Top: Cromwell/Portland's Owen Brunk (left) and Teddy Williams. Bottom left: Newington's Austyn Howe with girlfriend Morgan Hellman. Bottom right: Rocky Hill's Tyreice Dominique. Williams, Howe, Brunk, and Dominique were the top four selections in the 2022 Rare Reminder Bizarro Draft.
The National Football League draft starts tonight! After a year without local high school football because of COVID, the sport returned this past fall better than ever. Here is 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 7th annual Bizarro Draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars are now on the clock…
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Williams (WR-Cromwell/Portland): Williams is listed as a receiver but his true position is playmaker. New head coach Doug Pederson will love his versatility, explosiveness, and knack for taking it to the house, evidenced by his 30 touchdowns in the fall. A can’t miss stud.
2. Detroit Lions: Austyn Howe (WR-Newington): Howe is another jack-of-all-trades that frequents the end zone. Ability to high-point the ball is unmatched and he may be the best athlete in the entire draft. A+ player, A+ character.
3. Houston Texans: Owen Brunk (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Brunk is the epitome of a sure-tackler (nearly 10 tackles per game and 19 for loss in the fall). New head coach Lovie Smith is getting the next Brian Urlacher with a rare combination of brute power, lateral quickness, and burst. Team-first guy.
4. New York Jets: Tyreice Dominique (DB-Rocky Hill): There is literally nothing on a football field that Dominique can’t do. He has the mind of a quarterback—which he played in the fall—and the athleticism of a decathlete. The Jets are drafting a sure-fire captain of the defensive secondary.
5. New York Giants: Mathyas Nieves (DB-Wethersfield): Nieves is a heady defensive back that plays the run and pass equally well. He has no wasted motion and his sideline-to-sideline range is elite. Thumper who averaged over 10 tackles per game and brings added value in the return game.
6. Carolina Panthers: Louie Montalvo (WR-Wethersfield): Montalvo is a magician with the ball in his mitts. Could finally be the missing piece that head coach Matt Ruhle needs to run his up-tempo Baylor-style offense. Whether it’s outside the hashes or behind center, Montalvo is a chunk play waiting to happen.
7. New York Giants: Chace Petgrave (WR-Middletown): Dynamite in a bottle and should immediately upgrade New York’s stagnant offense. Petgrave is a precise route runner with sticky hands that plays bigger than his frame. Instant contributor.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Cole Brisson (QB-Cromwell/Portland): The ATL is entering a new phase in need of a franchise quarterback and Brisson fits the bill. Calm, cool lefty with elite accuracy and underrated arm strength. A winner who guided his team to a state championship last fall and leads with both his words and actions.
9. Seattle Seahawks: Paddy Brown (QB-Newington): Brown has big shoes to fill in the Emerald City but he has the talent to make the locals say “Russell who?” Lightning quick release and the ball pops off his hand with velocity and touch. Added toughness and athleticism from lacrosse and reminds scouts of a young Jim Everett.
10. New York Jets: Alex Peruta (LB-Rocky Hill): Heart-and-soul player that has a relentless motor on every down. Peruta has a captain’s mentality and may have the best instincts in the draft. Fluid three-down linebacker that attacks the run and plays the pass with confidence.
11. Washington Commanders: Tanner Healy (CB-Wethersfield): Healy plays with an unmatched swagger and he backs it up with big plays in big time moments. Rangy with athleticism and build to smother quicker receivers and bang with bigger targets.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Ethan Philbrick (LM-Cromwell/Portland): Philbrick frame and physicality allows him to dominate the interior on either side of the ball. Whether he’s pancaking defenders or mauling opposing ball carriers, new head coach Kevin O’Connell is getting a franchise building block.
13. Houston Texans: Shaun Gaskins (S -Middletown): Gaskins has the heart of a lion and plays with the aggressiveness of one. Excellence vision and brings a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball. Plays with a purpose and will be an immediate voice of the secondary.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Brody Troiano (DE/K-Rocky Hill): Troiano may be the most unique player in the draft. A massive, muscular, long frame that is nearly impossible to block with one guy. Played all three phases last fall, including kicker where he’s capable of making 50+ yard field goals. Justin Tucker is officially on notice.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: Ryan Rozich (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Rozich was sometimes overshadowed by the immense talent around him, but he was just as productive and impactful. Versatile backer who is always around the ball thanks to his instincts and relentlessness.
16. New Orleans Saints: Josiah Ross (WR-Newington): A game-changer with a ceiling as high as anyone in the draft. Ross can get in-and-out of his break quickly and once the ball is in his hands his north-south speed kicks into another gear.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Evan Christian (LB-Wethersfield): Christian is an ideal middle linebacker with the build and flexibility to play on the outside. Engulfs ball carriers with his long arms and drives through with his leverage. Disciplined and motivated.
18. Philadelphia Eagles: Salvatore Signorello (G- Rocky Hill): Signorello brings a wealth of experience to the next level. Athletic enough to pull and stout enough to drive through blocks. A worker bee who likes to grind.
19. New Orleans Saints: Jordan Middlebrooks (OL-Newington): Rare athlete with size and skills to play multiple positions along the line. Middlebrooks has the makings of a player that will be an anchor in the league for a long time.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Matt Steuerwald (WR-Middletown): Steuerwald is surprisingly physical from his time as a defensive back and has a knack for breaking tackles. Quarterback friendly, chain-mover that brings an added run-after-catch ability.
21. New England Patriots: Jack Williams (C-Cromwell/Portland): Williams’ ability to wear multiple hats will be a welcomed sign in Foxboro. Was the anchor to a state championship team in the fall and is still realizing how impactful he can be.
