The inaugural USFL draft takes place this coming Tuesday night. The eight USFL teams will kick things off by fittingly selecting their quarterbacks first in Round 1. Night one of the league’s selection meetings will cap off with each team drafting their second Quarterback in Round 12.
16 USFL Quarterbacks
Although, the USFL has a follow-up ten-round supplemental draft in March, where presumably, new talent could arrive on the scene a month before the regular season starts. The quarterbacks selected on day one of the USFL’s positional draft will largely shape what the league looks like on the field and its perception of it.
Barring a team bypassing picking a QB in round 12 to use a compensatory selection at another position, a unique wrinkle, in the USFL’s snake draft, which is highly unlikely, the league’s top sixteen quarterbacks will be selected this Tuesday.
Because of each team’s limited roster size, 38 active players on game day and seven on their practice squads. Every USFL team will likely carry only two quarterbacks on their active roster. Presumably, all eight USFL teams will have their starter and top backup QB on their roster after Tuesday night. Barring some late arrivals to the league in March’s supplemental draft.
Finding quality quarterback play in any league is a challenging task. But surprisingly, spring pro football leagues in recent times have done a good job, for the most part, of identifying young signal-callers and creating opportunities for them to continue or launch their pro careers.
Case in point, the AAF and XFL have seven of their former quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters. It doesn’t sound like much to the naysayer, but because both leagues had shortened seasons and only 16 teams combined, that’s nearly half those leagues’ starting quarterbacks.
There’s John Wolford with the LA Rams, Logan Woodside (Titans), Garrett Gilbert (Washington), Josh Johnson (Ravens), PJ Walker (Panthers), Taylor Heinicke (Commanders), and Tyree Jackson (Eagles). The new USFL, an offspring of the Spring League, has quarterback Ryan Willis on the Chicago Bears roster and Brian Lewerke currently with the New York Giants.
Producing quality play from the quarterback position will be a make-or-break element for the USFL on the field. But who the league drafts next week at Quarterback could determine if they will draw in football fans to sample the USFL product in April.
The Semi-Known USFL Draft Class
A unique aspect of the USFL is that the league has decided not to publicize the players in their draft pool. Agencies and players have independently announced their entries into the draft on social media. And the die-hard followers of these alt leagues have been adding names and compiling their own lists—a workaround for diligent and dedicated football fans who want to know who could play this league.
It’s worth noting that the XFL in 2020, even though they released names of hundreds of draft-eligible players who worked out for the league months in advance. The XFL kept their assigned quarterbacks a secret until the league got closer to their player selection process. AFTER THE DRAFT, the XFL even added some names like Josh Johnson and Taylor Heinicke.
It’s hard not to compare what recent leagues have done in this space before. The USFL draft closely mirrors the XFL’s positional draft from 2019. Not a surprise, considering that USFL EVP of football ops, Daryl Johnston was a part of that process in the XFL with the Dallas Renegades.
Finding out who the USFL’s quarterbacks will be is a challenging endeavor. So putting together a plausible list of possibilities requires some imagination. Therefore, this list starts with confirmed names in the pool for the USFL Draft. And then quarterbacks who are not under contract with any other pro league.
There’s also an added element to the unknown because the USFL is targeting non-NFL draft-eligible players and college athletes in the transfer portal. Something that USFL president of football ops, Brian Woods, recently talked about openly. Woods says that the USFL will have up to 20 college players on their teams that are still a year away from draft eligibility. And that these players will be paid above the league’s average salary of 45k per season to play in the league.
There’s also recent scuttlebutt in football circles that the USFL has been targeting 2022 NFL draft hopefuls, basically, players who are projected to be undrafted, to forgo an NFL camp possibility and play and start in the USFL immediately.
The unknowns of where the USFL will land when it comes to the QB position creates an extra layer of intrigue and suspense going into the draft. So with that in mind, let’s get into the list of confirmed quarterbacks and then potential quarterback options in the USFL pool.
