The Birmingham Stallions are faced with a fairly odd situation given that they will be one of four remaining USFL teams selecting their top ten players from a pool of roughly 400 players about to lose their teams in 2024. Some of the top players over the last two seasons in the USFL reside on these teams. Given that this draft takes place right around Christmas it seemed fitting to create a wish list to pass to Santa Claus..aka GM Zach Potter.
Names like Corey Coleman, Channing Stribling, Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Adams, Sage Surratt, Wes Hills, Bailey Gaither, Rueben Foster, Troy Williams, Darius Victor, Toby Johnson, and Chris Orr will likely be on boards for teams across the league. The question really will boil down to who fits what the Stallions do on offense and defense. With that in mind I wanted to look at five offensive, and five defensive players that could improve the Stallions roster in 2024. Defense Wins Championships so let’s start there, so I’ll give you five main targets and some honorable mentions.
The Stallions had one of the best offenses in the league, and consistently produced impressive performances. They played so well, that it reignited their starting signal caller’s NFL career. You can catch him in green and yellow on Sundays with Green Bay. J’Mar Smith once Wally Pipped his way into the starting role before leading the Stallions to their first championship win, I wouldn’t count him out of NFL interest in 2024 if he stays healthy as well. With this in mind, even after signing Adrian Martinez, quarterback could be a target.
Depth at running back could be another target in this dispersal draft. The Stallions run the ball early and often, which has only played into the success of their quarterbacks, and defense over the last two seasons. Although they already have Bo Scarbrough, Ricky Person Jr., and Zaquandre White, there are some intriguing names that would fit into their offense well.
They have suffered significant injuries at wide receiver over the last year. Myron Mitchell, and Marlon Williams both missed time. Both will look to return healthy in 2024, but will that stop the Stallions from pursuing a big name on their board? Tight end might be the one position they don’t address, with Jace Sternberger, La’Michael Pettway, and Bobby Holly who can serve as their TE3 if needed. Offensive line depth can never hurt, especially when you’re selecting from countless players with starting experience.
At quarterback it’s no secret the Stallions want athletic quarterbacks that can protect the ball, and still do damage with their arm. All three quarterbacks who have seen snaps for the Stallions fit this mold. With McGough in the NFL, Kyle Sloter not the most inspiring of options, Morton and Martinez still very much question marks, I expect the Stallions to bring in one more quarterback in this selection process, ultimately at the expense of one of these other players.
Looking at the depth chart it would appear one player is less of a fit for the way the Stallions have operated to this point. Kyle Sloter is certainly mobile, but I wouldn’t put him in the same category as Adrian Martinez, J’Mar Smith, or Jalen Morton. I also believe there are a couple other players that will be available that fit better. Given everything I just mentioned this leads us to eliminate some options immediately due to their statuesque play style.
Immediately attention turns to Deandre Johnson, Kenji Bahar, and Vad Lee. Depending which player you look at here you could potentially even get a better athlete than you currently have on the roster and that’s no easy task given Martinez’s presence. However if I am the one making decisions for the Stallions, I believe I would select Vad Lee.
Lee is actually the second fastest quarterback in this group, having once run a 4.45 40-yard dash at JMU’s pro day. He also has starting experience in the USFL with the Maulers in year one. Last season he was one of the backups to Case Cookus, who is an underrated athlete but arguably very similar to Sloter athletically. Lee is not only valuable due to his athleticism and starting experience, but his off field presence as well.
Lee is a leader, and a humanitarian that has created goodwill for the league over the last few seasons due to his work in many areas. His humility would be a perfect fit as the QB2 to J’Mar Smith in 2024, while providing a similar play style if Smith were to get injured again. Lee can also help mentor the younger quarterbacks on the roster something I get the feeling Sloter isn’t interested in doing. (I could be wrong)
At running back we saw Cj Marable carry the load taking 118 Carries for 524 yards, and 3 touchdowns adding 28 receptions for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns. Marable earned himself an NFL contract due to his play but ultimately didn’t make the final roster or practice squad due to a rather deep backfield. He has already re-signed as did Bo Scarbrough but with as often as the Stallions run the ball, I have a very specific back in mind for this roster.
Kennedy Brooks, Brooks has not yet played a down in the USFL, (or XFL). He was a three year contributor at Oklahoma where every year he touched the ball he rushed for over 1,000 yards. Playing in 38 games, he started only 17. After averaging 7.0 yards per carry for his career, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles following the 2022 NFL Draft.
Brooks is used to operating in a running back by committee and was slated to compete for snaps with the Stars prior to the merger being announced. Now he could compete with White, Marable, Scarbrough, and Person Jr.
