The National Football League draft starts tonight! Here’s what the first round of the draft would look like if we entered The Land of Make Believe, in which NFL teams selected from the pool of talented gridironers who starred at the five local schools.
Welcome to the 5th Annual Bizarro Draft…
1. Arizona Cardinals: Bryce Karstetter (QB- Cromwell/Portland): Arizona drafted a potential QB of the future last April, but the new regime wants their own guy and the Cromwell-product fits perfectly with Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo pace. Karstetter is a student of the game and has all the tools and toughness to be the cornerstone in the desert.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Nygell Smikle (DL- Middletown): The 49ers need to generate more pressure on the quarterback and Smikle’s disruptive nature will help accomplish that. Explosive off the snap and packs a punch at the point of impact. A genuine tone-setter.
3. New York Jets: Nick Wright (WR- Cromwell/Portland): Wright has played only one year of organized football, yet that one season was jaw dropping. His production speaks for itself and his natural hands and ability to track the ball are a QB’s best friend. A quick learner who will become Sam Darnold’s safety valve.
4. Oakland Raiders: Osbourne Richards (DL- Middletown): A season ago Oakland lacked production from the front line and Richard’s relentless motor can change that. Sheds blocks with ease and plays with great leverage. Commands a double team.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Julian Mulero (LB- Newington): Mulero is an ideal fit in Tampa’s new defense under Todd Bowels. Offers flexibility at the linebacker position and plays downhill yet has the vision to recognize route combinations in coverage. Rare size and speed combination a major plus.
6. New York Giants: Connor Pace (WR- Wethersfield): Pace is good at anything involving athletics and thrives best with a football in his hands. Long, lean, and attacks the ball in the air, making him an immediate red zone threat in the Big Apple. He’ll have Giants fans saying, “Odell who?”
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alex Boutin (OL- Rocky Hill): A player like Boutin is hard to find. Can dominate the interior on either side of the ball and his intimidating, aggressive style will allow him to captain an offensive line at the next level. Heart-and-soul type player.
8. Detroit Lions: Xzavier Reyes: (RB- Middletown): Reyes is too gifted to pass up for a team seeking an every down back. Physical, leg-churning running style will change the identity of the Detroit’s offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell. Can carry a heavy load and is a frequent visitor to the end zone.
9. Buffalo Bills: Mitchell Quadrato (DE/LB- Wethersfield): Quadrato is an absolute steal for a Buffalo team that needs an edge rusher. Extremely quick first step and high motor allows him to be a terror in the opposing team’s backfield. Production on every snap.
10. Denver Broncos: Rasheed Patterson (OL- Newington): Great frame and athletic ability make Patterson the latest stud linemen to come out of Newington. His ability to pull and pancake defenders is an instant upgrade to a Denver offense that’s retooling.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Dajaun Lomotey (DB- Middletown): Lomotey makes an impact no matter where he lines up on the field. Great footwork and disciplined in coverage, and hits like a linebacker in run support. Cincy is getting an enforcer on the defensive side of the ball.
12. Green Bay Packers: Kevin Hinkle (DB- Cromwell/Portland): Solid, smart leader with sticky hands. Hinkle’s outstanding recognition allows him to create impact plays and he’ll quickly become the voice of Mike Pettine’s secondary. Team-first guy.
13. Miami Dolphins: Matt Sevigny (HB/S- Rocky Hill): Sevigny is the jack of all trades and his versatility will be a welcomed as a new chapter begins in Miami. Comes from a family of athletes and is a high-character guy that will accept any position. Unique prospect.
14. Atlanta Falcons: Ismar Kandic (DL- Cromwell/Portland): Well-coached, tenacious enforcer who plays with a high energy. Kandic offers position versatility up and down the line and his ability to play through pain is just what the doctor ordered for an Atlanta defense that was devastated by injuries a season ago.
15. Washington Redskins: Stephen Hill (LB- Middletown): Production, production, production is what Hill brings every week. Magnet to ball carriers and his sideline-to-sideline proficiency is exactly what is needed against the gauntlet of premiere running backs in the NFC East.
16. Carolina Panthers: Austin Harnish (C- Wethersfield): Harnish will anchor a line at the next level for years to come thanks to his wealth of experience and wrestling background. Will overpower opponents and can get to the next level quickly. Tough as nails.
17. New York Giants: Jontae Dempsey (DB- Middletown): Supreme athlete with a nose for the ball, evidenced by his seven interceptions last fall. Played QB as well at Middletown, giving him an offensive mindset on defense, similar to Ed Reed. Special teams standout as well.
18. Minnesota Vikings: Craig Elliott (QB- Wethersfield): Vikings make first major splash of draft, taking a quarterback to challenge the 84-Million-Dollar Man. Elliott is a gritty competitor that has a nice deep ball and is an exemplary teammate. Future could be sooner than later in the Twin Cities.
19. Tennessee Titans: Izayah Ciarcia (WR- Newington): Lighting quickness and top-notch change of direction make Ciarcia a threat to score on every touch. Deceptive route runner that consistently comes back towards quarterback to create throwing lanes. Nice addition for playmaker-hungry Titans team.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Luke Kelleher (TE- Wethersfield): Outstanding size, balance, and soft hands make Kelleher a prototypical every down tight end. He’ll remind the Pitt-faithful of Heath Miller because of his knack for getting open and creating big plays in clutch moments. Solid from top to bottom.
