USFL DFS Picks: Week 1 USFL DraftKings Strategy

After a near 40-year hiatus, the USFL returns to action this weekend with four games on deck. Fortunately, the good people of DraftKings launched their USFL DFS product to celebrate the return. With $100,000 up top in the main GPP and an assortment of other contests available, this article with give a breakdown of this new league. First, we will discuss general DFS strategy and roster construction, followed by player analysis and where we should be looking to go with our USFL DFS picks today. For in depth individual team and player breakdowns, check out the DraftKings USFL DFS Primer.

Week 1 DraftKings USFL DFS Picks

How to Build a USFL DFS Lineup

USFL DFS rosters are comprised of 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR/TE Flexes, 2 RB/WR/TE Flexes and 1 DST. This means the tight end position isn’t required, but rosters can hold as many as four. Similarly, only one running back needs to be played, but rosters can hold up to three. Starting with the quarterback position, mobile signal callers have a distinct edge in lower levels of competition. The XFL only had five individual 300-yard passing games all season and the USFL has even worse quarterback talent. With most signal callers unlikely to log 300-yard bonuses, any additional points secured on the ground can provide a massive edge.

At the Flex positions, the first rule of thumb is to devalue tight ends. Going back to the AAF and XFL, this isn’t a position that historically scores well. Even in a sport like college football that also doesn’t require a tight end, the position seldom enters optimal lineup construction. Only when salaries fall drastically, should tight ends be a major consideration outside of the larger tournaments. The only potential exception here is a few tight ends in this league played receiver in college. There is a chance that a few receivers may have the tight end designation on DraftKings, but that will be discussed in the player analysis.

As for the RB/WR/TE Flexes, wide receivers generally hold a slight edge over running backs, assuming similar pricing. These developmental football leagues score far fewer points than the NFL and college games. This elevates the importance of event-based scoring (touchdowns & receptions). With DraftKings awarding an additional point per reception, receivers can rack up dependable production outside of touchdown variance. The league also features 4-5 pass-first teams, potentially elevating the floors of some of the better receivers.

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Top QB Picks

Jordan Ta’amu ($10,400) — This highest projected quarterback on the slate and the top value, Jordan Ta’amu stands out as the clear quarterback to target. Ta’amu came off the board with the second overall pick in the USFL Draft. The former Ole Miss quarterback played with the St. Louis BattleHawks in the XFL, where he stood out enough to bounce around NFL practice squads in the following years. In the XFL, Ta’amu finished seventh overall in yards rushing, while completing 72% of his passes. He now quarterbacks the Tampa Bay Bandits, who project to be among the pass-heaviest teams in the league under Todd Haley. He also has a solid supporting cast around him, making him the top play for cash games.

Kyle Sloter ($10,000) — The second-most expensive quarterback on the slate, Kyle Sloter quarterbacks the New Orleans Breakers. The former Northern Colorado signal caller came off the board as the last quarterback in the first round, but the Breakers found a steal. Sloter is 6-foot-5, 218 pounds and went undrafted in 2018 NFL Draft. He initially started his career at Southern Miss but transferred to Northern Colorado when they tried to move him to tight end. Sloter has played in multiple preseasons in the NFL, completing 74% of his passes for 1,222 yards, 11 score, 1 interception and 8.1 yards per attempt. He has never been a prolific rusher, but Sloter allegedly ran in the 4.5’s in terms of speed. The Breakers also project to be one of the pass heaviest offenses under Larry Fedora. Prioritizing size and speed, this offense should be among the best in the USFL. While Sloter’s lack of rushing pushes him below Ta’amu, he is still more than viable for GPPs.

Bryan Scott ($9,200) — Perhaps the most volatile situation in the USFL, former Division II quarterback Bryan Scott will lead the Philadelphia Stars. The Stars are led by head coach Bart Andrus, who prioritized continuity with his Spring League buddies over drafting legitimate talent. Andrus runs a pass-heavy scheme that often features four wide outs. Scott has never played football against good competition and his supporting cast will be worse than most in this league. However, the pass heavy nature of the offense keeps him in play for DFS tournaments.

