Spring football is so close I can taste it. I love football and fantasy football and can assume if you are reading this then you do too! The USFL started its initial draft on February 22nd, 2022. Over the course of two days, the United States Football League completed its inaugural draft for the return of the USFL. In total, there were 280 selections over 35 rounds. All eight USFL teams rounded out their rosters on March 10th. The league held its 10-round supplemental draft. It consisted of 80 selections to fill up the final 3 roster spots and 7 practice squad spots for each USFL team. Last Thursday’s Supplemental Draft did not feature position-by-position rounds. This time, teams were allowed to select any player from the available player pool. These USFL Quarterback Rankings represent all the signal-callers taken in the entire draft.
Football: A Quarterback-Driven Game
Often, a team will only go as far as their quarterback can take them. Using the NFL as an example, I think executives have known this to be the case for a long time. Although, they have often fooled themselves into thinking they could challenge for a championship with an average quarterback. The importance of the quarterback no longer seems to be the worst kept secret in football. NFL executives continue to sprint to the bank and throw as much money as legally allowed at their quarterbacks. NFL teams in recent years appear to be embracing this approach and cutting bait with average quarterbacks sooner than in the past.
The short leashes appear to be a sign of a change in the times. Quarterbacks are drafted and given sometimes less than the 4 years on their rookie contract to prove they can bring the team a championship. If they fail to do so, they are shipped out of town. Not only do I expect a similar approach in the USFL, but if you can believe it, I expect quarterbacks to be even MORE important. This will likely be reflected in USFL fantasy leagues far and wide. As a result, the first round is more than likely to be a race to the best quarterback. USFL fantasy teams are only going to go as far as the quarterback you draft. Knowing which quarterback to target in the first round is going to be the key to a successful fantasy.
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Initial USFL Quarterback Rankings: Who will see playing time?
Let’s get right into it and break down the quarterbacks of the USFL and rank them accordingly. Rankings may change as we enter training camps. Also, as coaches adjust to their players and players become more familiar with their new offense. This is our first look and initial ranking.
1. Jordan Ta’amu (TB)
I love Jordan Ta’amu. This guy has got it all. A huge arm, an electric release and some wheels. You want accuracy? Check. You want a cannon? Check. If passing touchdowns weren’t enough for you Ta’amu is likely good for 450 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns this season. Those are the kind of numbers that win you a fantasy season even if you have a few hiccups along the way. There was a large majority that were stunned Ta’amu did not go first overall in the 2022 USFL draft. The Tampa Bay Bandits were absolutely thrilled Jordan Ta’amu fell into their lap with the second overall pick. Ta’amu first flashed his potential in 2018 for Ole Miss. That season, he racked up 3,918 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions for an incredibly strong senior season.
Jordan Ta’amu: The Electric Dual-Threat QB You Want to Target
Of course is a dual-threat QB and also finished with 342 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. He finished his career at Ole Miss with a total of 5,600 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Ta’amu has never seen extensive playing time in the NFL but has bounced around practice squads and pre-season rosters. If you are looking for a guy with a variety of extensive professional experience then Ta’amu is your guy. He went on to be the starting QB for the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL. Before the XFL’s season was cut short, Ta’amu threw for 1,050 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions, while rushing for 217 yards and one touchdown in five games.
Ta’amu is QB1 on what I believe will be the most prolific offense in the USFL this season. Todd Haley loves a vertical passing attack. He snatched up in incredible WR1 in Eli Rogers for Ta’amu to feed and consistently move the chains. I think Ta’amu will challenge for MVP of the league. Spring to your metaphorical podium to draft this guy.
2. Kyle Sloter (NO)
Sloter is not a bad consolation prize if you miss out on Ta’amu. An argument could be made that Kyle Sloter should not only be the first QB taken (if for some reason Ta’amu is not your cup of tea) but also the first overall player taken in USFL fantasy draft. Sloter has the build of a traditional big bodied athletic quarterback standing 6-5 and weighing at 218 pounds. As the full time starting quarterback his senior year at Northern Colorado he threw for 2,656 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 29 touchdowns set a new UNC division 1 single season program record.
Sloter is unique because he was not always a quarterback. In previous seasons, Sloter played all over the field but mainly as a starting slot receiver and even some special teams. His unique skillset and experience all over the football is incredibly exciting. He just oozes potential and untapped talent. I think Larry Fedora could be the key to an offensive juggernaut for the Breaker led by none other than, Kyle Sloter. Fedora was at the helm on the 2016 UNC Tarheels when a guy named Mitch Trubisky took college football by storm and put up 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and 308 rushing yards to go with 5 rushing touchdowns. Sloter is actually bigger and faster than Trubisky.
Sloter never quite stuck with an NFL team but flashed potential in the 2017 NFL preseason when he threw for 13 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions for the Denver Broncos. He led the league that preason with a passer rating of 125.4 There is a good chance Sloter puts on a clinic this USFL season. Enjoy the show.
3. Bryan Scott (Phil.)
Bryan Scott is an absolute gamer and decorated champion. He played his college ball at Occidental College in California from 2013-2016. Scott really started to perform up to his potential when he took the SCIAC by storm and was named the first-team all-conference quarterback, Occidental’s team MVP, Occidental’s team captain in the 2016 season and was also named SCIAC Player of the Year. In 2016, he also became the all-time passing yardage leader for both Occidental and the SCIAC finishing his career with 9073 pass yards, 77 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 33 career games.
The accolades didn’t stop there for Scott who would win the starting quarterback job for the Generals of the Spring Leage (TSL) in 2020, and go to lead the generals to an undefeated season and a championship. Scott would go on to be named the TSL MVP and the MVP of the Spring Leage Championship game in 2020. Bryan Scott is a fun guy to root for and would love to prove once again, that he should not be slept on. Could another MVP be in his future? It should be a fun USFL season to watch and find out and see if this USFL Quarterback Rankings pick hits.
4. Clayton Thorson (HOU)
If you like big-bodied imposing quarterbacks that just look the part and fit that traditional pocket passing mold, then you are going to love Clayton Thorson. Kevin Sumlin chose Thorson in the first round of the USL draft to lead what looks to be a traditional offense that predicates itself on pocket presence and precision passing. Thorson being the choice is not surprising given his extensive college experience. Thorson started 53 consecutive games as the quarterback at Northwestern which is the most ever for a Big Ten quarterback. He also happens to be tied with Coly McCoy for the most ever in all of the Power Five conferences. In four years as the starter Thorson amassed 35 wins, over 10,000 passing yards, 991 completions, and 61 passing touchdowns (all Northwestern records). He is known for being a smart guy and excellent decision maker. You can do worse than Clayston Thorson.
5. Alex McGough (BGHM)
The Stallions will be starting the season with a young dual threat quarterback under center. Alex McGough is a dual threat quarterback and Skip Holtz must be thrilled he gets to be the guy to utilizing his skillset. McGough has a strong arm and has no problem maneuvering out of the pocket to make throws on the run and fit the ball in tight windows. McGough spent four seasons as the starting quarterback for Florida International University. At the conclusion of his senior season at FIU in 2017, he held the schools records for completion percentage and passer rating in a season (65.3% and 142.8, respectively).
McGough has familiarity with a read option offense and will likely be asked to utilize his legs in the USFL. Though he may not be at the top of my QB board his versatility and raw talent make him and intriguing high upside option. I would not be shocked to see him climb up the USFL Quarterback Rankings as the season progresses.
6. Kyle Lauletta (PITT)
Kyle Lauletta was a stud as the starting quarterback for Richmond. He started for three years and set school records while throwing for 10,465 yards and 73 touchdowns. He was named the Senior Bowl MVP in 2018 when he threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Lauletta now looks to lead the Pittsburgh Maulers to the promise land of the USFL. Landing with Kirby Wilson must feel good for Lauletta who can rest easy knowing the Maulers will feature a prominent power running game and utilizing play action passes extensively. This should help take a lot of pressure of Lauletta who is still young (26 years old) with a lot of tread on those tires.
Lauletta was once a promising QB2 for the New York Giants after being selected in the 4th round of the 2018 NFL draft. He never saw extensive playing time in the NFL and fizzled out after bouncing around NFL practice squads. Kirby Wilson, and longtime NFL running backs coach, and Kyle Lauletta won’t have a hard time acclimating to each. Lauletta is familiar with a pro style NFL offense and after spending many years in the league, Wilson is sure to have a sophisticated NFL-style plan of attack in mind. The Maulers may end up having one of the most efficient offenses in the league. Lauletta may not end up putting up eye-popping numbers but will likely limit the turnover and negative plays. You can do better but could also do worse.
7. Ben Holmes (NJ)
This is where things start to get dicey. Yes, Ben Holmes was the fourth quarterback taken in the USFL draft and yes, he has talent. Holmes is an Orchard Park, New York native and played his DII college ball for Tarleton St. after a transfer from Nassau Community College. In two years as the starter for Tarleton St. He led the Texans to a 23-2 record and was electrifying his senior season when he passed for 3,338 yards and 34 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. Even with all of this collegiate success Holmes is very raw. The passing ability is obviously there and Holmes can rush if needed. He as a 500 yard rushing season under his belt, doing so for Tarleton in 2018.
