The USFL will be conducting a ten-round supplemental draft this coming Thursday, March 10th. The New Jersey Generals selected 35 players in the USFL Draft last month. You can check out a full in-depth review of all their selections on offense, defense, and special teams at this link.
There’s been a lot of mystery attached to the USFL in the lead-up to their launch next month. A lack of transparency with some recent controversy attached to the league’s name has created some uncertainty.
Training camps are supposed to start later this month on the 21st in Birmingham, yet the league hasn’t announced their full schedule. Furthermore, details are also scarce regarding each team’s coaching staff. Sources are indicating that former NFL All-Pro CB Chris Dishman is going to be the New Jersey Generals defensive coordinator. Although, the league or team hasn’t made that hiring official yet.
What we do know is that the USFL regular-season starts on Saturday afternoon, April 16th. The Birmingham Stallions will host the New Jersey Generals at Protective Stadium in the league’s kickoff game, which will be simulcast on FOX and NBC.
2022 USFL Supplemental Draft
Like all eight USFL teams, the New Jersey Generals will have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time to get primed and ready for the start of the season.
Barring a last-minute change to the league’s roster rules. USFL teams will each have 38 active players on game day, with seven players on their practice squad. In a ten-week regular season, with limited depth, teams will have to maximize roster value with players having to serve multiple roles.
In last month’s draft, Mike Riley, the Generals’ GM and head coach, selected several players who can play on special teams and offense/defense. On the surface, since New Jersey has already drafted 35 players, and it would appear that their top candidates to make the active roster are already under contract and drafted. But there could be some intriguing late arrivals to the USFL that usurp projected starters on each team.
The mystery surrounding many aspects of the USFL has certainly made its way to the player selection process. In recent days, there have been reports that the league will have a two-day tryout camp in Birmingham on the 19th and 20th of this month to allow more players to join the USFL.
The USFL has confirmed that there will be a two-day tryout for new players who weren’t under contract or weren’t in their draft pool.
280 players were selected in late February. USFL teams will select 80 more this coming Thursday at 7 pm EST.
The New Jersey Generals will be adding ten more players in the supplemental draft. Unlike the positional draft rounds in late February, the Supplemental Draft is a wide-open process where players can be picked from any position in any round.
Let’s take a quick in-depth look at the Generals’ current roster by position and what areas they could and should target on Thursday night.
New Jersey Generals Supplemental Draft Needs
- Quarterbacks: Ben Holmes & De’Andre Johnson
The likelihood is that the New Jersey Generals will only dress two quarterbacks on game day. Ben Holmes, the team’s first-round pick at quarterback, is the odds on favorite to start on opening day. De’Andre Johnson is as raw as it comes, but his 4.4 speed could be a useful weapon during games when utilized in specific short-yardage and goal-to-go situations.
Most USFL teams may carry a third quarterback, with one QB most likely on their practice squads as insurance in case of injury or performance issues. The Generals would be best served, bringing in some veteran insurance at QB, if for nothing else, to have a seasoned pro in the room.
Luis Perez seems like a natural fit, but before the USFL draft took place, he switched agencies, and there are questions about whether he is interested in remaining in the player pool. It’s possible that Mike Riley could entice a different young veteran to join the Generals. But he does have ties to quarterbacks in the two previous spring pro football leagues, the AAF and XFL, like Brandon Silvers, Dustin Vaughn, and Marquise Williams.
- Running backs: Mike Weber & Trey Williams
Carrying only two running backs through a full ten-game regular season will be a tricky proposition for USFL teams. New Jersey has a solid tandem at tailback with the promising Mike Weber and veteran Trey Williams, a player familiar with Mike Riley from their time together with the San Antonio Commanders.
Even though Williams can also contribute and provide added value on special teams as a returner, the Generals need a third running back.
There’s too much ambiguity with the USFL’s player pool. But two players in the pool who have had success in spring pro football leagues. The New York Guardians Darius Victor and the San Diego Fleet’s Ja’Quan Gardner could be great options for the Generals.
Both Victor and Gardner were standout players in the Spring. But for whatever reason, they haven’t landed on any pro teams since. Victor is a battering ram-style back who could make an impact for New Jersey. Gardner, who was also a Seattle Dragon, was drafted when Riley was a part of the XFL as Seattle’s OC before leaving to deal with family issues. Ja’Quan, the former small-school superstar, is itching for another chance.