21. Seattle Seahawks: Zac Cyr (DB- Cromwell/Portland): Heady player that is not afraid of contact and phenomenal against the run. Cyr will bring a physicality back to Seattle’s secondary and has added athleticism thanks to his lacrosse background.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Dylan Nees-Fair (RB- Newington): Perfect addition to Baltimore’s potent rushing attack. DNF is a long striding, north-south runner with soft hands out of the backfield. Lamar Jackson has a new running mate for years to come.
23. Houston Texans: Devon Kilham (DB- Cromwell/Portland): Emotional leader is a steal this late in the first round. Great in pursuit of ball, both in the air and on the ground, and has reliable hands from his work as a receiver. Doesn’t back down from a challenge.
24. Oakland Raiders: Julian Ortiz (MLB- Newington): Ortiz brings his hardhat to work every day. A sure-tackler with solid fundamentals vs the run and in coverage. Potential decade-long leader of a defense needing an identity.
25. Philadelphia Eagles: Shane Gallagher (HB- Rocky Hill): Multifaceted talent with great vision. Gallagher is a shifty back who can split out wide and run entire route tree. Ideal fit for Doug Pederson’s constantly evolving offense.
26. Indianapolis Colts: David Colon (DB- Wethersfield): Colon offers extreme flexibility with ability to play on an island or in-the-box at the line of scrimmage. Fantastic closing speed and has receiver mentality when the ball is in the air. Excellent addition to an Indy secondary on the rise.
27. Oakland Raiders: Winston Urena (OL- Rocky Hill): Can play a variety of roles along the line and excels in run blocking. Urena gives his all on every play and will steamroll opponents, especially if pulling. Raiders getting a well coached, effort guy with their third selection in the first round.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: Eric Sims (OT- Newington): It’s rare you can draft a potential Pro Bowl blind side tackle late in the first round, but Sims has the size and athleticism to fit the bill. Balance to protect the passer and burst to get to the second level.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Bryan Lockwood (RB-Cromwell/Portland): Hard to envision KC’s offense getting more dangerous but Lockwood’s nose for the end zone will bring another dimension to Chiefs high-octane attack. Complete back that also excels as a lead back and has soft hands out of the backfield, making him a potential H-Back at the next level.
30. Green Bay Packers: Owen Brunk (LB- Cromwell/Portland): Sky is the limit for a young linebacker with natural football instincts. Brunk has only one year of post-Pop Warner football experience but he showcased a rare ability to recognize offensive alignments and an explosion to drive though ball carriers. Could be Lambeau’s second-coming of AJ Hawk.
31. Los Angeles Rams: Nico Capasso (LB- Rocky Hill): Capasso gives maximum effort and is always around the ball. Outstanding work ethic and is a positive influence on the players around him. High-level character and performance.
32. New England Patriots: Nick Pestrichello (QB- Newington): The new heir apparent in New England. Pestrichello has a quick release and his sweet feet will allow him to get on the field in a variety of capacities while being groomed for his chance behind center.
Dozen Day-Two Prospects
Cam Latronica (FLEX- Cromwell/Portland): There’s a lot of buzz about Latronica because of his versatility. Shined as an edge rusher a season ago but is also dangerous and comfortable with the ball in his hands. Either way, he’s a star in the making.
Omar Ahmed (DB- Rocky Hill): Excellent technique and ball skills make Ahmed a nice addition to any team. Breaks on ball very well and creates turnover with his awareness and wide receiver mitts.
Matt Silver (QB- Wethersfield): Loads of upside for this savvy signal caller. Silver is a duel threat that can beat you with his arm and burn you with his legs. Intriguing prospect beaming with potential.
Tyreece Lumpkin (CB/RB- Middletown): Not sure how Lumpkin fell out of first round, but some team is getting the next Darren Sproles early in the second round. Dynamite with the ball in his hands and quick as the day is long.
Ja’quan Graham (QB- Rocky Hill): Electrifying talent with a live arm and the stride to outrun all levels of the defense. Smooth and fluid with the ball in his hands.
Tavien Harris (DL- Middletown): Another mauler from Middletown. Harris is stout and difficult to block with the engine to chase down ball carriers behind the line. Solid in-and-out.
Jacob Rivera (MLB- Wethersfield): Underrated and productive middleman that can flow east and west. Rivera reads formations well and plays with patient, yet can attack quickly.
Javier Polanco (LB/S- Newington): Athleticism to play all over in the back seven. Closes rapidly against the run and opportunistic with the ball in flight. Polanco is an ascending star that is just coming into his own.
Keenan Esau (S- Newington): Played a variety of positions at Newington and did his best work as a ball-hawking safety. Rangy athlete who locates the ball well and can get off blocks in run support.
Kenny Fountain (WR- Middletown): Fountain is a big play waiting to happen and will take the top off the defense. Run-after-catch ability is off the charts and has legit lateral quickness to avoid tackles.
Belall Matar (WR- Rocky Hill): Matar has all the tools. Great size and length provide him a massive catch radius and he’ll win nearly every 50-50 ball. Anquan Boldin-esque.
Brandon Kamansky (FLEX- Newington): Injuries have hampered Kamansky at Newington but he’s a football-first guy, on and off the field. Good leader and excellent locker room presence that will make the most of his opportunity.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin