USFL Player Profiles: Wide Receivers Part 1 (2022 Fantasy Football)
The USFL held their expansion draft last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning/afternoon. The league’s draft format was unique. Each draft round featured a specific position each team had to draft. You can see a round-by-round breakdown of what positions were selected at NBC Sports Bay Area. Now, let’s look at the wide receiver rooms for the first four teams that picked wideouts.
- USFL Player Profiles: Running Backs
- USFL Player Profiles: Tight Ends
- USFL Player Profiles: Quarterbacks
Teams and Wide Receivers
- Victor Bolden Jr. (Round-Pick: 13-1)
- Emanuel Hall (14-8)
- Osirus Mitchell (15-1)
- Peyton Ramzy (16-8)
- Manasseh Bailey (17-1)
Preseason statistics, including Yards per Route Run (Y/RR), are from Pro Football Focus.
Victor Bolden Jr. was the first receiver picked in the USFL Draft. The 49ers signed him as an undrafted free agent (UDFA) after the 2017 draft. According to Pro-Football-Reference, he played 15 games in the NFL in 2017-2018. However, he was primarily used as a punt and kickoff returner. He's also bounced around practice squads.
Bolden was a versatile weapon at Oregon State. In his last three years and 35 games for the Beavers, he had 164 receptions, 1,801 receiving yards, seven receiving touchdowns, 83 rush attempts, 632 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. Additionally, he returned kickoffs and occasionally punts. Unfortunately, Bolden is small with mediocre speed. However, according to Player Profiler, he had a 71st percentile agility score. Thankfully, the rest of the receiving corps should allow Bolden to settle in as a slot option who can also be used on gadget plays, mitigating concern about his stature.
Emanuel Hall has elite speed and size. According to Football-Reference, Hall had 70 receptions for 1,645 yards and 14 touchdowns in 18 games over his last two years at Missouri. Nevertheless, he went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. In his scouting report, Lance Zierlein projected him as a fourth-round pick. Hall has been on NFL practice squads briefly. Sadly, he also has a torn Achilles on his ledger, suffering the injury in June of 2020. Regardless, his top-shelf wheels make him a big-play threat in fantasy football.
Osirus Mitchell was only moderately productive in his four years at Mississippi State. However, he stands out -- bad pun intended -- as a desirable target in the red zone, standing 6-foot-5. Mitchell went undrafted in 2021 but spent the entire year on the Cowboys' practice squad.
- Isaiah Zuber (Round-Pick: 13-2)
- JoJo Ward (14-7)
- Anthony Ratliff-Williams (15-2)
- Tyler Simmons (16-7)
Isaiah Zuber went undrafted in 2020 after a mediocre college career at Kansas State and Mississippi State. Further, he doesn't have eye-popping measurables. Nevertheless, Zuber has bounced around practice squads in the NFL and even appeared in four games in 2020 for the Patriots. So, it's not unfair to call him a fringe NFL talent, putting him a cut above most of his peers at the position in the USFL. Additionally, he's on one of only two teams that have only four receivers. As a result, Zuber faces less competition for targets, enhancing his fantasy outlook.
JoJo Ward was much more productive in college and a vertical threat, evidenced by averaging 17.2 yards per reception on 116 receptions in 28 games for Hawaii. Unfortunately, I could not locate a definitive 40-yard dash time, but Mountain West Wire listed his time as 4.47 seconds, and Draft Scout had his times ranging from a low of 4.42 seconds to a high of 4.62 seconds.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams and Tyler Simmons round out Houston's receiving corps. Ratliff-Williams began his college career at North Carolina as a quarterback, transitioned to a receiver, and wrapped up his last two years with moderate success. Simmons had only 35 receptions in 35 games for Georgia. Nonetheless, he has intriguing speed and athleticism that have netted him looks from NFL teams.
