Looking At The 2024 All-UFL Selections & List Of Nominees | Michigan Panthers Marcus Simms

Grading UFL To NFL Player Probability: Michigan Panthers

The Michigan Panthers were able to exceed their expectations despite their roster being held together by duct tape and wires. They dealt with injuries across the board with 4 QBs getting playing time and still finishing 7-3 is commendable. This can be attributed to this coaching staff headlined by coach of the year Mike Nolan. But before Nolan gets another crack at trying to win it all, they need to see which of their pieces will be walking out the door. In this article I will grade every player on their chance of getting to the NFL this offseason and try to create a system and expectations for players that they can exceed or underperform. Let’s get right into it.

Methodology

For the record, this section is the same for every article so feel free to skip it if you have already seen it. The first piece to explain is the tier system. There are 5 tiers a player could land in, tiers 1-5. Tier 1 is NFL bound, basically I’m almost 100% sure that this player will go to the NFL(by signing an NFL contract at some point in the 2024 NFL season), Tier 2 is decent chance, I’m more sure than not that this player will go to the NFL which is about 75% chance, Tier 3 is maybe, flip a coin 50% chance, Tier 4 is outside possibility, which is about 25% chance, and Tier 5 is all the players that have flaws that make me think there isn’t a chance they make it to the NFL. I haven’t included the Tier 5 players but any player not listed is in that tier.

This is also only counting players that ended the season rostered by a UFL team. For example, the Browns signed Matt Landers who was on the Brahmas before being cut midseason, he doesn’t count and won’t be listed. This is also a good time to also mention that any reported workouts that might be released before this publishes won’t affect the grades.

The reasons that players end up in a given tier is an unscientific combination of 3 factors: quality of play in the UFL, recency of NFL experience, and age. If you check off all three of these boxes you are going to rate highly but you don’t need all three if you are playing out of this world or aren’t playing well but are young with NFL experience. I’m relying heavily on PFF grades to get an opinion on every player but I have watched every game and my personal opinion can influence that too. Lastly, age is a factor that is going to hurt a lot of good players in the UFL and keep players that if they were younger would have been Tier 1s and Tier 2s but there is a sharp fall off when a player reaches 28 that will affect how players are graded. If you have any other questions about how I came to specific grades or put the whole thing together, you can reach out to me at ThornPFN on twitter or in the PFN discord to ask me whatever I missed here.

QB and Weapons

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: WR Marcus Simms, RB Nate McCrary
Tier 3: QB Bryce Perkins, RB Matt Colburn, WR Siaosi Mariner
Tier 4: QB Danny Etling, QB EJ Perry, WR Trey Quinn, WR Samson Nacua, TE Gunnar Oakes, TE Derrick Deese Jr

This season lacked a lot of continuity in this group with different players stepping up different weeks and it shows with the lack of a Tier 1 player in a good group of weapons. The Tier 2 starts with Marcus Simms who had a great start to the season that was only cooled off by injury as he hopes to get his first NFL opportunity since 2019. The other was a player that has been an NFL journeyman in his young career and turned it up at the very end of the season in Nate McCrary. When I did my first round of grades in week 8, he was a Tier 4 but the last couple weeks has made his stock skyrocket. In Tier 3, there are 3 great players that might struggle to find NFL opportunities. Bryce Perkins looked like he could be a quality starter but an injury kept him from seeing his full potential, and in the case of Matt Colburn and Sioasi Mariner, It’s been a while since their last NFL opportunity which holds them back a bit even with a strong 2nd half of the season from both. Tier 4 is a laundry list of names that are interesting for one reason or another. The most interesting player in that group might be Derrick Deese Jr because he didn’t play but has some recent experience with the Lions that might make him a sleeper NFL signing. Most notable player in Tier 5 is Wes Hills who was an older back with a season ended by injury which is a tough recipe to overcome.

