Attaching the term Inaugural Draft to the USFL seems strange, but every aspect of the USFL is brand new outside of the revived league name. That’s part of the uniqueness and fun of upstart leagues, and every single element is being crafted from the ground up.
The New Jersey Generals are led by head coach Mike Riley, who, when it comes to non-NFL pro leagues, is as decorated and experienced as they come. Riley has coached at college and the NFL level, but he has also coached in the CFL, WLAF, and the AAF. Riley has winning records in all three of those leagues, and he won two Grey Cup championships in Canada. As it pertains to alternative pro leagues, Riley is a five-star General.
Therefore, because of his extensive and successful background coaching in various levels and in building teams from ground zero. Mike Riley had a distinct advantage going into the USFL Draft against his other coaching counterparts in the league.
Let’s look at how Mike Riley did putting together his offense.
2022 USFL Draft: New Jersey Generals Offensive Draft Review
Round 1 (Quarterbacks), 4th overall selection: Ben Holmes, Tarleton State
Of the eight quarterbacks selected in round one of the USFL Draft. Except for maybe, the Philadelphia Stars selection of 2020 Spring League MVP Bryan Scott. The player with perhaps the least amount of notoriety and fanfare is former Division II standout Ben Holmes. Most football fans know very little about Holmes and his journey from Orchard Park High School in upstate New York to Community College and then to D2 ball in Texas at Tarleton State.
It’s difficult not to separate and single out the quarterbacks selected in round one from the rest of the USFL’s 35-round draft class. After all, the choices made in the opening round at QB will ultimately be the determining factor in each team’s success this season. The choice of the talented but inexperienced Ben Holmes by Mike Riley will make or break the Generals in 2022.
Once upon a time, Mike Riley identified and recruited a scrawny little-known high school quarterback out of California named Tom Brady. Riley moved heaven and earth to get Brady a scholarship to play at USC, but at the last second, the offer was pulled off the table by the university, Brady instead went on to Michigan, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Does Mike Riley see something special in Ben Holmes that others haven’t? The fact that Riley took Holmes fourth overall ahead of other more experienced and traditional options like Clayton Thorson, Alex McGough, Kyle Lauletta, Paxton Lynch, and Kyle Solter is very telling.
Mike Riley went the unconventional route with Ben Holmes, a player that is far from the conventional quarterback. Holmes is only 5’10, 200lbs; he’s a former high school WR turned QB, who then went back to playing receiver before eventually heading behind center again in college.
At college, the former Tarleton State Texans signal-caller, Ben Holmes, went 23-2 as a starting QB, the best mark in school history. Including an 11-1 record his senior season (2019), with 34 passing TDs and three interceptions. Holmes finished his career with the fifth-most passing yards (5,997), the most passing yards per game (262.3), and the second-most passing touchdowns (62) in the program’s history.
Despite his impressive run in college, albeit at a smaller school. Holmes has been overlooked since leaving school. The combination of where he played and his lack of prototypical size has certainly played a factor to this point.
Playing in Ben Holmes’s favor is that many overlooked quarterbacks from smaller schools have broken out and have had success when given a chance in alternative pro football leagues, like Northern Iowa’s Kurt Warner, for example. Could Ben Holmes defy the odds and be the next? Mike Riley is betting on him to step out from the shadows and into the spotlight as a star. Holmes will presumably get the chance when he leads the Generals on FOX and NBC in the USFL’s opening game of the season.
Round 12 (quarterbacks), Fifth overall selection: De’Andre Johnson, Texas Southern
Mike Riley doubled up on raw inexperienced signal-callers by selecting QB De’Andre Johnson in Round 12. With 4.3 timed speed, De’Andre Johnson is a genuine dual-threat signal-caller.
Johnson, who started his college career at FSU as the backup to Jameis Winston, saw his college career take a turn for the worse after an off-field incident resulted in his dismissal. The 6’1 205 signal-caller ended up back in the spotlight after transferring to East Mississippi Community College. While at EMCC, Johnson was one of the featured stars of “Last Chance U” on Netflix. Johnson transferred to Florida Atlantic University to play under HC Lane Kiffin after a standout undefeated season.
