Fantasy News & Analysis

USFL Week 1: Touchdowns, players of the game, fantasy football workload notes and more

Birmingham, AL, USA; Birmingham Stallions quarterback J'mar Smith (6) throws a pass against the New Jersey Generals at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Football in April is objectively better than no football in April. This is not up for debate, and the USFL was kind enough to grace all of us with four games that didn’t fail to disappoint this standard.

What follows is a breakdown of all the Week 1 action, specifically noting:

  • Touchdowns
  • Offensive player(s) of the game
  • Defensive player(s) of the game
  • Fantasy football workload notes
  • Final thoughts

Be sure to check out The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for weekly review and preview episodes of this wonderful league.

Birmingham Stallions 28, New Jersey Generals 24

Touchdown summary

The Generals started off the USFL season with a bang, as Randy Satterfield caught a b-e-a-utiful 49-yard bomb from Luis Perez on the first play of the season before capping off the drive with an extended-play touchdown catch from 3 yards out.

It looked like those hideous 50-plus point opening totals might be on to something after the Stallions responded with a two-play, 57-yard touchdown drive capped off by a borderline erotic one-handed 35-yard touchdown catch by Osirus Mitchell. Seriously: This was great.

Tight end Braedon Bowman scored the second Generals touchdown on (another) nice extended play throw from Perez to push their lead to 14-7.

CJ Marable evened things up with a short, 3-yard touchdown run. The nine-play, 80-yard drive was engineered by J’Mar Smith, who came in at the midway point in the second quarter after starter Alex McGough was injured.

The Generals bounced right back with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that consisted of 11 runs, capped off by a short four-yard touchdown by run-first QB De’Andre Johnson. It started a streak that featured the Generals running the ball on *24* consecutive plays.

J’Mar Smith didn't back down during this back-and-forth fourth quarter, capping a six-play, 67-yard drive with a 28-yard strike down the middle to Cary Angeline.

Finally, Smith and the Stallions traveled 59 yards in 10 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown via a 2-yard scramble by Smith with just 23 seconds remaining on the clock.

Offensive player(s) of the game

Stallions QB J’Mar Smith: Completed just 11 of 21 passes, but did gain 156 yards (7.4 YPA) and threw a touchdown to go along with a 3-13-1 rushing line. The man was clutch and deserves credit for leading Birmingham to the end zone on each of their final three drives.

Generals WR Randy Satterfield: Started off the season with a bang and was the league’s only wide receiver to crack triple-digit receiving yards. Overall, Satterfield caught all five of his targets for 100 yards and a score while playing more snaps than any of his non-lineman teammates. He finished as PFF's second-highest-graded receiver on the week (79.3).

Defensive player(s) of the game

Stallions DE Dondrea Tillman and DT Jordan Thompson: Perhaps the Generals simply stopped passing the ball because they had no answer at the line of scrimmage: New Jersey was pressured on an astounding 68.8% of their dropbacks. Credit to Tillman for racking up a week-high 10 pressures and working as PFF’s highest-graded pass rusher, while Thompson (6) was tied for second — but first among interior defenders by a whopping four pressures.

Fantasy football workload notes

Alex McGough got the start, but Smith took advantage of his injury-induced opportunity and may have done enough to seize the job after completing the comeback. CJ Marable worked ahead of Tony Brookes-James in terms of snaps and routes despite seeing fewer total rush attempts and targets, while the Stallions actually utilized FB Bobby Holly for a handful of snaps as well. No offense was more clear with their wide receiver pecking order, as each of Victor Bolden, Marlon Williams, and Osirus Mitchell were on the field for each and every one of the Stallions’ dropbacks. TE Cary Angeline was also plenty involved; this is easily the most condensed passing game in the USFL.