22. Green Bay Packers: Frankie Guerrera (WR-Rocky Hill): Sky-high limit for this talented wide out with a plethora of skills. Guerrera has the wheels to get deep, strength to beat press, and the body control of Gumby. Hands catcher who attacks the ball in flight.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Torronce Smith (OLB-Wethersfield): Smith is a physical specimen with elite pursuit ability. His first step rivals that of Chandler Jones, who he is replacing in Arizona. Brings the pain on every tackle.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Sam Cultrera (OL-Newington): Cultrera offers a ton of flexibility and experience to the next level. Could be a hidden gem at this point in the draft thanks to his added abilities from lacrosse and captain’s mentality.
25. Buffalo Bills: Alex Hair (RB-Newington): Solid three-down back that is a chain mover. Hair has the toughness to run between the tackles and wiggle to bounce outside. A nose for the end zone.
26. Tennessee Titans: Ethan Lemos (WR-Wethersfield): Lemos is a steal at this point in the draft. Does everything well and has a tendency to make the spectacular catch look routine. Game is reminiscent of Chris Chambers.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Binezewski (OL-Cromwell/Portland): Young prospect that has the potential to etch out a long, productive career. Bienzewski can play both sides of the line and has great technique.
28. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Bozzi (LB-Rocky Hill): Bozzi is a smooth athlete who sheds blocks well. Provides a pop at point of contact and has a knack for dislodging the ball. Special teams standouts as well.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Ben Fagan (DB-Cromwell/Portland): Smart, savvy, ball hawk. Fagan plays under control and is almost always in the right spot. A coach’s dream.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Bryson Evans (DE-Wethersfield): Energizer that never gives up on a play. Evans is a long strider who can chase down the ball quickly and has strong hands at the point of contact.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: Miguel Rivera IV (MLB-Newington): Rivera provides a mountain of versatility and has the size to move people. Excellent burst from both the first and second level of the defense with ability to play with his hand in the dirt or standing. Potential lead blocker in goal line and short yardage.
32. Detroit Lions: Colin Skene (QB-Middletown): Detroit takes a flier on a potential quarterback of the future with the final pick in round one. Skene possesses all the intangibles you want in a field general and throws a catchable ball with touch, both from the pocket and on the move.
22 Day-Two Prospects (alphabetical by last name)
Sean Asante (MLB-Rocky Hill): Heat-seeking missile middleman who can scrape sideline to sideline with ease. Build and athleticism to play safety at the next level. Enforcer who packs a punch.
Wil Bankowski (DB-Wethersfield): Quiet confidence with quarterbacking experience, giving him an edge in the defensive secondary. Natural athlete that is tough as nails.
Allen Cohen (K-Cromwell/Portland): Cohen brings a wealth of position value to a team but his secret weapon is his big, accurate leg. Consistent and clutch rolled into one.
Luca Corvino (OLB-Newington): Plays with passion and has a non-stop motor. Some team is getting a steal with this wrecking ball.
David De’leon (RB-Middletown): A potential home run threat every time he touches the rock. Just getting started and could be a dangerous return man at the next level.
Hayden Fish (LB-Newington): Gadget defender that can rush the passer and has the ability to play most positions in the back-seven. Intriguing prospect.
Jova’n Hill (RB-Wethersfield): Open field delight that has put in the time to become a potential every down back. Elusive and always one broken tackle away from a house call.
Terrence Jackson Jr (DL-Middletown): Another versatile lineman that has experience on both sides. A mismatch with burst to beat tackles outside and mass to overpower guards on the inside.
Charles Judge Blair (CB-Newington): Incredible make-up speed and tracks the ball as good as anyone in the draft. Receiver hands and off-the-chart metrics.
Oleg Korotkyy (CB/WR-Rocky Hill): Young, budding prospect with ideal length and size. May end up a receiver at the next level because of his solid frame and willingness to attack the ball. Coverage ability allows him to lock down both wide and slot receivers.
Chase Leonard (S-Newington): Leonard packs a big punch. Plays with desire and doesn’t miss tackles. Has experience at multiple positions.
Daevyon Lovelace (CB-Cromwell-Portland): Lovelace has freakish potential and has a game-changing ability that can’t be taught. Doesn’t shy away from contact and attacks the ball.
Felipe Lozano (MLB-Wethersfield): Prototypical, productive middle linebacker. Flew under the radar a bit and a team will be getting an absolute steal in the second round. Smart and explosive three-down backer.
Cooper Moreau (HB/FB-Wethersfield): Captains mentality with intriguing skills. Punishing lead blocker with soft hands out of the backfield. Kyle Juszczyk–type at the next level.
Brandon Rose (CB-Cromwell/Portland): Long, lean, competitive defensive back that gets his hands on a lot of throws. Reminds scouts of a young Bobby Taylor.
Daniel “Gator” Sjoblom (NG-Rocky Hill): Team-first guy that excels on the trenches. Charismatic with a willingness to do whatever for the betterment of the team.
Jonah Smikle (OL/DL:Middletown): Ability and experience to play both sides of the line, thriving in the interior. A road grader on offense and brick wall on defense.
Shakir Smith (RB-Newington): Shifty back who is not afraid to initiate contact. Great vision with a rare combination of balance and breakaway speed.
Grayson Spalding (DT-Rocky Hill): Wins with power and quickness off snap. Effortlessly eats up ball carriers and pushes the pocket.
Holden Speed (DE/OLB-Wethersfield): Generational athlete with strength, quickness, and exceptional leaping ability. Sets the edge with the best of them.
M.J. Torres (RB-Rocky Hill): Built for any system. Effective runner with fluid hips and enjoys blocking in the open field. Reliable hands out of the backfield.
Emeka Yearwood: (DE-Cromwell/Portland): Rising star with an explosive burst off the edge. Confident and charismatic.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin