Well we expected players to go to the NFL from the 2022 reboot of the USFL. Fans have not been disappointed watching 36 players sign NFL contracts so far. Could more be coming?
Seven More Offensive Players Off The Board
Starting with the offensive line, five more players have been signed since my last article. The Stars have seen their fair share of players leaving for the greener pastures the NFL offers, knowing they have a fallback plan in the USFL.
Alex Akingbulu OL, Philadelphia Stars
They lost yet another key member of their success. Akingbulu was one of the more solid players on the offensive line for the Stars. He actually was an undrafted free agent this past NFL draft before signing with the Stars, showing specifically how the USFL can benefit college offensive linemen.
Maurice Alexander WR/KR, Philadelphia Stars
Alexander did it all for the Stars. Serving as a wide receiver on offense, as well as their emergency quarterback had Case Cookus gotten hurt. When Costello was signed Alexander was relegated back to third string quarterback.
He was more importantly a dangerous return man for the Stars and a guy who can easily make the team due to his play in this phase alone. However historically under Dan Campbell and company the Lions like smaller receivers on the back end of their depth chart. This was put on display when they swung a trade for Trinity Benson, brought in guys like Khalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy, and Khalil Pimpleton all standing 5’10 or shorter.
Devin Gray, WR, Philadelphia Stars
The Kansas City Chiefs have 14 wide receivers on their roster. To be fair, they had 13 and still thought enough of Gray to sign him. On a depth chart that features names like Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman, nothing is guaranteed.
Gray at 6’0 197 lbs will need to impress on special teams as well as offense to make the Chiefs roster or practice squad. In 2022 for the Stars Gray caught 25 passes for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns. Prior to that he had spent ‘18-‘19 with Atlanta and ‘21 with Baltimore on the practice squad. It’s likely Gray is looking for more than just a practice squad spot in 2022.
Matt Colburn, RB, Philadelphia Stars
The Stars just lost four key contributors to their offense in the matter of a week. The crazy part is, that prior to this week they had lost just two players. Cornerback Channing Stribling, and TE Bug Howard, both who have had extensive histories with the NFL. Colburn is a different story. He was originally signed in 2019 by the Rams. He never made it into the regular season being waived in final cuts.
After that Colburn received little to no NFL interest. This led him to other avenues to continue playing. In 2020 he signed with and played in two games for the New York Guardians of the XFL. When the XFL shut down he moved on to The Spring League in an effort to continue to compile film. After the 2020 season, he received interest from the Toronto Argonauts, but made it just 5 months with the team.
This is when he would find himself drafted by the Stars. Although he was the second of three backs drafted, Colburn quickly set himself apart from the other two backs on the roster by scoring nine times in just six games. Colburn has been signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, which will pair him with QB Kyle Sloter.
Dexter Williams RB, Philadelphia Stars
Dexter Williams could be the next Stars player signed. He had a workout with the team that once drafted him in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers are sniffing around the dual threat back, after he played in just one game for the USFL. In the Championship game, Williams managed to top 100 all purpose yards, and in turn reopen eyes in the NFL.
Wide Receiver has been Popular
The New Jersey Generals, and Tampa Bay Bandits both also lost wide receivers to the NFL as well. One thing that has emerged among these receivers to be signed, is the majority of them appeared in the top 20 of the USFL receiving yards leaderboard. Twelve receivers have been signed with eight of those names were on the list. If you count tight ends, it’s ten of thirteen pass catchers.
Derrick Dillon WR, Tampa Bay Bandits
Derrick Dillon ended the season sixth in reception yards with 386 yards. The incredible part of his season was that 257 yards came after the catch. To put that into perspective the only other player that topped 200 yards after the catch was Kavontae Turpin the league MVP, and recent apple of Dallas’s eye.
Dillon showed elusiveness as well as top notch acceleration which helped him achieve this number. He also showcased his ability in space as a kick returner. Dillon joins a Browns squad that is fairly wide open at wide receiver. The Browns have rebuilt this receiver corps in Kevin Stefanski’s image. The only question is where does Dillon fit this puzzle?
Darrius Shepherd WR, New Jersey Generals
Shepherd was 17th on the leaderboard with 323 yards in just eight games. Formerly an undrafted free agent in 2019, Shepherd landed with Green Bay where he was the in case of emergency break glass option for the Packers for two seasons. In 2021 the uncertainty began. He would spend time on four different teams during the 2021 season.
Shepherd pursued the USFL to solidify his position in the NFL. The thing is I’m not sure it’s worked in his favor as of yet it took a season ending injury in a deep wide receiver group to get a contract. Is this any better than his situation last season? Only time will tell how the Broncos view Shepherd. With Kendall Hinton banged up, and Tim Patrick out for the year he will get his chance to prove himself. On the first day of camp he connected with Spring Football Legend Josh Johnson for a 60 yard touchdown.
The last man on this list is yet another pass catcher, but now finds himself listed as a tight end. At 6’3 215 lbs he still has some work to do, however he fits the Chargers current needs at the position.
Sage Surratt, TE, Birmingham Stallions
Sage Surratt is a former wide receiver who used the USFL to make the move to a new position and show he could play it at a high level. Making the move from wide receiver to tight end, Surratt instantly became a matchup nightmare for opponents. At 215 lbs as mentioned before he needs to add some weight but we could see Surratt pair with another Spring Football legend in L.A. Donald Parham.
The Stallions pass catchers continue to be valued by the NFL. So far the USFL champions have lost Victor Bolden Jr, Osiris Mitchell, and now Surratt. Luckily for them J’Mar Smith spread the ball around and currently still have wide receiver Marlon Williams, and TE Cheyenne O’Grady to build around in 2023.
NFL Seems To Like USFL WR/DB’s
It looks like the 2023 USFL Draft could end up being heavily devoted to those that catch passes, and the men who try to defend them. With nine defensive backs signed, and 15 pass catchers signed so far. With 24 of 38 players falling under these three position groups it becomes abundantly clear what the NFL was focused on when watching the USFL. It will be interesting to see how many of these men make rosters out of camp.
Stay with USFL News Hub all off season.