Alex McGough ($8,700) — An interesting mid-range option, Alex McGough will quarterback the Birmingham Stallions. The Stallions are led by former Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz. Holtz runs a lot of no-huddle with an elevated pass rate and tempo. McGough is 6-foot-3, 214 pounds and was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He played college at FIU and completed 65.4% of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt. Unlike many of the pocket passers in this league, McGough appears to have some escape-ability. He rushed for 231 yards in his final year of college, giving him Joe Burrow-like mobility. In the 2021 preseason with Seattle, he completed 65.2% of his passes for 6.1 yards per attempt. With a decent supporting cast as well, McGough is one of the better punt options at quarterback.

Clayton Thorson ($8,400) — A questionable talent even at the USFL level, Clayton Thorson will lead the Houston Gamblers. After quarterbacking mediocre Northwestern teams, the Philadelphia Eagles mercifully drafted Thorson in the fifth round. In the preseason Thorson put up some horrific stats despite his draft status. His best preseason come in 2019, where he completed 48.4% of his passes for 4.3 yards per attempt, one touchdown and three interceptions. Thorson at least will quarterback an exciting offense under Kevin Sumlin, who was fired after running Arizona into the ground, though he ran a pass-heavy uptempo offense. Thorson does have a decent supporting cast, so perhaps they can propel him to decent DFS scores.

De’Andre Johnson ($7,400) — The New Jersey Generals don’t have a starting quarterback after Ben Holmes broke his foot. The roster has AAF/XFL failure Luis Perez ($7,900) and former Texas Southern signal caller De’Andre Johnson. The team has yet to name a starter, but Johnson would be a solid play if he earns the job. Johnson is the best pure rusher in this league and would function like a Lamar Jackson-light in the right role. Late news could be crucial here with Johnson.

According to the USFL lineup optimizer, Ta’amu was one of the top quarterbacks popping in the projections. When running optimal lineups, Ta’amu was the QB showing up the most. Check out all of our free USFL DFS picks for a little more help building lineups by viewing the DraftKings USFL Cheat Sheet.

Top RB Picks

B.J. Emmons ($8,400) — The top running back play on the slate, B.J. Emmons has the chance to operate as the feature back in Todd Haley’s offense for the Tampa Bay Bandits. Emmons started his career with Alabama in 2016, before transferring to JUCO. After JUCO, Emmons played two injury riddled seasons with Florida Atlantic. In total, he never carried more than 51 times in any season. However, he is 6-feet, 220 pounds and ran a 4.58 40-yard dash. The draft capital and pedigree as a former four-star recruit stand out here. Haley is no stranger to bell-cow backs, previously coaching Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, and Stevan Ridley. With the potential to handle work on all three downs, Emmons looks like a standout play. The Bandits are also one of two teams with just two running backs on the entire roster with only Juwan Washington ($5,000) behind him.

Garrett Groshek ($6,200) — Priced as a mid-range option, Garrett Groshek projects as the number two back on this slate. Groshek played fullback/running back in the NFL for the Raiders, carrying the ball six times in the preseason. In addition to his full back duties at the University of Wisconsin, Groshek notoriously stole passing game work from Jonathan Taylor. Groshek amassed over 20 receptions in three straight years for the Badgers. Groshek is 5-foot-11, 220 pounds. While unconventional, he looks every bit like a feature back. Groshek also plays for one of the projected run-heaviest teams in the league under former NFL running back’s coach Kirby Wilson. The Maulers only have one additional running back on the team in Madre London ($5,700), but they also have a fullback in Mikey Daniel ($3,000). Groshek has a three-down skillset and the size to handle a full workload in a thin backfield in an archaic offense.