Before we do that, here is the current draft order for Round One, where teams will be selecting quarterbacks first on Tuesday evening.
Confirmed Quarterbacks In The USFL Draft Pool
You can’t have a spring pro football league without Luis Perez. He played in the AAF with the Birmingham Iron, then was an assigned quarterback of the LA Wildcats before being traded to New York and starring for the Guardians in the XFL. Last spring, Perez helped lead the Jousters to a championship game in the Spring League.
Because of his recent history, it would be intriguing to see Perez retake point in Birmingham, this time with the Stallions. Regardless of where he lands, because all the USFL teams will be playing in the same location, Perez will be playing games in Birmingham again.
There was a lot of hype attached to Luis Perez in the AAF, and his name was frequently linked to another alt-football league legend in Kurt Warner. Perez’s story of being a professional level bowler always overshadowed his accomplishments as a Harlon Hill Trophy winner and national champion MVP in Division II at Texas A&M-Commerce. In the AAF, Perez showed some signs of promise as a first-time starter in the pros with Birmingham but took a positive step forward in his progression with the XFL leading New York into playoff contention before the season was abruptly halted due to COVID.
Luis Perez will be an asset to any team in the USFL. Coaches will love him. Not only is he a hard worker and humble. But Perez is only 27 years old and still has upside, and he’s had tough luck in his development. Based on the confirmed list of names thus far, Perez is worthy of a first-round pick, in my opinion.
Bryan Scott is not a household name for mainstream football fans. But for many who have followed him since his playing days in Division III at Occidental College. The 6’2 220lb signal-caller has been a cult favorite of alt-league fans.
After becoming a career leader in several passing categories while at Occidental, Scott has had a unique journey in the pros as a fringe quarterback; he’s been on CFL rosters. He has made the rounds working out for NFL teams, but his best success has come in the Spring League. In 2018 and 2020, Scott was league MVP and helped guide the Generals to a league championship in the fall of 2020.
TSL finally gave the strong-armed Scott a shot to show his talents, and he delivered. Bryan has worked out for NFL teams like the Indianapolis Colts, but he hasn’t been afforded the opportunity of playing time that the Spring League provided him. Some of the USFL’s coaches have seen Scott’s talents firsthand. And it would not surprise me if Philly Stars coach Bart Andrus drafts him.
Chase Litton certainly looks the part. At 6’5 and 230lbs, he has the prototypical size of a pro-style pocket passer. And because of that, he’s gotten opportunities to latch onto teams in the pros. After starring at Marshall University, Litton curiously declared for the NFL draft after a junior season, which saw him throw for 3,115 yards and 25 touchdowns. Litton ultimately went undrafted. But because of his skill set as a strong-armed thrower, NFL teams initially showed interest in him. Between the 2018 and 2019 NFL seasons, Chase Litton spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars rosters. After being released off the Jags practice squad late in the 2019 NFL season. The XFL swooped in and allocated Litton to the Seattle Dragons. But Chase didn’t break through and was subsequently traded to the Tampa Bay Vipers, where he also struggled to make a strong enough impression. Tampa released him before the XFL season prematurely ended.
The 26-year-old Litton has the tools to get a shot in the USFL. But the likelihood is that he will need to earn playing time first. Something that, despite his favorable traits, he hasn’t been able to accomplish to this point.
Other confirmed names in the USFL QB draft pool
Garrett Fugate- Central Missouri State-CFL-XFL
DeAndre Johnson- Florida State-TSL
Ben Holmes- Tarleton State-TSL
David Moore- Central Michigan
Patrick O’Brien- Catawba- AAF-AFL-NAL
Montell Cozart-Boise State- CFL
A.J. Bush- Illinois
Aaron Ellis-St. Francis-Europe
The great thing about alternative pro football leagues is that it affords opportunities to players under the radar who have been overlooked. Many of the names above share that trait and they have all taken precipitous routes to continue their pro careers.
Players like DeAndre Johnson, Ben Holmes, David Moore, Garrett Fugate, Patrick O’Brien, Montell Cozart, Aaron Ellis, and Bobby Froehlich are all hoping to find a permanent home in the USFL.
