Grading UFL To NFL Probability: St. Louis Battlehawks | Jacob Saylors

Grading UFL To NFL Player Probability: St. Louis Battlehawks

The St. Louis Battlehawks just ran out of gas to end the UFL season. An injury to AJ McCarron was a death nail to a team that had championship aspirations this season. The team is going to have a long offseason where they need to make some changes if they want to take the next step in 2025. That being said, there was still a lot of talent on that Battlehawk team that has the ability to make the jump to the NFL this summer. 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: RB Jacob Saylors
Tier 2: QB AJ McCarron, WR Hakeem Butler
Tier 3: RB Mateo Durant
Tier 4: QB Manny Wilkins, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Jahcour Pearson, WR Marcell Ateman, WR Darrius Shepherd, WR Jamarcus Bradley, WR Jerome Kapp

There was multiple quality weapons for the Battlehawks this year but none have the NFL potential like Jacob Saylors who has the rare combination of age (only 23), recent NFL experience (stints with Atlanta and Cincinnati last year), and production (537 rushing yards and 5 TDs) to combine for one of the most slam dunk NFL signings the UFL has this season. Beyond Saylors, there are two Tier 2s in AJ McCarron and Hakeem Butler. McCarron is likely a midseason signing like he did last year but with age and injuries, that’s a bit less sure. Age is also the thing that holds Butler back, who was the offensive player of the year but at 28, might be seeing the window close. Mateo Durant is the only Tier 3 only because of his season ending injury that cut short what could’ve been a breakout season for him. In Tier 4, there are a bunch of names with 5 receivers that didn’t have good enough production which held them down, an aging running back in Wayne Gallman, and Manny Wilkins who showed enough in 2 starts to atleast get a mention. Only interesting names in Tier 5 are the two tight ends in Jake Sutherland and Kemari Averett who had limited roles as mostly blockers in the offense so they slipped off the list.

Offensive Line

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: None
Tier 3: G Steven Gonzalez, C Mike Panasiuk
Tier 4: T Jaryd Jones-Smith, T Juwann Bushell-Beatty, C Dohnovan West

There’s a lot less to talk about for the Battlehawks on the offensive line. The team was able to bring back all 5 starters from 2023, but that puts a significant limit on how well a team does in this context. The most compelling pieces from this group are 2 interior guys in Steven Gonzalez and Mike Panasiuk who had solid seasons but don’t have enough NFL interest to put them above Tier 3. The 2 starting tackles find themselves in Tier 4 due to lack of NFL interest in Juwann Bushell-Beatty’s case, and age in Jaryd Jones-Smith’s case. The last Tier 4 is Dohnovan West mostly due to age at only 23. The one starter that isn’t listed is Vadal Alexander who has carved out a solid spring football career but is 6 years removed from his last NFL opportunity.

Front Seven

Tier 1: LB Mike Rose
Tier 2: DL Austin Faoliu
Tier 3: DL Kobe Smith, EDGE Carson Wells, EDGE Chris Garrett, LB Willie Harvey
Tier 4: DL Antwuann Jackson, DL TJ Pesefea, EDGE Pita Taumoepenu, LB Elijah Lee

The outlook for the Front 7 is much rosier (ha). That starts with Mike Rose who is the 2nd Tier 1 on the Battlehawks. He has been dynamite when on the field this season, the only way I see him missing out on the NFL, is if the injury he suffered against San Antonio was more serious than it seemed. The next Tier has another player that wasn’t healthy all year in Austin Faoliu who spent the 2023 NFL season on the Seahawks after a great year in the XFL for the Sea Dragons. He followed that up with another solid season that more than likely got the 25 year old defensive tackle another look. In Tier 3, There are a few players I like, first being Kobe Smith who had a solid year and is also younger at only 25. Next is Carson Wells who, like Kobe Smith, used his XFL opportunity to get a chance in a camp last year and might’ve done so again with a solid season. Willie Harvey is another with a solid season, I do worry he is a tad old at 28 however. Last in the Tier is the special teams player of the year in Chris Garrett who broke out this season after a limited role on the Gamblers in 2023. The Tier 4 is all guys that have some recent NFL experience but didn’t stick out except in Pita Taumoepenu’s case which was more due to age. One of the most notable names in Tier 5 across the league is Travis Feeney who has had a nice alt football career and has made himself a fan favorite even if he’s not likely to see another NFL opportunity.

Secondary

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: None
Tier 3: CB Chris Payton-Jones, CB Lavert Hill, S Qwynnterrio Cole, S Kameron Kelly
Tier 4: CB Brandon Stebastian, CB Tim Harris, S Ben Deluca, S Nico Bolden

The secondary for the Battlehawks was a veteran group for the most part, like the offensive line, that limits them. Their best player was Chris Payton-Jones even with a brutal coverage loss against San Antonio. The only thing holding him back is age at 28 but he was by far the best outside corner at defending the run in the UFL on top of being a solid cover corner. The other names in Tier 3 are guys that are young or have recent NFL experience or in the case of Kameron Kelly, played a great season after being an afterthought on a bad San Antonio team last season. The Tier 4 guys are similar but they’re issues are much more severe across the board. Most notable name left is Dravon Askew-Henry who was one of the first players that signed out of the XFL back in 2020 but has been out of the NFL for a time.

Specialists

Tier 1: K Andre Smyzt
Tier 2: None
Tier 3: P Sterling Hofricter, LS Alex Matheson
Tier 4: None

The specialists were solid for St. Louis this season and the crown jewel of that was their kicker Andre Smyzt. Unfortunately, he had a brutal miss in the playoff game but that doesn’t take away his incredible season that makes him the highest graded kicker. The rest of the group had solid seasons too which put them both in Tier 3 even if Matheson was dragged down by age and Hofricter by a lack of recent NFL experience.

Conclusion

This is the start of a crucial offseason for St. Louis which could see them get over the hump or fall off the map like was the case for their rivals in DC this season. With that being said the Battlehawks are a team that has a healthy group of NFL signings even if they don’t catch their numbers from 2023. The 3 players with the best chance of signing on an NFL squad are RB Jacob Saylors, LB Mike Rose, and K Andre Smyzt.

What are your thoughts on these UFL to NFL players from the St. Louis Battlehawks? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo