USFL Draft Winners and Losers: Whose roster impresses the most after Day 1 of the draft?

Who are the winners (and losers) of the USFL Draft Day 1, and who did they come away with that you should know?

It’s February, we have football, and we’re talking USFL Draft Day 1 Winners and Losers. After the culmination of a 12-round snake draft on Tuesday night, the USFL rosters have started to take shape. With the first round complete, it’s time to take a look at the landscape and see who won the first night of the draft.

If you want to see where each of these teams land now that the 2022 USFL Draft is complete, make sure to check out our 2022 USFL Power Rankings.

USFL Draft Day 1 Winners

Again, all eight teams in the USFL were to select players on a position-specific round system. Before we break down the winners of the group, it’s imperative we understand how the rosters were constructed. Each team selected players based upon the following positional basis:

Round 1: Quarterbacks
Rounds 2-4: Edge Rushers/Defensive Ends
Rounds 5-7: Offensive Tackles
Round 8-11: Cornerbacks
Round 12: Quarterbacks

With that in mind, who won the race for the top quarterback? Which quarterback will have the best protection in front of him? Which cornerback room should each quarterback be scared of most? We answer those questions and more now.

Tampa Bay Bandits win USFL Day 1

The big winners of the day are the Tampa Bay Bandits. The Bandits opened the round by selecting Jordan Ta’amu with the second overall pick. The former record-setting Ole Miss quarterback had a successful XFL season under his wing in his post-college days and should be primed to see similar success in the USFL. Ta’amu was the top quarterback on our initial Quarterback Power Rankings following Round 1.

Former Memphis standout QB Brady White rounded out the Bandits’ solid quarterback options with the seventh pick of the 12th round. White threw for more than 3,000 yards in three straight seasons at Memphis. He had over 10,000 passing yards and won the Academic Heisman in his final season with the Tigers.

Joining Ta’amu and White in Tampa Bay are edge defenders Mekhi Brown, Michael Scott, and Adam Shuler. Brown, a one-time Alabama signee, played two seasons with the Crimson Tide before landing at Tennessee State. A big man at 6’5″ and 250 pounds, Brown represents the kind of raw talent the USFL should showcase. Scott had an up-and-down career at Akron but flashed potential on many occasions.

Shuler should be familiar to Central Florida football fans after he spent two seasons with the Florida Gators. A transfer from West Virginia, Shuler comes with an extensive college background and vast experience in the game. His versatility to play up and down the defensive line will pay dividends for the Bandits.

Tampa Bay secures bookend tackles

Winning the first day for the Bandits also included former Georgia Bulldog Tyler Catalina and former BYU Cougar Corbin Kaufusi. Catalina played one season for Georgia in 2016 after transferring from Rhode Island. He was a solid contributor for the 2016 Bulldogs team that finished second in the SEC East.

On the other hand, Kaufusi is a force that somehow few know about. Standing at 6’9″ and well over 300 pounds, Kaufusi actually played defense for BYU from 2016-18. He racked up quite the impressive statistical sheets in each season for the Cougars, including multiple sacks and even more pressures. Kaufusi is a legacy player at BYU: Bronson Kaufusi, his brother, plays in the NFL, his dad was a defensive line coach for BYU, and his mom is the mayor of Provo.

Making matters even better, the Bandits also selected former Michigan right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty. A two-year starter for the Wolverines, Bushell-Beatty also played on the interior for the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason of 2019.

Coverage is the name of the game for Tampa

Though they may have lucked into the first pick of the cornerback round, the Bandits still made the most of their selections. Grabbing former Colorado standout Delrick Abrams Jr. with the first pick of the eighth round, Tampa emphasized big, shutdown cornerbacks. Abrams played the past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, appearing in two regular-season games and a handful more preseason contests.

Abrams, standing at 6’3″, stood out at Colorado for two seasons from 2018-19. He recorded a handful of plays on the ball in coverage and was a menace on the outside against the run. Joining Abrams in the Tampa Bay secondary is former Georgia Tech safety Christian Campbell, Texas cornerback Davante Davis, and UCF cornerback Rashard Causey. Each is long, physical, and versatile in the secondary.

New Orleans breaks Day 1 USFL Winners list

The New Orleans Breakers got a steal with their back-to-back selections to start Day 1 off. After grabbing multi-year NFL veteran Kyle Sloter with the last pick of the first round, New Orleans followed that up with their selection of Davin Bellamy to open Round 2. Sloter came in at No. 5 on our QB rankings after Round 1, well ahead of his draft slot of pick No. 8, showcasing the great value New Orleans got with his services. They secured who could become their starting quarterback in Zach Smith with the first pick of the 12th round as well.

Smith, a two-year starter at Tulsa, originally played college football for Baylor. He threw for over 50 career passing touchdowns and well over 8,000 passing yards.

Their Day 1 haul is highlighted by Bellamy, however. A former top-tier edge rusher for the Georgia Bulldogs, Bellamy racked up the impressive highlight reel during his time in Athens. He presents a size mismatch and athleticism problem for any tackle in front of him as the 6’5″, 260-pounder can move and bend the edge with ease.