Holmes does not have any experience in the NFL but has seen time in the IFL and the Spring League. Holmes might be the biggest boom or bust quarterback prospect in the USFL. I don’t even necessarily mean that as a knock on Holmes. Holmes will be sharing the QB room with a former teammate De’Andre Johnson. Draft Ben Holmes if you like to live dangerously.
8. Shea Patterson (Mich.)
Shea Patterson is the pride of the Michigan Wolverines and was drafted first overall to the Michigan Panthers. The USFL community was shocked that Patterson went ahead of players like Jordan Ta’amu but Patterson can’t help where he was drafted. He had a nice college career after transferring to Michigan and starting for two years. In those two years he amassed over 5,600 yards and 45 touchdowns to only 15 interceptions. He is an exceptional pocket passer and a great leader. He ended his career seventh on Michigan’s all-time passing yardage leaderboard, passing Tom Brady in the process. This is another situation where I am not convinced the starting quarterback has enough talent to completely stave off the other competition in the room.
The Panthers added one Paxton Lynch to the QB room later in the draft to serve as the backup quarterback to Patterson. It is possible the Panthers hedged their bets slightly by selecting Lynch knowing his NFL experience may serve him well if Patterson flames out and he is forced to take over. Patterson may be able to do just fine in the USFL but I just have a hard time buying his upside given his limited rushing ability. I recommend looking elsewhere to fill your QB spot.
9. Paxton Lynch (Mich.)
Paxton Lynch is currently slotted behind Shea Patterson as the QB2 of the Michigan Panthers. Even tough Lynch may not be lining up under center to start the season I think there is a very good chance he sees playing time during the 2022 USFL season. The Panther’s quarterback room just wreaks of a quarterback controversy waiting to happen. Paxton Lynch is a towering quarterback standing at 6 feet 7 inches tall. He is a former first round quarterback of the Denver Broncos who could just never quite figure out the NFL even though he very much looked the part. Lynch played for three years at Memphis where he threw for 8,863 yards and 59 touchdowns to 23 interceptions. He even managed to rush for 687 yards and rush for 17 touchdowns.
Lynch was always a raw prospect but displayed impressive athleticism. The Denver Broncos hoped that with the right coaching and environment they could harness Lynch’s 6-7 frame and mold him into an imposing superhuman quarterback and it just never materialized. Of all the quarterbacks not currently slated to start, Lynch is the most likely to see playing time first.
10. De’Andre Johnson (NJ)
Johnson is not the current starting QB for the NJ Generals but his path to playing time is much clearer than most of the backups currently in the USFL . De’Andre Johnson was selected with the 5th pick of the 12th round of the USFL Draft and will serve as the backup to Ben Holmes. Johnson was one of the starts of the second season of “Last Chance U” on Netflix and transferred to FAU to play under Lane Kiffin before the 2017 season. Johnson did not see much playing time in 2017 after a blood clot was discovered in his leg that robbed him of completing his 2017 season.
De’Andre Johnson has blazing speed and runs a 4.3u 40-yard ash and put his dazzling speed on display at FAU’s Pro Day in 2021. Alongside Ben Holmes, Johnson has experience playing for the Sea Lions of the Spring League wear he put up rather unimpressive numbers.
He has thus far had a record of inconsistency but pops off the screen when he gets hot. The generals are hoping to catch lighting in a bottle here and if you are looking to secure a backup QB on your fantasy team, make sure to look Johnson’s way.
USFL Quarterback Rankings 11-16: Holding a clipboard, but for how long?
11. Kenji Bahar (HOU)
12. J’Mar Davis-Smith (BGHM)
13. Case Cookus (Phil)
14. Josh Love (Pitt)
15. Brady White (TB)
16. Zach Smith (NO)
The rest of the QB crop in the USFL will likely be spending a lot of time on the sidelines. They will only see playing time when there is an emergency or a blowout. I would keep an eye on Kenji Bahar. I don’t foresee Clayton Thorson struggling early and Bahar taking over. If Thorson were to go down with an injury, Bahar has the skillset to seize the opportunity and maybe never give the job back. Bahar played well for Monmouth for five seasons. When Bahar was a redshirt senior, he went he blew up for 3,684 yards passing, 30 passing touchdowns and 4 rushing touchdowns. Bahar also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Brady White and Zach Smith of the Tamba Bay Bandits and New Orleans Breakers, respectively, round out the group and finish up our list. I do not see either of them seeing much of the football field this season as I expect Ta’amu and Sloter to not only have a stranglehold on the starting position but also lead the league in passing.
Make sure you check SGPN regularly for updates to the 2022 USFL rankings.