Dual-threat quarterbacks like David Pindell and A.J. Bush have drawn interest from NFL teams in the past. Bush is a 6’4 passer, who is not exceedingly fast with only 4.8 speed, but he was an effective runner in college. He’s worked out for the Dallas Cowboys and has drawn Cam Newton comparisons based on his skillset and build. However, his up and down and well-traveled college career, where he played for four different universities, have kept him off the radar.
David Pindell has had NFL teams in the past look at him to change positions because of his elite athletic ability potentially. Back at UConn in 2018, Pindell, 6’0 205lbs, recorded the most rushing yards by a QB in single-season history with 1,139 yards. Pindell finished third in Huskies history when he left school in net yards gained in a season with 3,117. The Maryland native has a ton of untapped potential as a playmaker, and he could be an asset for any team because he can play multiple roles. It is an essential trait in a league like the USFL because of its limited roster size.
With all due respect, from a notoriety and name recognition standpoint. Some of these names will not move the needle in luring mainstream football fans. But that doesn’t mean that one or two or more can’t break out and find new life in the USFL.
Potential Quarterbacks In The USFL Draft Pool
Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. The chances are that Colin Kaepernick is not walking through the door and joining the United States Football League. If that were to happen, the league would create incredible buzz and garner significant attention. But with a base salary of 45k, with the possibility of making a maximum of 75k through camp and winning bonuses. The likelihood is that veteran quarterbacks who are multi-millionaires are not coming to play in the USFL.
The USFL could, in theory, sweeten the pot and bend their salary rules for certain quarterbacks. But from the sound of things, it appears that the USFL would prefer to do that for younger college players or NFL draft hopefuls.
In an ideal world, someone like Blake Bortles, who is under a futures deal with the New Orleans Saints, would come and rewrite the narrative attached to him in the USFL. But with that possibility off-limits. It would serve the USFL well to have some Blake Bortles’ types in their league. Simply to drum up interest and enthusiasm amongst football fans in April. The redemption story is also a strong play in alternate pro football leagues.
Here is a list of potential quarterbacks who could play in the USFL. Whether they would even entertain the possibility or join the league is another story. It’s fun to dream, though, right?
Still, only 26 years old, the Notre Dame standout and former second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns hasn’t panned out in the NFL.
As a rookie, DeShone Kizer started 15 games for the Browns in 2017; he struggled mightily, completing only 53 percent of his passes, throwing only 11 touchdowns. Kizer also led the NFL with 22 interceptions. Subsequently, Cleveland went 0-16 during Kizer’s rookie year.
The 6’4 235lb signal-caller hasn’t recovered since. DeShone ended up in Green Bay and played some limited snaps the following year. Before landing with the Raiders in 2019 and 2020 as a backup, and then finishing the 2021 season with the Titans. Tennessee released Kizer off their practice squad in late November.
Kizer can choose to wait for another NFL opportunity, and he could get another shot in a team’s camp next season. But the reality is that Kizer’s days as a starter in the NFL have been over for quite some time, barring some unforeseen circumstances.
The USFL presents DeShone Kizer with an opportunity for a rebirth. He would be pegged as an instant starter in the USFL and would have a chance to resurrect what was once a promising career. The USFL would do well convincing Kizer to take the plunge. And the league would get some added attention if DeShone was playing for them.
Brett Hundley is another young NFL veteran who is a free agent after his practice squad contract expired with the Indianapolis Colts. The chances are that the 28-year-old Hundley will get more opportunities for a back-end roster role this summer in the NFL.
But like, DeShone Kizer, his days as a potential starter are firmly behind him in the rear-view mirror. The 6’3 226lb QB out of UCLA was a fifth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2015. It took nearly three seasons for Hundley to see significant snaps in the NFL.