Darius Victor ($3,600) — With the USFL releasing their first injury report, Darius Victor immediately shot up New Jersey Generals depth chart with Mike Weber hitting the practice squad due to injury. The Generals already project to be extremely run heavy and Trey Williams ($4,700) profiles more as a change of pace back. Victor is 5-foot-8, 209 pounds and finished fifth in the XFL in rushing and profiles to handle a majority of the carries for a run-first team here. Williams is 5-foot-11, 230 pounds with 4.49 speed. However, his inability to see the field in either previous developmental league does not bode well for him.

Stevie Scott ($7,400) — Below the top three backs, the players start to get dicey. Stevie Scott has the potential to occupy a feature back role for the Michigan Panthers but comes with more question marks. For positives, Scott handled feature back duties at Indiana for three seasons, with his best year coming as a freshman in 2018. Scott is 6-foot-2, 231 pounds and ran a 4.66 40-yard dash. Even as an underwhelming athlete, Scott has the profile of a three-down back. The Panthers should also be run friendly under Jeff Fisher and Eric Marty. The team moved Reggie Corbin ($4,900) to the practice squad, leaving NFL journeyman  Cameron Scarlett ($3,500) to back up Scott

C.J. Marable ($5,400) – The former Coastal Carolina running back, C.J. Marable with form a timeshare with NFL preseason star Tony Brooks-James ($6,300) in the Birmingham Stallions’ offense. These two are interesting here after the Stallions placed Jordan Chunn on the practice squad. Both have played preseason ball in the NFL and are capable of handling a solid workload. With a projected timeshare, both backs make sense in GPPs. Marable is just a bit cheaper

Jordan Ellis ($4,800) — Outside of the few elite backs, paying down at the position could make sense. The New Orleans Breakers are carrying just two backs in Jordan Ellis and T.J. Logan ($3,300). Despite drafting Larry Rose ($7,000) with as their first running back, the Breakers parked the AAF and XFL back on the practice squad. Ellis is 5-foot-11, 215 pounds. He rushed for 1,997 yards and caught 29 passes in his final two seasons with Virginia. The former Virginia back in the only player with size in this backfield, making him the best bet for touchdowns.

T.J. Logan ($3,300) — The Breakers have a few cheap backs worth mentioning for tournaments. In addition to Ellis, the Breakers will use some Logan as the primary pass catching back. There is even an outside chance that he emerges as a true feature back. Head coach Larry Fedora used multiple undersized feature backs in previous coaching stints. With Rose hitting the practice squat, Logan makes an interesting tournament dart. Logan ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and played for Fedora at North Carolina in college.

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Top WR Picks

Isaiah Zuber ($9,600) — The Houston Gamblers drew the top selection in the receiver draft and selected former New England Patriot Isaiah Zuber. Zuber’s is 6-feet-0, 190 pounds and caught 51 passes in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018 for Kansas State. He mostly played out wide and ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. Zuber failed to contribute once he stepped up to Mississippi State in 2019 with 14 receptions for 211 yards in 10 games. Interestingly, Zuber played well enough to record a pair of receptions in regular season games for the New England Patriots. The Gamblers should pass frequently, but Thorson is a major concern for overall offensive efficiency. Overall, cheaper receivers project better than Zuber, but he makes sense in team stacks.

Victor Bolden ($9,400) — Drafted first overall by the Birmingham Stallions, Victor Bolden looks like a top three receiver in this league. He will play in a pass-heavy offense with decent quarterback play in McGough. Bolden entered the NFL in 2017 as a 5-foot-8, 178-pound undrafted free agent from Oregon State. Bolden appeared in two regular seasons and four preseasons, primarily with the 49ers. He ran a middling 4.54 40-yard dash but has played more NFL snaps than most in this league. While likely limited to the slot, he looks like one of the better talents here. Bolden amassed at least 461 yards in three separate season with Oregon State and offers versatility as a kick returner. The team also already cut Emanuel Hall and placed Peyton Ramzy on the practice squad.

