The National Football League draft starts tonight and runs through the weekend. This made me wonder what would happen if NFL teams had to select out of the pool of talented local players that played this past high school football season? Here’s what this evening’s first round would look like.
#1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Matt Sanzaro- QB-Wethersfield: Tampa has had a revolving door at the quarterback position since becoming a franchise in 1976. Sanzaro can close that door with his rocket right arm and fleet feet. He’s coming off a sensational senior season at Wethersfield, tossing 32 touchdowns and adding six more on the ground.
#2: Tennessee Titans: Jake Hedberg- QB-Newington: The Titans simply couldn’t pass up on Hedberg’s talent and leadership abilities. He has all the tools needed to be an elite signal-caller at the next level. His quick release and pinpoint accuracy are his greatest strengths, evidenced by the 2200 yards and 17 touchdowns he threw for during his senior season at Newington.
#3: Jacksonville Jaguars: Dave Sevigny- RB/S-Rocky Hill: Jacksonville is aiming to establish a ball-control offense and hardnosed defense and this selection helps in both areas. Sevigny is a great between-the-tackles runner and can play both safety positions. He tallied 13 total touchdowns and registered 63 tackles in his final season at Rocky Hill.
#4: Oakland Raiders: Kyle Klavins- WR- Wethersfield: The Raiders have an emerging young offense that is searching for a playmaker on the outside and Klavins fits that bill. The gifted receiver has great body control and can out-jump any defensive back, which resulted in 716 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior at Wethersfield. He not only has magnificent mitts, but he also adds value as a punt returner.
#5: Washington Redskins: Patrick Sullivan- OLB/FB- Rocky Hill: Washington’s defense has been picked apart the past two seasons and in need of a difference maker. Sullivan can be that defensive force after an 80-tackle (nine for loss), five sack season as a junior at Rocky Hill. He can play with his hand in the dirt or as a roamer and adds value as a blocking back on offense.
#6: New York Jets: Kristian Sapp- RB- Cromwell: The Jets like to make a splash on draft day and Sapp may be the more explosive player on the draft board. He’s epitome of lighting in a bottle and was a human highlight reel during his sophomore year at Cromwell, finishing with 1311 yards and 15 touchdowns.
#7: Chicago Bears: John Tapia- G/DT- Wethersfield: The new coaching staff in Chicago is hoping the team recaptures the smash-mouth mentality of yesteryear. Tapia is a perfect player for that type of football and can control both sides on the line of scrimmage with his road-grading blocking on offense and his disruptive nature on defense, which resulted in 17 tackles in the opposition’s backfield and four sacks in his final season at Wethersfield.
#8: Atlanta Falcons: Justice Taylor- DL/LB- Cromwell: Atlanta is also trying to become more physical on defense and this selection gives the team a lot of versatility. Taylor is unique because he can play a variety of positions along the front-seven and is a nearly impossible to block. He finished his junior year at Cromwell with 74 tackles and five sacks.
#9: New York Giants: Devon Smith- S/WR- Wethersfield: The Giants secondary took a hit this offseason, so Smith will fill a major need and become an instant leader. He has the athletic ability to cover the slot (six interceptions last season) and plays downhill, which allows him to delivery big hits to opposing receivers. He’s also the ultimate utility player--- having also played quarterback, receiver, and punted in his three seasons at Wethersfield.
#10: St. Louis Rams: Jason Carducci- DB- Rocky Hill: St. Louis has revamped their defense the last couple of drafts and Carducci’s flexibility allows him to fit right in. He is a natural athlete who can play any position in the defensive backfield and is both a feared hitter and ball hawk.
#11: Minnesota Vikings: Jimmy Malizia- MLB- Wethersfield: Minnesota is quietly building a dynamic defense and Malizia’s high energy will be a welcomed addition. He was a terror on the field and is a sure tackler that gives 100% every play, which resulted in a dozen takedowns in the opposing backfield and five sacks as a senior.
#12: Cleveland Browns: Kyle Armour- WR/DB- Newington: Cleveland is desperate for playmakers on offense and this selection fills that need and more. Armour’s size makes him a dangerous red zone threat that will catch every pass thrown in his vicinity. He hauled in 43 passes for 638 yards and six touchdowns in his final season in Newington. He is also an underrated defensive back that has a nose for the ball.
#13: New Orleans Saints: Mateusz Wilkowski- OT/DT- Rocky Hill: New Orleans is always searching for quality interior lineman for their defense and Wilkowski is an ideal fit. He registered 54 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a senior and was a punishing blocker for Rocky Hill’s run-oriented offense.
#14: Miami Dolphins: Richard Williams- LB/RB- Wethersfield: Miami’s run defense always seems to fade late in the season and Williams is the perfect antidote for the problem. He is stout against the run and great in pass coverage, tallying 84 tackles (10 for loss) as a junior at Wethersfield. He is also a threat as an H-Back on offense.
#15: San Francisco 49ers: Sean Grover- MLB- Newington: San Francisco’s defense has been ravaged by retirement and injuries over the last two seasons, so this selection makes sense. Grover is a prototypical middle linebacker that is always around the ball and never misses tackles. He reached the century mark in tackles and also added three sacks as a junior at Newington.
#16: Houston Texans: Brenden Zotti- S- Newington: Zotti could be the defensive back that Houston needs to make their defense elite. He is a rangy safety that loves contact. His wrestling background makes him a tackling-machine, who took down 94 ball carriers in his final season at Newington.
#17: San Diego Chargers: Patrick Mozzicato- DE/TE- Wethersfield: This is an absolute steal at this point in the draft. The Chargers need a pass rusher and Mozzicato has the size to play multiple positions along the defensive line. Nearly half of his tackles from last season came in the opposing team’s backfield.
#18: Kansas City Chiefs: Mersad Zilkic- C/MLB- Cromwell: The Chiefs loves players that can do multiple jobs and Zilkic is the jack of all trades. He anchored Cromwell’s offensive line and also solidified the middle of their defense as a junior.
#19: Cleveland Browns: Jacob Latorra- G/LB- Rocky Hill: The Browns got an offensive playmaker with their first pick and used their second pick on a rock-solid lineman. Latorra paved the way for ball carriers on offense and ate up opposing ball carriers on defense at Rocky Hill to the tune of 72 tackles (12 for loss) and six sacks as a senior.
#20: Philadelphia Eagles: Jarius Bailey- QB/WR/CB- Cromwell: Philadelphia loves players that can create space on offense and Bailey is the quintessential spread-player. He’s the ultimate run, pass, catch threat that can be lined up in a multitude of positions. Cromwell’s version of Slash amassed 1478 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.
#21: Cincinnati Bengals: Jordan Allen- DE- Newington: Allen is just the type of pass-rushing force that Cincinnati loves. He has a high motor that allows him to get to the opposition behind the line of scrimmage, where he took down nine ball carriers during his final year at Newington.
#22: Pittsburgh Steelers: Nik Mazzucco- OL/DE- Cromwell: The Steelers love players like Mazzucco. His size allows him to play multiple positions along the offensive and defensive lines. He registered 51 tackles and three sacks during his final year at Cromwell.
#23: Detroit Lions: Tyler Nelson- RB- Wethersfield: Nelson will help cure Detroit’s short-yardage woes. He is a powerful back that is capable of breaking several tackles on each run. He also has soft hands out of the backfield, which allowed him to total 1084 yards and a dozen touchdowns his senior season at Wethersfield.
#24: Arizona Cardinals: Grant Nieves- CB/RB- Rocky Hill: Nieves is a stud athlete that will fit in nicely on in Arizona and in the toughest division in football. He’s explosive and is capable of taking it to the house any time he touches the ball. He scored 10 touchdowns and led the team with three interceptions during his sophomore season at Rocky Hill.
#25: Carolina Panthers: John McDonald- RB- Newington: The Panthers love to control the ball with their ground game and McDonald will be a great compliment to their stable of backs. Don’t let his size fool you, because he will lower his head and churn out the tough yardage needed at the next level. The dynamo-back led Newington in rushing last season.
#26: Baltimore Ravens: Elijah Young- CB- Wethersfield: The Ravens were devastated with injuries in their defensive backfield last season, so this selection fills a major need. Young will make an immediate impact because of his track speed and incredible ball skills. He intercepted three passes and knocked down a team-high 19 more as a junior at Wethersfield. The speedster also adds value in the return game.
#27: Dallas Cowboys: Drew Grenier- WR/DE- Newington: This is a case of the Cowboys taking the most talented player left on their draft board. Grenier is equally impressive on both sides of the ball and can overpower defensive backs for 50/50 balls. He also is a fierce defensive end that specialized in batting passes down at the line of scrimmage.
#28: Denver Broncos: Andrew Cravero- OLB- Wethersfield: The new coaching regime in Denver wants a young, defensive leader and this selection fills that need. Cravero was a team captain at Wethersfield and a powerful linebacker that racked up four sacks and ten tackles behind the line of scrimmage during his senior year.
#29: Indianapolis Colts: Ricky Montalvo- LB- Rocky Hill: Montalvo could be the player that gets the Colts over the hump. It was impossible to watch a Rocky Hill game without noticing his aggressive style, which resulted in 77 tackles (9 for loss) as a sophomore.
#30: Green Bay Packers: Joram Sanchez- LB- Newington: Sanchez will be an ideal fit in Green Bay’s attacking defensive schemes. He is a read and react linebacker that makes his living in the opposing team’s backfield. He can also cover the flat, intercepting three passes in his final season at Newington.
#31: New Orleans Saints: Jae-quan Brown- CB- Wethersfield: The Saints have needed a shutdown cornerback for years and Brown has the tools to be that guy. He picked off six passes and deflected seven more as a junior at Wethersfield. His track speed and ball skills make him a great pick late in the first round.
#32: New England Patriots: Cole Bradley-WR/S/K- Cromwell: Bradley did a little of everything at Cromwell, which is what the Sith Lord in New England prefers. His size also gives the team a receiving threat in the red zone.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin