The time is almost here! The start of the USFL season is 19 days away. After a 35-round draft followed by a 10-round supplemental draft, the teams are filled. And the players are reporting to training camp and beginning to work with their teammates. While we still don’t know what the teams will look like on the field, we know exactly how they look on paper. For the USFL preseason power rankings, I polled analysts and fans alike to get their opinions. And of course, then I added my own rankings in, averaged them all, and the results are below!
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USFL PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
8. Michigan Panthers
Highest Ranking: 6
Lowest Ranking: 8
It may be a surprise to see the Michigan Panthers at the bottom of the USFL preseason power rankings. However, they just didn’t do enough in the draft to convince any of us. While they are led by former NFL coach Jeff Fisher, everybody was surprised to see them take Shea Patterson with the number one overall pick. They paired him with Paxton Lynch to create a quarterback competition, but was it enough to create success on the field? While Stevie Scott could make an impact at running back, he came in at 8th on our running back rankings. And while some of the analysts are high on Quincy Adeboyejo, the wide receiver room doesn’t exactly inspire confidence even if they had the best quarterback throwing to them.
The defensive side of the ball looks slightly better than the offensive side, but not enough to move them up above anybody on the USFL preseason power rankings. Jaquan Bailey had a successful career at defensive tackle for Iowa State. The cornerbacks selected, including Tin Ellis and Jameson Houston bring a little bit of speed and a little bit of experience. Still, making splashy selections like Chase Demoor were questionable. Unfortunately for Demoor, more people know him for his reality TV experience than his on-the-field experience. Jeff Fisher will undoubtedly have his hands full if he wants to lead this team to a championship and it will all start with whichever quarterback starts. The question remains, do Shea Patterson or Paxton Lynch have enough to lead this team?
7. Houston Gamblers
Highest Ranking: 5
Lowest Ranking: 8
While the Houston Gamblers aren’t at the bottom of the list, they find themselves close to it at the seventh spot in the USFL preseason power rankings. The Gamblers’ draft seemed to be a little hit and miss on both sides of the ball. While Clayton Thorson was a winner at Northwestern, he wasn’t exactly surrounded by the most talented pass-catching corp aside from Brandon Barnes, who has had some success in the XFL. And while I think Dalyn Dawkins and Mark Thompson are both talented running backs it may be supplemental draft pick Devwah Whaley that out-performs both of them.
On the defensive side, the defensive backfield may be quick, but they don’t have a ton of height for covering the tall receivers that were drafted by other teams. Cornerback Jamar Summers did have some success in the XFL, however, the others will need to step up and learn quickly and hope that they can jump high enough to stop the 50-50 balls thrown in the end zone. Linebacker Azeem Victor stands out as a solid defensive pickup after a solid career for Washington. Coach Sumlin will hope at least one or two players will emerge as leaders on their respective sides of the ball as they aren’t exactly packed with experience. The lack of experience is why they find themselves close to the bottom of the USFL preseason power rankings.
6. New Orleans Breakers
Highest Ranking: 2
Lowest Ranking: 7
While the New Orleans Breakers had a ranking as high as two by one analyst, several others had them at seven. The result is Larry Fedora and the Breakers ending at number six on our USFL preseason power rankings. The majority of ranking the Breakers surrounds your faith in Kyle Sloter and his ability to have success on the field. Sloter had several opportunities in the NFL but didn’t get to stick around long. Now he’ll get an opportunity to succeed on a professional level again. He’ll do so with speedy receiver Johnnie Dixon and tall red zone target receiver Shawn Poindexter. The Breakers also have speed in the backfield with pass-catching running back Larry Rose, however, that wasn’t enough to move him any higher than the 10th ranked running back on our running back’s list.
The Breakers will need to lean on the defensive side of the ball for success. Cornerback Adonis Alexander may be the only cornerback in the league that can compete with the 6-5 and 6-6 receivers that appear on most teams. Former Georgia defensive end David Bellamy will likely be a leader on this defense. Bellamy is 6-5, 295 pounds, and will overpower a lot of offensive linemen. The biggest question surrounding the Breakers is if their offense will do enough to help the defense out and if Kyle Sloter is ready to lead the team. Until they prove their success on the field, they’ll stay in the bottom half of the USFL preseason power rankings.
5. Birmingham Stallions
Highest Ranking: 4
Lowest Ranking: 6
The Birmingham Stallions find themselves at number six on the USFL preseason rankings. Coach Skip Holtz added some solid pieces in the draft and supplemental draft. Their first-round quarterback Alex McGough will get the first shot at leading the team to victories. He’ll have plenty of weapons to throw to with speedy wide receivers like Victor Bolden Jr. and Peyton Ramzy. Bolden spent some time as a kick returner for the 49ers and Ramzy’s footage shows how fast his feet are, changing directions with ease. McGough also has a tall target to throw to in 6-5 Osirus Mitchell. They continued adding talented pass catchers in the supplemental draft with wide receiver Marlon Williams and tight end Sage Surratt. Surratt had over 1,000 receiving yards for Wake Forest in only 9 games.
As talented as the wide receivers are, the Stallions may also have one of the best backfields in the league featuring Tony Brooks-James, CJ Marable, and Jordan Chunn. All three of these running backs have had some experience at the professional level and bring different skill sets that will help the Stallions succeed. The Stallions added some nice pieces on the defense as well, including fan-favorite, linebacker Scooby Wright. Wright has played in both the NFL and XFL and will be a good leader for the team. They also have a strong pair of defensive ends in Jonathan Newson and Aaron Adoeye that will look to pressure the quarterback often. Last but not least, they added safety, JoJo Tillery. Many thought Tillery was going to go in the initial draft. But, the Stallions get a steal, selecting him in the supplemental draft.