Shawn Poindexter (9,100) — The third overall receiver drafted, Shawn Poindexter projects to lead the New Orleans Breaker’s receiving corps. The Breakers only have five receivers on the roster and project to pass the ball frequently. Poindexter should also benefit from some of the league’s best quarterback play. As a player, Poindexter is 6-foot-5, 218 pounds and runs 4.73 40-yard dash at his pro day. In college, he played a field stretching role, maximized in his final year with 759 yards and 11 touchdowns on 42 catches (18.1 yards per reception). He looks like a poor man’s KeeSean Johnson, which should be enough to dominate the diminutive corners of the USFL.

Devin Gray ($7,700) — The first receiver taken by the Philadelphia Stars, Devin Gray is another Spring League player of coach Andrus’. Gray played his college ball at Cincinnati. Gray is 6-feet, 192 pounds and ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. Gray caught 58 passes for 860 yards for Cincinnati in 2016 playing out wide. Both Gray and Jordan Suell ($7,200) played for Andrus in the Spring League, but Gray significantly out-produced Suell.

Lance Lenoir ($6,900) – If we needed any further confirmation that the Michigan Panthers intend to run the ball, carrying four wide receivers does just that. Leading the group, former Dallas Cowboys’ preseason star Lance Lenoir should play a vast majority of the snaps. Lenoir is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and played college at Western Illinois. He also ran a 4.67 40-yard dash coming out of school. The Panthers already cut their top receiver in Quincy Adeboyejo, so this may not be a situation to target even with a condensed target share.

Derrick Willies ($6,600) — For those looking to stack Ta’amu in Todd Haley’s downfield attack, Derrick Willies makes the most sense. Willies made the Cleveland Brown’s active roster in 2018 and 2020, playing with Haley in 2018. Willies has solid preseason numbers after catching just 36 passes in his final two years at Texas Tech. He is 6-foot-4 and will play out wide here. He ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at his pro day. It is likely that some combination of Derrick Dillon ($5,100), Jordan Lasley ($4,700) and Rashard Davis ($8,000) also produces in this league. Guessing which one is another challenge entirely. The tentative price-adjusted rank of these players is Willies, Dillon, Davis and Lasley, in that order.

JoJo Ward ($5,800) – For those looking at cheaper options in the Houston Gamblers’ offense, JoJo Ward projects to play the slot for this pass-heavy team. Ward is 5-foot-9, 175 pounds and played out wide for Hawaii in college. Ward ran a 4.47 40-yard dash after catching 1,134 yards on 65 passes in his final season in 2019. While Thorson is a concern, Ward profiles as a better fit than field stretcher Anthony Ratliff-Williams ($4,900) in this offense.

Darrius Shepherd ($4,800) — At first glance, the New Jersey Generals look to have one of the best receiving corps in the USFL. Both J’Mon Moore ($7,300) and Darrius Shepherd spent time with the Green Bay Packers. KaVontae Turpin offers legit speed from the slot despite his petite frame. However, Mike Riley projects to run more than any other team and the Generals easily have the worst quarterback play in the league. While stacks probably aren’t the best options, these receivers have legit NFL talent and could make for interesting one-off plays in tournaments. Shepherd looks like the top cost adjusted play here. Moore is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash coming out of Missouri after catching 60+ passes for over 1,000 yards in each of his last two years with the Tigers. He should play on the outside here. Shepherd has six catches in regular season games for the Green Bay Packers, despite going undrafted out of North Dakota State. He is 5-11, 188 pounds and offers additional value as a returner. Shepherd ran a 4.57 at his pro day and could operate in and out of the slot here.

Bailey Gaither ($4,600) — Another projected run-heavy team, the Pittsburgh Maulers have no clarity at the top of their receiver depth chart. Jeff Thomas ($9,000), Branden Mack ($5,000) and Bailey Gaither project to start. Gaither has the best college production, coming out of San Jose State. He played out wide in college, despite his 6-foot-1, 182-pound frame. The six-year college player recorded over 725 yards in each of his final two seasons. With a 4.48 40-yard dash, Gaither is an interesting GPP flier in this poor offense.