But health issues stemming from the discovery of a blood clot in his arm sidetracked Johnson’s chances of rising up the depth charts at FAU. He would then transfer to Texas Southern to finish out his college career. At TSU, Johnson completed 60.2% of his passes for 1,927 yards, ten touchdowns, and five interceptions. It wasn’t exactly the starring turn, De’Andre expected in college.
De’Andre Johnson’s athleticism can be a great asset to the Generals. And there’s no question that Mike Riley will find a way to get him on the field, even if he is not the starter. With San Antonio in the AAF, current Tennessee Titans quarterback Logan Woodside worked in a rotation with mobile quarterback Marquise Williams. It’s possible that we could see the same type of setup with New Jersey this coming season.
Overall QB Analysis
It’s quite likely that Mike Riley will draft another quarterback in the supplemental draft in March.
Quite frankly, Riley is taking a major risk at the position, and he would be best served, bringing in someone who has experience as insurance. USFL teams, because of their limited roster size of 38, will likely only dress two quarterbacks. But keeping an extra option on the practice squad will be a must.
Round 27 (running backs/fullbacks), Third overall selection: Mike Weber, Ohio State
Mike Weber, the former 7th-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, is finally going to get his chance to carry the load as a feature tailback with the New Jersey Generals. It’s something that has eluded him since he took over the reins from Ezekiel Eliott at Ohio State.
After redshirting with the Buckeyes in 2015, Weber took over as the starting running back in 2016. He led the team with 1,096 rushing yards on 182 carries (6.0-yard average) and nine rushing touchdowns in 13 starts. At the end of the season, he was named second-team in the conference.
A year later, a hamstring injury sidelined Weber and opened the door for current Ravens running back JK Dobbins to take over the starting job at Ohio State. Weber finished his sophomore campaign with 101 carries for 626 yards (6.2-yard average) and ten rushing touchdowns in a backup role.
As a junior, Weber was again the backup behind Dobbins while appearing in 13 games (2 starts). He registered 172 carries for 954 yards (5.5-yard average) and six touchdowns. Weber decided to declare for the draft at the end of the 2018 collegiate season.
Since that point, despite having good measurables, 5’10, 211, with 4.4 speed. Weber hasn’t been able to break through and get playing time in the NFL. He has been with four different teams in two NFL seasons, with three separate stints on the practice squad with the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Packers. The NY Giants most recently released him after suffering a hip injury last summer.
Still only 24 years old, Weber will have a chance in the USFL to make a name for himself.
Round 28 (running backs/fullbacks), Sixth overall selection: Trey Williams, Texas A&M
You just knew going into the USFL draft that there was bound to be a few reunions from previous league’s pasts. That’s exactly what’s happening with Mike Riley drafting his former San Antonio Commanders RB Trey Williams.
The 29-year-old Texas native Trey Williams is a well-traveled tailback. The New Jersey Generals will be his 13th roster stint in pro football since 2015. The two-sport star and five-star recruit who starred at Texas A&M has had a unique journey in the pros, and one that has seen him play in the NFL, CFL, AAF, XFL, and now the USFL.
For the Generals, not only does he have familiarity with the head coach. But Trey Williams brings a lot of experience to the locker room, and Williams can also bring value to special teams.
Overall RB Analysis:
Carrying only two running backs through a full ten game regular season is going to be a tricky proposition for USFL teams. The Generals have a nice tandem of youth and experience at RB with Weber and Williams. But the team will need to grab a third runner in next month’s supplemental draft.
Round 13 (Wide Receivers), Seventh overall selection: KaVontae Turpin, TCU
Ka’Vontae Turpin was a dynamic player in college at Texas Christian University. As a kick returner and wide receiver. He finished his career with 1,748 yards and 13 touchdowns receiving while adding 318 yards and two more scores on the ground. The 5’8 160lb 4.3 speedster Turpin truly shined on special teams as a kick returner; Turpin racked up 2,726 yards and four touchdowns during his career, earning all-conference honors.
Talent has never been an issue for Turpin. But his off-the-field problems have. Most notably, when he was kicked off of TCU for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. A case where Turpin pleaded guilty back in 2018.
Turpin has been trying to recover and repair his reputation from the incident ever since. He has played in TSL and most recently played pro football in Poland with the Wroclaw Panthers, where he racked up over 700 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in just five games.
In the USFL with the Generals, Turpin has a chance to be one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers.
Round 14 (wide receivers), Second overall selection: J’Mon Moore, Missouri
J’Mon Moore, the former fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2018, has been with four different NFL teams since starring at the University of Missouri. In his final two years with the Tigers, Moore scored 18 touchdowns averaged over 16 yards per catch while recording 127 receptions. It’s that type of production that caught the attention of NFL teams.
But ever since being drafted, Moore hasn’t been able to break through the glass ceiling to earn playing time. He has only played 12 games as a reserve, recording just two receptions. The 6’3 210lb pass-catcher wasn’t able to carve out a role for himself. But with the Generals, he could end up being their feature receiver, particularly in the red zone because of his favorable measurables.
Round 15 (wide receivers), Seventh overall selection: Darrius Shepherd, North Dakota State
Darrius Sheppard, a standout receiver at North Dakota State, who was a superstar on the FCS level, has been on five different NFL teams since 2019. The 5’11 186lb Missouri native, after spending a good chunk of his early NFL career with the Packers, spent this past 2021 season on four separate NFL rosters. Kansas City, Arizona, Minnesota, and most recently Pittsburgh. The Steelers cut him off their practice squad on January 3rd of this year.
Sheppard in college was a first-team all-conference player at NDSU as a wide receiver and kick returner. Most of his time in the pros has been spent returning kicks, and the Generals have several candidates for that role. But Sheppard could be positioned to contribute more on offense than he has in the NFL.
Round 16 (wide receivers), Second overall selection: Christopher Platt Jr., Baylor
The ultra-fast Christopher Platt, a track star who spent six years at Baylor, had an up and down campaign with the Bears. The two-sport star went through a myriad of injuries and coaching changes during his extended stay in college.
The receiver/returner Platt played in 57 career games, most in school history, making 37 starts. Because of his dynamic athleticism, Platt was a big play waiting to happen. Five of his 12 career TD catches were 70 or more yards. But inconsistency and circumstances beyond his control kept him from truly breaking out as a major star, despite showing great flashes.
With the Generals, the 5’11 170lb Platt can be useful, stretching the field deep, catching underneath passes, running the ball on gadget plays, and returning kicks. He will be a fascinating player to watch.
Round 17 (wide receivers), Seventh overall selection: Randy Satterfield, Lyon College
Randy Satterfield is a genuine late bloomer. The 6’3 Orange, New Jersey native, spent minimal time in college at two different programs. West Alabama and Cumberland University. Satterfield had resigned himself to moving on from playing football for two years before returning at Lyon College and breaking out as a one-year wonder on the NAIA level.
The then 24-year old Satterfield, in 2019, was named First-Team All-Sooner Athletic Conference, the Sooner Conference Newcomer of the Year, and was an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. He recorded 867 yards receiving on 47 receptions and scored 11 touchdowns.
As a result, Satterfield’s performance as a senior got him some notice, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders signed him in the CFL. He became the first player ever to sign a professional contract in his school’s history. Two years later, Satterfield was drafted to play pro football in the United States in the USFL.
Satterfield is as raw as they come. But his size might allow him to be a contributor to New Jersey. On a Generals team with a smaller receiving corps with three receivers 5’11 or under. Satterfield also has return ability, and he averaged 31 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt at Lyon College.
