This article is part of our DraftKings USFL series.
The USFL is set to give football and DFS aficionados alike a taste of some spring/early summer pigskin action to hold us over until NFL season. DraftKings will offer a full array of DFS contests for USFL action through the league's championship game on July 3, with four games being played in each of the regular season's 10 weeks before a four-game playoff weekend and the eventual title game.
Naturally, Week 1 selections will rely heavily on what we know about a player's previous body of work in college and any pro leagues, as well as what some of the USFL head coach's tendencies have been on offense in prior stops.
USFL DK contests will require players to roster one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers or tight ends, two FLEX spots with either a running back, receiver or tight end and a team defense.
Jordan Ta'Amu, TB at PIT ($10,400): Ta'amu is actually one of the more known quantities at quarterback to start the USFL season, as he was impressive in a five-week stint as the St. Louis Battlehawks' starter in the XFL before the league's 2020 season was shut down due to COVID-19. Ta'amu has subsequently bounced around some NFL practice squads, and while it remains to be seen if he'll ever be able to catch on at the NFL level, he could well thrive once again against a spring-league level of competition. Ta'amu completed 72.0 percent of his passes and also rushed for 217 yards at 5.3 yards per attempt during his XFL tenure, and with a very experienced offensive-minded coach in Todd Haley calling the plays in Tampa Bay, the Ole Miss product could thrive immediately in Week 1.
Kyle Sloter, NO vs. PHI ($10,000): Sloter is set to man Breakers head coach Larry Fedora's aggressive, pass-friendly offense, which automatically puts him on my radar for Week 1. Sloter threw for 2,656 yards and 29 touchdowns in his one year playing quarterback at the college level back in 2016, and he put together an impressive preseason with the Broncos the following summer after going undrafted. Sloter will have a solid group of pass catchers in New Orleans. The team has prioritized the air attack in the league's draft, with the likes of Shawn Poindexter, the blazing-fast Johnnie Dixon and one-time NFL draftees Chad Williams and Taywan Taylor in the fold.
Alex McGough, BHAM vs. NJ ($8,700): McGough put together a solid college career at Florida International between 2014 and 2017, throwing for 9,091 yards and 65 touchdowns and even tacking on 16 rushing scores. He's since spent time with the Seahawks, Jags and Texans and put together a solid preseason last summer for Seattle. McGough has a couple of interesting targets to throw to in former 49ers wideout Victor Bolden Jr. and UCF product Marlon Williams, and although his supporting cast doesn't appear to have the same upside going in as those of Ta'amu or Sloter, he makes for an interesting value play in front of the home crowd to open the season.
ALSO CONSIDER: Shea Patterson, MICH vs. HOU ($10,500)
Stevie Scott, MICH vs. HOU ($7,400): Another back who should find his offense highly conducive to the ground attack in Scott, who has the notoriously conservative Jeff Fisher as his head coach. The expected workload for the Indiana product should therefore be hefty, and given Scott also offers some receiving ability out of the backfield, he could potentially be in for a three-down role at times. Scott has the body for goal-line work at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds as well, which helped lead to him scoring 10 rushing touchdowns in each of his three seasons with the Hoosiers on his way to gaining 2,543 rushing yards at 4.5 yards per carry.
Garrett Groshek, PIT vs. TB ($6,200): Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson, a one-time running backs coach, has unsurprisingly gone on record this week with his plans to heavily lean on the ground game in his offense. That's nothing if not good news for Groshek, who saw limited opportunities during his four college seasons at Wisconsin but made good use of them. Groshek finished his time with the Badgers having forged an impressive average of 5.2 yards per carry, and he also proved a highly capable receiver out of the backfield with 79 receptions in 46 games despite a part-time role. Any back that has the possibility of playing all three downs in a ground-centered offense and carries a reasonable salary like Groshek's is worthy of consideration going into Week 1.
ALSO CONSIDER: BJ Emmons, TB at PIT ($8,400)
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Shawn Poindexter, NO vs. PHI ($9,100): Poindexter should be a beneficiary of the Breakers' aforementioned aggressive passing attack and sports an impressive 6-foot-5 frame that should make him a natural red-zone weapon. That was certainly the case during his senior season at Arizona back in 2018, when he recorded 11 touchdown grabs. The big-bodied wideout opens the season atop the depth chart for New Orleans as well, certainly an encouraging sign for fantasy purposes in what should be a pass-heavy scheme.
Derrick Willies, TB at PIT ($6,600): Willies not only boasts some NFL experience, but NFL experience with his current head coach. Haley served as Willies' offensive coordinator during the latter's rookie season with the Browns, and the Texas Tech product also enters the season as the top receiver on Tampa Bay's depth chart. With Ta'amu having the potential to start the season fast thanks to his prior experience, Willies, who sports a 6-foot-4 frame and spent time on Cleveland's active roster for two seasons, could be one of his top targets, particularly near the end zone.
Jojo Ward, HOU at MICH (5,800): Along with the Breakers, the Gamblers should be one of the most pass-heavy teams in the USFL, considering head coach Kevin Sumlin's track record with the spread offense. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has some question marks attached, but Ward should have a prominent role to open the season and comes into the league having played in a high-volume attack at Hawaii during his two college seasons. Ward produced a 65-1,134-11 line in his senior campaign, and although slight in frame, his 4.4 speed could play very well against a secondary playing its first game together.
Darrius Shepherd, NJ at BHAM ($4,800): Shepherd makes for an intriguing value play at his salary, with the former Green Bay Packer having put together an impressive college career at North Dakota before being signed as an undrafted free agent in Green Bay back in 2019. Shepherd also spent time on multiple NFL practice squads last season, so he comes into the USFL with some NFL experience in his toolbox.
ALSO CONSIDER: Victor Bolden Jr., BHAM vs. NJ ($9,400), Darnell Holland, PHI at NO ($8,100)
Birmingham Stallions ($3,800) vs. New Jersey Generals: Projecting team defense production for Week 1 is admittedly a tall task, but the Stallions could be a team that is able to generate some points based on the inexperience of their opponent. The Generals appear set to start De'Andre Johnson at quarterback, and while the Florida Atlantic and Texas Southern product is certainly mobile, his passing is highly inconsistent. Even when playing in the Spring League in last year, Johnson could only muster a 5:7 TD:INT over six games, so turnovers could certainly be a factor here, while his tendency to try and extend plays could also result in some sacks piling up for Birmingham over the course of the game.
ALSO CONSIDER: New Orleans Breakers vs. Philadelphia Stars ($4,300)