Making matters even worse for opposing tackle combos trying to stop New Orleans was their selections of Anree Saint-Amour and Nigel Chavis in Round 4. Saint-Amour comes to the Breakers after a great career at Georgia Tech and stops in the Canadian Football League. Saint-Amour is a bully on the edge, using power and raw strength to manhandle tackles. Chavis played at Norfolk State and offers up a similar skill set off the edge.

The Breakers make sound decisions at tackle

Success in the USFL will largely be about who can safely protect their quarterbacks. New Orleans seemingly understood this and secured the services of Paul Adams, Donnell Greene, and Marquis Lucas during the tackle-specific Rounds 5-7. Adams is a former three-year starter at right tackle for the University of Missouri, rarely allowing disruption for Drew Lock.

A big LT prospect from Minnesota, Greene was a three-year starter for the Golden Gophers. Impressively enough, Green actually kicked inside and played guard for the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason of 2019. That versatility will go a long way at helping the Breakers’ offensive line.

Finally, Lucas joins the fold after multiple seasons of immense work at West Virginia back in 2014-15. Lucas is mobile on his feet and presents a challenge with his strength for his size. A preseason standout during his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, Lucas also spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons in 2017.

New Orleans improves with coverage pickups

As if their haul couldn’t get any more impressive, the Breakers also picked up the services of former Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander in Round 8. Alexander, a three-year starter for the Hokies, was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Washington. He appeared in two games during his rookie season but shined during the preseason with the newly named Commanders.

The Breakers then grabbed former Ole Miss CB Derrick Jones, who had 2 interceptions in his final season with the Rebels back in 2016. Since his days in Oxford, Jones was selected in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft but had one significant game’s worth of action for the New York Jets in 2018. He played in three preseasons, however, and has great experience at the highest level.

Other Day 1 winning picks

Some other picks of note in Round 1:

2.06: Freedom Akinmoladun, DE, Philadelphia Stars
6.04: Teton Saltes, OT, Michigan Panthers
8.02: Channing Stribling, CB, Philadelphia Stars
8.03: De’Vante Bausby, CB, New Jersey Generals
8.07: Brian Allen, CB, Birmingham Stallions
10.2: Mazzi Wilkins, CB, Philadelphia Stars
11.02: Lorenzo Burns, CB, Birmingham Stallions
12.02: Josh Love, QB, Pittsburgh Maulers
12.03: J’Mar Davis-Smith, QB, Birmingham Stallions
12.05: De’Andre Johnson, QB, New Jersey Generals

USFL Draft Day 1 Losers

Sure, the term loser conjures up some pretty bad thoughts. After looking at the completed hauls from all eight teams from Day 1 of the USFL Draft and where certain players fell, it’s safe to say one team fell a bit short. With players stealing the show at later picks, one team’s lack of star power really stood out.

It’s also important to note that I’ll happily be proven wrong here if these picks pan out. But at the current moment, with some established names and more experienced players picked prior, one team certainly stood out like a sore thumb.

Houston’s gamble likely won’t pay off

While we debate whether or not you can actually gamble in Houston, the Houston Gamblers did just that on a few players. Their quarterback selection — Clayton Thorson — failed to lend much more than a game-manager moniker through his time at Northwestern. Thorson was drafted in the fifth round and threw 3 interceptions during his rookie preseason (compared to 1 touchdown).

The Gamblers then selected Carlos Odom, Ahmad Gooden, and Drequan Brown for their edge rushers. Gooden failed to make much of an impact in four years at Samford, while Brown recorded 7 tackles in 12 games at Northern Illinois before transferring to Central Oklahoma.

The Gamblers made similar decisions on the offensive line, choosing the unproven route with their picks. Brandon Hitner was a standout at Villanova but didn’t last long in the NFL’s preseason. John Yarbrough is a similar project from Richmond, while Avery Gennesy at least proved he could hang with two years of starting experience at Texas A&M.

Despite atonement in Round 8, Houston still falls short

It was a great Round 8 for the Gamblers as they seemed to turn the corner. Their selection of Jamar Summers had promise. Summers was a four-year starter at UConn from 2014-2017, coming down with 12 interceptions over that span. However, Houston then turned to former Maryland cornerback Will Likely.

Though he had a promising season back in 2014 with 6 interceptions, Likely fell short to meet such high expectations at Maryland and after his days were over with the Terrapins in 2016. At just 5’7″, Likely has a tough time making plays against bigger receivers and could struggle against USFL rushing attacks.

The Gamblers then fell short by allowing former high-profile QB De’Andre Johnson to go by, selecting Kenji Bahar as their second quarterback of the draft. Johnson, though he had his issues in college, presents raw upside if he can stay on the field. On the other hand, Bahar spent time on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster after his college days at Monmouth were over.

Other Day 1 questionable selections

These picks also left us a bit perplexed considering who teams selected after:

1.04: Ben Holmes, QB, New Jersey Generals
3.07: Nasir Player, DE, Pittsburgh Maulers
5.07: Blake Alan Camper, OT, Philadelphia Stars
9.07: Marcus Lewis, CB, Philadelphia Stars
10.08: Prince Robinson, CB, Pittsburgh Maulers

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.