Fantasy News & Analysis

USFL Week 2: Touchdowns, players of the game, fantasy football workload notes and more

Birmingham, AL, USA; Philadelphia Stars quarterback Bryan Scott (18) throws against the Pittsburgh Maulers during the first half 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.

New Jersey Generals 10, Michigan Panthers 6

Touchdowns

The Panthers got a short field after Orion Stewart picked off Luis Perez and returned the ball back to the Generals' 20-yard line. Cameron Scarlett found the end zone three plays later from four yards without much of a problem. MICH 6, NJ 3

The game's final touchdown occurred at the two-minute point of the second quarter. Sheesh. Credit to Darius Victor for finding a way to fly into the end zone from two yards out, but this wasn’t exactly the sort of offensive-happy affair Gen Z-ers are always barking about. NJ 10, MICH 6.

Offensive player of the game: Generals RB Darius Victor

Victor's game-high 40 yards included 30 yards after contact. The bruiser earned a Mark Ingram comp from the broadcast team thanks to his physical running style. The only negative was a lost fourth-quarter fumble, but the Generals would hold on anyway.

Defensive player of the game: Panthers S Orion Stewart

Stewart allowed just one catch from three targets into his coverage for three scoreless yards. PFF's third-highest-graded defender on the week, Stewart’s first-half interception stands as the main reason why the Panthers were able to put any points on the scoreboard.

Fantasy football workload notes

Generals: New Jersey continued to platoon both Luis Perez and De’Andre Johnson under center, with the latter serving as the USFL’s single most active rushing quarterback at this point. Trey Williams dominated usage as expected, although Darius Victory served as the more effective back and usually got the rock when he was on the field.

Darrius Shepherd emerged as the No. 1 receiver, apparently healthier after battling a hamstring injury in Week 1. Randy Satterfield was the only other wide receiver or tight end who ran a route on at least 70% of the offense’s dropbacks.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
De'Andre Johnson QB 58% 0% 8 10 0 0
Luis Perez QB 42% 0% 19 0 0 0
Trey Williams HB 67% 81% 0 9 4 -13
Darius Victor HB 33% 15% 0 11 0 0
Darrius Shepherd WR 88% 81% 0 0 6 73
Randy Satterfield WR 70% 81% 0 0 2 3
Alonzo Moore WR 40% 37% 0 0 3 18
KaVontae Turpin WR 35% 33% 0 2 2 11
Cam Echols-Luper WR 5% 7% 0 0 1 -1
Woody Brandom TE 84% 67% 0 0 4 34
Braedon Bowman TE 65% 63% 0 0 2 8
Wes Saxton Jr. TE 12% 11% 0 0 0 0

Panthers: Shea Patterson took each and every snap despite Jeff Fisher saying that Paxton Lynch would get some action before the game. The backfield devolved into a full-blown three-back committee. Cameron Scarlett saw the most fantasy-friendly usage out of the group, although it was the debuting Reggie Corbin who passed the eye test thanks to several dynamic runs. Lance Lenoir predictably worked as the clear-cut No. 1 pass-game option inside this banged-up WR room and racked up a week-high 164 air yards. Plenty of those yards were of the prayer-yard variety, but credit to Lenoir for breaking free downfield on multiple occasions thanks to some pristine route-running.

Devin Ross was the only other full-time receiver in this silly offense that attempts to keep its tight ends involved as much as possible. Unfortunately, none of the tight ends are emerging as particularly useful fantasy assets due to their own rotation.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Shea Patterson QB 100% 0% 33 4 0 0
Cameron Scarlett HB 53% 67% 0 8 4 21
Stevie Scott III HB 24% 18% 0 7 1 12
Reggie Corbin HB 22% 12% 0 8 1 1
Lance Lenoir Jr. WR 97% 97% 0 0 9 164
Devin Ross WR 95% 100% 0 0 3 36
Ray Bolden WR 17% 30% 0 0 2 8
Joe Walker WR 9% 0% 0 0 0 0
La'Michael Pettway TE 84% 85% 0 0 1 5
Marcus Baugh TE 79% 70% 0 0 4 37
Joey Magnifico TE 19% 9% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

Credit to the Generals for making it two straight weeks with a deep-ball attempt on the first play of the game, but this contest was otherwise lacking any sort of offensive firepower from start to finish. There were even NBA-level flops going on by the fourth quarter. Credit to Patterson for converting a fourth-and-20 on the game’s final drive before surprisingly giving the Panthers a last-second chance at the end zone, but it wasn’t meant to be. Both offenses were a few better balls away from finding the end zone on at least one more occasion. Either way, it’s clear Friday night viewers were “treated” to a battle between two of the USFL’s bottom four offensive units.

