The NFL draft starts Thursday. Here is a look at the three locals who were selected last year, led by all-purpose dynamo Diontae Johnson.
WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
High school: Lennard
Pick: Third round (66th overall)
The electrifying receiver and returner has made big plays his specialty since he was a star at Lennard. The highlights continued at Toledo, where he was a first-team All-Mid American Conference selection as a receiver in each of his last two seasons and was named the MAC special teams player as a senior in 2018. His versatility as a playmaker helped boost his draft stock last year. The Steelers used the third round they acquired in the Antonio Brown trade with the Raiders on Johnson. Johnson stood out in his debut NFL season, finishing with 59 receptions for 660 yards and five touchdowns. His reception total was tops among rookie receivers last year and was one shy of tying the team rookie record. Johnson made an even bigger impact on special teams, leading the league with an average of 12.4 yards per return. That earned him second-team All-Pro honors as a punt returner.
CB Amani Oruwariye, Detroit Lions
High school: Gaither
College: Penn State
Pick: Fifth round (146th overall)
As a junior with the Nittany Lions, Oruwariye had a breakthrough season, intercepting four passes to earn second-team all-Big Ten honors, the first cornerback from the program to hold that distinction in eight years. Better still, he did it despite spending the 2017 season as a reserve. A year later, Oruwariye became a full-time starter and was a first-team all-Big Ten selection as a senior. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions to go along with 51 tackles. Projected to go in the second or third round, Oruwariye fell to the fifth. He played in nine games as a rookie with two starts and finished with 19 tackles and two interceptions.
DL Byron Cowart, New England Patriots
High school: Armwood
Pick: Fifth round (159th overall)
The anchor of Armwood’s defensive line, Cowart was ranked as the nation’s top overall recruit by most recruiting services as a senior. He began his career at Auburn, where he had a combined 12 tackles his first two seasons. Cowart left and sat out his junior season before transferring to Maryland. As a senior, Cowart played a pivotal role for the Terrapins in the trenches, recording 38 tackles and two interceptions. His rookie season with the Patriots was spent as a reserve, and he finished with two tackles.