Overall WR Analysis:
The Generals have a unique group of receivers who all have versatility to contribute on special teams. It’s a key component in a league where many players could be tasked with serving multiple roles, due to the limited roster size. New Jersey has a lot of speed at receiver. Turpin and Platt could be game changers. Of the group, however, J’Mon Moore is the most polished all-around pass-catcher.
Round 34 (tight ends/h-backs), Eight overall selection: Braedon Bowman, South Alabama
Perhaps, it’s a sign of the times. But USFL teams weren’t on the clock selecting tight ends or H-Backs until the second to last round.
In league with legendary fullback Daryl ‘Moose’ Johnston as EVP of Football Ops, the funny thing is that the fullback position is also almost non-existent. And tight ends like Braedon Bowman might have to pull double duty as lead blockers in the backfield from time to time.
The 28-year-old South Alabama graduate, Bowman, is a well-traveled tight end who has been with four NFL teams and has played with Birmingham in the AAF. The 6’4 tight end had a limited body of work in college, standing out mostly as a blocker and on special teams after transferring from community college to SA. But his pro day caught the attention of scouts. Bowman at South Alabama’s Pro Day back in 2019 ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and performed 26 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
The impressive showing got Bowman on the radar and onto NFL teams’ rosters. Bowman will likely be a jack of all trades with the Generals, playing in motion, in the backfield, and at the line of scrimmage. While also helping lead the way on kick returns.
Round 34 (tight ends/halfbacks), Twelfth overall selection: Nicholas Truesdell, Cincinnati/Grand Rapids CC
The 31-year old Nick Truesdell has had quite the playing journey since his days in college. From the University of Cincinnati to Grand Rapids Community College to all points in between since turning pro. As a dominant indoor league player, also spending time with three different NFL teams and starring in the AAF and XFL as arguably one of the top pass-catching threats at tight end in both alt-leagues.
The 6’5 246lb TE has gotten opportunities because of his measurables. Truesdell has run in the 4.4 to 4.5 range in the past. Having coached in the AAF, Mike Riley is fully aware of Truesdell’s talents and capabilities.
Overall TE Analysis:
The argument can be made for the Generals adding another tweener type at TE/H-Back in March’s supplemental draft. But with only seven practice roster spots available. It’s possible that teams like New Jersey attempt to ride the season out with only two players at the position. Keeping Bowman and Truesdell healthy will be a crucial element. Particuarly Bowman who figures to assume several roles on game day.
Round 5 (offensive tackles), Sixth overall selection: Garrett McGhin, East Carolina
The 6’6 302lb, McGhin, undrafted out of ECU, has had four separate stints on NFL rosters since 2019. Mostly as a practice squad player. He has played two regular season games in the NFL. The 26-year old’s pro experience should aid him in the USFL with the Generals.
McGhin had an impeccable reputation at East Carolina because of his smarts and leadership qualities. He was a self-made player who transitioned from being a 250lb contributor on special teams to a full-time starter as a Pirate. He is also a freakish athlete. McGhin possesses a 425-pound bench press, a 635 squat, a 352 power clean, and runs the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds.
Round 6 (offensive tackles), Third overall selection: Calvin Ashley, Auburn
Calvin Ashley is one of the most fascinating players selected in the USFL draft.
Ashley came to Auburn as a five-star recruit and redshirted in 2017. He played in five games in 2018 before transferring to Florida Atlantic University and eventually Florida A&M. Despite being so highly ranked and gifted, Calvin Ashley never lived up to his billing in college.
He opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID-19 before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021 as an undrafted free agent.
Ashley spent just three months on the Bucs roster before leaving the team to deal with personal reasons and was waived but the Bucs.
The Generals will afford Ashley a great chance to showcase the athleticism and size (6-foot-7, 330-pounds) that made him a high-profile recruit. Calvin Ashley has the potential and talent to be one of the better offensive linemen in the USFL.
Round 7 (offensive tackles), Sixth overall selection: Terry Poole, San Diego State
OT Terry Poole is no stranger to playing in multiple pro football leagues, and he has experience as a former fourth-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks. But his best efforts and most significant playing time have come in the AAF with San Diego and in the XFL with the Houston Roughnecks.
