The Impact Of The USFL & XFL College Drafts | Ty Scott DC Defenders

The Impact Of The USFL & XFL College Drafts In The UFL

Over the past couple of years in spring football, the USFL and XFL separately held drafts to claim rights to rookies coming out of college. Now that the leagues have combined – and completed their inaugural season of the UFL – the Rookie Draft is fast approaching.

The point of these events are, for the most part, to secure players that might become available in years down the road. That said, certain teams have taken a slightly different approach. They’ve looked to draft players that might not immediately land on NFL rosters, which means their next best bet is to pivot to spring football.

In this piece, we’ll be taking a closer look at how the USFL College Draft impacted the USFL’s 2023 season along with the UFL season – and how the XFL Rookie Draft also played a major role for some franchises in 2024.

USFL College Draft: 2023

During season two of the USFL, we saw quite a few college draftees sign with their respective teams. The Michigan Panthers struck gold on a couple of athletes; specifically Levi Bell and DaShaun White.

Bell was tremendous that year, playing a major role on that defense as they made a playoff run. This led to Levi signing with the Seattle Seahawks, earning a practice squad spot – proving that these college drafts can help athletes achieve their NFL goals.

The Pittsburgh Maulers ended up signing a few of their picks as well, most notably OL Tre’Quan Dorsey who was the first college draft pick to sign.

In the offseason, we saw several teams sign more players; some of which made their way into the UFL in 2024. Interestingly enough, a couple of the franchises that dissolved ended up benefiting others. For example, the New Jersey Generals originally drafted QB Adrian Martinez – who signed with Birmingham, earning league MVP and leading the Stallions to a third straight Championship.

USFL Impact In The UFL

The 2023 USFL College Draft carried over into the 2024 season in the UFL. Multiple players joined the league and garnered plenty of playing time this year. Michigan dominated the USFL side, signing quite a few of their draftees.

First overall pick, OT Jarrett Horst, signed with the Michigan Panthers – earning a roster spot during Training Camp. Horst played in nine games in 2024, starting in six of those. While he didn’t produce the strongest blocking grades via PFF, he was an important piece to that offensive line for Tim Holt.

LB DaShaun White returned to Michigan, after a stint with the Buffalo Bills during the fall. He saw action in several games with the Panthers in 2024, and was a mainstay on special teams.

The Panthers also secured TE Gunnar Oakes, the local out of Eastern Michigan University. Oakes was primarily behind Cole Hikutini this year, but he did record three receptions for 35 yards, and was utilized in every game this season.

Finally, the Panthers added OT Chim Okorafor to the roster, who played in eight games – starting the final four for Michigan. Every player mentioned for the Panthers were pieces that contributed to their playoff run.

Other Notable Signings

DT Jeffery Johnson signed with the Houston Gamblers late last season, and made the transition to the Houston Roughnecks under Coach C.J. Johnson. He was active in six games in 2024, totaling eight tackles.

The Memphis Showboats had signed DB Nehemiah Shelton back in 2023, and he saw a bit of action down the stretch of that season. After spending time with the New York Jets, Shelton returned to Memphis. He played in a few games for the Showboats in 2024, compiling six tackles.

XFL Rookie Draft

After the XFL completed their 2023 season, they held a rookie draft back in June. It followed a similar format to the USFL’s, and proved to be quite valuable to the teams that made their way into the UFL.

Arlington Renegades

Starting with the Arlington Renegades, they signed two of their picks in WR Sy Barnett, and LB Jordan Wright. While both were cut during Training Camp, the Renegades acquired QB Lindsey Scott Jr. – who was also a Rookie Draft pick.

However, Scott was a draft pick who originally was with the Houston Roughnecks under Wade Phillips. Scott signed a Letter Of Intent with Houston, but was scooped up by Arlington during the XFL Dispersal Draft.

Lindsey was stuck behind Luis Perez all year long, but was utilized from time to time in special packages. He threw for 48 yards and a touchdown in 2024, while adding 72 yards and two scores on the ground. It’s worth noting that the Pittsburgh Maulers had drafted him in the USFL College Draft as well.

Arlington also snagged OL Marcus Minor, who was another rookie draft selection by the Houston Roughnecks. He started in nine games for the Renegades in 2024, not allowing a single sack all year.

DC Defenders

The DC Defenders saw tremendous success with their Rookie Draft. This season they were able to bring in WR Ty Scott, LB Mohamed (Momo) Sanogo, and Punter Paxton Brooks. All three were fantastic additions to the team. Brooks earned a starting role replacing Daniel Whelan (who went to the NFL).

Meanwhile, Ty Scott ended up leading the Defenders in receiving yards (418), while posting three touchdowns. Scott was one of the UFL’s most clutch wide outs this year, consistently showing up for DC in big moments.

Sanogo was an impact player defensively, and one who worked his way into a starting role this year. He finished the 2024 season with 28 tackles, and had a solid 79.7 Defensive Grade via PFF.

St. Louis Battlehawks

This year, the Battlehawks acquired eight of their Rookie Draft picks. While all of them didn’t make it past Training Camp, it’s impressive that they were able to attract so many to the roster at some point.

DB Nico Bolden was a fascinating story this year. He was originally let go during the final set of cutdowns, but made his way back to the roster midway through the season. Bolden immediately made an impact, blocking a punt in their week five win against the DC Defenders. Nico posted 11 tackles in 2024, but was primarily used on special teams.

RB Kevon Latulas signed back to the team after Mataeo Durant went down with an injury. He didn’t record any carries this year, but did see some snaps on special teams with Bolden.

James Bostic, Johnny Buchanan, Jadrian Taylor, Darion Chafin, Anthony Witherstone and Kemore Gamble are all athletes who were with St. Louis in Training Camp as well. Buchanan was the only player not released, having been placed on injured reserve.

Final Thoughts

It’s become clear over the last couple of years that these Rookie Drafts can prove to be extremely valuable to spring football teams. Of course, no Head Coach or General Manager is going to expect that all their draftees sign within the first year. That said, the impact certain Rookie Draft picks have made the last two seasons changes the narrative a bit.

With the upcoming UFL Rookie Draft in July, it will be intriguing to see how every team approaches this event. Will more organizations go the route of the Michigan Panthers, who signed six of their 10 picks over the past year? Or, will they stick to drafting rights to players who aren’t expected to play in spring football for at least 2-3 years?

Another aspect to this is that we’ve seen the positive assets that younger players bring. These athletes are all hungry to prove to NFL teams that they made a mistake in not drafting them. Guys like Ty Scott made the most of their opportunity, and are likely on their way to an NFL Training Camp.

As more details on the UFL Rookie Draft make themselves known, stay tuned for updates on the way. What we know so far: the Memphis Showboats hold the first pick in every round, due to their week ten win over the Houston Roughnecks.

What are your thoughts on how these Rookie Drafts have impacted the UFL? Which players should these teams pursue in the next draft? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!