Back in 1983 the USFL began play with 12 founding teams and then added six more in 1984. Spring football was here but would it be here to stay? The answer to that question came quickly as the league lasted only three years. Even though the teams were in the top media markets across America, and contracts with ESPN and ABC were signed to televise the games, it could not save it from its demise. The move in 1984 to Fall football was supposed to have the league compete with the NFL, maybe even merge with it. But that would not happen and the USFL would file their famous anti-trust lawsuit, which they won. The problem was they won $3 and that was the beginning of the end.
Fast forward 37 years and the June 3rd, 2021 announcement that the league would return in the Spring of 2022. They will begin play with eight teams:
- Birmingham Stallions
- Houston Gamblers
- Michigan Panthers
- New Jersey Generals
- New Orleans Breakers
- Philadelphia Stars
- Pittsburgh Maulers
- Tampa Bay Bandits
All the teams will play in Birmingham Al. at Protective Stadium and Legion Field for the inaugural return season. The first game between the Generals and the Stallions will be shown on NBC and Fox on April 16 at 7:30 pm ET.
There will be two divisions and the top two teams in each division will play in the semifinals. The winners will then meet for the championship. The playoffs will be played at Tom Benson Stadium, home of the Hall of Fame game.
But before the games begin there needed to be a draft that was done differently than we are used to. A total of 280 players would be drafted over two days.
Day 1 would be done by position starting with the quarterbacks. Rounds 2-4 would see edge rushers and defensive ends chosen. Rounds 5-7 you got offensive tackles followed by cornerbacks in rounds 8-11. Then, the draft would finish up with more quarterbacks in Round 12.
Day 2 would see the following format:
- Rounds 13-17: Wide receivers
- Rounds 18-19: Safeties
- Round 20: Centers
- Round 21: Inside linebackers
- Rounds 22-23: Offensive guards
- Rounds 24-26: Defensive tackles and nose tackles
- Rounds 27-28: Running backs and fullbacks
- Rounds 29-31: Outside linebackers
- Round 32: Kickers
- Round 33: Punters
- Round 34: Tight ends/H-backs
- Round 35: Long snappers
The league will also hold a supplemental draft on March 10th to round out the rosters of 45 players per team. They will have 38 on the active roster and the other seven will make up the practice squad.
So with all that said, let’s take a look at the 2022 USFL Draft:
#1 overall: The Michigan Panthers selected Shea Patterson who played at Miss. and Michigan. His college career saw him throw for almost 9,000 yards with 68 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He was signed by the Chiefs and spent time in the CFL. He has a quick release and has the arm strength to get the ball downfield. He has the ability to throw on the move with some accuracy and will use his feet effectively scrambling out of the pocket. The Panthers are very high on him and the chance he gives the team to compete.
— Michigan Panthers (@USFLPanthers) February 23, 2022
#2- The Bandits of Tampa Bay picked former Houston Texan and XFL St. Louis Battle QB, Jordan Ta’amu. He played two seasons at Ole Miss and garnered a lot of hype there. After showing some skills in St. Louis, the Chiefs gave him another shot at the NFL. He also spent time in Detroit, Washington, and Carolina. He has the size and athleticism to be effective in the USFL. It will interesting to see how he utilizes his speed against defenses in the league.
— Tampa Bay Bandits (@USFLBandits) February 23, 2022
An intriguing pick was made at #5 by the Houston Gamblers when they chose Clayton Thorson from Northwestern. He threw for over 10,000 yards in college and faired very well against good competition. Scouts say he has the best frame for any quarterback in this draft (6-4 200 pounds). He will need to work some more on his awkward delivery. He has the speed to be able to get by defenders when scrambling out of the pocket. He did some time with the Cowboys and Giants in the NFL and we will see if he got anything from that time there.
In round 2 the Bandits added edge rusher, Mekhi Brown, out of Tennesee State via Alabama. At 6-5, 240 pounds Brown will see if he still has that great speed off the edge. He showed that he had the tools to be effective out of college and could be explosive in the USFL if he works hard. His length has always been unquestioned and he will try to use that to get around blocks. It will be interesting to see how effective he can be against the run.
The Stallions got themselves a good pick in round 2 when they drafted Aaron Adeoye out of SE Missouri St. Now granted, he played basketball for most of his time there but in his senior year showed much promise. That got him a chance to play in the indoor Arena league for the Birmingham Iron and then he got a shot in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens and NY Jets. He has a long way to go but has so much upside in him. At 6-6, 250 pounds he has the size and length to play effectively in the USFL.
The Pittsburgh Maulers look to have gotten one of the best picks in the draft in round 5 when they chose Chidi Okeke, OT, out of LSU and Tennessee St. He is considered one of the best, if not the best blocker in this draft. The catch with him is he did not start to play organized football until 2013. So he is still raw but shows a lot of promise. He needs a lot of work but shows strength and was not bad in pass protection.
The NJ Generals may have hit is big in the backfield with the picks of former Ohio State back Mike Weber and former Texas A&M back Trey Williams. Williams was a part of that deep backfield for the Seattle Dragons of the XFL and Weber ran for 2,772 yards and 24 touchdowns in his three years with the Buckeyes.
The New Orleans Breakers got it right with one of the best secondaries in this draft. Their first two picks were former Virginia Tech corner Adonis Alexander and former Ole Miss corner Derrick Jones giving them experience. Both played in regular-season games in the NFL and they will help the Breakers showcase what could be one of the best pass defenses in the league.
There were many more interesting picks and teams will have their work cut out for them for sure. What is so important is the ability of coaches to get the best out of these players. The last time the USFL tried this they came up short.
In order for this to work this time, the talent of these players will have to show. A good product and a good show will go a long way to keeping this league solvent. But one thing is for sure. The USFL is back and as any league getting started, they hope this time they are here to stay.
NGSC Sports will keep on top of the action all season long and bring you all the games and news from the league.