The kickers also deserve to be chastised for their lousy performance. After spending a whole week criticizing the league for their un-kickable balls, the Panthers and Generals combined to miss two field goals and one extra point in just five total attempts. This was a recurring theme throughout the weekend. I can’t help but wonder if the world would be a better place if we all just wised up and banned kickers once and for all.

Philadelphia Stars 30, Pittsburgh Maulers 23

Touchdowns

Things escalated early in the second quarter, as Bryan Scott completed all seven of his pass attempts over the course of a nine-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a nifty one-handed three-yard score to Diondre Overton. PHI 7, PIT 3.

The Stars quickly got back into scoring position after Ahmad Dixon picked off Josh Love on the first play of the next drive. Scott then finished the drive off himself by scrambling to convert a 3rd-and-10 before sneaking it in himself from one yard out. PHI 14, PIT 3.

It looked like the Stars were on the verge of breaking this thing wide open after Scott and company marched their way down to the Maulers' 21-yard line. It was then that Jaylon McClain-Sapp made one of his many big plays in this one, scooping up a Scott fumble and taking it 79 yards all the way back to the house. PHI 14, PIT 10.

The Maulers managed to briefly seize the lead before the half in this wild second quarter, marching 76 yards in eight plays to score their first offensive touchdown of the season at the 3:44 mark in the second quarter. The drive ended courtesy of a five-yard pitch and catch from Love to Hunter Thedford. PIT 16, PHI 14.

The final touchdown from this electric 34-point quarter was a rather wide-open connection from Scott to Maurice Alexander from 20 yards out. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? PHI 21, PIT 16.

The Maulers seized the lead once again midway through the third quarter after marching 85 yards in 11 plays. Love capped things off with one of many connections to Bailey Gaither, this one a rather pretty deep ball from 37 yards out. PIT 23, PHI 21.

The final points of the game were thanks to another Scott-to-Alexander connection, this time from 10 yards out. It was yet another great example of Scott making things happen after the play was on the verge of breaking down. Even better for this Stars -6.5 enthusiast, Philadelphia converted the league’s first-ever 3-point conversion thanks to some open-field goodness from RB Paul Terry. PHI 30, PIT 23.

Offensive players of the game: Stars QB Bryan Scott, Stars WR Maurice Alexander, Maulers WR Bailey Gaither

Scott worked as PFF's highest-graded passer on the week, throwing for 272 yards and a trio of touchdowns. He even chipped in with a goal-line touchdown on a QB sneak. His 7.7-yard average target depth was a step in the right direction after dinking and dunking through most of Week 1.

Gaither (7-117-1) was the only USFL player to go over 100 yards in Week 2, and he earned PFF's highest receiving grade (86.1). Alexander (8-87-2) was plenty good in his own right. Overall, Gaither (6) and Alexander (5) led the USFL in total first down receptions in Week 2.

Defensive player of the game: Maulers CB Jaylon McClain-Sapp

McClain-Sapp first jumped off the screen with a gnarly one-handed interception before later lighting up the scoreboard with a long scoop-and-score. PFF's second-highest-graded cornerback of the week, McClain-Sapp's playing time (just 25 snaps in Week 2) should increase after this electric performance.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stars: Bryan Scott continued to function as one of the USFL’s only quarterbacks with a true every-down role. Darnell Holland appeared to injure his hamstring on a kick return, leading to paul Terry’s enhanced role. This banged-up wide receiver room wound up leaning heavily on Diondre Overton, Jordan Suell, Maurice Alexander and Bug Howard, who is essentially a wide receiver labeled as a tight end for whatever unfathomable reason. Overall, Howard has lined up in the slot or out wide on 53 of his 65 snaps this season (82%).

