With the UFL draft process starting tomorrow with phase 1 and 2 where teams will pick 42 of their own player then 20 from their leagues dead teams, I thought it would be the perfect time to see where teams that survived stand.
Today we will look at the 4 teams that made the cut for the USFL division, their needs, and some potential additions that can be made in the dispersal draft process. It’s important to note that since the league are starting with separate drafts, for this exercise I can only pick players from their league so St. Louis can’t get Corey Coleman and Birmingham can’t get Vic Beasley. Make sure to check out the XFL version of this article here.
USFL Player Allocation will commence on January 5th (Phase 1 – 2), with an open dispersal draft for remaining USFL/XFL players scheduled January 15th. pic.twitter.com/UPGsuVXxg1
The Stallions have had a dominant run in the USFL. A record of 21-3 and 2 championships is a historic run for a spring football team. With that kind of success, it’s no wonder that the NFL came knocking and the Stallions currently have 6 players in the league (QB Alex McGough, WR Austin Watkins, TE La’Michael Pettway, DL Khalil Davis, CB Matt Hankins, and K Brandon Aubrey). This would be a bigger issue if the Stallions haven’t had a special offseason with them adding tons of talented players including but not limited to QB Adrian Martinez, WR Victor Bolden, WR Amari Rodgers, T Alex Taylor, EDGE Carlo Kemp, Edge Curtis Weaver, S Kenny Robinson, and many more. This makes finding problem spots on this roster next to impossible but there are a few ways they can get even better.
The running back position wasn’t a weakness for Birmingham last year with CJ Marable having a great season and he is returning. The “weakness” is more due to the fact that they lost Alex McGough and may want a power back that can help for a more rushing attack approach like it was last time J’Mar Smith was the long-term starter. If Bo Scarbrough can come back from his season ending injury and return to his 2022 form, that might not be necessary but who knows where he’ll be at in the spring.
Darius Victor, New Jersey Generals
This almost seems unfair. Darius Victor has been a bowling ball of butcher knives in the first 2 seasons of the USFL. Victor has the modern record for most career rushing yards with 1,131 and that is being added to the already threatening backfield. This is one that I hope doesn’t happen cause it’s a scary thought for the other 7 UFL teams.
Once again, the Stallions have a need that isn’t that huge. The Stallions were able to get back their entire offensive line and were even able to add a few players with recent NFL experience with Alex Taylor, Christian DiLauro, and Zack Johnson but offensive line is one position where there is never enough. Adding another great player to that room isn’t necessary but it’s one of the few rooms on this stacked team that would benefit from one more guy.
Drew Himmelman, Philadelphia Stars
Himmelman was a late addition for the Stars in 2023 but he instantly was a stable reliable left tackle for the Stars. He is massive at 6’9 310 but has solid movement skills for someone that big because of his basketball background. What’s crazy is he might be a backup for Birmingham but Himmelman has the ability to be a plug and play blindside tackle for whoever gets their hands on him.
Corner is a similar position to offensive line in that you can never have too many. The Stallions have attacked free agency and picked up a few notable names including former Breaker Nevelle Clarke and NFL vet Chris Jackson but there can be more. They also could soon lose their top corner for their first 2 seasons in Brian Allen who turned 30 this year although that might not be this season.
DJ Daniel, New Jersey Generals
Daniel had a great 2023 season after stepping in for De’vante Bausby and Dejuan Neal who both jumped to the XFL. Daniel finished the season with 3 INTs which was good for 2nd in the league and was highly graded with a PFF grade of 75 on the season. He’d be a great addition to any team left including a Stallions team with a solid corner room currently.
The Houston Roughnecks played last season as the Houston Gamblers but they weren’t feeling lucky with a mediocre 5-5 record and missing the playoffs. They were headline by all-USFL back Mark Thompson who spent 2 months as a free agent before re-signing right before the deadline late last month. They only lost one player to the NFL in tight end Josh Peterson but added some big names in 2022 defensive player of the year Chris Odom and QB Jarrett Guarantano to the mix. They have big shoes to fill with the old Roughnecks combining for a 12-3 record but with a few more additions it could happen.
The guard position for the Roughnecks is one that lacks bodies. They only have 6 total linemen rostered and 3 of those are guards. Their previous starting guards are currently free agents in Braylon Jones and Tyler Higby and they added 2 in Jakari Robinson and Justin Redd but more can be done at this position.
Shamarious Gilmore, Philadelphia Stars
Gilmore was a rock at guard for the Stars in 2023. Gilmore scored a 74.5 total grade from PFF which was one of the best in the USFL last season. He also was great in pass pro, scoring a 75+ grade in that category 8 out of 10 weeks. Gilmore who be an instant starter for the Roughnecks that are light at that position.
In 2023, the Gamblers defensive line was the best in the league at stopping the run but struggled with only 19 sacks in 10 games with most of that production coming from the edge rushers. With the offensive lines only getting better with the condensing of talent, the Gamblers turned Roughnecks could use some extra juice to the room.
Keonte Schad, New Orleans Breakers
Schad is the perfect addition to that room to add juice. Schad had the 2nd most sack at 7.5 in 2023. Schad came out of nowhere after getting cut by the Orlando Guardians. Schad has a real chance to make an NFL push if he can have another excellent spring football season in Houston or otherwise.
The secondary for the Roughnecks is mostly intact from 2023 with the exception of starter Andrew Soroh who was cut earlier in the offseason. With the great Manny Bunch still rostered, the room isn’t bereft of talent but another key addition could help make that secondary even better.
Paris Ford, New Jersey Generals
With the addition of Paris Ford, Houston can put the Rough in Roughnecks. Ford has been a hard-hitting safety for 2 seasons for the Generals and was able to become a full-time starter for them during the 2023 season. Getting an enforcer to join this room is another piece that could help the Roughnecks compete in the USFL.
The Memphis Showboats were able to compete for a playoff spot despite starting their season off 0-3 finishing 5-5. They look to carry that upward trajectory into 2024 but they’ll be doing it with a new coach as Todd Haley is stepping away and former Breakers Coach John DeFilippo will take over. They are one of the few teams that had no one stick in the NFL but they still looked to improve with the addition of LB Dylan Moses and bringing back T Darrin Paulo after a season long stint with the Lions.
The Boats had a turbulent rushing attack in 2023, finishing in the bottom half of the USFL in yards per game. They have 2 backs left from last season with Kerrith Whyte who was their leading rusher and Ezra Gray who looked good but only had 17 carries all season. To be able to compete in the UFL, getting a true difference maker in the backfield is a must.
Wes Hills, New Orleans Breakers
In comes Wes Hills. Hills can re-unite with coach Flip and they can pick up where they left off in 2023 where Hills was an All-USFL running back and set the record for most rushing yards in a season in modern USFL history. This is an easy decision that will help the Boats finally get a real run game which knew materialized for their first two seasons under Todd Haley.
Cornerback is important when dealing with pass happy teams such as the Brahmas or the Battlehawks. The Showboats had a solid room in 2023 but they lost starter Jermaine Kelly who is currently a free agent and lacks depth with only 3 true corners on their roster. They have the talent upfront, but the backend can use some work.
Adonis Alexander is the second player that I’m stealing from the Breakers for the Flip connections. Alexander has been the top corner for the breakers for 2 seasons and has the ability to play some safety. He also was the highest graded player on the Breakers in 2023 with an 80.2 overall grade. He’d be an instant impact player and adds flexibility to a secondary that can a lot of players that move around.
The safety position in Memphis was solid in 2023. They were headlined by Troy Warner but had other players there that played significant reps in Antonio Reed and Stephen Griffin but those two are not there anymore. Weirdly enough, Reed signed with the Generals so he is a part of this dispersal process too, but another General is the one I want in New Orleans.
Shalom Luani, New Jersey Generals
Luani has been a stud for the Generals in both seasons they’ve played. He was All-USFL in 2022 by getting 5 INTs that year. The safety position has a lot of great players available in this draft (wanted to add Bryce Torneden in one of these but didn’t find a spot) and Luani is one of the best in that group.
The Panthers were able to sneak into the playoffs in 2023 with a 4-6 record under new head coach Mike Nolan. They were able to give the Maulers everything they had and only lost in OT. In 2024, The Panthers need to keep improving to get a real shot at competing in the USFL division. They lost QB EJ Perry, WR Kaden Davis, WR DJ Montgomery, Edge Levi Bell, and CB Josh Butler to the NFL but they have gotten some pieces in free agency with the addition of QB Danny Etling, RB Nate McCrary, DL Daniel Wise and the return of TJ Carter from the 2022 Panthers.
In 2023, The Panthers struggled to find consistency at the QB position with Carson Strong and Josh Love splitting time early in the season before finding gold in EJ Perry who had one of the better performances of the season in the playoffs vs. Pittsburgh. Perry re-signed with the Panthers but was almost immediately picked up by the Jaguars which leaves his status TBD. They added long time journeyman Danny Etling but that doesn’t mean I think the room is finished.
Case Cookus, Philadelphia Stars
Case Cookus was one of the best quarterbacks in the USFL in the past two seasons. Cookus tried to single handedly take a team destroyed with injuries to the playoffs but wasn’t able to pull it off. Weirdly enough, Cookus is already familiar with Michigan having played their last season since it was their hub city. Seeing Cookus in a place like Michigan that has greatly invested in their offensive line could mean that we see an even better Cookus in Michigan this season.
The receiver room was very solid in 2023 with 3 guys getting NFL opportunities but that means those 3 and Joe Walker who left in free agency leaves that cupboard bare. The room currently has mostly unproven quantities in guys like Samson Nacua and Marcus Simms who haven’t been starters in spring football. It’s a room that could use a refresh.
Jonathan Adams, New Orleans Breakers
Jonathan Adams is the perfect X wide receiver. He has been the top receiver target in New Orleans for 2 seasons and he can make 50-50 balls in to 70-30. With a room depleted, Adams is the perfect center piece that an offensive attack can be built around. If he doesn’t end up following Coach Flip to Memphis, this would be a great landing spot.
Linebacker was a position of strength for the 2023 Michigan Panthers. This is due to having DPOY Frank Ginda who led the league in tackles and had 3 INTs and a sack on top of that. Unfortunately, Ginda is currently on the Falcons practice squad and his future is unknown. They added Isaac Darkangelo to the room, but more can be done.
Rueben Foster, Pittsburgh Maulers
Rueben Foster was one of the most hyped spring players in a while and he was able to live up to the hype being a part of the top defense in the USFL last year for the Pittsburgh Maulers. Foster had modest stats as his running mate Kyahva Tezino ate those up, but he still played well with a 90.5 PFF grade. Foster still showed the talent that made him a first round pick for the 49ers years ago and he could help this Panthers team compete in a tough division.
Who do you think the USFL teams should pick up in the UFL Dispersal Draft? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!