Currently the Stallions have seven receivers on the roster currently. Including Victor Bolden Jr., Deon Cain, Josh Johnson, Myron Mitchell, Peyton Ramzy, Amari Rodgers, and Marlon Williams. They have several different types of receivers from 5’9 175 lbs to 6’2 205 lbs. The only player on the entire roster that catches passes who stands taller than 6’2 is Jace Sternberger.
I say all this to point out there is one type of receiver they don’t have. The physical WR1 that can go up and fight a defensive back for the ball and win in contested test situations specifically near the goal line. That’s why for the Stallions there is only one receiver that makes sense here. Jonathan Adams.
Adams has made a name for himself with highlight reel grabs in the USFL. The 6’3 220 pound wideout can body most defensive backs as there are only a handful of DBs his size. Used correctly in the right situations Adams could be one of the top receivers in the league especially in this offense paired with J’Mar Smith.
With only two tight ends on the roster, and having snared our jump ball artist in Adams, this next pick is purely luxury, and yet it is steeped in logic. Sage Surratt. Surratt has had an interesting journey in the professional ranks. In 2022 the Stallions signed him with the intention of converting him to tight end. As he learned his new position he split targets with Cary Angeline and ended the season having been targeted only 20 times catching 11 passes for 148 yards.
Then he was signed by the Chargers. The Chargers are have a background in developing tight ends from various backgrounds and improving them. Currently one of their main contributors at tight end is a former XFL 2020 player in Donald Parham. Kevin Koger is a former college tight end himself, he knows how to play the position.
Surratt could eventually be his star pupil. After one season under his tutelage he returned to the USFL, but this time with the Breakers. Now in 2023 he was allowed to work with arguably the top offensive mind in the USFL in John DeFilippo. His position coach was Tj Vernieri, who had experience at the college and CFL level. This paid off for Surratt when we looked like MBT’s favorite receiver.
He led the Breakers in targets, receptions and yards. Surratt finished the season with over a 76% catch rate. At wide receiver Surratt was always a step slow, but now, at tight end he forces teams to play him like a wide out, and cover him with a defensive back, rather than expecting to leave him one on one with a linebacker.
As far as the offensive line goes, there are several very valuable options across the league, and I wouldn’t fault any coach who loads up on offensive line in the first portion of the dispersal draft. The highest graded offensive lineman, not on one of the remaining teams, according to PFF.com is Guard Shamarious Gilmore. Gilmore finished the season graded 74.5. The second highest grade by any Stars player.
Gilmore is a young player, with a long future in football. He came out of a small school and didn’t get the attention he deserved despite playing at a high level throughout college. Now after a season of being one of the USFL’s top offensive linemen could he land with one of the remaining teams and complete his journey to the NFL in 2024?
Assuming the Stallions skip on any of these positions, there is one position they will have to address:
If you need a kicker, and you’re looking to the dispersal draft for that next guy, it has to be Luis Aguilar. Aguilar was an Ironman as a kicker in 2023, including a game that saw him kick, punt, or kickoff twenty times while handing all three duties. Shortly after the Stars brought in a punter finally, and allowed Aguilar to focus on what he does best. Scoring points by putting the ball through the uprights.
Ironically through a season and a half with the USFL, Aguilar was better than he ever was in college. He attempted 39 field goals converting 33, and was 38 of 39 on extra points with two kicks blocked. That’s good for 97.4% on extra points, and 84% on field goals after graduating college 44 of 60 or 73.3%, and 115 of 117 or 98.3%. Not bad for a man who stepped into the league as a rookie.
Adding Aguilar as your Brandon Aubrey replacement would mean special teams would continue to be a strength for the Stallions going forward. This is key to the success of the team, as Aubrey was called on to attempt 37 field goals, and 59 extra points. Aubrey managed 153 points in two seasons. Aguilar had 94 just in 2023, and 43 in 2022. Could Aguilar actually slightly improve the Stallions kicking game?
At quarterback my next pick would have to be Deandre Johnson, or possibly Eric Barriere. Both are tremendous athletes that would fit in the Stallions offense. At running back, Madre London, Garrett Groshek, Trey Williams, or Darius Victor would all be solid options as well. At wide receiver; Jordan Suell, Corey Coleman, Bailey Gaither, and Diondre Overton would all have made sense too. At tight end, Mason Stokke, or Artayvius Lynn. At offensive line; Terry Poole, Cj Perez, or Sean Brown. At kicker there is only really one other option, Chris Blewitt who was 21 of 25 on field goals. Although he needs work on extra points.
Impact on the Offense
Adding these specific players would dramatically improve this offense in such a manner that it would take the Stallions from tough to beat, to nearly unstoppable and improve their talent and depth at every level. That’s what makes this draft so intriguing, how often does a league do a redraft to this extent? It’s rare, and now we can watch as our favorite players from other teams grow their legends in new jerseys in 2024.