He started nine games in 2017 in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers. Replacing one of football’s all-time greats at the position was not an enviable task. And unfortunately for Hundley, it didn’t go well for him. Hundley had some bright moments, but they were fleeting, and his overall performance as a starter was uneven. He completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing twelve interceptions and just nine touchdowns.
Since his impromptu turn as a starter, Hundley has been a backup on three different teams in his last four NFL seasons. Seattle, Arizona, and Indy. Throwing only ten regular-season passes in that time frame. In the USFL, Hundley would get a legit opportunity to revitalize his career and lead an entire offense. Something that he will not see again in the NFL.
Once upon a time, former Denver Broncos’ first-round pick Paxton Lynch came close to passing on a roster spot with the NFL and signing with the XFL. So the possibility of playing spring pro football has already existed for the former Memphis standout.
The 6’7 28-year-old passer has had quite the fall since being drafted in 2016. He only started four games for Denver in two seasons and quickly fell out of favor. Lynch has a career passer rating of 76.7 in the NFL, throwing for 792 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions in just five games. Since his brief playing stint with the Broncos. Lynch has been on the rosters of the Seahawks and Steelers. He most recently made the journey up north and was a backup in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Lynch and his CFL team are parting ways. And the door is open for him to explore opportunities stateside.
Not only would Lynch bring name value to the USFL’s quarterback lot. But he might actually be highly motivated to succeed. The fact that he made the journey to play in Canada is quite telling. Lynch wants to get a chance to start, and he’s not going to get that anywhere else. He is still relatively young with a chip on his large shoulders. The USFL should come calling. If not for Tuesday’s draft, then for the supplemental draft in March.
The prized prince of Spring Pro Football. Jordan Ta’amu was a first-year rookie starting quarterback in the XFL after the Houston Texans let him go at final cuts. And he ended up being one of the brightest young stars in the league playing for the St. Louis BattleHawks.
Ta’amu’s starring turn in the XFL led to him being one of the very first players in the league signed by an NFL team. Jordan’s five-game sample in the XFL, where he led the league in completion percentage (72%), caught the attention of the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, in the two years since Jordan played in the XFL, he hasn’t seen the field since. Jordan has been a practice squad player. He’s had two stints with the Chiefs, two with the Detroit Lions, and just finished the 2021 NFL season by being a part of Washington and then Carolina’s practice squad.
The 24-year old 6’3 214lb Hawaiian native has played the equivalent of a Hollywood extra in the NFL. For example, teams like the Chiefs have used him to simulate opposing players like Lamar Jackson in practice.
And because there was no preseason in 2020 due to COVID and because Ta’amu wasn’t on an NFL roster last Summer. The ‘Throwin Samoan’ has seen no in-game action since the XFL and not even in preseason games. There’s no real tape on Jordan since he led the huddle in St. Louis.
The USFL can provide that for the former Ole Miss QB. Ta’amu would be the perfect fit on a team that incorporates run-pass options in their offense, and it’s something that he was excelling at in the XFL.
In the XFL, Jordan Ta’amu got a head start on current Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke, who famously backed him up in St.Louis. But Ta’amu was good enough to hold him off because of how well he played.
There’s still potential for Jordan Ta’amu to spread his wings and fly again as he did with the BattleHawks, and the USFL can make that happen for him.
For most casual football fans. Kyle Sloter is not a household name. But for those who have followed the AAF and XFL closely. Sloter has been a popular name on wishlists for a few years now.
The 6’5 220lb passer transferred to Northern Colorado from Southern Miss after being buried on the Eagles depth chart. Sloter transitioned to playing wide receiver. It took a while to get to UNC, but the Georgia native finally found his way back at Quarterback. Having played receiver gave him a new perspective on the QB position.
As a senior in college, Kyle Sloter had a breakout campaign in his only year as a starter. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,656 yards, scored 32 touchdowns, 29 through the air, and had ten interceptions. His 29 TD passes set a new school record. Not bad for the former high school QB, who was buried on the depth chart as a receiver the year before.