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Bryan Scott QB 100% 0% 43 6 0 0
Paul Terry HB 64% 58% 0 8 4 27
Darnell Holland HB 36% 35% 0 2 3 -3
Diondre Overton WR 100% 100% 0 0 3 25
Jordan Suell WR 100% 100% 0 0 9 81
Maurice Alexander WR 98% 100% 0 0 9 86
Bug Howard TE 82% 81% 0 0 5 43
Pro Wells TE 20% 19% 0 0 1 4

Maulers: The Kyle Lauletta experiment could be over, as Josh Love played each and every snap after splitting things up a bit more in Week 1. Garrett Groshek worked as the fairly clear RB1 ahead of Madre London as both a rusher and receiver. While four wide receivers ran a route on at least 50% of Love’s dropbacks, Delvon Hardaway and Bailey Gaither were the clear top-two options. They were two of just seven players with triple-digit air yards on the week. Hunter Thedford is essentially an every-down tight end, although it’ll be tough to expect Love to reach 42 dropbacks in a performance with more neutral game script.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Josh Love QB 100% 0% 42 0 0 0
Garrett Groshek HB 63% 60% 0 18 1 -6
Madre London HB 37% 31% 0 10 2 -6
Mikey Daniel FB 11% 10% 0 0 0 0
Delvon Hardaway WR 81% 76% 0 0 8 100
Bailey Gaither WR 81% 83% 0 0 8 138
Tre Walker WR 57% 62% 0 0 7 84
Branden Mack WR 51% 57% 0 0 3 65
Hunter Thedford TE 83% 81% 0 0 5 34
Matt Seybert TE 21% 17% 0 0 1 6
Final thoughts

This game was a huge pick-me-up for the league as a whole after Friday night’s stinker. The 34-point second quarter proved that the USFL *is* capable of putting up some points in a hurry, even if they aren’t quite as pretty as what fans are used to seeing in the winter and fall. Helmet-cam goodness and sci-fi first-down measurement technology will only get a league so far. Credit to both of these squads for putting together an entertaining Saturday afternoon battle.

Birmingham Stallions 33, Houston Gamblers 28

Touchdowns

The early front-runner for USFL game of the year didn't take long to get going, as Brian Allen picked off Clayton Thorson and brought it back 48 yards to the house just 58 seconds into the game. BIR 7, HOU 0.

The Gamblers responded with their own pick-six later in the quarter, as a late J'Mar Smith pass into the flat was snagged by Will Likely and taken back 62 yards to the house. HOU 9, BIR 7.

An offense finally decided to join the touchdown party early in the second quarter, as Thorson drove the Gamblers 69 yard in just nine plays to seize back the lead. Credit to Isaiah Zuber for displaying some crafty route-running on his 25-yard score. HOU 15, BIR 10.

Each offense traded a field goal in the second quarter before the Stallions took back the lead once and for all. Smith's 34-yard touchdown pass to Osirus Mitchell was a beauty, but Mitchell's post-score taunting was what really stole the show. The world should really be more accepting of taunting in all aspects of life. BIR 19, HOU 18.

Smith continued his habit of staying hot in the second half, driving the Stallions 78 yards in 11 plays on the Stallions' next drive. C.J. Marable capped off the drive with a three-yard score that displayed some solid burst and vision. BIR 26, HOU 18.

Birmingham's final touchdown was courtesy of another Smith deep ball. This time the recipient was Marlon Williams, who displayed some route-running goodness early in the route to get open enough to score from 65 yards out. BIR 33, HOU 21.

The Gamblers were quick to respond, however, as Thorson got in on the deep-ball party with a 44-yard strike to Tyler Simmons for the score. Blown coverage aside, Thorson did a great job avoiding pressure before uncorking the accurate downfield target. This would be the final score from this entertaining affair. BIR 33, HOU 28.

