UFL MVP power rankings: Stallions QB Adrian Martinez enters after Week 3


by RJ Young | FOXSports.com

The 2024 UFL season is heating up, and Week 3 did not disappoint.

The DC Defenders (2-1) won a last-second thriller against the reigning XFL champion Arlington Renegades (0-3) on the road, while the Michigan Panthers (2-1) took down the Houston Roughnecks, which also fell to 0-3, at home.

The two-time defending USFL champion Birmingham Stallions defeated the Memphis Showboats (1-2) to become the lone undefeated team after the St. Louis Battlehawks (2-1) handed the San Antonio Brahmas (2-1) their first loss of the season.

Here's a closer look at the players who stood out in Week 3 for the MVP race.

1. Adrian Martinez, QB, Birmingham Stallions

Week 3 result: Defeated Memphis Showboats, 33-14

Week 3 stats: 18 of 28 (64.3%) for 334 passing yards, three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), zero interceptions and 44 rushing yards

In Saturday's win, Martinez became the first UFL player to throw for 300 yards in a single game. The Stallions' last 300-yard passer was FIU product Alex McGough, who went on to become a member of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

After watching former Ole Miss QB Matt Corral play most of the first two games, Martinez will continue to make head coach Skip Holtz’s job difficult with which signal-caller to play and just how much to play each of them. However, the Stallions' offense looked much more fluid with Martinez behind center and took great advantage of his 4.5 40-yard dash speed.

"It was a decision made that this was going to be Adrian’s game," said Holtz, who went into Week 3 knowing that Martinez would be his starter. "Matt was gonna play a backup role and come in if something happened to Adrian. I think he earned that during the week."

Over the past two years, Holtz has made his two-QB system work in the first half of the spring football season before ultimately settling on a starter in the second half of the season. It will be fascinating to find out if he settles on Martinez or Corral later this year.

2. Luis Perez, QB, Arlington Renegades

Week 3 result: Lost to DC Defenders, 29-28

Week 3 stats: 24 of 40 (60%) for 290 passing yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions

Following his stellar performance on Saturday, Perez is the only QB in the league to throw for at least 200 yards in every outing thus far and the only signal-caller to throw for over 700 yards through nearly one third of the season. He leads the league in passing yards with 737 headed into Week 4.

His partnership with receiver Tyler Vaughns was on full display in Week 3, with Vaughns catching nine passes for 109 yards with a touchdown against the Defenders.

3. E.J. Perry, QB, Michigan Panthers

Week 3 result: Defeated Houston Roughnecks, 34-20

Week 3 stats: 16 of 19 (84.2%) for 208 passing yards, three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing), zero interceptions and 60 rushing yards

For the first time since joining the Panthers in 2022, Perry looks like the kind of playmaker that he showed himself to be in the Ivy League while playing college football at Brown. With time in the pocket, he picked apart the Roughnecks' defense and was more than capable when tucking and running the ball.

It didn’t hurt to see former West Virginia receiver Marcus Simms turn a five-yard checkdown pass into a 66-yard touchdown in which he broke six tackles en route to the end zone. In his first year with Marcel Bellefeuille as Michigan's offensive coordinator, Perry’s development has already received a huge boost.

4. Jordan Ta’amu, QB, DC Defenders

Week 3 result: Defeated Arlington Renegades, 29-28

Week 3 stats: 11 of 24 (45.8%) for 188 passing yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and 53 rushing yards

Ta’amu continued to show why he was named XFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2023, leading the Defenders to a come-from-behind victory on the road in Arlington with a 241-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Defenders are still waiting for their run game to find its form like it did in 2023, but with Ta’amu behind center, they know they're never out of a game.

5. Darrius Shepherd, WR, St. Louis Battlehawks

Week 3 result: Defeated San Antonio Brahmas, 31-24

Week 3 stats: Three catches for 19 yards, five kick returns for 149 yards, two punt returns for 37 yards.

Shepherd leads the UFL in all-purpose yardage. The XFL's reigning Special Teams Player of the Year and three-time FCS national champ at North Dakota State has shown why a dynamic returner is so important in the UFL. With UFL kickers being forced to kick from their own 20-yard line, returners like Shepherd will have opportunities to run one back. Not only does Shepherd lead the league in kickoff return yardage, but he also is the only player in the UFL to notch at least 300 return yards, at least 80 punt return yards and at least 100 receiving yards.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.


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