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
J'mar Smith QB 67% 0% 23 3 0 0
Alex McGough QB 33% 0% 13 2 0 0
CJ Marable HB 65% 61% 0 7 2 -3
Tony Brooks-James HB 35% 28% 0 8 3 -12
Bobby Holly FB 15% 6% 0 0 0 0
Victor Bolden Jr. WR 100% 100% 0 1 9 98
Marlon Williams WR 100% 100% 0 0 5 25
Osirus Mitchell WR 96% 100% 0 0 7 106
Cary Angeline TE 89% 92% 0 0 4 41

Perez easily out-snapped Johnson in the first half (28 to 12), but then Johnson easily out-paced Perez in the second half (28 to 5). The offense clearly looked to throw the ball with Perez under center and run with Johnson: Don’t expect this two-QB rotation to stop anytime soon after both players executed their roles as well as anyone could have hoped. The Generals’ two-RB backfield was led by Trey Williams, although Darius Victor was kept plenty involved on the ground himself. Randy Satterfield was the offense’s No. 1 wide receiver in terms of routes, targets and air yards alike. He was flanked in three-WR sets by Alonzo Moore and KaVontae Turpin. Note that the air yard totals for Turpin, Moore, and Darrius Shepherd are a bit inflated thanks to some last-second hail mary attempts.

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
De'Andre Johnson QB 55% 0% 11 13 0 0
Luis Perez QB 45% 0% 21 0 0 0
Trey Williams HB 63% 66% 0 13 5 -10
Darius Victor HB 37% 22% 0 15 0 0
Randy Satterfield WR 92% 94% 0 0 5 103
Alonzo Moore WR 81% 84% 0 1 3 102
KaVontae Turpin WR 78% 81% 0 2 5 81
Darrius Shepherd WR 19% 16% 0 0 1 24
J'Mon Moore WR 10% 9% 0 0 1 2
Woody Brandom TE 71% 50% 0 0 2 6
Braedon Bowman TE 45% 47% 0 0 3 27
Final thoughts

What a fun way to start the season. The Generals’ decision to run the absolute piss out of the ball in the second half was widely mocked on the ole Twittersphere but was at least somewhat understandable given their inability to protect the quarterback. The Stallions shouldn't plan on winning too many games in which they get absolutely killed in time of possession (37:55 vs. 22:05) and total yards (408 vs. 277), but a win is a win is a win, and perhaps their pass-rush winds up being a trump card of sorts against offenses of all shapes and sizes.

Apr 17, 2022; Birmingham, AL, USA; Michigan Panthers wide receiver Devin Ross (18) catches a pass against Houston Gamblers defensive back Micah Abernathy (32). Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Gamblers 17, Michigan Panthers 12

Touchdown summary

The Panthers were on the verge of scoring the game's first touchdown after marching all the way down to the Houston 4-yard line, but Shea Patterson was strip-sacked and Reggie Northrup proceeded to scoop up the ball and take it 87 yards to the house. It’s safe to say the Panthers' offense didn’t exactly put together the best first half.

The Gamblers scored their only offensive touchdown of the game on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Thorson to Isaiah Zuber. It’s unclear if Thorson was actually aiming for Zuber or his other double-covered receiver, but winners write the history books so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Patterson recovered nicely after a rough first half with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped off by an 8-yard touchdown to Lance Lenoir. Note that Lenoir’s swagger was on a hundred thousand, trillion to start the season.

Patterson again drove the Panthers into the end zone early in the fourth with a nine-play, 66-yard drive that ended in a goal-line score for RB Stevie Scott. This would cap off the scoring, as Patterson wound up fumbling a snap and taking a sack on consecutive plays after reaching the Gamblers' 14-yard line with just 50 seconds remaining. For a second it seemed like La’Michael Pettway won the game with a last-second circus touchdown catch, but he was out of bounds and the Panthers were flagged for an illegal chop block anyway.

Offensive player(s) of the game

Gamblers RB Mark Thompson: It's tough to win a football game by passing for just 81 yards, but Thompson helped grind out enough production on the ground to get the job done. Overall, 67 of his 71 yards on the ground came after contact, and his four missed tackles forced were tied for the highest mark in Week 1. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound bowling ball is averaging an asinine 5.2 yards after contact per carry after 60 minutes of action.

Defensive player(s) of the game

Gamblers LB Reggie Northrup: Not only did Northrup have the game-changing scoop-and-score touchdown, but he even managed to throw the ball to his Dad upon scoring. PFF's second-highest-graded linebacker (90.1) on the week, Northrup also racked up six tackles and two pressures on his way to wrecking chaos all day long.

