Malik Cunningham goes in the third round of inaugural USFL College Draft

The United States Football League (USFL) announced their inaugural College Draft four days prior to the remote draft held on February 21, 2023, via their Twitter account. Last season, in 2022, was the first time teams associated with the USFL took the field in a league designed to play in the spring and summer. A team in Alabama, the Birmingham Stallions, won the Championship and received the last pick in the USFL Draft in each round. And with one of their picks they selected former Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham.

Typically, the championship team picks last in any given round of a draft across all sports. But, in this case the Birmingham Stallions ended up picking second to last because the New Jersey Generals, who were initially slotted to pick sixth out of eight, found themselves in the eighth slot due to violating offseason roster management rules.

The draft order for each round went as follows for Rounds 2, 3, 4, and 5:

  1. Michigan Panthers
  2. Pittsburgh Maulers
  3. Houston Gamblers
  4. Memphis Showboats
  5. New Orleans Breakers
  6. Philadelphia Stars
  7. Birmingham Stallions
  8. *New Jersey Generals

But, the New Jersey Generals selected at their slotted sixth spot for Rounds 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 with their first round pick falling all the way to the last pick in the Draft.

In the third round of the Draft, the Birmingham Stallions selected Malik Cunningham with the 22nd overall pick.

So, in this situation the Birmingham Stallions now hold the rights to Malik Cunningham in the USFL. But, he does not have to agree to play for the organization if he does receive an NFL opportunity. Much like Kyler Murray, who was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft and by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft. His rights belong to both organizations in both sports, barring any trade that the Athletics made giving up his rights.

Cunningham did forfeit an opportunity to play in the 2022 Wasabi Fenway Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft, but should he not find a situation that is favorable, he could decide to play for the Birmingham Stallions, which is only about 90 miles away from his hometown.

“The USFL is the first major professional spring football league in nearly 40 years to complete a successful inaugural season and return for Season 2.”

Season 2 officially begins on April 15, 2023 with the Birmingham Stallions taking on the New Jersey Generals on FOX Sports at 7:30 PM. The USFL will have some post-NFL season competition with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s XFL, who kicked off the inaugural rebooted season on February 18, 2023. It’s Week 9 matchups will take place on April 15, 2023 and will give football fans two opportunities across two leagues to watch spring football.