Offensive player of the game: Stallions QB J’Mar Smith

Back-to-back official USFL player of the week, perhaps? Smith was again largely excellent in Week 2, completing 20-of-30 passes for 222 yards and a pair of scores. He recorded just one turnover-worthy play and also pitched in an 8-31-0 rushing line.

Defensive player of the game: Gamblers CB Will Likely

Likely’s pick-six got most of the attention, but PFF’s highest-graded cornerback on the week also deserves credit for adding a TFL and another pass deflection. Overall, Smith completed just one of four targets into Likely’s coverage for a measly two scoreless yards.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stallions: J’Mar Smith continued to take every snap with Alex McGough sidelined due to injury. Tony Brookes-James and CJ Marable split snaps right down the middle, with the former back seeing more passing-down work and the latter functioning as the lead early-down grinder.

Birmingham continues to deploy one of the league's clearer three-WR sets, as each of Victor Bodlen, Marlon Williams and Osirus Mitchell ran a route on over 90% of Smith’s dropbacks. Unfortunately, the presence of FB Bobby Holly limits TE Cary Angeline’s potential to seize a true every-down role.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
J'mar Smith QB 100% 0% 34 8 0 0
Tony Brooks-James HB 52% 41% 0 9 3 8
CJ Marable HB 48% 29% 0 16 2 9
Bobby Holly FB 44% 21% 0 0 0 0
Victor Bolden Jr. WR 94% 100% 0 0 12 54
Marlon Williams WR 89% 94% 0 0 3 66
Osirus Mitchell WR 81% 91% 0 0 6 105
Michael Dereus WR 14% 9% 0 0 0 0
Peyton Ramzy WR 13% 6% 0 0 0 0
Cary Angeline TE 61% 71% 0 0 3 31

Gamblers: Clayton Thorson was spelled by Kenji Bahar on a few occasions, but the Gamblers’ backup signal-caller couldn’t get much of anything going. Mark Thompson continued to work as the backfield’s clear-cut lead back, even on pass-downs despite Dalyn Dawkins profiling as more of a scat back.

The top two wide receivers in Houston are clearly Tyler Simmons and Isaiah Zuber, although Tyler Palka and Anthony Ratliff-Williams still managed to combine for 10 targets in their own right. Note that Zuber’s day had a chance to be even bigger had Bahar saw him break wide open for a potential second touchdown over the middle. No tight end involved ran a route on even 40% of the team’s dropbacks.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Clayton Thorson QB 72% 0% 29 2 0 0
Kenji Bahar QB 28% 0% 8 1 0 0
Mark Thompson HB 66% 51% 0 16 0 0
Dalyn Dawkins HB 34% 35% 0 7 0 0
Tyler Simmons WR 98% 100% 0 0 7 93
Isaiah Zuber WR 92% 97% 0 0 6 121
Tyler Palka WR 52% 78% 0 0 4 31
Anthony Ratliff-Williams WR 44% 59% 0 0 6 22
Brandon Barnes TE 61% 38% 0 0 2 6
Julian Allen TE 52% 27% 0 0 4 15
Final thoughts

The Gamblers converted a 4th-and-10 on their final drive before Thorson was ultimately intercepted deep in Birmingham territory with just 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. This second half was entertaining enough to unironically call your friends on Saturday night and tell them to put the USFL game on. Credit to the Stallions for improving to 2-0 — they have a strong argument as a top-two team thanks to their play-making defense and relatively great quarterback in J’Mar Smith.

New Orleans Breakers 34, Tampa Bay Bandits 3

Touchdowns

The Breakers jumped on the Bandits in a hurry during the USFL's unofficial game of the week. Kyle Sloter efficiently drove New Orleans 77 yards in 13 plays on its opening drive, eventually finding the end zone himself on a sneak from just one-yard out. NO 6, TB 0.

The Breakers went right back down the field on their next drive, traveling 69 yards in 12 plays. This time, RB T.J. Logan finished things off from five yards out after gaining 31 total yards on the drive. The Breakers managed to convert their 2-point conversion attempt thanks to Jonathan Adams’ first of many highlight catches. NO 14, TB 0.