Gamblers DE Ahmad Gooden: Gooden brought the quarterback down twice, forced two fumbles and also racked up four pressures for his trouble. One of just two players with multiple sacks on the week, his 76.8 PFF pass-rush grade was the third-highest mark among all edge defenders in Week 1

Fantasy football workload notes

Clayton Thorson worked as the fairly clear-cut QB1, only giving way to Bahar in the fourth quarter when the Gamblers were attempting to run out the clock. Backfield duties were split between Mark Thompson (the grinder) and Dalyn Dawkins (the pass-down option), although the latter back wound up getting the offense’s goal-line rush attempts on their 2-point conversion attempts. Isaiah Zuber and JoJo Ward (the team's clear-cut target leader) were the only full-time receivers in an offense that kept two tight ends plenty involved

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Clayton Thorson QB 87% 0% 20 2 0 0
Kenji Bahar QB 13% 0% 1 1 0 0
Mark Thompson HB 56% 24% 0 13 0 0
Dalyn Dawkins HB 44% 38% 0 10 0 0
Isaiah Zuber WR 98% 100% 0 0 2 41
JoJo Ward WR 93% 90% 0 0 9 25
Anthony Ratliff-Williams WR 40% 52% 0 0 3 3
Tyler Palka WR 29% 48% 0 0 1 10
Brandon Barnes TE 82% 81% 0 0 3 37
Julian Allen TE 56% 29% 0 0 0 0

Lynch briefly spelled Patterson in the first half, but the latter signal-caller was exclusively leaned on for the entire second half. The backfield was split right down the middle between Stevie Scott and Cameron Scarlett, with Scott holding a narrow lead as the preferred receiving back. Three-WR sets mostly consisted of Lance Lenoir, Devin Ross, and Joe Walker, but Jeff Badet also saw plenty of reps, and the offense’s trio of tight ends lowered the route and target ceilings for everyone involved.

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Shea Patterson QB 84% 0% 29 8 0 0
Paxton Lynch QB 16% 0% 7 4 0 0
Stevie Scott III HB 51% 47% 0 18 1 -1
Cameron Scarlett HB 49% 39% 0 15 1 9
Lance Lenoir Jr. WR 80% 83% 0 1 9 94
Devin Ross WR 67% 72% 0 0 5 40
Joe Walker WR 63% 61% 0 0 6 74
Jeff Badet WR 38% 36% 0 0 1 6
Marcus Baugh TE 66% 47% 0 0 2 6
Joey Magnifico TE 52% 36% 0 0 1 -9
La'Michael Pettway TE 34% 39% 0 0 1 39
Final thoughts

Announcer Jason Garrett started off his broadcasting career by shitting all over analytics and comping Paxton Lynch to Josh Allen (Lynch immediately threw an interception after the statement). What a joyous league to bring this sort of content into our life during the middle of April. The game was hardly a showcase of high-level football, but several moments were at least somewhat memorable:

• The Panthers' social media team confused WR Quincy Adeboyejo (who didn’t report to camp) with Joe Walker, who wound up catching five passes for 51 yards and showed some juice in the return game.

• In a nice hat tip to video game create-a-player connoisseurs around the globe, seemingly every other player on the field was rocking some sort of tinted or colored visor.

• The blue line of scrimmage color for the Panthers was honestly perfect.

• Walker’s aforementioned return goodness included a nullified touchdown which featured a 1.) helmet cam view of the blindside block, and 2.) live mic to pick up the ensuing trash talk. Annoying pre-play drone noises aside, the extra camera and mics are much appreciated.

Apr 17, 2022; Birmingham, AL, USA; Philadelphia Stars defensive lineman Adam Rodriguez (58) puts the pressure on New Orleans Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter (10) Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Breakers 23, Philadelphia Stars 17

Touchdown Summary

Apparently having Diggs in your last name is all it takes to be good at football. Correlation not equalling causation aside, Vontae Diggs had a lovely pick-six to kick off the scoring and the USFL blessed us all with another great helmet cam shot.

The Stars went down 9 after getting a punt blocked for a safety but finally found the end zone at the end of the first half after driving 79 yards in 11 plays. TE Bug Howard hauled in the uncontested 10-yard score from Bryan Scott.

The Breakers utilized their two-pronged backfield to mark into the end zone with T.J. Logan finishing off the drive from 12 yards out. Only the Generals (43.8%) had a lower pass play rate than the Breakers (45.5%) in Week 1 prior to Monday night.

The Stars managed to tie things up at the end of the third quarter courtesy of a Darnell Holland 42-yard sprint to the house. Holland led all USFL running backs with a robust average of 5.8 yards per carry.

The final score of the game occurred early in the fourth quarter when Breakers RB Jordan Ellis plunged into the end zone from 2 yards out. Credit to Ellis for finishing second in the USFL in both rushing yards (89) and first downs (6).

Offensive player(s) of the game

Stars WR Chris Rowland: Nobody received a higher overall PFF offensive grade than Rowland (86.8). Overall, he caught seven of nine targets for 74 yards without a single drop and forced a week-high two forced missed tackles after the catch.

Breakers RB Jordan Ellis: Only Generals QB De'Andre Johnson (98) rushed for more yards than Ellis (89) in Week 1. The performance included four broken tackles and 58 yards after contact, ultimately earning Ellis the Breakers' highest individual PFF offensive grade.

Defensive player(s) of the game

Stars CB Channing Stribling: Nobody earned a higher PFF defensive grade on the week than Stribling (93.7), who broke up two passes in addition to his interception which set up a field goal.

Breakers DE Davin Bellamy: Nobody matched Bellamy’s three sacks, while his six pressures were tied for the second-highest mark of the week. PFF's highest-graded edge defender (90.8), Bellamy had himself a helluva Sunday and talked all the trash he wanted along the way.

Fantasy football workload notes

The Breakers thankfully stuck with just one quarterback throughout their Week 1 victory. T.J. Logan emerged as the more fantasy-friendly running back thanks to his enhanced route participation, while Johnnie Dixon, Chad Williams, and Jonathan Adams made up three-WR sets. Sal Cannella was the undisputed lead tight end and even managed to lead the team in targets and air yards.

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Kyle Sloter QB 97% 0% 30 4 0 0
Zach Smith QB 3% 0% 0 2 0 0
T.J. Logan HB 55% 63% 0 15 4 -19
Jordan Ellis HB 47% 30% 0 18 0 0
Johnnie Dixon WR 80% 90% 0 0 5 27
Chad Williams WR 77% 87% 0 0 3 51
Jonathan Adams Jr. WR 74% 77% 0 0 5 70
Shawn Poindexter WR 52% 43% 0 0 0 0
Sal Cannella TE 94% 87% 0 0 7 66
E.J. Bibbs TE 21% 17% 0 0 2 13

Bryan Scott was the Stars’ starting quarterback from the first snap to the last, which is a lot more than most of the USFL’s presumed QB1s can say. The backfield was generally led by Matt Colburn despite Darnell Holland’s superior statistical performance. Jordan Suell, Diondre Overton and Devin Gray made up three-WR sets, but the Stars (bless their hearts) leaned heavily on four-WR looks with Chris Rowland also seeing plenty of reps while rather obviously working as the passing game’s most dynamic weapon. Bug Goward did convert one of his four targets into a score, but he’ll be tough to trust without an increase in overall playing time.

Player POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Bryan Scott QB 100% 0% 44 3 0 0
Matt Colburn II HB 56% 52% 0 9 6 -8
Darnell Holland HB 44% 32% 0 9 4 2
Jordan Suell WR 95% 98% 0 0 3 31
Diondre Overton WR 92% 91% 0 0 3 8
Devin Gray WR 75% 80% 0 0 4 29
Chris Rowland WR 67% 73% 0 0 8 61
Maurice Alexander WR 16% 14% 0 0 0 0
Bug Howard TE 30% 32% 0 0 4 8
Pro Wells TE 25% 14% 0 0 1 0
Final thoughts

The Breakers didn't exactly break the Stars, but it's tough to win when you complement an interception and fumble with a missed field goal, blocked punt turned into a safety as well as a turnover on downs. It's a good sign for the Breakers that they were able to pull out the W despite a rather meh game from presumed top (USFL) QB Kyle Sloter. Also: Shoutout to smarter brains prevailing and instituting a modern first-down measurement system.