Sloter went out in style; he passed for 438 passing yards and six touchdowns against Cal-Poly in his final game. Despite his breakout campaign as a senior, Sloter wasn’t invited to the 2017 NFL combine. He did, however, impress scouts with his 4.6 speed and arm strength at his school’s pro day.
As a result, Sloter ended up as an undrafted free agent signing by Denver. He played exceptionally well in preseason action for the Broncos, throwing for 431 yards and three scores. But it wasn’t enough to land him a roster spot. However, the Minnesota Vikings took on the task of developing Sloter. They signed him to their practice squad initially in 2017, and between then and the summer of 2019, Sloter would spend time on and off the active roster of Minnesota. Before being released. The training camp and preseason star could never break through the glass ceiling.
Since then, Sloter has been with the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, and then finally back with the Vikings before he was waived this past January 3rd.
Seven different NFL stints with no career passes in the regular season to show for it. Leagues like the USFL were made for players like Kyle Sloter, and it’s a misstep by the league’s football brain trust if they haven’t targeted him.
Other Potential Quarterbacks for The USFL Draft
Chris Streveler, South Dakota,CFL/NFL
Luke Falk, Washington State, NFL/CFL
Quinton Flowers, USF, NFL/XFL/FCF
Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh, NFL
Cody Kessler, USC, NFL
Cardale Jones, Ohio State, NFL/XFL
Anthony Gordon, Washington State, NFL
Johnny Manziel, Texas A & M, Browns, AAF, FCF
Eric Dungey, Syracuse, NFL
Chris Streveler is arguably the most entertaining backup quarterback in pro football. In his two years in Canada, with the world champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Streveler, despite playing a limited starting role and mainly being featured as a change of pace quarterback, won over CFL fans with his dynamic running style and engaging personality. Streveler helped the Bombers win a championship in 2019 by being a co-leader in the CFL in rushing touchdowns.
The 6’1 2220lb freight train with legit 4.5 speed caught the attention of the NFL. He has spent the last two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens. Streveler even saw some action, starting one game for Arizona late in the 2020 season, throwing for 105 yards and a touchdown. Ironically enough, Sterveler started in a game against former AAF quarterback John Wolford with an NFL playoff spot on the line. Alt league quarterbacks collided.
Streveler is currently a free agent, and it’s unknown if he will head back north or stick around the states for another opportunity. But if a USFL team wants to add some personality and flair to the mix, Streveler could be a fun addition.
A few of the names listed have taken the plunge in alt-pro football leagues. Like Flowers, Jones, Manziel, and Dungey. Whether or not they are up for giving it, another go remains to be seen.
The natural connection would place Johnny Manziel with his former college and current Houston Gamblers coach, Kevin Sumlin.
Regardless of how polarizing he is, even in 2022, Manziel playing in the USFL would generate interest.
Ultimately, I don’t foresee Manziel in the USFL as a realistic possibility. And it’s also worth noting that USFL EVP Daryl Johnston was a vocal critic of Manziel’s when Moose was in the AAF and XFL, and Johnston said he didn’t have Manziel on his team’s radar at San Antonio or during his time at Dallas.
Another polarizing figure is young NFL veteran quarterback Nathan Peterman. It appears that the 27-year old’s time carrying a clipboard in the NFL could be over. But he does have experience and name value. Although, many would justifiably argue that those two traits are negatives for him and the USFL.
Former Washington State standout, Anthony Gordon, has been on three NFL teams in two seasons. Gordon was a late bloomer who transferred from City College in San Francisco to WSU.
In 2019, Gordon was named the starter and threw for 48 TDs, second-most in the nation behind Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, who went first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Only 24-years old, the 6’2 California native, has a ton of upside, and he needs seasoning, and the USFL can provide that.
Convincing a veteran like Cody Kessler to take a chance on an upstart league like the USFL might be challenging. Kessler, 28-years old, is a lot better Quarterback than people give him credit for. He was a highly touted recruit, had great numbers in college at USC, and has respectable stats as an NFL player. A career passer rating of 83.7. If the USFL is looking for an experienced and intelligent leader, you could do worse than Kessler.