New Orleans Breakers
- Shawn Poindexter (Round-Pick: 13-3)
- Johnnie Dixon (14-6)
- Jonathan Adams (15-3)
- Taywan Taylor (16-6)
- Chad Williams (17-3)
The Breakers might feature the most notable collection of receivers in the USFL. Taywan Taylor and Chad Williams were both picked in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. But, of course, they were the final two receivers selected by New Orleans, behind three other wideouts. Further, the other seven clubs in the USFL repeatedly bypassed them. Does this mean they're bereft of talent and can't produce in fantasy? Not necessarily. However, I'll let others overvalue their name recognition.
Shawn Poindexter was the highest selected receiver for the Breakers. His professional career has been a winding path that included a torn ACL in 2019 after signing with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie. Thankfully, even after suffering the injury, the 49ers remained interested enough in the skyscraper (he's 6-foot-5) wideout to add him to their practice squad. Now, he'll have a chance to prove his big-play ability translates from college to the pros in the USFL. In his last year at Arizona in 2018, he scored 11 touchdowns while averaging 18.1 yards per reception on 42 receptions in 12 games. Thus, he's an interesting fantasy option for his home-run and red-zone abilities.
If defenses devote too many resources to slowing the big-bodied Poindexter, Johnnie Dixon is equipped to make them pay. Dixon spent five years at Ohio State, averaging 17.1 yards per reception on 67 receptions. His big-play ability was fueled by elite speed, running a blistering 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds, a 90th percentile 40-yard dash score.
Finally, Poindexter isn't the only big-bodied wideout on the team. Jonathan Adams is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Adams had a productive four-year career at Arkansas State but went undrafted. The most eye-catching number in his measurables is a nifty 93rd percentile burst score. He latched on briefly with the Lions, reportedly showing well in Lions' rookie minicamp before they cut him. Making matters worse, he was suspended for the first six games of the 2021 NFL season for undisclosed reasons. Whatever the reason for the suspension, it isn't preventing him from playing the USFL.
- Jeff Thomas (Round-Pick: 13-4)
- Bailey Gaither (14-5)
- Branden Mack (15-4)
- Delvon Hardaway (16-5)
- Tre Walker (17-4)
Unsurprisingly, my two favorite receivers from the Maulers are their top picks, Jeff Thomas and Bailey Gaither. Thomas was a highly-regarded high school prospect who took his talents to Miami. Unfortunately, it wasn't smooth sailing with the Hurricanes, and his stats leave a lot to be desired. However, he can scoot, and Zierlein described him as a "highly explosive playmaker with field-stretching speed and short-area quickness to tempt teams for viable three-level solutions from the slot" in his pre-draft scouting report. Zierlein also noted the sub-par quarterback play Thomas was saddled with. Thus, I'm willing to forgive his ho-hum numbers and endorse his fantasy relevance based on his big-play potential and draft capital.
Gaither spent six years at San Jose State, overcoming a ruptured Achilles in his junior year (2018) to produce the two best seasons of his collegiate career in 2019 and 2020. Zierlein's pre-draft scouting report noted Gaither's ability to make plays down the field. Gaither also played with Pittsburgh's second-picked quarterback, Josh Love, meaning they have chemistry if Love overtakes Kyle Lauletta on the depth chart.
Interestingly, the Maulers went back to the well for receiving talent from San Jose State, picking Tre Walker. Walker's best college season was Love's final year, 2019. The wideout reeled in 79 receptions for 1,161 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games, besting Gaither's 52 receptions and 812 receiving yards in 12 games. But, of course, that was Gaither's first year back from his ruptured Achilles. So. I'm choosing not to overreact to the statistical discrepancy favoring Walker. Further, in seven games, Gaither's 725 yards bested Walker's 627 receiving yards in eight games in 2020.
Branden Mack is yet another big-bodied wideout in the USFL, checking in at 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds. Mack's height makes him a theoretical red-zone weapon. While his 15 touchdown receptions in his final 32 college games don't jump off the page, they account for 26.3% of Temple's touchdown passes in those three years.
Finally, Delvon Hardaway has unfortunately endured two ACL surgeries, helping explain his poor college statistics. However, he's persevered through his knee injuries, playing in The Spring League. Regardless, I'm least interested in him from Pittsburgh's receivers.