Jonathan Adams ($4,200) — One of the best cheap options on the slate, Jonathan Adams should play on the boundary opposite Poindexter for the New Orleans Breakers. Adams is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with a 4.59 40-yard dash and a 39″ vertical. In college, he recorded 851 and 1,111 yards receiving in back-to-back seasons with Arkansas State. Former Ohio State receiver Johnnie Dixon ($6,300) should round out this receiving group and play in the slot. While more expensive than Adams, he is also a viable stacking option in this offense.

Devin Ross ($3,300) — The Michigan Panthers aren’t expected to be among the league leaders in passing. However, they only have three receivers on the roster with Ray Bolden ($4,000) hitting the practice squat due an Achilles injury. This leaves wind-sprinter Jeff Badet ($5,200) and Devin Ross to complement Lenoir. Ross is 5-foot-9, 181 pounds and played his college ball at Colorado. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at his pro day. He caught 69 balls for 787 yards and five scores in his 2016 junior season with Colorado. He has at least played decent football within the last five year, which cannot be said about Badet.

Marlon Williams ($3,000) — The Stallions could be a solid passing game to target for multiple reasons. Behind Bolden, Osirus Mitchell ($5,600) looks like the clear WR2, but Marlon Williams continues to climb the depth chart. Outside of Bolden, Williams has the strongest prospect profile. Williams played his college ball at UCF, and he is 6-foot, 215 pounds and ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. He caught 71 passes for 1,039 yards as a senior with UCF and could quickly ascend a weak depth chart. Williams is an interesting flier in Birmingham stacks.

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Top TE Picks

Cary Angeline ($5,800) — The Birmingham Stallions will often use four-wide sets, but that doesn’t mean a tight end won’t play detached. In his career with Louisiana Tech, Skip Holtz has prioritized athletic tight ends. Cary Angeline played his college ball at North Carolina State and came off the board fourth overall in the tight end draft. He played more in the slot, but his snaps were split almost 50/50 between the slot and inline. Productive as well, Angeline has 52 catches for 791 yards over his last two seasons with North Carolina State. Also helping his case, the Stallions parked backup tight end Sage Surratt on the practice squad, leaving Angeline as the only tight end on the roster.

Cheyenne O’Grady ($4,800) — Expect Ta’amu to be the most owned quarterback this weekend. For those attempting to gain leverage while playing Ta’amu, targeting the Bandits’ tight end Cheyenne O’Grady could make sense. O’Grady played college ball at Arkansas, standing 6-foot-4, 256 pounds. O’Grady ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, but off-field issues hurt his draft stock and limited his college career. He caught 85 passes over three years at Arkansas and showed the ability to play in and out of the slot. He played 204 snaps out wide and 140 in the slot in his final collegiate season.

La’Michael Pettway ($3,200) — Michigan Panthers’ offensive coordinator Eric Marty runs a ridiculous offense focused on tight end play. While that seems moronic for real life, it could mean extra production for the position in DFS. the Panthers currently have four tight ends on the roster, but La’Michael Pettway profiles as the top pass catcher. Pettway is 6-foot-2, 223 pounds and played wide receiver for Arkansas and Iowa State. Pettway finished with 499 and 676 yards receiving in his fourth and fifth seasons in college. Pettway did supposedly run a 4.47 40-yard dash, giving him elite athleticism. Further sweetening this situation, Joey Magnifico ($5,700) is on the injury report and a name to monitor.

Bug Howard ($2,600) — The Philadelphia Stars selected Bug Howard fifth overall among tight ends. Howard is a converted wide receiver, who caught 124 balls for 1,770 yards in his three-year career with North Carolina. He brings solid athleticism to the position with a 4.58 40-yard dash. Howard spent some time in the AAF and on various NFL practice squads. Howard could be one of these receivers disguised as a “tight end.”

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Matt Gajewski
Matt Gajewski graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Economics. Matt has worked in the fantasy industry for the past four years, focusing on DFS and Sports Betting. Matt specializes in NFL, College Football, College Basketball, XFL, and MMA. With GPP victories across the major sports, Matt also qualified for the DraftKings 2020 Sports Betting Championship and won a seat to the College Basketball Tourney Mania final.

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