Sloter was feeling himself at this point and seemingly couldn't miss. An absurd 29-yard OBJ-style snag from Adams put the Breakers deep in Tampa Bay territory before Shawn Poindexter hauled in a pretty contested catch of his own. NO 21, TB 3.

The Tampa Bay defense looked awfully worn out by the time the fourth quarter came around and didn’t offer much resistance on Sloter’s four-yard touchdown to Johnnie Dixon, who paid tribute to his former Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins afterward. NO 31, TB 3.

Offensive players of the game: Breakers QB Kyle Sloter, Breakers WR Jonathan Adams

Sloter deserves all the credit in the world for playing effectively through a painful groin injury, ultimately going for 268 yards and three total touchdowns. Still, it was Adams who truly popped off the screen time and time again. The Breakers’ No. 1 wide receiver looks like the most pro-ready player in the USFL at the moment.

Defensive players of the game: Breakers DL Kamilo Tongamoa, Breakers DL Shareef Miller

Tongamoa (7) and Miller (6) were two of just four USFL defenders with more than five pressures in Week 2. Tongamoa managed to rack up two sacks for his trouble, while Miller batted down two passes despite not registering an official sack.

Fantasy football workload notes

Breakers:  The fast-paced New Orleans offense relied on Kyle Sloter under center for each and every snap despite his seemingly painful groin injury. The backfield was split between Jordan Ellis and T.J. Logan, with the former back working as the lead rusher and the latter as the receiver.

Jonathan Adams looks a lot like the USFL’s single best receiver at this point and accordingly earned team-high marks in targets (10) and air yards (125), but the likes of Shawn Poindexter, Johnnie Dixon and Taywan Taylor were also plenty involved. Sal Cannela has about as hefty of a role as a USFL tight end could hope for, although this offense clearly and understandably seems content to flow the passing game through its wide receivers first and foremost.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Kyle Sloter QB 100% 0% 40 1 0 0
Jordan Ellis HB 60% 45% 0 21 0 0
T.J. Logan HB 40% 38% 0 10 5 -17
Jonathan Adams Jr. WR 82% 85% 0 0 10 124
Shawn Poindexter WR 81% 78% 0 0 5 86
Johnnie Dixon WR 67% 75% 0 1 9 68
Taywan Taylor WR 63% 63% 0 0 5 28
Sal Cannella TE 89% 85% 0 0 3 22
Justin Johnson TE 18% 15% 0 0 2 19

Bandits:  Jordan Ta’amu was surprisingly spelled by Brady White on several occasions. White did nothing with the snaps to make this look like a good idea. BJ Emmonds continued to work as the lead back, although the negative game script produced plenty of action for scatback Juawn Washington, as well.

Jordan Lasley had plenty of fantasy-friendly air yards, though plenty of these were of the prayer-yard variety due to some desperate downfield heaves from Ta’amu. John Franklin not only worked as the clear-cut No. 2 receiver but also flashed as a wildcat quarterback. No other wide receiver or tight end managed to run a route on even 60% of the offense’s dropbacks.

Name POS Snap % Route % Dropbacks Rushes Targets Air yards
Jordan Ta'amu QB 74% 3% 23 4 0 0
Brady White QB 26% 0% 13 1 0 0
BJ Emmons HB 52% 41% 0 14 4 -10
Juwan Washington HB 48% 46% 0 7 3 4
Jordan Lasley WR 92% 92% 0 0 5 114
John Franklin III WR 90% 89% 1 4 3 18
Vinny Papale WR 48% 57% 0 0 2 32
Rashard Davis WR 34% 38% 0 0 3 65
Derrick Dillon WR 13% 11% 0 0 0 0
Cheyenne O'Grady TE 61% 59% 0 0 3 14
De'Quan Hampton TE 60% 51% 0 0 3 31
Final thoughts

The Bandits totaled just 226 yards against the Breakers and turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Tampa Bay and New Orleans sat atop my USFL power rankings both before the season and after Week 1, primarily thanks to the idea that Jordan Ta’amu and Kyle Sloter are the league’s two best quarterbacks. This notion sure looked to be true for Sloter during the majority of Sunday’s blowout victory — credit to the Breakers for functioning as the USFL’s best team after two weeks of action.

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