Offensive Line

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: G/C Cohl Cabral
Tier 3: G Jake Burton
Tier 4: T Jarrett Horst, T Chim Okorafor, C Noah Johnson

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Panthers offensive line sucked. They admittedly had a few nice interior pieces like Cohl Cabral who was with the Cardinal last training camp and Jake Burton who has had a few quality seasons with the Stars before another solid season in Michigan. Those guys didn’t help the room float though as they had poor play from basically all of their tackles including Jarrett Horst and Chim Okorafor who make the list because of their youth and recent NFL experience. The last name here is Noah Johnson who had a solid season but has yet to get an NFL opportunity. The 2025 Panthers should hope that this looks better as it could be the difference in a championship season or not.

Front Seven

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: EDGE Breeland Speaks, EDGE Kenny Willekes
Tier 3: DL Daniel Wise, DL Walter Palmore
Tier 4: DL TJ Carter, DL Jesus Gibbs, EDGE Ron’Dell Carter, EDGE Levi Bell, EDGE Mika Tafua, LB Frank Ginda, LB Bumper Pool, LB Noah Dawkins, LB DeShaun White

The front 7 was a big reason that Michigan was able to get to this point but that was on the back of a great rotation. The one stand out was defensive player of the year Breeland Speaks who had another great year but at 28, gets pulled down from Tier 1. The other Tier 2 is Kenny Willekes who didn’t have the production like Speaks but is 2 years younger coming off a stint with Minnesota which gave him a bump. In Tier 3 we have the top 2 interior defensive lineman with Daniel Wise and Walter Palmore who are both in their late 20s but had great seasons which might get them some NFL interest. That rotation really shows through in Tier 4 with some players that were limited by injury like Frank Ginda and Levi Bell, but most were just solid players that didn’t stand out in play or in the other categories. The biggest missing piece here is Javin White who was hurt by a combination of age, lack of recent NFL experience and struggling otherside of the 2 Birmingham games to end the season.

Secondary

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: S Kedrick Whitehead
Tier 3: CB Nate Brooks, S Kai Nacua, S Corrion Ballard
Tier 4: SCB Bryce Tornaden, CB Lavonta Taylor, CB Adonis Alexander

The Michigan secondary is a group that is heavy on spring football veterans which is why their top player for me wasn’t a starter for most of the season. Kedrick Whitehead was mostly a rotational box safety but played well in that role and on special teams which combined with a recent stint with the Buccaneers and still being 24, creates a situation that could lead to some NFL looks. The Tier 3 is a group of 3 names that are older veterans that had solid seasons including 2 All-UFL players in Nate Brooks and Kai Nacua. The thing holding them back is age and lack of recent NFL opportunities but it would be cool to see them get a shot. Last tier is 3 players that were quality UFL players but haven’t gotten an NFL look in a long enough time that I’m not sure they’ll get it now. This is a good UFL group, but that doesn’t always translate to NFL opportunities.

Specialists

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: K Jake Bates
Tier 3: LS Jordan Ober
Tier 4: P Brock Miller

I’ll admit that I almost moved All-UFL kicker and social media superstar Jake Bates up to Tier 1 after seeing that 4 NFL teams are interested in him per Aaron Wilson. I didn’t though and that comes from a rough 2nd half of the season that included a missed game winner in week 10 and going 4 for 6 in the USFL championship. He’s still a great story and a player I think should get a chance, but it wouldn’t shock me if the NFL decides he needs another year of experience. Bates isn’t the only solid piece in that room, the rest of that specialist group has potential like Jordan Ober who was All-UFL this season and Brock Miller who has a career of getting workouts for being a lefty punter which gave him an opportunity in 2022, and might happen again this season.

Conclusion

The Michigan Panthers team doesn’t have the NFL potential of the other playoff teams with no Tier 1 players but that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent and could get a few signings this offseason. It’ll also give them a leg up this offseason as they might need to make less moves to fill out their roster which the two teams in the championship will have to figure out. That being said, the players that I think have the best chances are WR Marcus Simms, EDGE Breeland Speaks, and K Jake Bates.

What are your thoughts on these UFL to NFL gradings for the Michigan Panthers? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

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