The inaugural USFL college draft is officially in the books. Let’s take a look back at the Birmingham Stallions picks and break each one down further. As a reminder, this is a draft for player rights. Some of these athletes could don the red and gold in 2023, but it’s possible we won’t see any of them until a future season.
Round 1, Pick 7: Kadeem Telfort, OT, University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Stallions didn’t look far for their first pick, taking UAB’s Kadeem Telfort. Telfort (6’8, 335) is a big, physical left tackle with lots of experience. He was a two-year starter at UAB, playing in 30 games throughout his collegiate career with 1,813 snaps. He earned Conference USA Honorable Mention as a junior and First Team All-Conference USA as a senior. While he was at UAB, the team was tremendously successful running the ball, averaging over 200 yards per game each of his final three seasons. In 2022, the offensive line was the top unit in Conference USA, rushing for 235.3 yards per game, good enough for eighth nationally. Running back DeWayne McBride led the nation in rushing with 1,702 yards. Telfort was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl. If he fails to make an NFL roster and chooses to join the Stallions, he could be a dominating presence up front, strengthening a team that was already second in rushing in 2022.
Watch UAB left tackle Kadeem Telfort chip the defensive lineman and climb to the LB to spring this run in the Bahamas Bowl (also finishes the LB into the dirt).
Round 2, Pick 14: Quinton Barrow, OT, Grand Valley State University
Clearly the Stallions’ top priority with this draft was stocking up on quality offensive linemen. With their second pick, they took Quinton Barrow, another experienced left tackle. Barrow (6’6, 330) comes from DII Grand Valley State University where he was a starter since his freshman year. Barrow was dominant at the DII level, racking up a laundry list of accolades. His freshman year he played a team-high 652 snaps, receiving All-GLIAC honors and being named GVSU Offensive Lineman of the Year. COVID took his 2020 season, but he picked up where he left off in 2021, earning CCA All-Region honors, All-GLIAC First Team, and being named GVSU Offensive Lineman of the Year for the second time. During his final year at GVSU, he was named a First-Team All-American by multiple outlets, GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year, All-GLIAC First Team, and was a Gene Upshaw Award finalist, given to the top DII lineman in the country. Barrow graded out at 94.7% blocking efficiency his senior year and was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. Barrow helped lead GVSU to an undefeated regular season, with an offense that lead the GLIAC in first downs, rushing, scoring, and total offense. As a DII prospect, it’s possible Barrow could fly under the radar and we could see him in a Stallions uniform. Keep an eye out for him this season or in 2024.
Round 3, Pick 22: Malik Cunningham, QB, University of Louisville
Cunningham (6’1, 190) was likely the Stallions’ splashiest pick of the draft. An Alabama prep standout, Cunningham graduated from Park Crossing High School in Montgomery, AL. From there he went on to Louisville, where he was a four-year starter for the Cardinals. Cunningham, a true dual-threat quarterback, racked up 9,660 yards through the air and 3,179 on the ground over his career, finishing just shy of 13,000 total yards. He also contributed 120 touchdowns, 70 passing and 50 rushing. He has elite speed for a quarterback, hitting 20.99 mph during the Senior Bowl. Cunningham will likely get looked at by NFL teams, but if he ends up in the USFL at any point, expect him to be a big-time playmaker for the Stallions.
Round 4, Pick 30: Derius Davis, WR, Texas Christian University
Derius Davis (5’10, 175) had a fantastic career at TCU, getting to play in a national championship game in his final season before finishing his collegiate career in the Senior Bowl. He led the team in catches in 2021 and was quarterback Max Duggan’s second favorite target in 2022. He finished his career with 112 catches for 1,513 yards and 9 touchdowns. Davis is blazing fast, running a 4.29 40. TCU utilized that speed in the return game where Davis excelled. Throughout his career, he had 1,803 return yards and 5 touchdowns. Davis had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown against Texas Tech this past season, setting a new school record for longest punt return. Who was the previous record holder? KaVontae Turpin, former USFL MVP and recent NFL Pro Bowler. Davis might make an NFL roster, but if he ends up donning the red and gold, he could be a Turpin-type weapon for the Stallions.
Round 5, Pick 38: Zeke Vandenburgh, LB, Illinois State
Vandenburgh (6’3, 235) was the Stallions’ first defensive pick. A standout senior season led to him winning the Buck Buchanan Award in 2022 as the nation’s best FCS defensive player. Vandenburgh had 100 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception last season. He led the FCS in sacks per game (1.40) and tackles for loss per game (2.1). Vandenburgh was also named the 2022 Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year and earned an invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Vandenburgh is trying to make an NFL roster, but if he slips through the cracks, expect him to join an already stout Stallions linebacking core.
Round 6, Pick 47: Colby Sorsdal, OT, William & Mary
The third tackle taken by the Stallions, Sorsdal (6’6, 305) was a five-year starter at William & Mary, playing in 46 games. He was named a First Team All-American by several outlets as well as an All-CAA First Team and VaSID All-State First Team. In 2022, he helped the W&M offense average 265.8 yards per game on the ground, good enough for third nationally. The offensive line also only allowed 0.77 sacks per game, fourth fewest in the country. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. Along with Telfort and Barrow, Sorsdal could prove to be a formidable presence up front if he chooses to accept a place on the Stallions roster.
Grant DuBose (6’3, 200) is another draft pick with Alabama roots. Like Cunningham, DuBose graduated from Park Crossing. He also went on to play at Miles College, an HBCU in Birmingham, before transferring to Charlotte. DuBose was dominant at Charlotte, finishing second all-time in receiving yards per game, third in career touchdown catches, and fourth in career receiving yards. He was Honorable Mention All-Conference USA in 2021 and Second Team All-Conference USA in 2022. DuBose has great size and quickness, earning him an invite to the Senior Bowl and making him an attractive target for many NFL teams. I wouldn’t expect to see DuBose on the Stallions roster anytime soon as he projects to be drafted as high as the second round in the NFL, but if things do not work out and he ends up back in Birmingham, expect him to terrorize opposing secondaries.
Grant Dubose is an inspiring story.
• Zero DI offers out of HS • DII Miles College in ‘19 • COVID forced him home where he worked two part time jobs • Earned tryout with Charlotte, awarded scholarship, posted 4/114/2 in first game v Duke • Now one of top WR in portal pic.twitter.com/HD37ciCGzi
Round 8, Pick 63: Mark Evans II, OT, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Evans (6’4, 295) was the fourth tackle selected by the Stallions. A decorated HBCU product, Evans was the top lineman in FCS in 2022, racking up several awards. He was named the Phil Steele FCS Offensive Lineman of the Year, a First Team All-American, the William Roaf Award winner (top lineman in Arkansas), and was First Team All-SWAC for the fourth time. He played 521 snaps at left tackle in 2022, only allowing two sacks the entire season and earning a 93% overall grade. He has been ranked the #2 HBCU draft prospect in this year’s class. Evans played guard in the East-West Shrine Bowl, so it will be worth watching what position he ends up in at the next level. I’d love to see Evans get a shot in the NFL, but if things don’t work out there, I know the Stallions could use him up front.
Round 9, Pick 71: B. J. Thompson, DE, Stephen F. Austin
Thompson (6’6, 235) was the second defensive player drafted by the Stallions. He is a lengthy defensive end with elite speed, running a 4.5 40. He started his collegiate career at Baylor before transferring to Stephen F. Austin. In his three years at SFA, Thompson logged almost 1,600 snaps, registering 91 pressures, 59 QB hurries, and 20 sacks. Thompson was a Third Team All-American, two-time All-WAC First Team, and a standout at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Thompson projects as a late NFL draft pick, but the Stallions could use someone with his athleticism on the defensive front if he doesn’t make it in the NFL.
Round 10, Pick 79: Starling Thomas V, CB, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Thomas (6’0, 195) is truly a local product. He graduated from Ramsay High School in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood before going a few blocks over to UAB. Thomas was a three-year starter at UAB, earning Conference USA Honorable Mention in 2021 and First Team All-Conference USA in 2022. This past season he had 30 tackles and 15 pass breakups, finishing top five in Conference USA. Thomas has good size and incredible speed, running a 4.25 40, 10.4 100-meter dash as a state champion in high school, and hitting 24.16 mph on GPS. He was also invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. Thomas will surely get looked at by NFL teams for his incredible athleticism if nothing else, but if he fails to make an NFL roster, the Stallions would love to have him continue playing in Birmingham for another year.
Really nice job here by UAB CB Starling Thomas V to recover on the out and up, get his head around to locate the ball, and disrupt the pass. One of the better G5 CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft class. pic.twitter.com/46673bqPty
All in all, it’s clear the Stallions wanted to load up on the offensive line. They drafted four highly decorated offensive tackles, all four of which played in the East-West Shrine Bowl. It remains to be seen how many of them will ever wear the red and gold, but the Stallions want to have a stable of potential linemen to pull from. This is unsurprising given how critical offensive line play is and how hard it can be to find quality linemen.
The Stallions used three of their other picks to bolster their offensive skill positions with Senior Bowl participants. One electric quarterback and a pair of play-making receivers could prove lethal if they ever wind up in Protective Stadium. Cunningham’s ability to extend plays and create offense with both his arm and legs are perfect for spring football. Davis and DuBose are different types of receivers—DuBose is thunder while Davis is lightning. DuBose could be a tough match-up in the USFL given his size and skill, while Davis could be a perfect replacement for Victor Bolden as a smaller, lightning-quick receiver and elite return man.
On the defensive side of things, the Stallions picked up a defensive lineman, linebacker, and secondary player. All three played in either the East-West Shrine Bowl or the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. They each have a ton of upside, and the Stallions would be fortunate to have any of them join the team in 2023 or beyond. Thompson and Thomas both made Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List for their incredible raw athleticism and physical ability. It would be fun to see what they could do in the USFL. Vandenburgh is a perfect linebacker for John Chavis’s defense—versatile, driven, highly-productive, and a proven leader. DeMarquis Gates is gone, and Scooby Wright won’t be around forever. Vandenburgh could easily be the next great Stallions linebacker anchoring the defense.
Do you think the Birmingham Stallions will make it to the USFL Championship again in 2023? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.