The USFL held their 2023 Collegiate Draft in February, before season two kicked off. The original purpose of this draft was to acquire the rights to players who were likely to land in NFL camps, but could eventually fall to the USFL’s ranks.
However, this event turned out to provide multiple undrafted rookies with an opportunity throughout the 2023 season in the USFL, and some generated NFL interest because of it.
Let’s take a look at which draftees ended up playing in the USFL this year, and the impact they had with their respective organizations.
Levi Bell is the exact reason why the USFL collegiate draft exists. While he spent a few days with the Baltimore Ravens, Bell decided to sign with the Panthers on May 10th after his release from the NFL.
Levi turned out to be one of the top rookies in the entire league, displaying plenty of growth throughout the year. Bell played in six regular season games, making starts in four of them. He was the highest graded Panthers player in 2023, with an overall grade of 91.8.
The Michigan Panthers signing of USFL draft pick DL Levi Bell propelled him into being one of the best in the league.
Levi led the league in Pass-Rush Win % (24.6%) Highest Pressure Rates (20.8%) in the league (per PFF) while also having 4 sacks and 16 tackles in only 6 games. pic.twitter.com/r5FRc07nwj
Bell finished the 2023 USFL season with 16 tackles, and four sacks. His efforts earned him a preseason opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks, and he excelled. Bell is now on the Seahawks practice squad, after dominating the preseason as one of the top defensive rookies in the NFL.
WATCH: Seahawks DE Jordan Ferguson sacks QB Jaren Hall, followed up by a sack from DE Levi Bell.
Both Ferguson and Bell played in the #USFL this past season, impressing with the Michigan Panthers and Memphis Showboats.
Latham started in week five, against the Pittsburgh Maulers. In that game, he posted four total tackles and made an impact both defensively, and on special teams. He was ultimately released by the Panthers on May 17th, as the organization signed QB Brian Lewerke.
LB DaShaun White
Interestingly enough, DaShaun White was picked up by Michigan almost immediately after they released Latham.
White ended up playing in the final four games of the year, making six tackles for the Panthers. He was featured on special teams, and saw limited snaps on defense as well.
DaShaun White signed with the Buffalo Bills during the NFL preseason, but has since been released. Regardless, the USFL gave him a platform, and he took full advantage of it.
CJ saw some valuable minutes early on, playing in six games (making two starts). Turner finished the USFL season with three receptions for 44 yards, and was targeted nine times. CJ was one of the first Collegiate draft picks to sign with a USFL team.
OL Tre’Quan Dorsey
Tre’Quan Dorsey was a historical signing for the USFL. He was the first collegiate draft pick to sign with any USFL organization, joining the Maulers in late March.
The #USFL has officially signed one of their Collegiate drafted players. OL Tre'Quan Dorsey has signed with the @USFLMaulers, per @hammertime_web.
This is fantastic to see. For the first time in #USFL history, a Collegiate draft pick will be playing in the league!
Nehemiah Shelton joined the Memphis Showboats on May 23rd, making a late push on Carnell Lake’s defensive squad. Shelton was drafted in the seventh round, and ended up playing in three games for Memphis, making one start.
While Nehemiah didn’t see too much playing time in the USFL, he impressed enough to earn an opportunity with the New York Jets. After impressing in the preseason, Shelton has been signed to their practice squad.
Former Hula Bowl standout CB Nehemiah Shelton will be signing with the NY Jets practice squad #Jets@Hula_Bowl
De’Jahn Warren was signed by the New Jersey Generals late in the season, and did not see playing time for the team. However, he added depth to the team down the stretch, and is currently still on the roster.
Jermaine McDaniel was also brought in late to the Generals organization, signing on June 2nd. McDaniel did not appear in any regular season games for New Jersey, but remains with the team for the 2024 season.
The USFL Collegiate Draft is just more proof that spring football matters, and is becoming an integral piece of the professional football landscape. Athletes such as Levi Bell and Nehemiah Shelton may not have made their way to the NFL without the national platform the USFL provided them with.
As of right now, the USFL plans on hosting another collegiate draft in February of 2024; date to be determined.
#USFL Season 3 will follow a similar timeline to Season 2:
Aug: – NFL Training Camp Evaluations
Sep-Jan: – Agent Player Evaluations – NCAA Player Evaluations – College Bowl Game Evaluations
It’s also worth noting that draft picks are signing with their respective USFL teams in the offseason. The New Jersey Generals just recently put the pen to paper with RB Jalen Holston & DE Victor Jones.
Remember, the point of the USFL Collegiate Draft is to claim rights to players. Most of the athletes selected are not necessarily expected to join the USFL right away – but if they make their way to the league eventually, they will sign with the team who originally drafted them.
A full list of USFL Collegiate Draft athletes can be found here.
What are your thoughts on the USFL Collegiate Draft structure? Which prospects are you excited to see in next year’s draft? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!