Wethersfield senior Connor Pace is the 1st selection in the 2020 Rare Reminder draft.
Photo: Jo-Ann Campbell
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 6th Annual Bizarro Draft…
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Pace (WR-Wethersfield): Experts slotted a QB here but the Bengals select a cornerstone receiver instead, making Pace the first WR drafted #1 overall since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996. Polished with every tool, including pristine route running, an impressive catch radius, and exceptional hands. Just as valuable in the locker room.
2. Washington Redskins: Brady Foster (LB-Middletown): Ron Rivera wants to build a team with high-character guys and Foster has the potential to be the second coming of Luke Kuechly. Student of the game with a relentless motor and will be centerpiece of Rivera’s defense in the nation’s capital.
3. Detroit Lions: Owen Brunk (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Brunk is exactly the type of player that can reenergize a franchise in crisis. Skyrocketing young prospect that is just reaching his full potential. Forceful tackler, who doesn’t whiff, and is opportunistic in coverage.
4. New York Giants: Alex Boutin (DL-Rocky Hill): The Giants defense was dismal a season ago and Boutin is a disruptive penetrator that fills a major need. Exactly the type of meat-and-potatoes prospect that GM Dave Gettleman craves. Commands a double team on every play and creates constant havoc in backfield.
5. Miami Dolphins: Keenan Esau (S-Newington): Miami passes on QB to select dominant and dependable defensive field general. A leader by example with excellent range and tremendous closing speed. Solid as the day is long.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Jake Whitaker (OL-Wethersfield): Everything you want in a football player. Ultimate professional with powerful punch and a knack for burying opponents. Book him in the Pro Bowl for the next 10+ years.
7. Carolina Panthers: Nick Pestrichello (QB-Newington): First-year head coach Matt Rhule gets a captain to run his up-tempo offensive. Duel threat talent is perfect for the system, possessing lightning quick release with deep ball touch, while being a magician in the pocket with elite speed.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Julian Mulero (LB-Newington): What. A. Steal. It’s almost criminal that Mulero fell to this spot. Arizona is getting an inspirational leader with immense talent. Sheds blocks with ease and an absolute wrecking ball against the run. Instinctive and impactful.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jake Bowen (LB-Middletown): Heady, run-stuffing middleman for a Jacksonville defense in transition. Energetic, fiery three-down backer that is intelligent on and off the field. Sure-tackler thanks to wrestling background.
10. Cleveland Browns: Cam Latronica (DE-Cromwell/Portland): Freakish athlete with high ceiling. Great burst and pop at the point on attack. Injuries hampered last season but built mental toughness and further ignited desire.
11. New York Jets: Nick Thompson (DL-Wethersfield): A beast with the right mentality. Plays with purpose and attacks ball on every play. Sparkplug that has tremendous base and power from wrestling. Will flourish under Gregg Williams.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Matt Sevigny (WR-Rocky Hill): Ideal fit in Jon Gruden’s offense. Light feet and sure hands with a propensity for creating windows and working back towards ball. A quarterback’s best friend.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Josiah Albert (DB-Middletown): Confident in coverage and attacks the ball in flight. Plays bigger than his size and comfortable in space. Phenomenal athlete with all the tools.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Berasi (OL-Wethersfield): Great fit for team that needs to improve protection, especially with an expensive statue in the pocket. Berasi is an intelligent grinder with quick feet and will drive defenders away from action. Added flexibility and smoothness from swimming background.
15. Denver Broncos: Jack Morin (OL-Cromwell/Portland): Mr. Reliable and a fit in any system. Coach on the field and will do his job with discipline and play each down with a purpose. Starter from day one.
16. Atlanta Falcon: Marcus Nieves (LB-Wethersfield): Thievery at this point in the draft. Nieves is a torpedo in pursuit, wraps and drives, and has an uncanny ability to work through blocks. Instant heartbeat of defensive unit in Hotlanta.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Alex Rios (DB- Middletown): Budding prospect with an arrow pointing upwards. Sticky in coverage and exceptional at tracking the ball in air. Loves contact and plays with an edge.
18. Miami Dolphins: John Amaning Jr (RB-Newington): Productive, plug-and-play three-down back who fights for every yard. Smooth, long-strider with breakaway north-south speed and soft hands in pass game.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Teddy Williams (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Young stud that plays with swagger. Outstanding in blitz packages and packs a punch upon contact. Sky is the limit.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Despres (WR-Middletown): Hands catcher that is shifty in the open field with an outstanding burst. Highly productive and attacks the ball on downfield throws. Consistent.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Gunnar Johnson (WR-Newington): Quarterback friendly and solid in all phases. Masterful over the middle but can stretch defense too. Adds much-needed reliability to Philly’s patchwork receiving unit.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Tymothy Sullivan (OG- Newington): Moves well and keeps pad level low, allowing him to bull over defenders. Excels at pulling and gets to the second level with ease.
23. New England Patriots: Chris Danas (QB-Middletown): All the intangibles. Decisive at the line, diagnoses defenses, and throws catchable ball. A worker bee and a perfect fit in New England.
24. New Orleans Saints: Omar Ahmed (DB/WR-Rocky Hill): Intriguing talent that can play both sides of the ball. Physical, lengthy defensive back with receiver mitts. Could be used as another slash in the Big Easy.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Pepe (WR-Cromwell/Portland): Fierce competitor that fights and wins most 50/50 balls. Sneaky good straightaway speed and has added value on special teams, even in the kick game.
26. Miami Dolphins: Matt Silver (QB-Wethersfield): Coaches delight with cannon for an arm and lively legs. Unquestioned toughness, once played game with two broken fingers. Will outwork anyone, on and off the field. Perfect mentee for Fitzmagic.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Kyle Edman (DB-Wethersfield): Outstanding technique, uses body to manipulate receiver in route and has a nose for the ball. Plays with an edge and will help bring boom back to Seattle’s once-great legion of defensive backs.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Ethan Philbrick (OL-Cromwell/Portland): Ravens take chance on fascinating talent with potential to be great. Fluid with size and strength to push people around. A road grader.
29. Tennessee Titans: Ethan Moreno (LB-Rocky Hill): Consistent, sure-tackler with pass rush abilities. Naturally wraps and drives through ball carriers. Solid and dependable from top to bottom.
30. Green Bay Packers: Johnny Orsini (RB/FB-Wethersfield): Hard-nosed, leg-churning, yard-eater that’s willing to do whatever it takes. John Kuhn/Kyle Juszczky at the next level.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Nico Capasso (LB-Rocky Hill): Outstanding lateral quickness, works sideline to sideline very well. Will bring the heat on blitzes and is opportunistic, always looking to create turnovers.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Stephen Szwez (C-Newington): Anchor who can play up and down the line with length to play tackle. Uses pads well and has added long snap value.
Baker’s Dozen Day-Two Prospects
Cole Brisson (QB-Cromwell/Portland): Potential franchise QB with a little more repetition. Smooth, lefty delivery with great touch and tremendous poise for his experience level.
Zach Demarco (S/LB- Newington) Underrated prospect who is solid on every down and has great vision. A hybrid with Thomas Davis-like versatility. Equally impactful against the run and pass.
Maxwell DiMatteo (OLB/DE-Rocky Hill): Sets edge well, holds his ground, and plays with patients. Stout against the run. A gamer.
Nate Estifanos (OL-Wethersfield): Emerging talent who uses build and hands well. Balance is always forward. Pulls with toughness and tenacity.
AJ Ferreira (K/P-Newington): Consistent, reliable team-first guy who works tirelessly at his craft. Back at full strength following serious injury and doesn’t shy away from clutch situations.
Shaun Gaskins (RB-Middletown): No-nonsense back that will break arm tackles and leave defenders in his wake. Dependable downhill runner with the mentality of a linebacker.
Kristian Glemaud (TE-Middletown): Matchup nightmare. Stretch and size to overwhelm DBs and quick first step to beat backers. Physical, tough to bring down.
Tyron Scharborough (HB/Returner-Middletown): Dangerous returner with Dante Hall-explosiveness. Polished route runner with low center of gravity and flourishes in open field.
Rockwell Spalding (LB-Rocky Hill): Lives up to his name as a rock-solid backer who plays well against run and pass. Excellent in pursuit with a quick first step and no wasted motion.
Justin Stergos (HB-Cromwell/Portland) Versatile four-sport athlete with hockey mentality/toughness. Downhill, bruising runner with soft hands. Possible fullback at next level.
Rory Stickley (WR-Wethersfield): Dynamic, clutch playmaker that can separate and catch in traffic. Still reaching full potential, which should frighten defensive backs.
Konnor Walsh (QB-Rocky Hill): Ball jumps off hand, in and out of the pocket. Pinpoint accuracy on the move and confidence/trigger to fit throws into tight windows.
Zak Zurzola (DB-Wethersfield): Well-coached and intelligent blanket coverage corner who doesn’t shy away from contact. Value as returner and receiver make him a steal on day two.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin