The National Football League draft starts tonight and runs through the weekend. Here’s what the first-round of the draft would look like if we entered the land of make believe, in which NFL teams had to select out of the pool of talented athletes who played at the six local schools this past football season.
Welcome to the 2nd Annual Bizarro Draft…
#1: Los Angeles Rams: Richard Williams- LB-Wethersfield: Most experts agreed that the new-look Rams traded up to select a quarterback, but Williams is a once in a generation talent that will instantly become the face of the recently relocated franchise. He led the entire state in tackles and has a knack for coming up with big plays, also adding value as a versatile halfback on offense.
#2: Philadelphia Eagles: Kevin Lawrence- OL-Xavier: The Eagles also trade up and many speculated they would draft a signal caller, but the new regime wants to protect their fragile quarterback and Lawrence is the perfect guy for the job. He can dominate both sides of the ball and excels as a road-grading guard, where he will add power to an offensive unit who has notoriously struggled in short-yardage situations.
#3: San Diego Chargers: Devon Smith- S-Wethersfield: San Diego lost their defensive leader, Eric Weddle, this offseason and Smith is the ideal replacement. His athleticism is off the charts, allowing him to play man coverage or in the box. The natural born leader can help in all three phases of the game, also having played quarterback, wide receiver and punted during his time at Wethersfield.
#4: Dallas Cowboys: Justice Taylor- DL- Cromwell: Taylor may be the final piece of the puzzle for a Dallas team that has done a nice job rebuilding their offensive and defensive lines over the past couple of drafts. He wreaks havoc in opposing team’s backfields and his size allows him to dominate the line of scrimmage.
#5: Jacksonville Jaguars: James Lavery- OL- Newington: Jacksonville seems to be on the cusp of something special and Lavery could, literally, help push them over the hump. He dominated as a guard and his athletic frame allows him to play multiple positions along the offensive line. He’s a safe bet and the type of player that head coach Gus Bradley will love.
#6: Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Klavins- WR-Wethersfield: For the second straight season the Ravens will select a wide receiver in the first round of the draft to replenish the talent they’ve lost on the outside. Klavins’ playmaking ability and sure hands are second to none. He found the end zone once every three catches in 2015 and will quickly become Joe Flacco’s best friend in the red zone.
#7: San Francisco 49ers: Ricky Montalvo- MLB-Rocky Hill: Montalvo can start immediately and become the leader of a defense in transition. Despite his lack of size, no one in the draft can get to ball carriers with more efficiency and his passion for the game is unmatched.
#8: Cleveland Browns: John Sadak- S-Xavier: The Browns traded down and got a quarterback---for their defense. Sadak is a heady safety with a nose for the ball (four interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2015) and he’s not afraid to mix it up in the run game. He can also return kicks for the new coaching staff in Cleveland.
#9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Laurenzo Thompkins- LB- Middletown: Thompkins is the thumper that Tampa has been missing since the departure of Derrick Brooks. He’s explosive off the snap and is disruptive behind the line of scrimmage, making him a steal at this point in the draft.
#10: New York Giants: Patrick Sullivan- LB-Rocky Hill: Sullivan is an old school player that loves contact. The Giants spent a lot of money this offseason on the defensive side of the ball and Sullivan will make the G-Men stouter against the run.
#11: Chicago Bears: Kristian Sapp: RB-Cromwell: Sapp fills a need for the Bears, who moved from long-time back Matt Forte this offseason. He’ll add an explosive nature to an offense that desperately needs it and he’s deceptively tough to bring down between the tackles. His soft hands give him an added dimension out of the backfield.
#12: New Orleans Saints: Jamal Bagley- LB-Wethersfield: The Saints defense has been awful the past couple of seasons and Bagley could be the one that changes that. His passion and playmaking ability are always on full display, especially when he’s punishing quarterbacks.
#13: Miami Dolphins: Grant Nieves- RB-Rocky Hill: It’s amazing that Nieves fell into the Dolphins’ lap. The breakaway threat is an immediate upgrade at running back, thanks to his smooth running style, and his punt returning ability makes him a duel threat. This is a match made in heaven.
#14: Oakland Raiders: Sean Grover- MBL- Newington: Things are trending upwards in Oakland and Grover will add another stabile piece to a young defensive unit. The passionate, sure-tackler will also love wearing his favorite colors, silver & black.
#15: Tennessee Titans: Nick Cusano- G-Wethersfield: The Titans received a king’s ransom trading down from the first overall pick and they get the best available offensive lineman remaining in the middle of the first round. Cusano is a solid anchor, who will solidify an offensive line in flux and help open up the Tennessee run game.
#16: Detroit Lions: Jordan Baker- CB-Middletown: The Lions face some gunslingers in the NFC North and they need someone with Baker’s talents to help control the airwaves. Baker also likes to mix it up in the run game and is well suited to blitz off the corner (three sacks in 2015).
#17: Atlanta Falcons: Jason Carducci- S-Rocky Hill: Carducci is the ultimate competitor and packs a punch in run support. The Falcons have lost veteran leadership at safety, but are getting a guy that leads by example and produces game-changing plays.
#18: Indianapolis Colts: Ethan Roy- DE-Cromwell: The Colts used to have a feared pass rush, but lately they’ve couldn’t scare a fly. Roy can change all that with his unique size and quickness off the snap. His production was tremendous this past season (12 sacks).
#19: Buffalo Bills: Anthony Caramanica- LB-Xavier: Caramanica is the type of player that Rex Ryan craves. He can solidify the heart of the defense and still be impactful behind the line of scrimmage, which will be a welcome site with the loss of long-time defensive stud Mario Williams. The multitalented athlete can also be the team’s emergency punter.
#20: New York Jets: Daniel DeWolf- OL-Newington: The Jets offense may look vastly different next season, but DeWolf has all the makings of a 10-year starter. He’s as solid as a rock, thriving in both pass protection and run blocking.
#21: Washington Redskin: Hunter Belzo- S-Middletown: Belzo is a team-first guy that will be a natural fit with the Redskins, who have revamped their secondary this offseason. He’s a physical safety that can also be a short-yardage tailback if needed.
#22: Houston Texans: Mayze James- LB-Cromwell: James is the jack-of-all-trades and will fit in nicely with a defensive unit ready to take the next step. The Texans, who always find a way to put talent on the field, can also use James’ various abilities on offense.
#23: Minnesota Vikings: Spencer McManus- LB- Xavier: Minnesota has a blossoming, young linebacking crew and McManus will fit right in. He’s a hard-nosed player that makes a living in the opponent’s backfield.
#24: Cincinnati Bengals: Elijah Young- CB-Wethersfield: Young was one-half of the incredible cornerback tandem in Wethersfield. Cincinnati’s defensive backfield isn’t getting any younger, so Young’s track speed and lockdown ability is much needed.
#25: Pittsburgh Steelers: Jae-quan Brown- CB-Wethersfield: Brown is the second half of the duo. The Steelers haven’t had a playmaking talent like this at cornerback since Rod Woodson was in town. Brown is also a dangerous returner.
#26: Seattle Seahawks: Jack Wilson- LB-Cromwell: The Seahawks simple reload on defense and Wilson is the type of player that gets coach Pete Carroll excited. He was highly productive (13 tackles per game in 2015) and is constantly around the ball, making him an instant favorite with the 12th man.
#27: Green Bay Packers: Dante Phillip- DE-Newington: Packers GM Ted Thompson loves to draft the best available player and size along the defensive line. Phillip fits on both accounts. His rare combination of length, speed, and power will allow him to plug into Green Bay’s deep rotation of pass rushers.
#28: Kansas City Chiefs: Trequan Weston- WR-Middletown: Weston has blazing speed and is the homerun hitter that the Chiefs offense is lacking. He’s also an underrated route runner, who will open up Andy Reid’s short passing game.
New England Patriots: Forfeited: The Patriots had their first-round selection taken away because they cheated, again. They originally accepted the penalty, but have since backtracked and blamed everybody else for their transgressions.
#29: Arizona Cardinals: Jovan Colon- OL/DL- Rocky Hill: Colon is a rock-solid lineman, who can exceed at the next level on either side of the ball. His underrated athleticism will be a great addition to the Cardinals attacking defense.
#30: Carolina Panthers: Mersad Zilkic- OL/DL-Cromwell: The defending conference champs are getting a player that can play any line position on either side of the ball. What Zilkic lacks in size, he makes up for in heart, evidence by his speedy return from a training camp arm injury this past season.
#31: Denver Broncos: Nick Guadarrama- QB-Newington: The Super Bowl champs have had a strange offseason, leaving the team without a starting caliber quarterback. Guadarrama has the size, mobility and arm strength to flourish at the next level, especially in Gary Kubiak’s bootleg offense.
16 additional players that will come off the board during round/day two of the 2016 Draft!
Nelson Carlson- Cromwell: Versatile athlete that is solid on both sides of the ball and tough as nails. An instant contributor to whoever drafts him.
Austin Rambarose- Cromwell: Fierce pass rusher with ideal size for the next level. Quarterbacks beware.
Jarius Bailey- Cromwell: Played through an injury his final season at Cromwell and still performed at a high level. Dangerous athlete when healthy.
Tyshaun James- Middletown: May be a “Slash” player at the next level, but his quarterbacking skills cannot be denied. Big play waiting to happen.
DeAaron Lawrence- Middletown: Young prospect that is only going to get better with time. He’s already a sure-tackler for his size and has all the tools to be a starter in the defensive backfield.
Ben Maycock- Newington: A massive steal in day two. Maycock has the size and tools to be dominant at the next level, but his affinity and abilities for baseball may have scared some teams off.
Deven Perez- Newington: Great athlete and even better team player. His route running and sure hands will make him a quarterback’s best friend.
Isaac Ortiz Jr- Newington: Big play receiver that is capable of stretching a defense. He also makes the circus catch look routine.
Luke Pappalardo- Newington: Another young prospect with first-round abilities. The arrow is only pointing up for this sure-tackling, turnover-creating safety.
Damon Lonero- Rocky Hill: Solid lineman, who adds value in the kicking game as a punter and placekicker. Nicknamed Captain Clutch for his ability to drill crucial kicks.
William White- Rocky Hill: Budding prospect that came on strong during the second-half of last season. Solid between-the-tackles runner on offense and eraser in the defensive backfield.
Ian Gingrave- Wethersfield: Heart and soul of a terrific offensive line at Wethersfield. Good chance he becomes a Pro Bowl-caliber guard at the next level.
Ajani Sampson- Wethersfield: Ideal size and athleticism needed to thwart edge rusher at the next level. Played left tackle last season, which NFL teams covet.
Glenn Cunningham- Xavier: Cunningham flew under the radar, but has all the makings of a first-round talent. His size, power, and versatility allow him to succeed as a running back on offense or safety of defense.
Niko Kveitkus- Xavier: Athletic interior lineman with the size to create alleyways at the next level. He’s a safe pick in round two.
Ben Costello- Xavier: Instant leader on defense, who will be in on nearly every tackle. Team that selects him will not be disappointed.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin