The USFL Draft is officially over after two days and 35 rounds. The new 8-team league will hold its first game in April, and all of the games will be played in Birmingham, Alabama, during the regular season.
A few more recognizable players were selected at the end of Day two of the draft. Let’s examine some of them.
Scooby Wright, ILB
The Birmingham Stallions selected Scooby Wright in the 21st round to secure their inside linebacker position. The former University of Arizona star compiled a ton of accolades in college, including First-team All-Pac-12, Unanimous All-American, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi Award, and the Chuck Bednarik Award, all in the 2014 campaign.
Wright was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 250th overall choice in the 2016 NFL Draft and signed a contract with them but was waived toward the end of September.
Wright then spent time with the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Hotshots of the now-nonexistent AAF, the New England Patriots, and the DC Defenders of the XFL. From the NFL to the AAF to the XFL, maybe the new USFL is exactly what Wright needs to get his career back on track.
Eli Rogers, WR
Tampa Bay Bandits head coach Todd Haley has quietly put together a solid team during the USFL Draft. On Day Two, he nabbed former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers — no coincidence considering Haley also spent time on the Steelers staff.
Rogers being taken this late was a bit of a surprise, especially since he is the most decorated and accomplished wide receiver in the draft. He was with the Steelers from 2015 to 2018, then had a brief stint with the DC Defenders and an even shorter stint with the Montreal Alouettes.
He had 78 catches for 822 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career, and now he joins forces with Haley in the USFL and has former NFL QB Jordan Ta’amu under center. Oddly enough, Rogers’ will forever be remembered for pulling up to Steelers camp in a big rig. Seriously.
Let’s see if Rogers does the same with the Bandits in the USFL.
John Atkins, DT
The Bandits selected another former NFL player — this time, it was defensive tackle John Atkins. In the 26th round, Haley dipped his hand into the pile and selected the former Georgia Bulldogs star.
Atkins was originally signed by the New England Patriots but later cut, only to turn around and sign and spend three seasons with the Detroit Lions. Atkins started six games for the Lions in 2019 and totaled 13 tackles across 12 games.
He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and was later waived by the Lions.
Atkins was picked up briefly by the Atlanta Falcons in 2021 for a couple of months, and now he will look to make some noise in the USFL at the age of 29.
De’Veon Smith, RB
With the first pick of the 28th round, the Pittsburgh Maulers selected De’Veon Smith, another former Michigan player hoping to find success in the USFL.
Smith was electric with the Wolverines but went undrafted and signed on with the Miami Dolphins in 2017. He bounced around quite a bit, including a short stint with Washington. Smith then transitioned to the AAF, played with the Orlando Apollos, went to the XFL with the Tampa Bay Vipers, and finished as the leading rusher with over 300 yards.
Smith wasn’t too excited about being drafted that late and posted a warning to the rest of the USFL on his Twitter account.
Obi Henry Melifonwu
Once again, the Bandits select a former NFL player — and a notable one at that. Former UCONN and Las Vegas Raiders defensive back Obi Henry Melifonwu was drafted by Haley and the Bandits in the 18th round.
Coming out of college, Melifonwu was a star. Unfortunately, his NFL skills didn’t translate, which became another major mistake by the Raiders.
The Raiders waived him in 2018, just one year after being chosen in the second round.
He then signed with the New England Patriots and was with them until 2019. From there, nothing materialized except for brief appearances with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles in 2021. He turns 28 in April, and there is a reason the Raiders drafted him in the second round.
The talent is obvious, but it just didn’t translate from Connecticut to the NFL. Perhaps it does this time around with the Bandits.
Stats Courtesy of Pro Football Reference