Once upon a time, Luke Falk was a highly thought of prospect coming out of Washington State. The 6’4 gunslinger went from being a walk-on to a first-team All-Pac 12 player. Falk had prolific numbers in college, throwing 119 touchdowns in 42 collegiate starts. Falk also threw for 14,000 yards, completing 68 percent of his passes. It was good enough to put him on NFL teams’ radars and get him drafted in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans in the 2018 NFL draft.
Falk would miss the cut with Tennessee, but the Dolphins would claim him on their practice squad. But a wrist injury slowed his development, and a year later, he would end up on the Jets after being released. Falk would finally get his chance to play in relief duty on Monday Night Football against the Browns. Luke had a solid showing, completing 20 of 25 passes for 198 yards.
The positive showing earned Falk an extended look, and two NFL starts. But unfortunately, things went south quickly for him. Falk could only pull off 98 passing yards on 12 out of 22 completions with an interception as the Jets lost 30-14 to New England in his first start. A week later, things got worse. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Falk finished with 120 passing yards and two interceptions as the Jets lost 31-6. The failed audition cost Falk his job and took the luster out of what once seemed like a promising career.
Since then, Falk has had a tryout with the 49ers and was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL but never showed up. Will Falk get another shot and show up in the USFL?
Cardale Jones appears to have moved on from pro football. After a decent start, things didn’t go as expected for him with DC in the XFL.
By the same token, things didn’t quite work out for another highly touted XFL quarterback in Quinton Flowers. The South Florida standout felt that he got the short end of the stick while playing with the Tampa Bay Vipers. There’s no question that Flowers can be a dynamic talent in the right system. Perhaps, the USFL can provide a fairer opportunity.
Former Syracuse standout Eric Dungey was scheduled to play in TSL last spring, but he ended up signing with the Cincinnati Bengals before being released at final cuts last summer. NFL teams have experimented with moving the 6’4 230lb quarterback to other positions like a tight end. Since turning pro, Dungey has gone through a lot of personal adversity off the field. He lost his father, Tim, to cancer in 2020. On the field, despite being immensely talented and uniquely gifted, Dungey hasn’t found a position or home yet in pro football. Moose Johnston is familiar with Dungey; he was a part of the Dallas Renegades before leaving the team due to family reasons.
The X Factor In The USFL Draft
Has the USFL convinced 2022 NFL draft hopefuls or transfer portal quarterbacks to join their league? That’s the big unknown attached to the QBs in the United States Football League. To convince a college player who is still a year away from draft eligibility. It will not only take a free education, which the USFL is providing, but it will take more money and potentially assurances of starting in the league.
The USFL is attempting to sway projected undrafted quarterbacks in this year’s coming NFL class to play and start immediately in the league. But how realistic are the chances that someone like two-time HBCU college player of the year Aqeel Glass skips the NFL process to play in the USFL?
Perhaps, the league can convince a similar talent. Targeting overlooked smaller school stars and HBCU players is something that leagues like the USFL should capitalize on. So perhaps, the next diamond in the rough comes from one of those programs and becomes a star in the league, and it would make for a hell of a story.
Once upon a time, Jeff Fisher had a quarterback from Alcorn State help lead the Tennessee Titans to a Super Bowl. Perhaps Fisher’s first overall pick with the Michigan Panthers could end up having the same type of college playing background that the late great Steve McNair had.
The USFL would love to see what happened with Kenny Robinson in the XFL. The West Virginia safety left the transfer portal, played well with St. Louis, and then was drafted by the Carolina Panthers a month after the XFL season prematurely ended. A similar scenario in the USFL with a quarterback could lend great credibility and visibility to the league.
That’s precisely what the USFL needs from their quarterback group drafted this coming week. A collection of players that will help raise the awareness and the quality of their league. There’s an incomplete feeling to how the USFL has handled the lead-up to their draft. But if the league scores a touchdown with the QBs they draft, the drive leading up to it won’t matter.
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