Apr 18, 2022; Birmingham, AL, USA; Pittsburgh Maulers quarterback Kyle Lauletta (5) looks to pass against Tampa Bay Bandits. Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Bandits 17, Pittsburgh Maulers 3

Touchdown summary

The Bandits marched right down the field to start off the game, capping an eight-play, 68-yard drive with a short 3-yard touchdown from workhorse B.J. Emmons. It's great to see Todd Haley back doing what he does best: feeding some young running back 20-plus touches on a weekly basis.

The second and final touchdown of the game occurred late in the second quarter courtesy of a 3-yard score from Jordan Taamu to Jordan Lasley. So much for those 50-plus point game totals!

Offensive player(s) of the game

Bandits TE Cheyenne O'Grady: A pair of interceptions kept QB Jordan Ta’amu from receiving this award. Good things did happen when Ta’amu looked O’Grady’s way, as the plus-receiving tight end caught eight of his 11 targets for a game-high 86 yards.

Defensive player(s) of the game

Maulers LB Kyahva Tezino and S Arnold Tarpley: Tezino and Tarpley are big reasons why this game wasn't even more of a blowout. The former linebacker racked up a game-high 12 tackles in addition to an interception and pair of pass deflections, while the latter posted the same pass defense numbers to go along with eight tackles.

Fantasy football workload notes

Jordan Ta’amu (rightfully) took every snap, something that’s not a given in this wonderful new league of ours. The Bandits also did fantasy managers a solid by featuring BJ Emmons as their bell-cow back, as he led the way in the run and pass game alike. Volume problems arose at wide receiver with the Bandits essentially rotating six different players throughout the game, leading to every-down TE Cheyenne O’Grady leading the way in targets and air yards alike.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Jordan Ta'amu QB 100% 0% 35 1 0 0
BJ Emmons HB 58% 51% 0 18 3 -3
Juwan Washington HB 42% 34% 0 11 1 8
Derrick Willies WR 63% 60% 0 0 1 39
Vinny Papale WR 53% 57% 0 0 3 20
Jordan Lasley WR 53% 66% 0 0 5 71
John Franklin III WR 38% 40% 0 0 2 44
Rashard Davis WR 38% 37% 0 0 4 56
Derrick Dillon WR 31% 31% 0 0 2 21
Cheyenne O'Grady TE 100% 91% 0 0 10 70

Josh Love rather inexplicably started over Kyle Lauletta, perhaps due to his enhanced rushing threat. Either way: This sort of split system is a no-go in fantasy land until there’s more clarity as to who is supposed to be the nominal starter. The backfield was split nearly right down the middle between Madre London and Garrett Groshek; here’s to hoping the Maulers decide to throw the ball to either back one of these days. Delvon Hardaway and Bailey Gather were near every-down wide receivers, but they wound up being out-targeted by clear-cut No. 3 receiver Jeff Thomas. Throw in the presence of two tight ends with 65% snap rates, and you have a passing game that should largely be avoided in fantasy land.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Josh Love QB 74% 0% 18 2 0 0
Kyle Lauletta QB 26% 0% 12 0 0 0
Madre London HB 52% 33% 0 14 0 0
Garrett Groshek HB 48% 23% 0 17 0 0
Delvon Hardaway WR 84% 97% 0 0 4 95
Bailey Gaither WR 76% 90% 0 0 6 78
Jeff Thomas WR 44% 53% 0 0 8 84
Matt Seybert TE 65% 33% 0 0 3 22
Hunter Thedford TE 65% 20% 0 0 1 24
Final thoughts

Perhaps Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson could have spent a little more time game-planning and a little less time worrying about chicken salad. Seemingly one drive after another ended with another unsuccessful third-down run; the Bandits’ early 14-point lead felt like 100 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Opening *both* halves with their “muscle” package featuring nine offensive linemen was particularly egregious. The reality that Ta’amu and the Bandits passing game wasn’t even clicking for most of the evening further reinforces the notion that the Maulers might just be the USFL’s single-worst team.

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