Pro Football Focus rated Terry Poole as the third highest-graded offensive linemen in the XFL. The two players graded ahead of him in the league, OT Storm Norton and OG Michael Dunn, have both been in the NFL since 2020.
Poole had a brief stint in the CFL in 2021; he was a part of a significant trade that saw the Toronto Argonauts send star defensive back Alden Darby to Winnipeg for his services. But for whatever reason, Poole was unable to crack the Argos’ starting lineup. The Generals are adding a quality player whose best work came in pass protecting for XFL MVP PJ Walker in Houston.
Round 20 (centers), First overall selection: Jake Lacina, Augustana (S.D.)
The son of long-time NFL offensive linemen Corbin Lacina. Jake was a standout Division II All-American at Augustana College. He started 45 games at the university and followed in his father’s footsteps by signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2020.
The 6’4 300lb anchor won the 2019 Rimington Award Trophy winner as the nation’s top center. Jake Lacina was a team captain at Augustana. And with the Generals, he will have an opportunity to captain the offense this coming season.
Round 22 (guards), Fifth overall selection: Mike Brown, West Virginia
The 6’3 348lb Califonia native, Mike Brown, is a late bloomer. He did not start playing football until he attended Eastern Arizona Community College two years after finishing high school. After two seasons at Eastern Arizona, Brown transferred to WVU in 2018 and redshirted. He became a starter at left guard part-way through the 2019 season and started all ten games at right guard in 2020. He was named second-team All-Big 12 following the season.
Brown was a consensus All-Big 12 Conference second-team selection, blocking for the 15th ranked pass offense 27th ranked overall offense in FBS. He played in 11 games at left guard and started six as a redshirt junior in 2019…He did not allow a sack in 10 games, and the upside is evident.
The mammoth former Mountaineer signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2021, but he was unable to latch onto their roster. Brown certainly has the upside to develop into a force upfront, and the Generals will allow him to fine-tune his game.
Round 23 (guards), Fourth overall selection: Evan Heim, Minnesota State
Evan Heim is another D2 standout from the Generals draft class. The 6’4 305-pound linemen has experience playing guard and tackle.
In 2019, the Minnesota State Mavericks set school records for rushing yards (4,246) and rushing touchdowns (59) behind Heim’s guidance. Over his four-year college career, he started 43 games at left tackle and 11 at right tackle, and in his senior year, he was named First-Team All American in D2.
Heim signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent but didn’t make the final cut. With the likelihood of USFL teams dressing only seven linemen on game day, Heim’s versatility to play multiple positions will be an asset.
Overall OL Analysis:
Finding quality offensive linemen in an alternative pro football league is usually a very challenging task. The Generals did an excellent job of finding a promising young group with upside and some experience.
Calvin Ashley has a chance to be the best offensive linemen in the entire USFL. Players like McGhin and Poole bring solid experience to the equation. It’s extremely likely that New Jersey is not done adding linemen. There’s no chance, they go into the season with only 6 offensive linemen. So I’d expect another addition or two in next month’s supplemental draft.
Final New Jersey Generals Offense Draft Analysis
Mike Riley has put together a solid offense on paper. The team should be able to run the ball, pass protect and make big plays in the passing game—bonus points for selecting versatile players who can contribute to special teams. The Generals have several players like De’Andre Johnson, Kavontae Turpin, and Chris Platt, who can help bring creativity to play calling in different offensive packages.
Ultimately, the team’s success will come down to Riley’s choices at quarterback. It will be easy to root for Ben Holmes and DeAndre Johnson to succeed. But the uncertainty attached to them and the short amount of time to get everyone on the same page with what are essentially first-time starters on the pro level at QB could hold New Jersey back this season.
It will be interesting to see what New Jersey does in the supplemental draft on March 10th. The Generals would be best served to bring in someone who has more experience at quarterback.
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