A free-agent runner who has never tried his hand in a non-NFL league is former Alabama standout Bo Scarbrough. The 6’1 235lb bruiser and former seventh-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys has flashed in the NFL in limited duty, but just like his time with the Crimson tide, Scarbrough hasn’t been able to break free in crowded backfields. The USFL can provide that type of opportunity for him.
- Wide Receivers: Kavontae Turpin, J’Mon Moore, Darrius Shepherd, Christopher Platt Jr., Randy Satterfield
With only ten selections upcoming in the Supplemental draft. The Generals may go to war with what they already have at certain positions like wide receiver.
After all, it’s impossible to add at every position in the supplemental draft. And New Jersey already has five wideouts in their stable. And with the majority of them having extended experience as returners on special teams. It eliminates the need to draft reserves at the position who can occupy those roles.
One of the confirmed names in the USFL draft pool is former Seattle Dragons WR Dontez Byrd. Another player who Mike Riley has some degree of familiarity with. Byrd certainly has the speed to burn and could provide value. But the Generals might not have room for a player of his specific skill set on the roster.
Most USFL teams are going with youth, specifically at the skill positions. But an argument can be made for adding some young veterans with NFL experience. Part of getting neophyte players to understand how to operate as a pro is having someone who can show them the ropes. Any USFL team would benefit from a wide receiver-type like Tre McBride on their roster.
- Tight Ends: Braedon Bowman & Nicholas Truesdell
The TE position could get the short end of the stick in Thursday’s supplemental draft. The Generals don’t have a natural fullback on their roster. So Braedon Bowman might be a very busy man, assuming multiple duties, as not only an in-line or on the move blocker at TE but also as a lead in traditional I-Form sets. Bowman will also play a role as a blocker on special teams. So keeping him healthy over a long season will be crucial.
Truesdell is more of a natural receiver at TE, who can also play in the slot. As a result, It wouldn’t shock me if New Jersey drafts a versatile player who can assume multiple roles at fullback, tight end, and on special teams.
- Offensive Linemen: Garrett McGhin, Calvin Ashley, Terry Poole, Jake Lacina, Mike Brown & Evan Heim
It’s almost certain that one of the Generals’ ten picks in the supplemental draft will be an offensive lineman, and New Jersey might draft two of them. With one extra reserve linemen being stored on the practice squad as insurance.
Going into games with only six offensive linemen is a recipe for disaster, and you are two injuries away from playing a defensive player on offense. Considering the limited roster size, that scenario might happen with defensive players playing in goal-line situations as blockers.
With the likelihood of injuries, teams need to dress at least seven offensive linemen at the bare minimum. And ideally, your backups have the ability to cross-train and play multiple positions.
Evan Heim has experience playing guard and tackle. But he might have to train at the Center position as well. Two free-agent centers that Mike Riley is familiar with are Brian Folkerts and Dillon Day. The Generals could shy away from veteran players. But no matter who they draft on the o-line, those players need to be game ready to play multiple spots.
- Defensive Linemen: Bryson Young, Kolin Hill, Malik Hamner, Destiny Vaeao, Toby Johnson, & Kalani Vakameilalo
Much of what New Jersey does in their supplemental draft on their defensive line depends on what scheme they will be playing. The Generals defensive coordinator is unofficially Chris Dishman, the former NY Guardians assistant and multiple-time all-pro defensive back.
A three-man starting front, for example, would require fewer bodies. However, New Jersey only has four linebackers on their current roster. So how the team drafts on Thursday in the front seven should indicate what style they will be playing on defense.
The Generals seem set at defensive tackle. They have three solid space-eating veterans on their roster, and New Jersey’s edge rushers are unproven. So it’s likely that there could be another addition to the d-line in the supplemental draft.
However, finding quality edge rushers is no simple task. One of the better defensive linemen in the USFL’s draft pool is former Houston Roughnecks DT Walter Palmore. Since playing in the XFL, Palmore has been on and off three separate NFL rosters. The 6’3 317lb Georgia product is only 25-years old and can be a force on the interior.
- Linebackers: D’Juan Hines, Tim Walton Jr., Angelo Garbutt & Chris Orr
It’s a lock that New Jersey will add to their LB position in the supplemental draft. Even if the team decides to play a 4-2-5 look. They will need more reinforcements at linebacker.
The Generals have a chance to sport one of their better starting linebacking corps in the league, particularly with Chris Orr and D’Juan Hines patrolling their defense.
Angelo Garbutt and the fresh out of college Tim Walton have upside. But the team could use more depth, particularly because reserve linebackers are often key contributors on special teams.
Asking starters like Orr and Hines to pull double duty on defense and coverage units is a tall task. I don’t expect the Generals to go the veteran route and select someone like former Steelers and San Antonio Commanders LB Jayrone Elliott. But with former NY Guardians assistant Jeff McInerney on staff, perhaps he can draft one of his former New York players like Ben Heeney to aid the Generals’ depth.
- Secondary: De’Vante Bausby, Trae Elston, David Rivers, DeJuan Neal, Shalom Luani, & Dravon Askew-Henry
The running theme for all USFL teams is how thin the depth is at several positions. The Generals secondary has talented players who have experience playing dual roles like Dravon Askew-Henry, who can play safety and nickel. Trae Elston and Shalom Luani can also do the same.
But New Jersey needs to load up on more defensive backs. Ideally, they’d have a safety on the roster who can play in the box and even play some linebacker if needed.
Age could play a factor in whom the Generals select on Thursday, but Derron Smith, a former San Antonio Commander, who is 30-years old, was the top-graded defensive back by Pro Football Focus in the AAF in 2019. And Smith was also a standout with the Dallas Renegades in the XFL, and he has experience playing with De’Vante Bausby. In a league where everyone is essentially new to one another, having secondary mates who can communicate well together, especially in the early part of the season, can be an asset.
CB Bryce Jones is another former Spring Pro League player to watch. The Akron standout was on both the Commanders roster in the AAF and in the XFL with New York. With Chris Dishman as New Jersey’s DC, it’s only natural that he would continue to add former Guardians to his secondary.
- Special Teams: Kicker Nick Rose & Long Snapper Scott Flanick
One way to get around having limited roster depth is to have a kicker assume both field goal and punting duties. Nick Rose might be tasked with doing that if New Jersey bypasses drafting a punter again.
However, someone still has to hold on field goals and extra-point attempts. In theory, one of New Jersey’s quarterbacks could be the team’s holder, and that’s typically a role reserved for a backup QB rather than a starter.
The USFL hasn’t released their complete game rules yet. But the fact that teams drafted long snappers tells you that kicking and punting will remain a part of the leagues’ DNA.
The Generals have a lot of candidates to return kicks and punts on their roster. Players like Trey Williams, KaVontae Turpin, Darrius Shepherd, Chris Platt, and Randy Satterfield have experience in those areas.
With ten spots open on the Generals roster. Let’s assume that these will be the positions they address in the supplemental draft.
QB, RB, OL (2), DL, LB (2), DB (3).
The biggest question heading into New Jersey’s season is at quarterback. Although they are called the Generals, Mike Riley is playing the role of a Gambler by going with the talented but inexperienced duo of Ben Holmes and De’Andre Johnson. Perhaps, Riley and those two neophyte signal-callers will prove the doubters wrong. But it would make sense for the Generals to draft another QB to hedge their bets at the position.
Like most USFL teams, the Generals are going to be very young. That can be a great thing, but having a few veteran players will help young players develop as professionals. That’s an important aspect of any pro team. And ultimately, the teams that have more De’Vante Bausby types will have a better chance of competing and winning.
Unfortunately, the limited amount of time to get ready for the season and the small roster size will make coaches’ jobs very challenging in the USFL. It’s not too late for the league to reconsider its outdated roster model.
Unlike the Madden video game, you can’t turn injuries off. In a ten to potentially twelve-week season, teams will struggle to field healthy rosters on a weekly basis. And even if teams avoid the injury bug, players will be taxed physically as the season wears on because they will be pulling double and, in some cases, triple duty.
But assuming that things stay status quo with the current roster setup. Versatility is the name of the game, and the USFL teams that draft the most flexible rosters to counter the limitations will have a better chance of succeeding.
Mike Riley is a veteran of alternative pro football leagues. So, he is accustomed to stretching the soup, and Riley will have to do some more of that in the supplemental draft and when the season starts in a month.