East Lake grad headlines local list of potential NFL picks

The NFL draft starts Thursday and lasts through Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. The most likely candidate is Wake Forest linebacker Justin Strnad, a former star at East Lake who has been mentioned in nearly every mock draft. Below is the list of locals who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game or NFL Combine. 

Justin Strnad
Wake Forest’s Justin Strnad/Photo credit (including feature): Wake Forest Athletics

LB Justin Strnad, East Lake/Wake Forest

A team captain, Strnad was an all-ACC honorable mention selection this past season despite playing just eight games because of an arm injury. He still finished his senior season with 69 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Those helped Strnad land on the Bednarik Award watch list and get an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. He showed significant progress throughout his college career. As a sophomore, Strnad picked off three passes. He followed that by recording 105 tackles as a junior. Strand is the only local that has been in nearly every mock draft. He is projected to go anywhere between rounds 4-7.   

Mitch Wilcox
USF’s Mitch Wilcox/Photo credit: USF Athletics

TE Mitch Wilcox, Tarpon Springs/USF

The four-year starter is regarded as the best tight end in Bulls history. He set nearly every school record at the position, including career marks for receiving yards (1,326), receptions (100) and receiving touchdowns (11). Those numbers helped him become a Mackey Award candidate each of the last three seasons. More than just a dependable receiver, Wilcox routinely showed off his blocking ability and helped three USF rushers to 1,000-yard seasons (2016-18). He played in three bowl games, winning two, and was a three-time all-AAC selection. Wilcox also earned invitations to play in the East-West Shrine Game and take part in the NFL Combine. 

RB Tony Jones Jr., St. Petersburg Catholic/IMG/Notre Dame

A heralded high school prospect, Jones played in the Army All-American Game before heading to South Bend. He improved his rushing total each of the last three seasons with the Irish. As a senior, Jones became the 10th player in school history to have at least five 100-yard rushing games in one season, including a career-high 176 yards in a win over rival Southern California. He followed that with a 135-yard performance in a win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, including an 84-yard touchdown that set the school record for the longest run in a bowl game. He finished this past season with 857 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

Sterling Hofrichter
Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter/Photo credit: Syracuse University Athletics

P Sterling Hofrichter, Armwood/Syracuse

A first-team all-state selection in high school, Hofrichter continued to receive acclaim throughout his college career. He was the Orange’s punter for all 49 games from 2016-19 and was a four-time Ray Guy Award candidate as the nation’s top punter. This past season, Hofrichter was one of three finalists for the award. His senior season was filled with plenty of other accolades, too. Hofrichter was selected to seven different All-America teams, becoming the first punter at the school to reach All-America status since Pat O’Neill (1991, ‘93). Finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in punting yards (11,651) and second in gross average (43.27) and punts (270).  

Darius Williams
Carson-Newman’s Darius Williams

DB Darius Williams, Northside Christian/Carson-Newman

After recording 65 tackles and picking off two passes in the first 10 games of his senior season, Williams tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, sidelining him for the final two games. Even worse, the injury prevented him from playing in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. Still, that did not diminish the career he had at Carson-Newman. As a sophomore, Williams had 48 tackles and five interceptions, numbers that helped him become the school’s 122nd All-American. He followed that up by recording 55 tackles and an interception as a junior. 

OL Jake Fruhmorgen, Plant/Clemson/Baylor

A versatile lineman, Fruhmorgen can play just about any position in the trenches. At Plant, he was selected to play in the Army All-American Game. Fruhmorgen made a combined nine starts in his first two seasons at Clemson. He initially transferred to Florida and even enrolled in classes in 2017 before deciding to step away from football. Later that year, Fruhmorgen joined the Bears, where he played his final two seasons. His father, John, played at Alabama and for the Miami Dolphins.  

Brandon Walton
FAU’s Brandon Walton/Photo credit: FAU Athletics

OL Brandon Walton, Seminole/Florida Atlantic

The left tackle helped quarterback Chris Robison put up impressive stats thanks to solid protection.  Walton was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and the leader of a line that was a big reason the Owls and their high-octane offense won a conference title. In the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl, Walton was part of a line that allowed just one sack and paved the way for 521 yards of offense. At least one publication had Walton going in the seventh round of the draft.