Top 10 UFL Players Who NFL Teams Should Sign in 2024

The UFL championship has been awarded (congratulations to the Birmingham Stallions!), so let’s give our newly merged spring league some love! Think of this league as the minor leagues of football. Veterans and UDFAs who don’t make NFL rosters or practice squads can gain experience and put plays on tape. Dallas has struck gold here: returner KaVontae Turpin and K Brandon Aubrey were both USFL players before becoming All-Pros with the Cowboys. I see no reason more players can’t follow this path, so we’re going to look at the top 10 UFL players who should be signed by NFL teams in 2024!

Note: This list does not include players who had already signed with NFL teams at the time of writing.

QB Adrian Martinez, Birmingham Stallions

Teams are always on the lookout for QBs, and in this kind of league, you want a certain type. The ideal prospect is a young player who hasn’t had much of an opportunity before and can grow into the role. Martinez seems to fit the bill. He started at Nebraska as a decent player but made a bad decision to transfer to Kansas State as a senior. Will Howard was a superior player, so Martinez barely played and thus went undrafted. Initially in a QB competition with Matt Corral, Martinez took the reins early and never looked back. He’d go on to win the UFL MVP award and the championship game MVP award.

Martinez opened eyes with his dual-threat ability, looking like a poor man’s Lamar Jackson. His passing needs work (58.5% completion rate), but he took care of the ball (15/3 TD-INT ratio). He also led the entire league with 528 rushing yards, forcing defenses to stay disciplined. I don’t think Martinez is ready to play in the NFL right now, but he seems worthy of a look as a developmental option. Bringing him into a camp would be smart, as would signing him to a practice squad. Players with this type of athletic ability should be able to find a home, as Martinez’s predecessor (Alex McGough) did in Green Bay.

WR Hakeem Butler, St. Louis Battlehawks

There’s usually a spot on lists like this for Offensive Player of the Year winners. That happens to describe Butler, who led the UFL with 652 receiving yards (his 5 TDs ranked second). A 6’6″, 220-lb receiver with speed, Butler is a major mismatch. The former 4th-round pick of the Cardinals fell in the draft because of drops. Drops also cost him NFL jobs, and they weren’t completely eliminated this season either. However, his hands looked much more competent than in years past. Perhaps Butler simply needed some development and is now ready to contribute at the next level.

WR Siaosi Mariner, Michigan Panthers

This receiver probably isn’t on too many radars, but he should be. Mariner has never been on an NFL active roster and played in the CFL from 2022-2023. Somehow, Fox (half owner of the UFL) doesn’t even have a picture of him on their site. That’s ok; I’ll vouch for this Utah State Aggie instead. On the surface, 40 catches for 345 yards and 2 TDs doesn’t seem all that impressive. However, Michigan cycled through 4 QBs, and Mariner played just 7 games. Crucially, every time I watched him, he was making big plays. Contested catches, well-run routes, and explosiveness were his trademarks.

At 6’2″ and 190 lbs, Mariner is a big WR, but he doesn’t lack speed. That was evident on a 46-yard breakaway TD against Birmingham in week 10. Most times I noticed him, the circumstance was Mariner bailing out one of his QBs on an errant pass. The interesting part is that he didn’t flash like this in training camps or in the CFL the past two seasons. Everything he has shown in the UFL though suggests that this season wasn’t a mere fluke. Regardless of how you feel about his output, the wise move is to bring him in and give him a chance. There’s no downside to doing so.

WR Jontre Kirklin, San Antonio Brahmas

The lack of quality QB play across the league might not lead you to look at a bunch of WRs, but that position was great this year. Our third WR on this list, Kirklin also faced QB issues. Chase Garbers was often injured, and Quinten Dormady was erratic. Despite that, Kirklin helped the Brahmas make it all the way to the championship game. He earned 614 yards and 3 TDs on 56 catches while possessing quality size at 6 feet tall. A former LSU WR who was overshadowed by his star teammates, Kirklin never got much of a shot in the NFL. I’d love to see a team sign him and let him compete.