4. New Jersey Generals
Highest Ranking: 3
Lowest Ranking: 6
The first team to crack the top half of the USFL preseason power rankings are the New Jersey Generals. Mike Riley technically has two talented quarterbacks to choose from in Ben Holmes and De’Andre Johnson. They will throw to some talented pass-catchers. KaVontae Turpin landed at number five on our wide receiver rankings article. He will look to put a troubled past behind him and showcase the talent everybody saw at TCU. Alonzo Moore, J’Mon Moore, and Darrius Shephard should also get plenty of opportunities to succeed in the passing game. The Generals also have tight end Nick Truesdell, who stands 6-7 and has 11 years of professional football experience. When they aren’t throwing the ball, the Generals can also lean on a talented running group in Mike Weber, Trey Williams, and Darius Victor. XFL fans know and love Victor, and Weber was very successful at Ohio State.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Generals added a defensive backfield with NFL experience. Cornerbacks De’Vante Bausby, Trae Elston, and safety Shalom Luani have all had in-game experience at the NFL level. This will help them be ready to succeed on the field in the USFL. The Generals added to their defensive players in the first four picks in the supplemental draft, showing a desire to continue to add competition and players to make them better. Their middle linebacker Chris Orr had four years starting experience at Wisconsin and will help lead the defense. They also have defensive lineman Toby Johnson, who has experience playing in the NFL as well. All this experience helps the Generals creep into the top half of the USFL preseason power rankings with the ability to keep moving on up.
3. Pittsburgh Maulers
Highest Ranking: 2
Lowest Ranking: 6
It may be a surprise to see the Pittsburgh Maulers this high on the USFL preseason power rankings. But Kirby Wilson may be ready to surprise the entire league. While Kyle Lauletta never gained much traction in the NFL, hey may not be asked to do much. The strength of the offense, however, will be Wilson’s specialty, the run game. The Maulers arguably have the best backfield in the league with De’Veon Smith and Garret Groshek. Both Smith and Groshek had success in college and will be behind one of the better offensive lines in the league. The Maulers and Wilson continued to add to their run game in the supplemental draft. They took a true fullback Winston Dimel. Lauletta does have some pass-catchers around him that can contribute on the field, highlighted by 6-5 Branden Mack.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Maulers selected a strong defensive line, including Carlo Kemp, Ethan Westbrook, and Boogie Roberts. They also added fast linebackers in Blair Brown, E.J. Ejiyah, and Kyahva Tezino. All three of these guys are instinctive players who move quickly to the ball. And while the cornerbacks aren’t exactly going to match up well against the taller wide receivers, they are all fast and considered pests in the defensive backfield. Wilson’s defense looks to be built with power in the trenches. That power is followed by speed on the second and third levels. I expect them to emphasize defensive turnovers while the offense controls the clock with their run game. This philosophy is tried and true and lands them in the top three on the USFL preseason power rankings.
2. Philadelphia Stars
Highest Ranking: 1
Lowest Ranking: 4
When you look at Bart Andrus’ roster with the Philadelphia Stars it’s hard not to see why they are one of the top teams on the USFL preseason power rankings. The offense starts with a quarterback that wins everywhere he goes in Bryan Scott. You may not think his success at Occidental College is enough. In that case, look no further than his Spring League Championship success. He’s surrounded by talented pass catchers as well. They include Brennan Eagles, an explosive receiver out of Texas. There’s also Diondre Overton out of Clemson. And don’t forget my favorite tight end Bug Howard out of North Carolina. The Stas also have two talented running backs to rely on in Matt Colburn and Darnell Holland.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Stars got perhaps one of the best defensive ends in Freedom Akinmoladun. Akinmoladun had a strong career at Nebraska and now gets a chance at the professional level. Both linebackers Carroll Phillips and Gabe Sewell move to the ball quickly. They should help lead this defense, along with another talented linebacker, Te’Von Conney. While the defensive backfield doesn’t have the professional experience, they do have the talent. Channing Stribling and Mazzi Wilkins will give quarterbacks issues as they blanket the wide receivers. This talented roster could be flipped into the top position of the USFL preseason power rankings easily.
1. Tampa Bay Bandits
Highest Ranking: 1
Lowest Ranking: 3
The Tampa Bay Bandits find themselves at the top of the USFL preseason power rankings. While this could call change if Jordan Ta’amu doesn’t live up to all the hype he’s received, it’s more than that. It’s more than Ta’amu reuniting with his Battlehawks center, Bruno Reagan. It’s also more than the fact that they landed one of the most experienced wide receivers in Eli Rogers. Todd Haley put together a very talented offense that includes all the players mentioned above and more. Running backs Juwan Washington and BJ Emmons will both get an opportunity to run the backfield. They have both found success at their colleges and will look to prove themselves.
The Bandits also secured one of the best defensive linemen in the draft in John Atkins. Atkins played for the Georgia Bulldogs and spent some time with the Detroit Lions. They also have some fast pass rushers in Mekhi Brown and Daylon Mack. Christian Sam should be able to lead the defense from the middle linebacker position. He played for Arizona State and spent time on the New England Patriots practice squad. Last is the Bandits’ talented secondary. Safety Obi Melinfonwu was a 2nd round draft pick in the NFL. They also have Delrick Abrams, who stands at 6-3 and will be able to compete with the tall wide receivers. Todd Haley put together a very impressive group on both sides of the ball. Because of this and all the hype surrounding Ta’amu, the Bandits find themselves at number 1 on the USFL preseason power rankings.