The USFL held its 2023 College Draft this past Tuesday drafting the rights to 80 players, ten per team, and showing their plan is building toward the future. They may not all be moves that help right now but a lot could help down the line for future years, or in some cases, later in this campaign. This was a traditional draft with teams picking in order of record from last year with the Panthers starting each round and the Stallions rounding it out. For the New Jersey Generals specifically, there were some changes to their draft position.
It seems that GM Billy Devaney and Head Coach Mike Riley believed the roster sizes would be bigger than the 58 we now know. This was not the case and created a situation where the Generals had to release offseason acquisitions that never got a chance to prove themselves in training camp. Therefore, the league penalized New Jersey by taking away their first-round pick and moving it to the final pick of the tenth round. The league also moved their second through fifth round picks to the last pick in each respective round. Despite all this reshuffling, the Generals did not seem flustered and had a solid draft, looking toward the future.
Round 2, Pick 15: Adrian Martinez, QB Kansas State
One of the more notable players drafted this year, the Generals took a swing for a quarterback who most likely won’t be on the roster this year in Martinez. Finishing his career out at Kansas State, a lot of college football fans might know him from his days at Nebraska. He is the 15th ranked quarterback in this year’s draft, but I expect him to at the very least get a camp invite from an NFL team and possibly stick around as a practice squad player. A great athlete similar to quarterback De’Andre Johnson, Martinez ran a 4.7 40-yard-dash and put up very solid numbers in college. I have seen 6th and 7th round grades on Adrian Martinez but he could also sign on as a UDFA. Time will tell, but this could be a very good investment for the future.
Round 3, Pick 23: J.J. Holloman, WR Tennessee State
With their second pick of the 2023 USFL College Draft, the Generals went after a position of need in wide receiver. After losing both KaVontae Turpin and Darrius Shepherd this offseason, there is a huge hole this offense needs to fill. Holloman started out at Georgia and had success before being dismissed due to assault allegations. He then moved on to Florida International and finished his collegiate career at Tennessee State University. The Generals went heavy HBCU in the draft starting with J.J. Holloman, but his draft status is murky. At Georgia some draft experts had him graded as high as the 4th round early on but with past legal issues, a lack of big-time production, and multiple transfers, it may suit Holloman to come play a season in the USFL and get NFL teams more comfortable with him as a player. Still, an NFL team may take a chance on a raw and talented prospect in Holloman, and he may bet on himself.
JJ Holloman hauls in his first TD reception as a Tiger‼️
With the Generals playing their games in Canton, it can’t hurt to have a bit of a local product from in-state along their defensive line. Jones is an edge with some very intriguing measurables at 6’4”, 255 lbs. This past season, the redshirt senior had 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Although it is a very deep edge draft for the NFL this year, if he performs well at his pro day, a team might take a shot on his potential in the late rounds. I feel he is most likely a UDFA at best, and the exact type of player USFL teams should be going after. For the Generals, they could use the help for their pass rush after being last in the USFL last season in sacks, registering ten in just ten regular season games.
Round 5, Pick 39: De’Jahn Warren, CB Jackson State
The Generals drafted another HBCU product in the fifth round at a position that they desperately need to improve in. After losing both of their starting corners, De’Vante Bausby and DeJuan Neal, to the XFL, most of us knew the New Jersey Generals would go cornerback at some point in the draft. At 6’1”, 185 lb., De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren can flat out play. Being coached by one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history in Deion Sanders also helps a ton. He is the 92nd ranked defensive back in the draft and he is slight by NFL standards but running a sub-4.3 second 40-yard-dash is NFL speed. He hasn’t had much production, but he has spoken to NFL teams in the pre-draft process, so it’s a true toss up to me.
Round 6, Pick 45: Derrick Tucker, S Texas Southern
With the 45th pick, the Generals went to the defensive backfield again. At 6’3” 220 lb., Tucker is a bigger safety and a hybrid player that can also play in the box and be an athletic linebacker-type. He started at Texas A&M before moving to Texas Southern to finish his eligibility. Last season he had 26 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a pass breakup. These aren’t jaw-dropping numbers, but he does have the size to help New Jersey in a couple of ways. The Generals still have Dravon Askew-Henry, Mike Bell Jr., Paris Ford, and Shalom Luani at safety so this may be a pick looking toward future years.
Round 7, Pick 53: Jermaine McDaniel Jr., DE North Carolina A&T
The New Jersey Generals clearly saw the deficiencies in their pass rush last season and attempted to fortify it through the draft. This was the second pick they went with a pass rusher in the draft along with Victor Jones. He was All-Big South Conference First Team and finished with eight sacks this past season. I’ve seen some projections of the App State transfer being drafted in the late rounds and this is another pick I feel was made looking toward the future. He is a fringe player who I think could thrive for New Jersey if he ever decides to sign.
This was a pick that puzzled me a bit. The Generals already have one of the best, if not the best, punters on their roster in Brock Miller. Korsak won the Ray Guy award this past season which is given to the nation’s best punter and will certainly get picked up as a UDFA in the NFL or maybe even get drafted. A Rutgers player in New Jersey is fun to think about, but I’m not too sure we will ever see him playing in the USFL.
With Darius Victor and Trey Williams on the roster, running back wasn’t a need by any stretch, but a third consistent option would be good. The Generals never had that last season and they’re fortunate they didn’t need it, but insurance is always good. He runs with aggression similar to Victor and Williams. Holston’s numbers weren’t great for a poor Virginia Tech team, but he did have five touchdowns last year. It’s known how low the running back position is valued in the NFL. This is a pick who I could see suiting up in the USFL.
The Generals let go of their long snapper from last season, Scott Flanick, in a move that surprised a lot of people. They later signed long snapper Jordan Ober so this may be another pick made looking toward next season. Zecchino is from Cedar Grove, New Jersey, so this may be a move like that of Korsak. Local players can garner some extra interest when playing in their home state and the Generals hope to be playing in the Garden State in 2024.
The USFL’s 2023 College Draft was capped off with their own ‘Mr. Irrelevant’. Rey Estes is a high school quarterback turned defensive back and the fifth and final HBCU selection for the Generals. He is smaller, being under six feet, but isn’t afraid to tackle and attack the ball. Estes is another fringe player that may be able to show something in an NFL camp but also has potential to produce in the USFL. New Jersey is hurting at corner as was mentioned earlier, so this is a pick I like a lot.
Overall, the New Jersey Generals made some value picks, and a lot of picks looking at 2024 and beyond. Hearing a spring football league be so forward-thinking is refreshing and gives fans something to look toward in the future. The Generals will retain these players rights until they either work out a contract or relinquish their rights. We may not see many, if any, of these ten picks on the roster in 2023, but several will have a chance to sign at some point in the future.