DT Carlos Davis, Birmingham Stallions

Interior pass rushers are rare, so when one repeatedly flashes on tape, I take notice. Davis bounced around the NFL a bit prior to joining the Stallions, but he only played in a few games. Perhaps he’ll see more NFL game action after his UFL exploits. Davis finished second in the league with 7 sacks, and he was solid in run support with 21 tackles (4 TFLs). The 6’2″, 312-lb defender easily plugs holes between guards while enabling his edge rushers to feast. I’m not saying he’s Aaron Donald or anything, just an explosive inside athlete who could definitely help a team beef up its interior rush.

DE Breeland Speaks, Michigan Panthers

I’m growing confused as to why NFL teams aren’t giving Speaks a look. I listed him in last year’s version of this article, and now he has gone and won the UFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Originally a 2nd-round pick of the Chiefs, Speaks was suspended under the substance abuse policy during the 2019 season and waived the subsequent offseason. I doubt that such a suspension would’ve doomed his NFL career in 2024, but he had trouble latching on after that. These spring leagues have been ideal for him, as he has received a chance to show why he was drafted so highly to begin with.

For the second year in a row, Speaks led his league in sacks. This time around, he had 9.5 QB takedowns against slightly better competition (due to the UFL merger, which concentrated the talent pool). He also played great against the run, earning 13 TFLs. As a second-round pick, he comes with quality measurables at 6’3″ and 285 lbs. I really do believe that his suspension derailed Speaks’ NFL career. The fact that he hasn’t gotten into any trouble in the 5 years since then tells me that he has matured. This version of Speaks is worthy of another opportunity, and I expect him to excel if he gets one.

LB Tavante Beckett, San Antonio Brahmas

I touched on the Brahmas’ offense above, but their defense enabled them to win the XFL conference. A unit coached by Wade Phillips was bound to end up as the league’s best, and that indeed came true. One of the keys to that defense was Beckett, an All-UFL LB who racked up 67 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He’s slightly undersized at 5’10”, but he can fly. Nobody I saw did a better job of roving from side to side and making plays at all locations on the field. Instinctive both in coverage and against the run, Beckett could be a core special teamer in the NFL. He can also play in subpackages on defense.

S Markel Roby, Houston Roughnecks

Most secondary players in the UFL were solid if not spectacular, but Roby was on another level. He tied a few other players for the league lead with 3 INTs. However, none of them came close to his tackling production (52). I consider him a major All-UFL team snub, but Roby is used to being overlooked after playing at Pittsburgh State of the FCS. He brings good length to the position at 6’0″, and he’s a sure tackler. There’s very little information available about Roby, but he shows plenty on the field. Should an NFL team opt to sign him, he might surprise them as much as he impressed UFL viewers.

KR/PR Chris Rowland, DC Defenders

You know I have to include a returner in this list. It’s kind of our thing here at Takeaways. Rowland’s 1218 KR yards cleared the 2nd-place finisher by a whopping 256 despite having just two more attempts. He came in 5th in PR yards even though he returned just 12 punts. Rowland is also the proud owner of the only return TD in the UFL to date, an 82-yarder in week 10 against Arlington. He’s small at 5’8″, so his offensive contributions will be limited to the slot (where he had 262 yards). With the new NFL kickoff rules though, there’s plenty of justification for signing Rowland as a special teams player alone.

Most of the Kickers, Multiple Teams

I didn’t want to choose just one kicker for this spot because the position has arguably been the league’s biggest bright spot. Two kickers, including Ramiz Ahmed and UFL star Jake Bates, have already been signed. Plenty of others deserve mentions as well. Memphis’ Matthew Coghlin led the league with 94% FG accuracy, and his longest make came from 58 yards. Andre Szmyt of St. Louis converted 90% of his kicks with a long of 61 yards. Roughneck JJ Molson went 15/18 on FGs, converting one 62-yard attempt. Finally, DC’s Matt McCrane went 16/20 with a long FG of 58 yards.

Clearly, some great kicking was going on in the UFL. Though there are no extra points in this league, field goal success matters more when evaluating NFL kickers anyway. After all, college PATs are about 20 yards, while NFL PATs are 33 yards. We’ve seen plenty of NFL teams struggle to make important kicks. All of them should check out these UFL kickers. They’re veterans, so they’re much readier to face pressure-filled moments than rookies. Best of all, they’ve shown that they have big legs with adequate or better accuracy. I can see each player named above as an upgrade for several squads in the NFL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Similar Posts