nose Tackle and former Georgia Bulldog was one of the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the USFL in 2023 and was one of the main faces for a stout Showboats defense. Big John re-signed with the Showboats on December, 7th and is a vital cog in the front seven for Defensive Coordinator Carnell Lake.

DL Daylon Mack

The third year spring football vet dealt with injury issues for the majority of the 2023 campaign seeing action in only 2 games but has been a contributor at Nose Tackle in the past tallying 28 combined tackles in 2022 for the then Tampa Bay Bandits. He re-signed with the Showboats on September 6th.

DL Jordan Williams

The former Clemson Tiger Defensive Tackle came on strong in his first spring football season leading the Showboats defense in sacks (5.5) along with tallying 21 combined tackles.

DL Dillon Faamatau

The former Oklahoma Sooner saw limited action in 2023 due to injury but was able to contribute 11 combined tackles in 4 games for the Showboats.

DL Josiah Bronson

Bronson was signed to the Showboats on December 26th after various stints on practice squads with various NFL teams after being signed by the Saints in 2021 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Washington

DL PJ Hall

A former 2nd round draft pick for the then Oakland Raiders, the former Sam Houston State Defensive Lineman spent three seasons on various NFL rosters before being drafted by the Seattle Sea Dragons in the 2022 XFL draft. He was released on March 30th and signed with the San Antonio Brahmas for the remainder of the 2023 XFL season,and he would sign with the Showboats on October 23rd.

DL Jeremiah Valoaga

The former Detroit Lion and UNLV Rebel Defensive Lineman has been a steady contributor for the Showboats tallying 16 combined tackles and 2.5 sacks in his 2023 campaign. Valoaga re-signed with the Showboats on August 19th, and he will be entering his third spring football season.

DE Jeff McCulloch

Another key cog to a stout Showboats defense in 2023, the former Texas Longhorn recorded 21 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 touchdowns in six games in his second season in the USFL. McCulloch re-signed with the Showboats for his upcoming third season of spring football on December 7th.

DE Greg Reaves

Reaves was a force to be reckoned with off the edge in 2023 finishing second on the team in sacks with 4.5 to go along with his 33 combined tackles and 2 interceptions. Reaves was a leading figure for the Showboats defense and re-signed with the team on August 14th.

DE Jordan Ferguson

Ferguson was a late-season signing in 2023, but made an instant impact for the Showboats with 2.5 sacks in just 4 games. The former Middle Tennessee edge rusher re-signed with the squad on September 29th.

LB Dylan Moses

Fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide know of Moses as an enforcer in the second level in his three seasons in college which included to CFP National Championships (2017, 2020). Moses signed on for his first season of spring football on November 1st after being released from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022.

LB Anthony Butler

Entering his 3rd season of spring football, Butler has been a steady workhorse in the linebacking corp. since being drafted by the then Tampa Bay Bandits. Butler has recorded 45+ combined tackles in each of his two USFL seasons and was re-signed by the Showboats on August 22nd.

LB TJ Neal

Neal has been another consistent presence in the linebacking corp.but saw a dip in production in 2023. Still, the former Wofford Terrier is a consistent component to the Showboats defense and re-signed on August 15th.

LB Malik Lawal

Consistent contributor in the linebacking corp., Lawal recording 27 combined tackles while seeing action in all 10 games in 2023 for the Showboats.

CB Delrick Abrams Jr.

Entering his third spring football season, Abrams has been a lunch pale kind of defensive back for the Showboats starting all 10 games of the 2023 season and recording 34 combined tackles.

CB Nehemiah Shelton

The San Jose State Defensive Back was initially drafted in the seventh round by the Showboats in the 2023 USFL Collegiate Draft and would later sign with the team for the final three games of the season.

CB Quenton Meeks

Meeks has been another consistent presence in the secondary for the Showboats and Bandits over the last two USFL seasons. The cornerback out of Stanford recorded 21 combined tackles and a lone interception in Week 6 of the 2023 season before being sidelined with an injury the rest of the season following Week 7.

S Kyree Woods

A formidable force in the secondary, Woods would gather in 2 interceptions in 2023 for the Showboats and registered the highest end of season Pro Football Focus grade for a player in the USFL last season (92.0) after seeing action in 6 games. He would resign with the Showboats on October 17th after a short stint in the NFL preseason with the New York Jets.

S TJ Green

Green initially was drafted by the Arlington Renegades in the 2022 USFL draft, but decided to sign with the Birmingham Stallions for the 2023 season. He was later released mid-season and acquired by the Showboats.

S Troy Warner

Brother of NFL All-Pro Linebacker Fred Warner, the former BYU Cougar Defensive Back was constantly pursuing whoever had the ball leading the team in tackles in 2023 (73).

S Lamont McPhatter II

McPhatter saw action in 4 games last year including an impressive Week 3 performance that saw him tally 9 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 pass breakup.

K Alex Kessman

The first year kicker for the Showboats came on strong as one of the top steady legs in the USFL in 2023 finishing 22 of 25 (88%) on field goals.

P Brandon Wright

The 2022 All-USFL punter and kickoff man for the Showboats boasted an average of 45.5 yards per punt in 2023. Wright would sign with the Los Angeles Rams practice squad in the offseason before being released and re-signed by the showboats on October 6th.

Unprotected Players

  • QB Brady White
  • RB Juwan Washington
  • RB Ezra Gray
  • WR John Franklin III
  • WR DJ Myers
  • WR Osirus Mitchell
  • TE Daniel Helm
  • T Corbin Kaufusi
  • G Matthew Burrell Jr.
  • G Kwan Stallworth
  • DL Frank Herron
  • DL Sulaiman Kamara
  • DL Cory Thomas
  • DE Big Kat Bryant
  • DE Aaron Hansford
  • DE Kahzin Daniels
  • LB Nate Hall
  • CB Jermaine Kelly Jr.
  • S Antonio Reed
  • S Stephen Griffin
  • LS Ryan DiSalvo

How do you think the Memphis Showboats will fare in 2024? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.