The Alliance of American Football kicks off on February 9th, and Pro Football Focus will be treating the new league as we do with the NFL and NCAA. We have AAF’s one-week scrimmage already covered in Premium Stats 2.0, and with the first set of regular-season games set to kickoff this Saturday, let’s take a look at the projected starting quarterbacks for each AAF team.
First up is Matt Simms, the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Legends. Simms played college ball at Tennessee and signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2012. The 30-year-old quarterback saw only 77 total snaps in the regular season during his five-year NFL career (2012-2017). However, he did log 582 preseason snaps, and he earned the fifth-highest passing grade (88.7) in the 2013 NFL preseason. In his most recent preseason in 2017 with the Atlanta Falcons, Simms earned a passing grade of 62.4, tied for 47th out of 95 qualifying quarterbacks. In the lone AAF preseason game earlier this year, Simms earned a passing grade of 49.5 on 16 dropbacks against the San Antonio Commanders, ranking 16th out of 24 qualifying quarterbacks for the week.
Next up is John Wolford for the Arizona Hotshots. Wolford went undrafted out of Wake Forest in 2018, but he did finish with the fourth-best passing grade (90.5) in the 2017 NCAA season, which made him one of five quarterbacks to earn 90-plus passing grades that year, a list that also included Baker Mayfield and Will Grier. Wolford did get to play one game for the New York Jets in Week 4 of the 2018 NFL preseason, and he earned a 63.9 passing grade on 24 dropbacks, ranking 24th out of 50 qualifying quarterbacks that week. In the AAF preseason game, Wolford earned a passing grade of 75.9 against the Birmingham Iron, ranking 6th among quarterbacks for the week.
For the Birmingham Iron, Luis Perez gets the nod as the starting signal-caller. Perez was a prolific passer in Division II ball with Texas A&M Commerce, where he led the team to a national title in the 2017 season. He threw for 5,001 yards, 46 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 113.9 that year and earned the Harlon Hill trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player in Division II football. Perez signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent last season, and he played in Week 4 of the preseason; he didn’t do too well, as he earned a 29.2 passing grade on 15 dropbacks, ranking last out of 50 qualifying quarterbacks that week. Regardless, Perez shined in Division II ball, and he has a chance to show the world he can perform at the professional level.
The Memphis Express’ starting quarterback is Christian Hackenberg, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets in 2016. He didn’t log a single regular season snap in the NFL, but he did play in the preseason from 2016 up until this past season. Hackenberg struggled in his short three-year NFL career, failing to earn a grade higher than 50.0 in any single preseason. In his final college season in 2015 at Penn State, Hackenberg had a passing grade of 61.0, tied for 102nd out of 147 qualifying quarterbacks. With a second chance at professional football, the 23-year-old Hackenberg will try and prove that he has the ability to play well for the Express.
The Orlando Apollos will be calling upon Garrett Gilbert to lead them in their first season. Gilbert was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft and has logged only 13 total regular season snaps in his NFL career (all with the Panthers this past season). However, Gilbert does have 266 NFL preseason snaps under his belt, and he earned passing grades above 70.0 in two of his four preseasons (2015 and 2018). In his final year of college ball with SMU, Gilbert threw for 3,528 yards, 21 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 136.2. In his AAF scrimmage against the San Diego Fleet, Gilbert earned a passing grade of 63.9 on nine dropbacks, tying for ninth out of 24 quarterbacks for the week. The 27-year-old quarterback has a few years of NFL experience, and it should help him in his new role with the Apollos.
Next up is Josh Woodrum for the Salt Lake Stallions. Woodrum played his college ball at Liberty and signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016, although he didn’t log any snaps until 2017 with the Baltimore Ravens. Woodrum didn’t manage to get any regular season action in his three-year NFL career, but he did get 156 total preseason snaps over the last two years, and he finished with the eighth-best passing grade (83.5) in the 2017 preseason and the 17th-best passing grade (76.2) in 2018. Woodrum followed his two good NFL preseasons with a great game in the AAF preseason game against the Memphis Express, as he earned an 83.7 passing grade, ranking fourth among quarterbacks.
The San Antonio Commanders have selected Dustin Vaughan as their starting quarterback. Vaughan played Division II college ball at West Texas A&M and went undrafted in the 2014 NFL draft. However, he did sign with the Dallas Cowboys, where he logged 225 total snaps over two preseasons from 2014-2015; he also played in the preseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens between 2016 and 2017. In the AAF preseason game against the Atlanta Legends, Vaughan earned a passing grade of 42.6 on 11 dropbacks, ranking 20th out of 24 quarterbacks for the week.
Last but not least, the San Diego Fleet are rolling with Mike Bercovici as their starting quarterback. Bercovici played college ball at Arizona State, where he earned a passing grade of 77.7 in his final season (2015), ranking 39th out of 147 qualifying quarterbacks. He went undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, but he signed with the Chargers and logged 129 preseason snaps across the 2016 and 2017 preseasons. In the AAF preseason game against the Orlando Apollos, Bercovici was given a passing grade of 28.7, ranking last out of 24 qualifying quarterbacks. Regardless, he’ll be starting for the Fleet’s first regular season game and will have a chance to redeem himself.
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